Stepin Fetchit

STEPIN FETCHIT, and wife DOROTHY STEVENSON (1929)Fox, Fetchit became a Fox contract player in 1929 after several years of film making. This portrait with his first wife was distributed at the time for publicity. It is stamped on the back “Screen Secrets, July 31, 1929,” and was for that magazine. Thrice married, he is likely the most controversial of character actors in film history. Born Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry in 1902, he was a talented physical comedian who achieved star status as a supporting character player, and who also was a millionaire in the 1930’s.It is even more unusual and rare to find any kind of 20’s portrait of Fetchit.

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Stepin Fetchit

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry (May 30, 1902 – November 19, 1985), better known by the stage name Stepin Fetchit, was an American comedian and film actor.

Perry parlayed the Fetchit persona into a successful film career, eventually becoming a millionaire, the first black actor in history to do so. He was the first black actor to receive featured screen credit in a film.

Perry’s typical film persona and stage name have long been controversial, and seen as illustrative of negative stereotypes of African-Americans. Seen through a modern lens, Perry’s “laziest man in the world” character can be “painfully racist” but also “subversive”.

Early life

Little is certain about Perry’s background other than that he was born in Key West, Florida to West Indian immigrants. He was the second child of Joseph Perry, a cigar maker from Jamaica (although some sources indicate the Bahamas) and Dora Monroe, a seamstress from Nassau. Both of his parents came to the United States in the 1890s, where they married. By 1910, the family had moved north to Tampa, Florida. Another source says he was adopted when he was eleven years old and taken to live in Montgomery, Alabama.

His mother wanted him to be a dentist, so Perry was adopted by a quack dentist, for whom he blacked boots before running away at age twelve to join a carnival. He earned his living for a few years as a singer and tap dancer.

Career/

Perry began entertaining in his teens as a comic character actor. By the age of twenty, Perry had become a vaudeville artist and the manager of a traveling carnival show. His stage name was a contraction of “step and fetch it”. His accounts of how he adopted the name varied, but generally he claimed that it originated when he performed a vaudeville act with a partner. Perry won money betting on a racehorse named “Step and Fetch It”, and he and his partner decided to adopt the names “Step” and “Fetchit” for their act. When Perry became a solo act he combined the two names, which later became his professional name.

Perry played comic relief roles in a number of films, all based on his character known as “The Laziest Man in the World”. In his personal life, Perry was highly literate and had a concurrent career writing for The Chicago Defender. He made his reputation and earned a five-year studio contract with his performance in In Old Kentucky (1927). The film featured a romantic connection between Perry and actress Carolynne Snowden, a subplot that was decidedly an on-screen rarity for African-American actors working among a white cast.

Perry starred in Hearts in Dixie (1929), one of the first studio productions to boast a predominantly African-American cast.

For his role as Joe in the 1929 part-talkie film version of Show Boat, Perry’s singing voice was supplied by Jules Bledsoe, who had originated the role in the stage musical. Fetchit did not “sing” “Ol’ Man River”, but instead a new song used in the film, “The Lonesome Road”. Bledsoe was actually seen singing “Ol’ Man River” in the sound prologue shown preceding the film.

Perry was good friends with fellow comic actor Will Rogers, and they appeared in four films together, David Harum (1934), Judge Priest (1934), Steamboat ‘Round the Bend (1935), and The County Chairman (1935).

Perry spawned imitators, most notably, Willie Best (Sleep 'n Eat) and Mantan Moreland, the scared, wide-eyed manservant of Charlie Chan. (Perry actually played a manservant in the Chan series before Moreland – in 1935’s Charlie Chan in Egypt).

Perry did not invent the stereotype with which his stage name became synonymous, but Stepin Fetchit’s image was used to popularize it. Many black film characters were based on Stepin Fetchit, including Matthew Beard’s “Stymie” in the Our Gang comedies. Perry had guest-starred in an earlier Our Gang short, A Tough Winter, intended as the pilot film for a Fetchit short subject series producer Hal Roach had planned, but which never materialized.

Fetchit appeared in 54 films between 1925 and 1976, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category “Motion pictures”.

