HYDE PARK — Controversial author and filmmaker Sam Greenlee Jr. will be remembered Friday at the DuSable Museum of African American History.
Greenlee, who spent most of his life in Woodlawn, died on May 19 at his home at 61st Street and Kenwood Avenue.
A memorial service for Greenlee will start at 6:30 p.m. at the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Place.
Greenlee is best known for the book and film “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” about a black CIA agent who becomes disillusioned with the agency and drops out to train black radicals in Chicago with the CIA’s own methods. The book was published in 1969, and the film debuted in 1973.
“I was just a teenager when he cast me in the film,” said Pemon Rami, who played the drug dealer Shorty Duncan, whose murder sparks a riot in the story.
Rami, who now works at the DuSable Museum, said he knew Greenlee for 46 years and never saw the filmmaker turn to bitterness, even when rumors started that the FBI was systematically having copies of the film destroyed after its release in 1973.
“A lot of people in the film never ended up working again, Sam never made a movie again,” Rami said. “He ended up having to drive a taxi and taking odd jobs.”
Even the curious could only see the film by tracking down a bootleg until 2004. The film was not available in the United States until 2004, when it was released on DVD after a long-hidden copy of the movie was discovered mislabeled in a film canister.
Tim Reid, the actor who discovered the copy of the film, will be among those honoring Greenlee at the DuSable Museum. He will show a video tribute to Greenlee.
Greenlee’s cousin, blues singer Nikki Greenlee, will perform and authors and friends of Greenlee will share memories.
The museum will also screen portions of films Greenlee shot, but never released, including a short documentary about his brother.
“It’s going to be a celebration as much as is humanly possible,” Rami said.
“The Spook Who Sat by the Door” will be screened at 7 p.m. Thursday at Chatham 14 Theaters, 210 W. 87th St.