Roscoe Lee Browne: Kingpin & 'Dear God' Actor

by Andre Soares
Roscoe Lee Browne Kingpin Dear God
Roscoe Lee Browne in Dear God.

Roscoe Lee Browne: Kingpin in 'Spider-Man' TV series and 'Babe' narrator dead at 81

Emmy-winning and Tony-nominated actor Roscoe Lee Browne, among whose credits are William Wyler's The Liberation of L.B. Jones and the role of Kingpin in the 1990s television series Spider-Man, died on April 11 in Los Angeles. Browne was 81.

Born on May 2, 1925, in Woodbury, N.J., Browne began acting in the mid-1950s. In 1961, he starred in the English-language adaptation of Jean Genet's play The Blacks, and two years later was the Narrator in Edward Albee's adaptation of Carson McCullers' novella The Ballad of the Sad Cafe on Broadway.

Roscoe Lee Browne movies

Roscoe Lee Browne's numerous film roles include those of a spy in Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz (1969), a cook in the John Wayne Western The Cowboys (1972), and one of the leads in William Wyler's last film, the underappreciated social drama The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970).

Browne also put his booming voice to good use by narrating several motion pictures, including the 1995 Oscar-nominated comedy Babe and its less prestigious sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, three years later.

Roscoe Lee Browne's television and stage work

On television, Roscoe Lee Browne was featured in dozens of series and made-for-TV movies, among them All in the Family, playing a lawyer trapped in an elevator with bigot Archie Bunker; The Cosby Show, which earned him an Emmy; Soap, in a recurring role as Saunders; Hart to Hart; Will & Grace; and the aforementioned Spider-Man, as Kingpin.

Browne received a Best Supporting Actor Tony nomination for his performance in August Wilson's 1992 Tony-winning play Two Trains Running. Discussing Browne's work in the play, the New York Times remarked on his “wry perspective of one who believes that human folly knows few bounds and certainly no racial bounds. The performance is wise and slyly life-affirming.”

Off screen, Browne wrote poetry. For three decades, he and his Liberation of L.B. Jones co-star Anthony Zerbe staged a poetry anthology, Behind the Broken Words, that included works by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and William Butler Yeats, plus some of Browne's own creations.

Roscoe Lee Browne Dear God photo: Paramount Pictures.

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