Later life

Perry was the first black actor to become a millionaire, but he declared bankruptcy in 1947, stating assets of $146 (equal to about $1,542 today). He became a friend of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali in the 1960s. Perry also found himself in conflict during his career with civil rights leaders who criticized him personally for the film roles that he portrayed. Nonetheless, in 1976 the Hollywood chapter of the NAACP awarded him a Special NAACP Image Award. Two years after that, Perry was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Personal life

Perry was married three times: to Dorothy Stevenson, Winifred Johnson, and Bernice Sims. In 1930 his wife Dorothy gave birth to their son, Jemajo. With Winifred he had a second son in 1935: Donald, who later took his step-father’s name, Lambright. In April 1969, Donald Lambright traveled the Pennsylvania Turnpike shooting people. He injured fifteen and killed three before turning the gun on himself.

Death

A stroke in 1976 ended Perry’s acting career, and he moved into the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital. He died November 19, 1985 from pneumonia and heart failure at age 83. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles with a Catholic Funeral Mass.

http://wikipedia.thetimetube.com/?q=Stepin+Fetchit&lang=en

Happy Birthday Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry! (May 30, 1902 – November 19, 1985), better known by the stage name Stepin Fetchit

American comedian and film actor, who had his greatest fame throughout the 1930s. In films and on stage, the persona of Stepin Fetchit was billed as “The Laziest Man in the World”.

Perry parlayed the Fetchit persona into a successful film career, eventually becoming a millionaire, the first black actor to do so. He was also the first black actor to receive featured screen credit in a film. 

Perry’s film career slowed after 1939, and after 1953 nearly stopped altogether. Around that time, the actor and the character began to be seen by black Americans and American culture at large as an embarrassing anachronism who echoed and perpetuated negative stereotypes. However, in more recent years, the Stepin Fetchit character has undergone a re-evaluation by some scholars, who view him as an embodiment of the trickster archetype.(Wikipedia)

Portrait of actor Stepin Fetchit, holding a calendar with the date Friday, August 13. Toy stuffed black cat in foreground. Printed on front: “Stepin Fetchit appearing in Fox Pictures. Made in U.S.A.” Label on back: “Royal Books. Fetchit, Stepin (entertainer). Original Fox Film Company promotional photograph of Stepin Fetchit, circa 1929. Los Angeles, CA: Fox Film Corporation, circa 1929. Vintage single weight sepia promotional photograph of African American actor and stage entertainer, Stepin Fetchit. Fetchit’s first film for Fox was an early talkie, ‘The ghost talks,’ and we assume that the photo was issued around that time and no later than 1935, when Fox Film Company became Twentieth Century Fox. Stepin Fetchit was the stage name of Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, who claimed a birthdate of May 30, 1902, but may have been born as early as 1892. He was born to West Indian immigrants, and at the age of 12 ran off to join the carnival, soon thereafter working on his own and even forming his own companies as an entertainer. Fetchit worked part time for the African American newspaper, 'The Chicago defender.’ In his spare time he evolved a character called 'The laziest man in the world’ as part of a two-man vaudeville act, 'Step and Fetchit,’ that broke through to play the white circuits. Eventually he went solo, combining the duo name into a single one, Stepin Fetchit. After some time on the stage and vaudeville circuit, Stepin’s film career began in 1925, bringing his unique physical comedy to the screen. He was a rare example of a character actor who achieved superstar status in the 1930s, and was by that time a millionaire. 8 x 10 inches (20 x 25 cm.) A touch of fray and tide marking along the top edge, else Very Good plus." 

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

Al Hirschfeld mural, 1954.  Once upon a time, it adorned a wall at New York’s Fifth Avenue Cinema Theater.  From LIFE (hence the split), 1954. 

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Stepin Fetchit

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry (May 30, 1902 – November 19, 1985), better known by the stage name Stepin Fetchit, was an American comedian and film actor.

Perry parlayed the Fetchit persona into a successful film career, eventually becoming a millionaire, the first black actor in history to do so. He was the first black actor to receive featured screen credit in a film.

Perry’s typical film persona and stage name have long been controversial, and seen as illustrative of negative stereotypes of African-Americans. Seen through a modern lens, Perry’s “laziest man in the world” character can be “painfully racist” but also “subversive”.

Early life

Little is certain about Perry’s background other than that he was born in Key West, Florida to West Indian immigrants. He was the second child of Joseph Perry, a cigar maker from Jamaica (although some sources indicate the Bahamas) and Dora Monroe, a seamstress from Nassau. Both of his parents came to the United States in the 1890s, where they married. By 1910, the family had moved north to Tampa, Florida. Another source says he was adopted when he was eleven years old and taken to live in Montgomery, Alabama.

His mother wanted him to be a dentist, so Perry was adopted by a quack dentist, for whom he blacked boots before running away at age twelve to join a carnival. He earned his living for a few years as a singer and tap dancer.

Career/

Perry began entertaining in his teens as a comic character actor. By the age of twenty, Perry had become a vaudeville artist and the manager of a traveling carnival show. His stage name was a contraction of “step and fetch it”. His accounts of how he adopted the name varied, but generally he claimed that it originated when he performed a vaudeville act with a partner. Perry won money betting on a racehorse named “Step and Fetch It”, and he and his partner decided to adopt the names “Step” and “Fetchit” for their act. When Perry became a solo act he combined the two names, which later became his professional name.

Perry played comic relief roles in a number of films, all based on his character known as “The Laziest Man in the World”. In his personal life, Perry was highly literate and had a concurrent career writing for The Chicago Defender. He made his reputation and earned a five-year studio contract with his performance in In Old Kentucky (1927). The film featured a romantic connection between Perry and actress Carolynne Snowden, a subplot that was decidedly an on-screen rarity for African-American actors working among a white cast.

Perry starred in Hearts in Dixie (1929), one of the first studio productions to boast a predominantly African-American cast.

For his role as Joe in the 1929 part-talkie film version of Show Boat, Perry’s singing voice was supplied by Jules Bledsoe, who had originated the role in the stage musical. Fetchit did not “sing” “Ol’ Man River”, but instead a new song used in the film, “The Lonesome Road”. Bledsoe was actually seen singing “Ol’ Man River” in the sound prologue shown preceding the film.

Perry was good friends with fellow comic actor Will Rogers, and they appeared in four films together, David Harum (1934), Judge Priest (1934), Steamboat ‘Round the Bend (1935), and The County Chairman (1935).

Perry spawned imitators, most notably, Willie Best (Sleep 'n Eat) and Mantan Moreland, the scared, wide-eyed manservant of Charlie Chan. (Perry actually played a manservant in the Chan series before Moreland – in 1935’s Charlie Chan in Egypt).

Perry did not invent the stereotype with which his stage name became synonymous, but Stepin Fetchit’s image was used to popularize it. Many black film characters were based on Stepin Fetchit, including Matthew Beard’s “Stymie” in the Our Gang comedies. Perry had guest-starred in an earlier Our Gang short, A Tough Winter, intended as the pilot film for a Fetchit short subject series producer Hal Roach had planned, but which never materialized.

Fetchit appeared in 54 films between 1925 and 1976, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category “Motion pictures”.

Later life

Perry was the first black actor to become a millionaire, but he declared bankruptcy in 1947, stating assets of $146 (equal to about $1,542 today). He became a friend of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali in the 1960s. Perry also found himself in conflict during his career with civil rights leaders who criticized him personally for the film roles that he portrayed. Nonetheless, in 1976 the Hollywood chapter of the NAACP awarded him a Special NAACP Image Award. Two years after that, Perry was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Personal life

Perry was married three times: to Dorothy Stevenson, Winifred Johnson, and Bernice Sims. In 1930 his wife Dorothy gave birth to their son, Jemajo. With Winifred he had a second son in 1935: Donald, who later took his step-father’s name, Lambright. In April 1969, Donald Lambright traveled the Pennsylvania Turnpike shooting people. He injured fifteen and killed three before turning the gun on himself.

Death

A stroke in 1976 ended Perry’s acting career, and he moved into the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital. He died November 19, 1985 from pneumonia and heart failure at age 83. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles with a Catholic Funeral Mass.

http://wikipedia.thetimetube.com/?q=Stepin+Fetchit&lang=en