Cleavon Little may have passed away, but his work and legacy remain important today. He was born in the late 1930s and became a well-known figure on Broadway.
Moreover, he expanded his career by appearing in highly praised movies from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Being successful in both these fields, the prolific actor passed away in the 1990s at an older age, leaving behind a legacy of awards and recognition.
So, who was Cleavon Little? He was a prolific Black-American actor who made a mark on both stage and screen throughout his life. Let’s explore Cleavon Little’s life in more detail.
Cleavon Little’s Profile Summary
|Birth Date||June 1, 1939|
|Death Date||October 22, 1992|
|Education||– Kearny High School (graduated in 1957)|
|Net Worth (at death)||$2 million (estimated, according to Celebrity Net Worth)|
Cleavon Little’s Biography
Cleavon Jake (June 1, 1939 – October 22, 1992) was a well-known actor from the United States, celebrated for his roles on stage, in films, and on television.
Little was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and grew up in San Diego, California. He attended Kearny High School and graduated in 1957.
During his college years, Little supported himself by working as a janitor while also giving presentations on Black poetry at various clubs and gatherings.
His talent was recognized by the American Broadcasting Company, which awarded him a scholarship to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. In the class of 1967, he was hailed as the top performer.
Cleavon Little’s Career
In February 1967, Little made his off-Broadway debut at the Village Gate in the first production of Barbara Garson’s play “MacBird.” In October 1967, he was cast in the play “Scuba Duba,” where he played the character “Foxtrot.”
He made his film debut in 1968, starring in “What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?” and also appeared in TV series like “Felony Squad.” He continued to make a mark in movies with roles in “John and Mary” (1969) and “Cotton Comes to Harlem” (1970).
Little’s Broadway debut came in 1969 with the musical “Jimmy Shine,” and he also played “Lee Haines” in “Haines.” In 1970, he won both the Drama Desk Award and the Tony Award for “Best Actor in a Musical” for his lead role in Ossie Davis’s musical “Purlie.” He returned to Broadway in “Narrow Road to the Deep North.”
He portrayed the blind DJ Super Soul in the 1971 film “Vanishing Point” and appeared in TV series like “The Waltons” and “All in the Family.”
From 1972 to 1974, Little starred as “Sheriff Bart” in the uproarious “Blazing Saddles,” a 1974 Mel Brooks comedy, earning a special movie award nomination. He returned to Broadway in 1975 for “All Over Town” and in 1976 for “The Poison Tree.”
Throughout his career, he made numerous guest appearances on various TV shows, including “The Mod Squad,” “All in the Family,” “The Rookies,” “Police Story,” “The Rockford Files,” “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “ABC Afterschool Specials,” “The Fall Guy,” and “MacGyver.”
One of his notable partnerships was in the racing film “Greased Lightning” (1977), which told the real-life story of Wendell Scott, the first Black-American stock car racing champion in the United States. Little continued to appear in films such as “FM” (1978), “Scavenger Hunt” (1979), “The Salamander” (1981), “High Risk” (1981), “Jimmy the Kid” (1982), “Surf II” (1984), “Toy Soldiers” (1984), “Once Bitten” (1985), “The Gig” (1985), and “Fletch Lives” (1989).
In 1981, Little returned to the off-Broadway scene with “The Resurrection of Lady Lester,” and in 1985, he starred in Herb Gardner’s play “I’m Not Rappaport,” winning a Tony Award for “Best Actor in a Play.”
In 1989, he portrayed a closeted gay individual in the TV series “Dear John,” earning a Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.”
Although he faced challenges in his career, including a canceled TV series, Little found new opportunities in 1991 with roles in the Fox sitcom “True Colours” and the television series “Bagdad Cafe.” He showcased his acting prowess in the powerful docudrama “Separate but Equal” as a civil-rights attorney.
Little’s last appearances included the series “MacGyver,” where he played “Frank Colton,” and a 1992 episode of “Tales from the Crypt.” His career left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment.
Cleavon Little movies
- “Blazing Saddles” (1974) – He played the lead role of Sheriff Bart in this classic comedy film.
- “Vanishing Point” (1971) – He had a supporting role in this action film.
- “Scavenger Hunt” (1979) – He played the role of Jackson in this comedy movie.
- “Greased Lightning” (1977) – He portrayed Peewee McCord in this biographical film about the race car driver Wendell Scott.
- “Once Bitten” (1985) – He had a supporting role as Sebastian in this horror-comedy film.
Cleavon Little’s Net Worth
At the time of his passing, Cleavon Little had an estimated net worth of $2 million, as reported by Celebrity Net Worth.
Cleavon Little’s Family
Cleavon Little hailed from an Black-American family. His parents were named Malchi.