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Spencer Williams (actor)

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Last Updated: 16 December 2020

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Spencer Williams (actor)

Born( 1893-07-14 ) July 14, 1893 Vidalia, Louisiana , U.S.
DiedDecember 13, 1969 (1969-12-13) (aged 76) Los Angeles, California , U.S.
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OccupationActor, filmmaker
Resting placeLos Angeles National Cemetery Section 209, row Z, space 3
Years active1928-1962

Spencer Williams is widely known for his portrayal of the character Andy in the controversial 1950s television comedy series Amos n Andy. His contributions to World of film and television, however, far surpassed the limitations of the popular but widely criticized Amos n Andy sitcom. Born on July 14 1893 in Vidalia, Louisiana, Williams moved to New York City during his teens and studied comedy under vaudeville comedian Bert Williams. He attended the University of Minnesota, but interrupted his studies to serve several years in the United States Army during and after World War I. After being honorably discharged from service in 1923, Williams returned to New York City and concentrated on a career in show business. He eventually landed a job with Christie Studios in Hollywood, where he co-write and appeared in Paramount Pictures ' first all-black talking film, Melancholy Dame. He was subsequently retained as consultant, continuity writer, and performer for Christie Comedies-comedy series that focussed on black life in urban Alabama. In 1940, Williams wrote the script and portrayed a detective in the film, Song of Ingagi, follow-up version of King Kong clone Ingagi. The following year, his own company, Amegro Films, produced Blood of Jesus-religious fantasy that concentrates on moral issues and religious themes. Blood of Jesus is considered one of most effective depictions of black church life in the South and was selected by the United States Congress for entry into the National Registry of Films in 1991. In addition to directing and writing, Williams appeared in nearly 20 films and composed music. In 1951, he was selected to appear as lead character Andy on the Amos n Andy show and also occasionally contributed to writing Amos n Andy scripts. Although he is best remembered for his role as slow-witted, often dupe and frequently unemployed Andy, Williams later protested demeaning public images in which Hollywood subject blacks to portray. He pressed for more serious depictions of blacks in motion pictures; and attempted to rectify the stereotypical climate by making movies after the Amos n Andy series that were more in line with African American life. Spencer Williams died of kidney failure in his Los Angeles home on December 13 1969.

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Early career

Williams was born in Vidalia, Louisiana, where the family lives on Magnolia Street. As a youngster, he attended Wards Academy in Natchez, Mississippi. He moved to New York City when he was teenager and secured work as call boy for theatrical impresario Oscar Hammerstein. During this period, he received mentoring as a comedian from African American vaudeville star Bert Williams. Williams studied at the University of Minnesota and served in the US Army during and after World War I, getting to the rank of sergeant major. During his military service, Williams travelled the world, serving as General Pershing's bugler while in Mexico before he was promoted to camp sergeant major. In 1917, Williams was sent to France to do intelligence work there. After World War I, Williams continued his military career; he was part of a unit whose job was to create war plans for the Southwestern United States, in case they might ever be needed. He arrived in Hollywood in 1923 and his involvement with films began by assisting with works by Octavus Roy Cohen. Williams snag bit roles in motion pictures, including part in the 1928 Buster Keaton Film Steamboat Bill, Jr. He found steady work after arriving in California, apart from a short period in 1926 where there were no roles for him; he then came to work as an immigration officer. In 1927, Williams was working for First National Studio, going on location to Topaz, Arizona to shoot footage for a film called River. In 1929, Williams was hired by producer Al Christie to create dialogue for a series of two-reel comedy films with all-black casts. Williams gained the trust of Christie and was eventually appointed responsibility for creating Melancholy Dame. This film is considered the first black talkie. Films, which play on racial stereotypes and use grammatically tortured dialogue, include Framing of Shrew, Lady Fare, Melancholy Dame, Music Hath Charms, and Oft in Silly Night. Williams wore many hats at Christie's; he was sound technician, wrote many of the scripts and was assistant director for many films. He was also hired to cast African-Americans for Gloria Swanson's Queen Kelly and produce the silent Film Hot Biscuits in the same year. Williams also does some work for Columbia as supervisor of their Africa speak recordings. Williams was also active in theater productions, taking a role in the African-American version of Lulu Belle in 1929. Due to the pressures of the Depression coupled with lowering demand for black short films, Williams and Christie separate ways. Williams struggled for employment during years of Depression and would only occasionally be cast in small roles. Movies include brief appearance in Warner Bros. Gangster Film Public Enemy in which he was uncredited. In 1931, Williams and his partner founded their own movie and newsreel company called Lincoln Talking Pictures Company.

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* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

The Blood of Jesus

Spencer Williams was among the very first African American independent filmmakers, and his great cultural morality tale, Blood of Jesus, is a landmark of American cinema. Still known primarily as a radio and screen actor, Williams made more than a dozen films with all-black casts. He traveled South to show his work in church basements, and Blood of Jesus was a huge hit with African American audiences for years. Story of sin and redemption, films with vivid depictions of spiritualism and folk beliefs have power that few big-budget movies have ever achieve. Scholar Jacqueline Stewart, who is preparing a biography of Williams, introduces the work.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

Death and legacy

Williams died of kidney ailment on December 13, 1969, at Sawtelle Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles, California. He is survived by his wife, Eula. At the time of his death, news coverage focussed solely on his work as a television actor, since few white filmgoers knew of his race films. The New York Times obituary for Williams cites Amos 'n Andy but makes no mention of his work as a film director. A World War I veteran, he is buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery. When friends and family from Vidalia, Louisiana were interviewed for a local newspaper article in 2001, he was remembered as a happy person, who was always singing or whistling and telling jokes. His younger cousins also recall his generosity with them for candy money; just as he was seen on Television as Andy, he always had his cigar. On March 31, 2010, state of Louisiana voted to honor Williams and musician Will Haney, also from Vidalia, in celebration on May 22 of that year.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions.

* Please keep in mind that all text is machine-generated, we do not bear any responsibility, and you should always get advice from professionals before taking any actions

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