Arnold Johnson

Arnold Johnson, best known for his premiere film role as the title character in the 1969 satire "Putney Swope," was orphaned by age four. He pursued drama, and graduated from New York University before taking his first acting jobs Off-Broadway. It was in New York that he met film writer/director Robert Downey Sr., father of present day Hollywood star Robert Downey, Jr. The elder Downey cast Johnson as the lead in his scathing satire of Madison Avenue's advertising culture, "Putney Swope." The plot revolved around the only black member of an ad agency's staff being put in charge, providing a cultural and race-relations critique that made the film a cult hit. However, it was Johnson's first film role, and he struggled to learn his lines in time for the shoot, so ultimately, Downey overdubbed all Johnson's dialogue during postproduction. Despite this production gaffe, Johnson developed an impressive career in film and television, accruing over 40 acting credits. Notably, his first foray earned him much love in the African-American community, and much of his career was in films and television shows like the exploitation classic "Shaft," the sitcom "Sanford and Son," the comp drama "Hill Street Blues" and the classic sitcom "Family Matters." Johnson died at age 78, and his last film was the straight-to-video prison drama "15 to Life," written by, directed by, and starring Moon Jones.