Beloved actor and dancer Geoffrey Holder has died at age 84. Holder, who according to his attorney died from complications due to pneumonia, was a highly visible performer from the 1950s through the 2000s and was famously a pitchman for 7Up through the 1970s and 1980s —featured in their popular “Un-cola” ad campaigns. Holder leaves behind his wife of 59 years, Carmen De Lavallade, and their son, Léo.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Holder held no prejudice against doing commercial work. Despite being a trained thespian and Tony Award nominee, Holder explained to PEOPLE in 1975 that he didn’t look at ad work as beneath him. “I’m no snob,” he said at the time. “The commercial is an art form unto itself. After all, you are seducing people.”
Holder was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1930. He joined his older brother’s dance troupe at the age of 7. The 6-foot-6-inch gentleman with the unmistakable voice made his Broadway debut in 1954 in the musical House of Flowers. He would go on to dance with New York’s Metropolitan Opera Ballet in 1955 and 1956, and starred in an all-black production of “Waiting for Godot” in 1957 — the same year he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for his paintings.
To many, Holder is most known for his film work. He memorably appeared in classic films such as 1967’s Dr. Doolittle, 1973’s Live and Let Die, 1982’s Annie and 1992’s Boomerang. He also served as the narrator for 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Holder also published a Caribbean cookbook in 1973.