Saturday, August 8, 2015

Dancin' Bill Bo' Jangles

Stepin Fetchit

Ferris 904 

Stepin Fetchit was born Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry.   His bumbling acting style stereotyped African Americans in the early years of cinema.  Though he perpetuated a negative image of African Americans, even the critics agreed he had great comic timing as a stable boy or slave, and he became the first major black film star to become a millionaire.

Perry was born in Key West Florida in 1902. At age 14 he toured the south in minstrel shows and later was a vaudeville singer, dancer and comic. He changed his name to that of a racehorse winning him money in Oklahoma, and eventually made it to Hollywood, where he made dozens of films.

At the height of his fame Perry owned 12 cars and employed a staff of 16 servants. He later squandered his fortune and declared bankruptcy, and by the 1960s was a charity patient at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago.

Perry died of pneumonia and congestive heart failure on Nov. 19, 1985 in Woodland Hills, California, an extraordinary entertainer who opened doors for black actors that followed, more free to display a limitess range of talent.

Stepin fighting the devil
(Pinkney Roberts' semi-nude exotic dancers "The Pinkettes" in their dressing room)
Young Stepin wanted to be a priest.  He studied for a year in a seminary in New Orleans before coming to Hollywood.  Impurities were troubling Mr. Fetchit.  Temptations had descended along with sudden riches, as they so often do.  Stepin was going to mass each morning to be on condition to wrestle the devil the rest of the day. 

1 comment: