Classic Television Memories: African-Americans in 1960's Television - Hari Rhodes (Daktari)
For African-American actors and actresses, 1960's television liberated them from the stereotyped subservient roles that prevailed in movies from the preceding eras. No more were they viewed as buffoons, mammies, train porters, servants, etc, but their roles had evolved, putting them in more meaningful, dignified roles alongside their white counterparts, even against the backdrop of racism that still exists in Hollywood today.
The focus of this and other hubs in this series are on the accomplishments these thespians brought not only to the entertainment industry, but first and foremost, advancing the image of a people.
Hari Rhodes, actor, author, veteran of television and films was born in 1932 in the East End of my hometown in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He graduated from the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor Of Arts Degree. At age 15, he forged his mother's signature to enlist in the Marines. He served in Korea.
In 1957, he appeared in an episode of Zane Grey Theater which included Sammy Davis, Jr. Throughout the decade of the 60's, he could be found in numerous television shows such as Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, he was featured in an Outer Limits episode called "Moonstone", (1964). other roles included Rawhide, Wagon Train, The Fugitive, and in 1966 he starred in Daktari, (1966-1969) which was broadcast on CBS. Rhodes played Mike Makula, one of the assistants of Dr. (Daktari) Marsh Tracy (Marshall Thompson), and his daughter Paula (Cheryl Miller), at the Wamaru vetinary hospital in Africa. The series also featured Clarence The Cross-Eyed Lion, and Judy, the Chimp.
After Daktari ended, Rhodes continued acting in movies and on television throughout the 70's and 80;s. He could be seen in the blaxploitation film Detoit 9000 (1973), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.(1972) and most notably as Brima Cesay in the 1977 mini-series, Roots.
As an author, Mr. Rhodes published several novels, including one titled The Chosen Few, written about the African-American experience in the Marines.
Mr. Rhodes passed away in 1992 of a heart attack at age 59, in Canoga Park, California.
The first season of Daktari premiered on CBS on January 11, 1966. This adventure which takes place at a vetinary in Africa, stars Marshall Thompson, Cheryl Miller, Yale Summers, and Hari Rhodes, along with animal actors Clarence The Cross-eyed Lion, and Judy, the Chimp.