[Ads-l] big apple

James Landau 00000c13e57d49b8-dmarc-request at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Thu Feb 6 19:23:19 UTC 2020

On  Mon, 3 Feb 2020 23:15:20 Zone-0500   Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
<quote> On Mon, Feb 3, 2020 at 7:59 PM David Daniel <dad at coarsecourses.com> wrote:
> I've been watching old Perry Mason shows. Very cool, as well as
> nostalgia-ridden. Anyway, the episode I'm watching now (air date Nov 15,
> 1958) is about horse racing and Perry is defending a jockey accused of
> murder (of course he didn't do it). So Perry and Paul Drake are talking to
> the trainer who was the jockey's boss, and the trainer is talking about how
> you move up in the racing world. You start off small, etc. etc., and then
> one day you make it to the Big Apple. "The Big Apple?" Perry asks. "Yeah,"
> says the trainer, "Saratoga, Belmont..." meaning the big ones. Perry had
> never heard the term and there is no direct reference to New York, except
> of > course that both those tracks are in New York. It's strictly treated as
> racing jargon. (A side note on these shows: I have watched about 45 of them
> now and have yet to see a black actor, not one. Feels very bizarre. Also> everyone except Della Street is constantly - constantly - smoking.)
To quote my favorite line from Ferris Bueller's Day Off,
"What country do you think this is?!"
There was Eddie "Rochester" Anderson on The Jack Benny Show, Willie Best,
the poor man's Stepin Fetchit, on Father Knows Best, and the black players
of MLB and of the NFL (one of whom, ironically, was Rochester's son) and
the CFL. (It may startle some of the younger folk to read this, but
Canadian football was once a staple of American TV. Any sports-fan of the
day could tell you who Sam Etcheverry [star, record-setting Basque-American
QB of the Montreal Alouettes who ended his career with the former St. Louis
Football Cardinals] was.) Louis Armstrong guest-starred on the Texaco Star
Theater, Your Show of Shows, Ed Sullivan, etc.  Oh, and there was Mantan
Moreland, of "Feets, don't fail me, now!" fame, who played "Alabama,"
Charlie Chan's chauffeur, as seen in TV re-runs of the Chan series.
<end quote> African-Americans, or lack of them, in Hollywood was more complicated than you seem to realize. For a long while (I don't have the dates, but 1920's-1940's seems likely) white audiences did not want to see African-Americans in films, or at least Hollywood studios thought that was true.  As a result, most films were released with lily-white casts (or as with Charlie Chan, non-black casts).  Then for diversity-friendly audiences (or perhaps strictly for black audiences) scenes with African-Americans were spliced in, making two different versions of the same film.  It makes being a film historian interesting. I saw one example.  In the version of Abbott and Costello "Buck Privates" (1941) that I saw, there was a barracks scene in which the slapstick stopped and Louis Armstrong made an appearance, giving a non-humorous talk on Basin Street.  A black-history expert confirmed to me that I had seen one of the spliced movies. The above did not apply to all films.  In the Our Gang films there were two African-American characters, a boy called Buckwheat and a girl called Farina (oddly, played by a boy named Allen Clayton Hoskins in 105 episodes).   Also blacks could appear in otherwise white-only films if context required, such as Hattie Mc Daniel as a slave house servant in Gone With The Wind. As far as I know (I am no expert on this) the first Hollywood film with a black lead was the controversial Song of the South (1946) from, of all studios, Walt Disney. A note on "Rochester": his career was almost fortuitous.  From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_%22Rochester%22_Anderson<quote>As Jack Benny and his show staff were traveling to California by train, Benny and his writers had an idea for a comedy sketch that took place on a train with a train porter getting the better of Benny on a fictional trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. Benny liked the idea of the sketch enough to wire California to find someone for the role of the train porter before the show script was actually finished.<snip> Five weeks after Anderson's first appearance on the Benny program, he was called for another radio role on the show, this time as a waiter in a restaurant serving the cast<snip> Anderson was called back once more, now for the part of a "colored fellow" who had a financial disagreement with Benny. The Benny show received a large amount of mail about Anderson's appearances on the radio program. Benny decided to make him part of the cast as his butler and valet, Rochester van Jones.Neither Benny nor Anderson could recall how they came up with the name of Rochester for Anderson's character.<snip>  When Anderson became a regular member of the Benny show cast, he became the first African American to have a regular role on a nationwide radio program. Anderson first appeared as "Rochester" on the Benny program of June 20, 1937.
<end quote> Aside to DAD: If "Big Apple" means New York CITY, then it cannot include Saratoga.Aside to Wilson Gray: Anderson's stepson, Billy Anderson (ne George Billy Nelson)  James Landau
jjjrlandau at netscape.com

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