Archie Savage was an American dancer, choreographer, singer and actor active in American films through the 40’s and 50’s and in European films, mostly Italian, from the late 50’s through the 60’s.
He was born on April 19th 1914 in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, and grew up in the Harlem district of New York. He died in Los Angeles on February 14th 2003, at the age of 88. He is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetary in Los Angeles.
He began his career as a professional dancer in his early 20’s with the Helmsley Winfield Dance Troupe, then became a member of the famous Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe in 1939, becoming the dance partner of Ms. Dunham and building a reputation as a choreographer. In the 40’s he formed his own dance troupe, The Archie Savage Dancers, with whom he would appear in stage productions and in a number of films. Today he is regarded as having been a pioneer in the field of African-American dance and as the creator of the Afro/Cuban dance form.
He also appeared in the theatre, both as a dancer and actor, appearing in a nationwide production of Cabin In The Sky in 1940 and on Broadway in many productions including Dance With Your Gods (1934), Macbeth (1936), Dr. Faustus (1937), Haiti (1938), Beggar’s Holiday (1946), Lysistrata (1946) and in the original Broadway production of South Pacific (1949) (he would also appear in the London theatre production and film adaptation).
Unlike the other black American dancer/choreographers who turned up in Italian films from the late 50’s (Wilbert Bradley, Van Aikens), Archie already had a lengthy Hollywood career beforehand. His film career began in Hollywood in the early 40’s, where he alternated between dance roles and choreography in shorts and musicals, stereotypical “native” roles in jungle serials, bit parts in major studio productions and occasional bigger acting roles.
Four of the films Archie was involved with in the 50’s were productions starring Burt Lancaster. From my research it appears that there was a friendship and possibly a sexual relationship between Savage and Lancaster. Savage was never married and I have found several articles that allude to him being gay (and photographs of him certainly give that impression), while FBI documents released in 2000 confirm that Lancaster was definitely bisexual.
In the late 50’s his work took him to Europe, initially to Germany, then to Italy where he remained throughout the 60’s. His roles in Italian films were very varied, he played his share of the native roles that were inescapable for black actors at that time and also played a number of larger acting roles in different genres, but he was equally likely to be found popping up as a generico (and there are very likely further roles of this nature to be found). He was also credited as choreographer in a number of films where he does not appear. Additionally during his time in Italy Archie appeared in at least one fotoromanzo, La Spia dalle Ciglia di Visione, in 1966, as well as performing and recording as part of the gospel vocal group The Folkstudio Singers (named after Harold Bradley’s Folkstudio club).
He returned to America in the 70’s, where he concentrated on choreography and teaching dance.
In his film career he achieved several notable “firsts” for actors of colour, as the first black member of an ensemble cast in a western in Vera Cruz and as the first black man in space in Space-Men.
- Tales of Manhattan (uncredited) .... Shantytown man
- Cabin in the Sky (uncredited) .... Dancer in Jim Henry's Paradise club
- Broadway Rhythm (uncredited) .... Dancer
- Ramar of the Jungle (TV series, season 1, episode 3: Curse of the Devil Doll) (credited) .... Chief Ratambo
- Ramar of the Jungle (TV series, season 1, episode 21: White Man's Magic) (credited) .... Chief Nagula
- Apache (uncredited) .... Cavalryman
- Carmen Jones (uncredited) .... Dancer
- His Majesty O'Keefe (credited) .... Boogulroo
- The Glenn Miller Story (credited with The Archie Savage Dancers) .... Dancer
- Vera Cruz (credited) .... Ballard
- Jungle Jim (TV series, season 1, episode 9: White Magic) (uncredited) .... Kmoto
- Panther Girl of the Kongo (12-episode serial) (credited) .... Ituri
- The Kentuckian (uncredited) .... Singer/Dancer (uncertain appearance)
- Autumn Leaves (uncredited) .... Ticket collector in the theatre
- The Ten Commandments (uncredited) .... Ethiopian (uncertain appearance)
- The Garment Jungle (uncredited) .... Elevator operator
- This Could be the Night (uncredited) .... Dancer
- Bühne frei für Marika (credited) .... Dancer
- South Pacific (credited) .... Ceremonial dance chief
- Europa di notte (credited with The Archie Savage Dancers and as choreographer) .... Dancer
- Il figlio del corsaro rosso (credited as choreographer) .... Credit only
- La casa delle sette torri (TV movie) (credited) .... Pedro, the negro servant
- Lui, lei e il nonno (credited with The Archie Savage Dancers) .... Credit only
- La dolce vita (uncredited) .... Street dancer
- Ragazza mia (TV mini series) - episode 1 (credited) .... The negro
- Space-Men (credited) .... Al - X-15
- Il ladro di Bagdad (uncredited) .... Courtier
- Boccaccio '70 - segment: "Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio" (uncredited) .... Man with the jazz band
- Sodoma e Gomorra (credited as choreographer) .... Credit only
- Un branco di vigliacchi (credited) .... Leader of the American liberators
- Anthar l'invincibile (uncredited) .... Bidder at the slave auction
- Ercole contro i figli del sole (credited as choreographer) .... Maybe credit only
- Il magnifico cornuto (credited as choreographer) .... Credit only
- Tarzak contro gli uomini leopardo (credited) .... Tamobu
- Le bambole (credited as choreographer) .... Credit only
- Le piccole volpi (TV movie) (credited) .... Cal
- Agente 3S3, massacro al sole (uncredited) .... Dart-blowing henchman
- I criminali della galassia (credited as choreographer) .... Dancing crew member
- I diafanoidi vengono da Marte (credited as choreographer) .... Archie, a crew member
- Il grande colpo dei 7 uomini d'oro (uncredited) .... One of the general's soldiers
- Il pianeta errante (credited as choreographer) .... Credit only
- Gungala la vergine della giungla (credited) .... Thao
- Da uomo a uomo (credited) .... Vigro
- Cinque figli di cane (credited) .... Jeremiah
- Una stagione all'inferno (credited) .... African medicine man
- Carnival of Rhythm (1941) as Dancer. Archie's earliest known appearance on film was in this musical short feature.
- Jammin' the Blues (1943) credited, as Dancer. This is another musical short.
- Tokende! (1966) Documentary short. Archie appears as himself together with the rest of The Folkstudio Singers.
- Appunti per un'Orestiade africana (1970) Theatrically-released documentary. Credited, as Singer
There are a few additional titles for Archie, mostly mondo movies where he should appear with his dance troupe, where I have been unable to find images or credits, so if anybody has any of these please fill in the gaps
- Mobby Jackson (1960) ANICA
- Baldoria nei Caraibi (1961) ANICA, Mondo movie
- Tropico di notte (1961) IMDb, Mondo movie, as dancer
- Le dolci notti (1962) MyMovies.It, as choreographer. Mondo movie, the credits for this one are on You Tube and Archie isn't there, but, given the possible credit below, he could be listed under another name
- Sexy al neon bis (1962) ANICA, Mondo movie
- Sexy proibitissimo (1963) IMDb, Mondo movie, as dancer, maybe credited as "The Royal Ballet of the Fiji Islands"
- Porgy in Wien (1966) IMDb, TV movie
- The Claw Monsters (1966) IMDb and others, this is a feature-length edit of the 1955 Panther Girl of the Kongo serial.
There always has to be one!
- La morte viene dal pianeta Aytin (1967) listed on tvguide.com. Archie does not appear (not even disguised as a snow devil), presumably confused with his appearances in other Margheriti space-operas.