Ossie Davis died at age 87 still acting and still an activist. He’ll be remembered for his part in bringing new black movie making to us in “Cotton Comes to Harlem,” for advising Spike Lee on “Malcolm X,” for his parts in “Malcom X” and other Lee films, for his long marriage to Ruby Dee (1948 – present) and more. He was a tireless worker in his art and in politics and social change. He gave eulogies at the funerals of both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
For me, oddly enough, his turn as John F Kennedy in the wonderfully touching story of aging, dignity, and Egyptian Soul-sucking mummies, “Bubba Ho-Tep” is the most memorable. The story could not have been carried off without Ossie’s ability to bring something deep out of something potentially so shallow, something surprising out of something so potentially predictable. He has great help from the main lead, Bruce Campbell as a man who might be Elvis, writer Joe R. Lansdale, and director Don Coscarelli. But for me Ossie is the presence that keeps Bruce/Elvis on his toes, that keeps you believing when it’s obvious you shouldn’t be believing, that takes the movie where Lansdale’s story wants to go. Ossie like his character in Bubba Ho-Tep was active to the end, never stopping to be involved, Unlike his character, Ossie was never confused about who he was. He never accomodated and never wavered.