Rex Ingram (actor)

For the film director, producer, writer and actor of the same name, see Rex Ingram (director) (1892–1950)
Rex Ingram
Born (1895-10-20)October 20, 1895
Cairo, Illinois, U.S.
Died September 19, 1969(1969-09-19) (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1918-1969
Spouse(s) Francine Everett (1936-1939)

Rex Ingram (October 20, 1895 – September 19, 1969) was an American stage, film, and television actor.[1][2]

Early life and career

Ingram was born near Cairo, Illinois, on the Mississippi River; his father was a steamer fireman on the riverboat Robert E. Lee. Ingram graduated from the Northwestern University medical school in 1919 and was the first African-American man to receive a Phi Beta Kappa key from Northwestern University.[3] He went to Hollywood as a young man where he was literally discovered on a street corner by the casting director for Tarzan of the Apes (1918), starring Elmo Lincoln. He made his (uncredited) screen debut in that film and had many other small roles, usually as a generic black native, such as in the Tarzan films. With the arrival of sound, his presence and powerful voice became an asset and he went on to memorable roles in The Green Pastures (1936), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (the 1939 MGM version, opposite Mickey Rooney), The Thief of Bagdad (1940—perhaps his best-known film appearance—as the genie), The Talk of the Town (1942), and Sahara (1943).[2]

From 1929, he also appeared on stage, making his debut on Broadway. He appeared in more than a dozen Broadway productions, with his final role coming in Kwamina in 1961. He was in the original cast of Haiti (1938), Cabin in the Sky (1940), and St. Louis Woman (1946). He is one of the few actors to have played both God (in The Green Pastures) and the Devil (in Cabin in the Sky). In 1966 he played Tee-Tot in the movie Your Cheatin Heart. The Hank Williams Story.

Ingram was arrested for violating the Mann Act in 1948.[4] Pleading guilty to the charge of transporting a teenage girl to New York for immoral purposes, he was sentenced to eighteen months in jail. He served just ten months of his sentence, but the incident had a serious effect on his career for the next six years. In the interim, he invested in the Club Alabam, famed nightclub located in the Dunbar Hotel in South Central Los Angeles, with partners Joe Morris and Clarence Moore, reopening it as a jazz club.[5]

In 1962, he became the first African-American actor to be hired for a contract role on a soap opera, when he appeared on The Brighter Day. He had other minor work in television in the sixties, appearing in an episode each of I Spy and The Bill Cosby Show, both of which starred Bill Cosby, who used his influence to land him the roles.


Shortly after filming a guest spot on The Bill Cosby Show, Ingram died of a heart attack at the age of 73.[1][6] He was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California.

Selected filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1918 Tarzan of the Apes Uncredited
Salomé Uncredited
1923 The Ten Commandments Israelite Slave Uncredited
1927 The King of Kings Undetermined Role Uncredited
1929 The Four Feathers Fuzzy Wuzzy Native Uncredited
1933 The Emperor Jones Court Crier Uncredited
1936 The Green Pastures Adam/De Lawd/Hezdrel
1939 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Jim
1940 The Thief of Bagdad Djinn
1942 The Talk of the Town Tilney
Tulips Shall Grow Narrator Voice
1943 Cabin in the Sky Lucifer Jr./Lucius Ferry
Sahara Sgt. Major Tambul
1944 Dark Waters Pearson Jackson
1945 A Thousand and One Nights Giant
1948 Moonrise Mose
1949 Anna Lucasta Joseph Lucasta
1955 Tarzan's Hidden Jungle Sukulu Chieftain Uncredited
1956 Congo Crossing Dr. Leopold Gorman
1958 God's Little Acre Uncle Felix
1959 Escort West Nelson Water
Watusi Umbopa Alternative title: The Quest for King Solomon's Mines
1960 Elmer Gantry Preacher Uncredited
1964 Your Cheatin' Heart Tee-Tot
1967 Hurry Sundown Professor Thurlow
Year Title Role Notes
1956 Climax! Petraca 1 episode
1958 Whirlybirds Joe 1 episode
1959 Black Saddle Alex Booth 1 episode
1961 The Rifleman Thaddeus 1 episode
1962 Sam Benedict Judge Larkin 1 episode
1965 I Spy Dr. Bingham 1 episode
1966 Branded Hannibal 1 episode
1967–1968 Daktari Natoma
Chief Makuba
2 episodes
1968 Cowboy in Africa Dr. Tom Merar 1 episode
1969 Gunsmoke Juba 1 episode
The Bill Cosby Show George 1 episode


  1. 1 2 "Rex Ingrain, the Actor, Dies in Hollywood at 73. His Portrayal of De Lawd in 'Green Pastures' Hailed. Medical School Graduate". New York Times. September 20, 1969. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  2. 1 2 "Rex Ingram, 20th Century Actor". African American Registry. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  3. Bogle, Donald (2001). Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (4 ed.). Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 69. ISBN 0-8264-1267-X.
  4. "Rex Ingram is Released for Hearing on Oct. 4th". The New York Age. September 28, 1948. p. 3. Retrieved December 4, 2015 via
  5. Variety, October 25, 1951
  6. "Veteran Actor Rex Ingram Died of Heart Attack". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 36 (26): 56. 1969-10-02.
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