Harry Belafonte’s Best

<i> Compiled by Carroll Lachnit</i>

Grammy-winning King of Calypso. Tony-winning Broadway star. The first black performer to win an Emmy award. Harry Belafonte has excelled in just about every medium. Here is a very selective list of his credits:


“Bright Road” (1953). Belafonte’s film debut, in which he starred with Dorothy Dandridge in a tale of a teacher who helps a sensitive student.

“Carmen Jones” (1954). Belafonte starred as a soldier who falls for a temptress in this adaptation of Bizet’s opera. He was again paired with Dandridge, but his singing voice, like that of the other stars, was dubbed.


“The World, the Flesh and the Devil” (1959). Starred in and co-produced this morality play set in post-apocalyptic New York. With Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer.

“King: A Filmed Record . . . Montgomery to Memphis” (1970). Belafonte appeared in this documentary about his friend Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Buck and the Preacher” (1972). A popular Western addition to Hollywood’s cycle of 1970s black action films. Belafonte co-produced and starred as the flim-flamming phony preacher. Belafonte’s best friend, Sidney Poitier, made his directorial debut with the film.

“Uptown Saturday Night” (1974). Starred as gangland boss, delivering a wicked imitation of former acting-workshop colleague Marlon Brando’s wheezing “Godfather” voice. The film again teamed him with director Poitier.


“The Player” (1992). Belafonte did a cameo, as himself, in Robert Altman’s star-filled Hollywood satire.


“Calypso” (1956) Belafonte’s third album established his reputation as the Calypso King and included “Jamaica Farewell” and “Banana Boat Song” (“Day-O”) and stayed at No. 1 for 31 weeks.

“Porgy and Bess” (1959). With Lena Horne.

“Belafonte at Carnegie Hall” (1959). A live performance won Grammy for album of the year.

“Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall (1960). This live performance recording features black American folk singer Odetta, one of Belafonte’s idols, and South African singer Miriam Makeba. Also won album of the year.

“Swing Dat Hammer” (1961) and “An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba” (1965). Both winners of best folk Grammys.

“Paradise in Gazankulu (1988). The album’s lyrics and “township"-style songs honor the struggle of black people for equality in South Africa. Some tracks were clandestinely recorded in South Africa, where Belafonte’s anti-apartheid stance made him persona non grata, and brought to the U.S., where the artist added his vocal lines.


On Broadway

“John Murray Anderson’s Almanac” (1953). Belafonte won a Tony award as best supporting actor in this musical revue.

“3 For Tonight” (1955). Starred in musical revue with Marge and Gower Champion.

“Asinamali!” (1987). Co-produced the stage drama of life in the cell of a South African prison.


Television:"Sugar Hill Times” (1949). Featured in the half-hour variety show series.

“Tonight with Belafonte” (1959). Belafonte won an Emmy for this performance special.

“Harry and Lena” (1970). Special with Lena Horne.


“Grambling’s White Tiger” (1981). This movie for television was Belafonte’s TV acting debut. He played legendary Grambling College football coach Eddie Robinson.

“Harry Belafonte: Don’t Stop The Carnival” (1985). Also executive produced this television special.

“We Are The World: A Year of Giving” (1985). Hosted this special on the impact of the funds raised by the song “We Are The World.” Belafonte brought together 45 artists to record the anthem.

“Routes of Rhythm With Harry Belafonte” (1990). Hosted the three-hour KCET-produced special on the roots of Latin music.