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Creator / Melvin Van Peebles

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Melvin Van Peebles (born Melvin Peebles; August 21, 1932 - September 21, 2021) was an American filmmaker, playwright, director, actor, writer, and musician. After being disgusted with the portrayals of black Americans in film, he shot two short films (despite having no prior film-making experience) in 1957, Sunlight and Three Pick-up Men for Herrick. Van Peebles did not find any success in Hollywood during that time and decided to move to Europe where he found more success in distributing his films and getting recognition. Hollywood producers then started to take notice and he found more work as a director.

It was the film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, that Van Peebles directed, wrote, produced, and even acted in which was his breakout into the mainstream. It was financed by Bill Cosby who gave Peebles a $50,000 loan to produce the film. Despite bad reviews and being Rated X, the film was an instant hit with black audiences and is widely credited to have started the blaxploitation film genre with many films trying to cash in on the success.


Van Peebles was also a Renaissance Man in the creative arts; in addition to being a filmmakers, he was also an author of several books and composed/made several albums and was actually thought of to be one of the first rappers back in 1968 (though it was more of a spoken-word album spoken rhythmically).

He was the father of actor and director Mario Van Peebles.

Selected Filmography

Film - Director

  • Three Pickup Men for Herrick (1957); also writer and composer
  • Sunlight (1957); also writer, composer, and producer
  • Cinq cent balles (1961); also writer and composer
  • The Story of a Three-Day Pass / La Permission (1967); also writer and composer, adapted from his novel La Permission
  • Watermelon Man (1970); also composer
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971); also actor, writer, composer, co-producer and editor
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  • Don't Play Us Cheap (1973); also writer and composer, adapted from his book Harlem Party and stage musical Don't Play Us Cheap
  • Identity Crisis (1989); also actor, producer, and editor
  • Gang in Blue (1996) co-director, actor, and producer
  • Le Conte du ventre plein / Bellyful (2000); also writer, composer and delegate producer
  • Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha (2008)
  • Lilly Done the Zampoughi Every Time I Pulled Her Coattail (2012); also editor, performer

Film - Actor

Television - Actor


  • The Big Heart (1957)
  • Un Ours pour le F.B.I. / A Bear for the F.B.I. (1964)
  • Un Américain en enfer / The True American (1965)
  • Le Chinois du XIV (1966)
  • La Fête à Harlem (Harlem Party) (1967)
  • La Permission (1967)
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)
  • Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death (1973)
  • Don't Play Us Cheap: A Harlem Party (1973)
  • Just an Old Sweet Song (1976)
  • Bold Money: A New Way to Play the Options Market (1986)
  • Melvin and Mario Van Peebles: No Identity Crisis (1990)
  • Panther (1995)


  • Brer Soul (1968)
  • Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death (1970)
  • Watermelon Man (1970)
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)
  • Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death (1972)
  • Don't Play Us Cheap (1973)
  • As Serious as a Heart-Attack (1974)
  • What the....You Mean I Can't Sing?! (1974)
  • Ghetto Gothic (1995)
  • Nahh... Nahh Mofo (2012)
  • The Last Transmission (2014, with The Heliocentrics)


Video Example(s):


SAG 2022 In Memoriam Montage

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