Summer Madness | Calvin Lockhart

In honor of TCM and their “Summer Under the Stars” series, we launch our companion series, Summer Madness. The series will spotlight the achievements and films of one Black actor, daily throughout the month of August.

Day 23

Calvin Lockhart (born Bert Cooper; October 18, 1934 – March 29, 2007) was a Bahamian–American stage and film actor. He was best known for his role as Biggie Smalls, a big-time gangster in the 1975 film, Let’s Do It Again alongside Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby and Jimmie Walker.

Lockhart was born in Nassau, Bahamas, moving to New York City when he was 18. He spent one year at the Cooper Union School of Engineering, then left to pursue an acting career. He drove a taxi and operated a carpentry business in the borough of Queens while trying to establish a career as an actor.

In 1960 he made his Broadway debut, playing a gang leader in The Cool World, which closed after just two performances. He then traveled to Italy and formed his own theater company in which he both acted and directed, before moving to West Germany and then England, where he landed various roles on British television and small roles in films such as A Dandy in Aspic and Salt and Pepper. Lockhart’s first notable screen role was in Joanna, a 1968 film about an interracial romance, set in London, in which he played a nightclub owner and the boyfriend of star Genevieve Waite. Joanna was directed by Michael Sarne, the British director who subsequently cast Lockhart in the notorious Myra Breckinridge, starring Raquel Welch and Mae West. Lockhart’s first lead role in a movie was in the 1970 release, Halls of Anger. He played an English teacher and former basketball star who becomes vice-principal of an inner-city high school to which 60 white students are being moved. He also starred in Ossie Davis’s Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) as the Reverend Deke O’Malley, who is under investigation by the movie’s main characters.

In 1974 Lockhart became an actor-in-residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. In the 1980s he was a guest star for seven episodes in the prime-time soap opera Dynasty, playing Jonathan Lake, a love interest of the character Dominique Deveraux played by Diahann Carroll. He is familiar to horror film fans after his performance as the millionaire big-game hunter in The Beast Must Die. released in 1974 by British studio Amicus and also starring Peter Cushing.

His character’s name in the film, Let’s Do It Again Biggie Smalls was used by Christopher Wallace before a lawsuit forced Wallace to change it to Notorious B.I.G. Lockhart returned to the Bahamas in the late 1990s and worked as a director on several productions of the Freeport Players Guild. He married New York interior designer Jennifer L. Miles, the mother of his son, actor Julien Lockhart Miles. Lockhart’s last film role was in Rain, a movie that was shot in the Bahamas and was released in 2007. Lockhart died in a Nassau hospital from stroke-related complications. #SummerMadness #Lockhart

Recommended films:
Joanna (’68)
Halls of Anger (’70)
Cotton Comes to Harlem (’70)
Melinda (’72)
Let’s Do It Again (’75)

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