The son of slaves, actor George H. Reed was nearing the age of 50 when he made his first screen appearance in 1914. If it is true that Reed was cast in D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, he would have been one of the few genuine black performers in this controversial film, which relied almost exclusively upon white actors in blackface. In contrast to the rampant racism in Birth, Reed's next confirmed appearance was in Realization of a Negro's Ambition (1916), which was relatively sympathetic to the African-American viewpoint. He went on to play escaped slave Jim in the 1920 version of Huckleberry Finn, then was consigned to stereotypical minor roles, bearing such character names as Rastus, Uncle Remus, and the like. During the talkie era, the stately, dignified Reed was often cast as a minister, most memorably as Reverend Deshee in The Green Pastures (1936). From 1939 to 1947, George H. Reed was a regular in MGM's Dr. Kildare series as elderly hospital orderly Conover, whose principal job it was to pilot the wheelchair bearing the curmudgeonly Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore).
by Hal Erickson biography