Remembering Calvin Lockhart: A Bahamian Star in Hollywood

by Howard Campbell

Remembering Calvin Lockhart: A Bahamian Star in Hollywood
Calvin Lockhart

SOUTH FLORIDA – Once touted as the successor to Sidney Poitier, Calvin Lockhart never reached the lofty heights of his fellow Bahamian, but he had a distinguished career in movies and television. As we celebrate and close out Caribbean-American Heritage Month, South Florida Caribbean News presents ‘Cariwood’, a series looking at players in the television/movie industry who have Caribbean roots.

The debonair Lockhart, who died in 2007 at age 72, started his career on the Broadway stage during the 1960s. He also appeared in independent movies in West Germany and the United Kingdom that decade. He then returned to the US to star in so-called blaxploitation films.

Although most of them were widely panned by the critics, blaxploitation movies exposed actors like Lockhart, Pam Grier, as well as former NFL players Fred Williamson and Jim Brown. Cotton Comes to Harlem, in which he plays corrupt, self-styled pastor Deke O’Malley, is regarded as one of Lockhart’s finest moments.

Poitier paid tribute to Lockhart when he died.

“Calvin had wonderful range as an actor,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “He really had such enormous promise. I don’t know why he was not more utilized, because he was so good. As a matter of fact, he had movie-star qualities. He was a very handsome man, his impact on the screen was striking and his work was highly praised.”

Calvin Lockhart Films

During the 1970s, Lockhart showed his comedic chops in Uptown Saturday Night and Let’s Do It Again. Both, hit movies which also starred Poitier and Bill Cosby. In the latter, Lockhart plays Biggie Smalls (later made famous by rapper The Notorious B.I.G.), rival of John Amos’ character, Kansas City Mack.

Lockhart also starred in several flops including Every Nigger is a Star, a 1973 Jamaican movie. The theme song, written by Boris Gardiner and made famous by Big Youth, was sampled by rapper Kendrick Lamar for his song Wesley’s Theory.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Lockhart enjoyed a career revival. He played Jonathan Lake in seven episodes of Dynasty. Additionally, he led a Jamaican voodoo-gang in Predator 2. Plus, he had small roles in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and Twin Peaks.

Calvin Lockhart died from complications of a stroke in his native Nassau.