Geoffrey Holder, actor and Tony-award winning director, dies at 84

Geoffrey Holder, left, is seen with his son, Leo Holder, in December 2010.
(Ron Sachs-Pool / Getty Images)

Geoffrey Holder, a Tony Award-winning stage director, artist and actor, died at a New York City hospital Sunday from complications of pneumonia. He was 84.

Holder won a pair of Tony Awards for stage direction and costume design for the 1975 musical “The Wiz,” and is well-known for his roles in the film version of “Annie” and 7-Up commercials. He was also an established choreographer and painter, receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957.

“He was a terrific man. A superb artist, who lived a great life,” said Charles Mirotznik, Holder’s attorney, who confirmed his death.


Mirotznik said Holder, who was a native of Trinidad, is survived by his wife, Carmen, and son, Leo.

On Twitter, actress Debbie Allen called Holder a “giant in the art and theatre world. We will forever speak his name with great joy and respect.”

Holder, one of four children born to Louise de Frense and Arthur Holder, studied at Queen’s Royal College.

He made his Broadway debut in 1954 in Truman Capote’s “House of Flowers,” a musical set in the French West Indies.

Among Holder’s credits was the stage musical “Timbuktu,” which was performed at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood in 1978. Some critics called Timbuktu “gaudy.”

“Those who describe my costumes as ‘gaudy’ do so because of a limited vocabulary,” he said in a 1978 Times story. “Would one say Gauguin is gaudy in comparison with Gainsborough? ‘Gaudy’ is an ethnic putdown of a culture that deals with nature and the sun. I am not afraid of color. Remember I was born in the sun.”

During the 1980s, Holder appeared in several 7-Up commercials donning a signature white suit, creating a memorable moment in pop culture.


A creative force who acted, directed and painted, Holder told the Chicago Sun-Times last year that he’s “making something every five minutes.”

“All I see is art; it just comes out of me. And I’ve always believed that if you love what you’re doing you’re not working,” he said at the time.

The complete Los Angeles Times obituary of Holder is here.

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