In Memory of Gloria Foster

By Paul Martin October 29th, 2001, in Miscellaneous, The Matrix Cast, The Matrix Reloaded

According to this story, Gloria Foster, who was ‘The Oracle’ in the first ‘Matrix’, had shot most of her scenes for the ‘Matrix Reloaded’:
GLORIA FOSTER, the actress who has died aged 64, won roles both on stage and screen that were usually reserved for white actresses.

Her acting career spanned four decades and she won numerous awards. It was, however, perhaps for her wonderful performance in her most recent role, as the Oracle in The Matrix (1999), that she will be best remembered.

Gloria Foster was born in Chicago, Illinois, on November 15 1936, and was raised by her maternal grandparents at Janesville, Wisconsin. As a child she idolized Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge, despite her grandparents’ disapproval of show people.

It was her godmother who supported Gloria’s ambition, encouraging her study of Mark Twain, Shakespeare and Greek mythology. When she won a scholarship to the Goodman Theatre School of Drama in Chicago, her grandparents at first would not allow her to go. They felt there were no role models for black Americans within the arts, as most black actors were restricted to playing slaves or domestic staff. It was only through the intervention of one of Gloria’s teachers that they relented.

In 1963, Gloria Foster traveled to New York, appearing in fringe productions, before winning the title role in Martin B Davidson’s In White America. In the play, she portrayed 27 characters and explored the experience of black Americans, from the 18th-century slave ships to the 20th-century campaign for civil rights. Critics singled out her performance as the first black schoolchild to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, for particular praise.

With the New York Shakespeare Festival, Gloria Foster played many of the classical roles she loved, including Medea, Jocasta and Hecuba, Andromache and Clytemnestra. On film, she made her debut with Shirley Clarke’s The Cool World in 1963. Other credits included Nothing But a Man (1964) with Ivan Dixon, The Comedians (1967) with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Lillian Gish, The Angel Levine (1971) and Man and Boy (1972), opposite Bill Cosby.

During the 1970s she appeared as a guest on television shows including The Brady Bunch and The White Shadow. The following decade saw one of her busiest periods; she played Mrs Hatch in Alastair Reid’s The Files on Jill Hatch (1983) and joined the cast for the 1985 mini-series The Atlanta Child Murders. In 1995, she won acclaim on Broadway in Having Our Say, playing a 103-year-old woman.

Gloria Foster made her last stage appearance in a 1999 revival of A Raisin in the Sun, and had completed most of her scenes for a sequel to the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix (The Matrix Reloaded) just days before her death.

She is survived by a daughter.

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