Jay Riley was an African American actor who started his career in 1932. He appeared in Broadway productions and also found
roles in motion pictures and television. The collection consists of script material, photographs and a small amount of biographical
information, press clippings, ephemera, books, and audiovisual materials related to Riley’s career.
James Merriman Riley, professionally known as Jay Flash Riley, Jay Riley, and Joe Riley, was born June 24, 1916 in Scranton,
Pennsylvania. He got his start acting in 1932 with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Theater project. His first
appeared on Broadway in the role of Jack Stanton in Orson Welles's production of Native Son (1941). Other Broadway appearances include Carmen Jones (1943), On the Town (1944), Finian's Rainbow (1947), The Wiz (1975), and Bubbling Brown Sugar (1976). Riley spent time in Europe (ca. mid-1960s and 1970s) and appeared in and produced a stage production of Trumpets of Our Lord. Additionally, he appeared in films such as Cleopatra and The She Beast, and did voice-overs dubbing 200-plus films. Riley's television credits include appearances on Frank's Place, Good Times, Sanford and Son, Taxi, and The White Shadow. In 1979, Riley won the Los Angeles Weekly's Lawree Award for Outstanding Performance of the Year for his role in Bubbling Brown Sugar. In 1988, shortly before his death, he appeared in the MGM film Memories of Me. He died September 20, 1988 in Los Angeles, California.
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