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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Transitions – An actor and a gentlemen: Lou Gossett, Jr.

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A Broadway actor at 17, Lou Gossett, Jr., spent over 70 years entertaining on stage, screen, and voice-overs. His Emmy performance as Fiddler, a survivor in the slave drama Roots, and his Oscar-winning role as a drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentlemen were historic. Roots had an unprecedented audience of 140 million in its eight-night run. Gossett’s Oscar, for supporting actor in An Officer…. was the first win for a Black actor in that category and only the third for a Black actor. 

An actor’s actor, Gossett, portrayed generals, slaves, aliens, and bad guys. He once remarked, “I like to play anything significant and of a quality that I would call a stretch. Anything that is quite different from what I have done before.” (Byrne, Catherine (1977). Louis Gossett: The Fiddler Is in ‘The Deep’ Adventure.” The San Francisco Examiner.)

I still shudder when I remember him as a drug kingpin in The Deep, where he is attacked and eaten by a giant eel. In the cult classic Enemy Mine, acting under pounds of latex, he gave humanity to a scaly green alien.

From Satchel Paige to Anwar Sadat, he was a towering giant that brought gravitas and energy to his roles. I auditioned to be his wife in an episode of First Edition, a four-season TV series shot in Chicago. But alas, another actress got the part.

Regarding An Officer and a Gentleman, I was hooked when the trailer came out. My husband was a Naval Officer, so I related to the upbeat and romantic movie.

Napervillian Bob Merrill probably concurs. In a recent letter to The Wall Street Journal, Merrill mentioned how he and his best friend met their respective mates when they were the only short-haired (military) guys in a bar. The women had just seen the movie, and they were reminded of the hero Richard Gere. Maureen and Bob Merrill have been married 40 years this year.

Happy anniversary, Merrills! I hope someone shares this column with them. 

One more thought: Louis Gossett, Jr., more than deserves his Oscar and the tribute from WSJ columnist Jason Riley who wrote last month, “Gossett played drill instructor Foley perfectly, and the producers deserve credit for casting him. Unrecognized, however, are the U.S. Marine Corps, which deserve credit, as well.”

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Barbara Blomquist
Barbara Blomquist
Barbara Blomquist is a Naperville resident, wife, mother, quilter, and screenwriter. Contact her at BWBLomquist@aol.com.
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