Marshall, William B.

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William Marshall as Blacula.
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William Marshall as Blacula in Scream, Blacula, Scream.

Marshall, William B. (1924–2003)

(pop culture)

William B. Marshall, Shakespearean actor and star of two vampire movies, was born on August 19, 1924, in Gary, Indiana. Early career highlights included successful performances in the title roles in Oedipus Rex and Othello in the 1960s. These parts led to movie roles as a Haitian patriot leader in Lydia Bailey and a nubian in Demetrios and the Gladiators. In the early 1970s, as movies aimed at an African-American audience became a growth industry, producer Joseph T. Naar at Power Productions began a search for someone to play a black vampire lead in a movie he was putting together. Marshall, six feet five inches tall, fit the part in a most impressive manner. Not used to playing stereotypical black characters, he assumed some direct responsibility for the final creation of the character, Prince Mamuwalde, cursed by Dracula to become Blacula. He transformed the title role, which had the potential for degenerating into a parody of both vampires and black people, into a serious dramatic part. He was responsible for developing the character of Prince Mamuwalde into an antislavery freedom fighter.

Blacula (1972) was successful enough to lead to one sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream. (1973). Although Marshall was eager to continue his portrayal of Blacula in further movies, the production company, American International, dropped the idea.

Sources:

Glut, Donald F. The Dracula Book. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1975. 388 pp.