Godfrey MacArthur Cambridge (February 26, 1933 - November 29, 1976) was an American comedian and actor. He was especially popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a regular guest on The Merv Griffin Show and other talk shows. He had originally received a scholarship to study medicine but opted for an acting career instead.
Cambridge was born in New York City to parents who were immigrants from British Guiana. He began school in Nova Scotia while living with his grandparents, but returned to New York City and graduated from Flushing High School. He then studied at Hofstra College, where he became interested in acting.
Cambridge appeared both on stage and screen. Memorable film roles include Watermelon Man, where he plays the lead character, a white bigot who one day wakes up and discovers his skin color has turned to black, and The President's Analyst, where he plays a depressed government agent. He also had a starring role in the 1970 Ossie Davis adaptation of the Chester Himes novel Cotton Comes to Harlem of the same name. He perhaps reached his largest audience in a series of comical television commercials for Jockey brand underwear.
Cambridge is also remembered for his starring role in Beware! The Blob, a sequel to the The Blob, as well as appearances on several network television programs, including Car 54 Where Are You? ("The Curse of the Snitkins"), The Dick Van Dyke Show ("The Man From My Uncle"), and I Spy ("Court of the Lion"). He also had a small speaking part as a member of Sgt. Bilko's platoon in the [Phil Silvers Show], 1957 episode 'Boys Town'.
He had a number of starring theatrical roles, both on and off Broadway, including his Broadway debut in Nature's Way (1951). He later appeared in The Blacks, in a performance that earned him an Obie award in 1961. He also did a stock version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum four years later.
Cambridge gave an acclaimed television performance alongside Tom Bosley in the episode "Make Me Laugh" of Rod Serling's Night Gallery. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the episode showed Cambridge's ability to portray his own stage act trade in a story about a failed comedian who looks to a genie for a quick fix to success.
In addition to acting, Cambridge was a well-known standup comedian who appeared on The Tonight Show and other television shows. His routines were imbued with biting sarcasm and trenchant topical humor that was common in comedic circles at the time. He was noted for comic lapses from standard educated speech to Black street-speak.
Sometime between 1972 and 1976 Cambridge produced and hosted a drug awareness film titled "Dead is Dead". The film depicted an uncensored look at the downside of drug-use, showing actual drug users injecting drugs and going through withdrawls.
Godfrey Cambridge died of a heart attack at the age of 43 while on the set of the movie Victory at Entebbe, in which he was to portray Idi Amin. Amin claimed Cambridge's death was "punishment from God." It is possible the frequently overweight Cambridge's habit of yo-yo dieting contributed to his early demise, as his death was preceded by a rapid weight loss.