Carl Lee (born Carl Vincent Canegata; November 22, 1926 – April 17, 1986) was an American actor. His father was actor/professional boxer Canada Lee (1907–1952).
Lee made his first appearance in the film Human Desire (1954). Lee played a heroin dealer, the central role in the Obie Award-winning play The Connection. He appeared in the film version released in 1961.
Lee appeared in films such as A Man Called Adam (1966) opposite Sammy Davis, Jr. and Cicely Tyson, and the blaxploitation film Superfly (with Ron O’Neal, 1972). He also appeared on television in such shows as The Defenders, Mannix, and Good Times (“Willona’s Surprise”, 1977) in which he portrayed Willona Woods’ ex-husband Ray, who makes sexual advances towards Thelma Evans (Bernadette Stanis).
While filming The Connection, Lee fell in love with its director Shirley Clarke. Their relationship lasted almost 30 years until Lee’s death.
Lee suffered a heroin addiction that caused him to contract AIDS from a dirty hypodermic needle. This led to his death by overdose in 1986. In a 2000 interview, filmmaker James Toback stated “In the sort of hip world of New York, Carl Lee was the hip-black-actor icon. He was for hip people what Sidney Poitier was for mainstream people.” –Wikipedia
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