Bert Williams: A Biography of the Pioneer Black Comedian

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9780899506951: Bert Williams: A Biography of the Pioneer Black Comedian

In the early 20th century, black musical shows, operettas, and revues were among Americas most popular forms of entertainment. The foremost of the eras African-American entertainers was pantomime artist and comedian Bert Williams. With partner George Nash Walker, Williams starred in the first black musical to open on Broadway, In Dahomey (which became the first black show to give a command performance before English royalty). In 1910, he joined Florenz Ziegfelds Follies--the only black then regularly appearing on Broadway. Williams career was marked by racism. "Its no disgrace to be a Negro but its certainly an inconvenience, " he said. Despite his status, Williams did not escape the burnt-cork makeup, never dropping the black caricature to move on to dramatic roles.

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About the Author:

Eric Ledell Smith is a resident of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and is also the author of Blacks in Opera: An Encyclopedia of People and Companies, 1873-1993 (1995, $49.95).

From Library Journal:

Williams, a comedian, actor, and songwriter, had a career in show business which spanned the years from 1893 until his death in 1922. Smith traces his life story through a meticulous analysis of the minstrel shows, vaudeville productions, and musical comedies in which Williams appeared--from In Dahomey to the Ziegfeld Follies . Details about such collaborators as longtime partner George Walker, dancer Aida Overton Walker, and composer Will Marion Cook, among others, enhance the book as does a candid and sensitive view of the prejudice that tainted the lives of these talented individuals. Supportive historical data and quotations from contemporary accounts provide a scholarly perspective. For special music and theater collections.
- Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield,
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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