Godfrey MacArthur Cambridge: One of the United States Most Celebrated Comedians

Written by Jae Jones

Actor and comedian, Godfrey MacArthur Cambridge, was born in New York City in 1933. His father Alexander Cambridge and his mother Sarah Cambridge were born in British Guiana. The family moved to Harlem after living in Canada. Dissatisfied with the New York Public School System Cambridge’s parents sent him to live with his grandparents in Sydney, Nova Scotia during his primary years. At the age of 13, he was sent back to New York to attend Flushing High School in Flushing, Queens.

In 1949, Cambridge went on to study medicine at Hofstra College. He attended the school for three years before dropping out to pursue his career in acting. Cambridge worked odd jobs while pursuing his acting career including gardener, cab driver, clerk for the New York City Housing Authority, and bead-sorter. His first acting role came as a bartender in the off-Broadway play “Take a Giant Step.” His first actual Broadway debut in the original production occurred in 1957 in Herman Wouk’s play “Nature’s Way.”

Cambridge received a 1962 Tony Award nomination as part of the original cast of “Purlie Victorious,” a play written by and starring Ossie Davis. However, Godfrey is best known for his appearances in film roles such as The President’s Analyst (1967) and Watermelon Man (1970), in which he had the leading role. He also appeared on several network television programs, including Car 54 Where Are You?, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy (“Court of the Lion”), and Police Story.

Cambridge, along with writer Maya Angelou and actor Hugh Hurd, organized one of the first benefits for Martin Luther King, Jr. held in New York City; it was held at the Village Gate in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, Cambridge took up photography and displayed his photographs in a New York City exhibit. He also wrote Put-Ons and Put-Downs (1967). Cambridge died of a heart attack at the age of 43 in 1976.



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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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