Military.com: How Air Force Vet Melvin Van Peebles Changed Hollywood Forever; This Special Forces Officer Was the Vietnam War’s First Medal of Honor Recipient and more ->
Melvin Van Peebles (born Melvin Peebles; August 21, 1932 – September 21, 2021) was an American actor, filmmaker, playwright, novelist, and composer. He worked as an active filmmaker into the 2000s. His feature film debut, The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1967), was based on his own French-language novel La Permission and was shot in France, as it was difficult for a black American director to get work at the time. The film won an award at the San Francisco International Film Festival which gained him the interest of Hollywood studios, leading to his American feature debut Watermelon Man, in 1970. Eschewing further overtures from Hollywood, he used the successes he had so far to bankroll his work as an independent filmmaker.
In 1971, he released his best-known work, creating and starring in the film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, considered one of the earliest and best-regarded examples of the blaxploitation genre. He followed this up with the musical, Don’t Play Us Cheap, based on his own stage play, and continued to make films, write novels and stage plays in English and in French through the next several decades; his final films include the French-language film Le Conte du ventre plein (2000) and the absurdist film Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha (2008). His son, filmmaker and actor Mario Van Peebles, appeared in several of his works and portrayed him in the 2003 biographical film Baadasssss!.
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