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Robert Townsend Biography

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Birth Name: Robert Townsend
Born: 02/06/1957
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Frustrated at the dearth of significant screen roles for blacks, Townsend scraped together some $100,000 (putting most of it on his assortment of credit cards) to produce, direct, write and star in his witty lampoon of the travails of an aspiring minority actor, "Hollywood Shuffle" (1987). His subsequent credits include Eddie Murphy's concert movie, "Raw" (1987), several cable TV comedy shows and "The Five Heartbeats" (1991), a somewhat old-fashioned show biz comedy-drama about a rhythm and blues singing group set in the 1960s.

In interviews, Townsend has decried the anger and negativism that he believes characterizes too much of contemporary black filmmaking. Raised in inner-city Chicago, he sought escape through the films of Frank Capra. This sunny sensibility in the face of adversity characterized "The Meteor Man" (1993), an urban fairy tale about a mild mannered school teacher who is transformed into a crime-fighting superhero. The film contained no profanity or explicit violence--and fizzled at the box office.

Townsend returned to series TV in 1993 with the short-lived variety series "Townsend Television" (Fox). He scored slightly better with his next effort, the likeable yet unspectacular sitcom "The Parent 'Hood" (1995-99) on the fledgling The WB network. Townsend (who also co-executive produced) played a college professor coping with raising four children in Manhattan.