DEEP ARE THE ROOTS by Gordon Heath


Memoirs of a Black Expatriate
Email this review


 Superb autobiography of a gay black actor. Actors and lovers of acting will find a mother lode of rich commentary on the thespian arts in the grandly informal words of Heath (1918-91), who played a legion of classical roles, became the first black announcer on American radio, played scores of whites on radio dramas (with no listener being the wiser), and apparently possessed a wit, if not genius, for marvelous speech--and who writes just as well. Heath's distinguished career was given national attention when he starred in the 1945 Broadway production of Deep Are the Roots, under Elia Kazan's direction and with Barbara Bel Geddes as his beloved. Heath played Othello, Hamlet, Oedipus, Marlowe's Faustus, Hamm in Beckett's Endgame, and a hatful of other top roles, always to great acclaim. He was also a skilled musician and singer and, in Paris, owned his own nightclub (where he did a guitar act) and directed his own theater as well, mounting the first Parisian productions of The Glass Menagerie, After the Fall, The Skin of Our Teeth, etc. When invited to the University of Amherst in 1987 to play in Wole Soyinka's The Lion and the Jewel, Heath was asked by the university press to write his autobiography. Though he died before completing it, what he wrote is treasure enough, particularly his extensive review of the century's English- speaking Othellos (``Olivier chose, I thought, the wrong kind of Negro[es] to impersonate and his rightly celebrated technique showed through the burnt cork. I admired the virtuosity but felt nothing for the man''). Caviar. (Twenty-five illustrations--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-87023-778-0
Page count: 200pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992