I made a Major Boo-Boo on this my last post. First of all Mr. Vern Smith, an announcer for Jubilee Radio Program was not a Black man. Second, the announcer on this particular video is not Vern Smith as I claimed-he is Emmett “Babe” Wallace. As you read on you will see that I refer to the announcer at the beginning of this video as Mr. Vern Smith. WRONG!
A friend of mine on Facebook, named Bill, sent me the link to this Jubilee Radio Program from 1944 because I sent him a picture of Ernie Whitman, Lena Horne and my father Eddie Green. He could not find a copy of a video with my father so he sent this one with Eddie “Rochester” Anderson (who was actually a good friend of our family). And he introduced me to the announcer at the beginning of this video as Mr. Vern Smith. WRONG!!
The announcer at the beginning of this video was in fact Emmett “Babe” Wallace. According to Jimy Bleu an IMDB biographer, “as an actor, Babe is among the early pioneers of Black Cinema, starring in numerous films alongside some of the finest names in the industry. His career took flight, when in 1943 he co-starred in the 20th Century Fox classic Stormy Weather with Lena Horne and Bill Robinson. He went on to perform in stage musicals such as Anna Lucasta in London during 1947, Les Folies Bergere in Paris during 1952 (appearing as the first Black male star), and Guys and Dolls on Broadway during 1976, with Robert Guillaume and James Randolph. In 1989, he was presented the prestigious Paul Robeson Award by the Black American Cinema Society, along with Marla Gibbs.
Babe is a prolific songwriter, poet and novelist, who has some of his works included in the Schomburg Research Center for Black Culture. Of his thousands of songs, some have been recorded by Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway. In 1999, Burger King franchise featured one of his songs “A Chicken Ain’t Nothin But A Bird” in their TV/radio ad campaign.”
Babe Wallace died in 2006.
I did find a Vernon Smith who announced the Ozzie and Harriet radio and television show, who also announced some of the Jubilee Radio Programs.
I claim to believe in finding something out about people I write about, however, in this instance I did not. I wrote about something of which I had no knowledge. I apologize for this and I will make sure to properly research next time.
AFRS Jubilee Radio Program was a show that was an all-Black broadcast of music and comedy skits sent to the Black American forces serving in WWII. Here’s a visual record of the opening of Jubilee.….You’ll see and hear (first) Vern Smith (NO you won’t, you’ll hear Emmett “Babe” Wallace) then Ernie Whitman………and two other familiar folks. I hope you like “Rochester”‘s singing!! Thanx for stopping by 🙂
This is going to either make me or break me. Which is really not the point here. The point is to show the necessity of yesterday. (thanks, Ben)
Last month a new CD dropped featuring old time black-face cartoon figures. And they were featured in a purposely seemingly demeaning way. The song seems to say that the Black person’s role (even the more affluent Black person) today is not much different than it was then, in some people’s eyes. Seems pessimistic to me. The song went Platinum in a week. One week.
The book I have written about my father has been a hard sell to some Blacks today because of the era in which my father lived. Some people do not see, and do not want to see, the relevance of yesterday’s all-black cast movies or old time radio, or vaudeville as it applies to progress. As for myself, I understand. Seeing my father in blackface has taken some getting used to. It’s still kind of embarrassing to admit my father was a blackface comedian. And if I am embarrassed what do I expect from others?
As you can see in the photo “From Broadway to Okeh”, Eddie performed In Connie’s Hot Chocolates as a blackface comedian. The sketch that he wrote and performed was so funny the Okeh record label recorded it and him.
According to Wikipedia, “it was through blackface minstrelsy that African American performers first entered the mainstream of American show business. Blackface served as a springboard for hundreds of artists and entertainers—black and white—many of whom later would go on to find work in other performance traditions. White audiences in the 19th Century wouldn’t accept real black entertainers on stage unless they performed in blackface makeup. blackface in vaudeville also provided opportunities for Blacks who performed in blackface. From the early 1930s to the late 1940s, New York City’s famous Apollo Theater in Harlem featured skits in which almost all black male performers wore the blackface makeup and huge white painted lips, despite protests that it was degrading from the NAACP. The comics said they felt “naked” without it.”
Eddie’s rise to stardom included not just his talent but his willingness to take the difficult road ahead of him. He climbed the ladder from the bottom rung to success. And he did it well. He became successful because whatever he did he did it the best way he knew how. He was an Actor.
Eddie’s career choice led to a very successful life. Once he appeared in the first public television broadcast as that Harlem Funster, Eddie Green along with his partner George Wiltshire (the first two Black men to appear on television in 1936), his career shot up from there. you can buy the book to read about the rest.
Suffice it to say that by 1948 Eddie was doing swell, the next photo is Eddie from an article announcing his fifth movie, Mr. Adam’s Bomb and my mom, the former Norma Amato, aspiring opera star who married Eddie in 1945.
On June 26, 1948 there was an article in the New York Age newspaper about my father and his thoughts on television:
Eddie Greens Firm Aids Show Business Through Television. The fast growing field of television offers a fertile one for Negro performers, is the opinion of radio comedian, Eddie Green, who revealed that because of this fact his motion picture firm has interested advertising agencies in having their sponsors products sold to the millions who view television via the singing and dancing route.
Designed to catch and hold the attention of the millions who want entertainment on video, Green asserted that instead of the hackneyed manner of selling national consumer goods to the public, his firm will “Deliver the message in a way to keep viewers from turning the dial”. Organized two months ago in Los Angeles with the famed comedian as president, Sepia Productions has already lined up five three-minute skits which they plan to lease or sell outright to ad agencies.
Backstage at the Strand Theatre here, where he’s a member of the “Duffy’s Tavern” radio show, Green said that colored performers have their niche in the television picture and they should demand that their agents establish contacts with those that handle the shows in order not to be left out in the cold when the infant industry attains maturity. He pointed out that the decline of vaudeville witnessed many good Negro acts going out of business and little hope for the birth of new talent was anticipated until television offered vast potentialities.
I hope to be able to create a more optimistic view of our pioneers efforts and achievements from back in the day and how they benefit us today. This may be a long shot, but I want to make their achievements “cool”. As in “yea, that’s cool”. And then if my book were a CD there’s got to be enough optimists out there to make it go platinum!!
I am feeling nostalgic today. With my first book signing for the biography I wrote about my father, Eddie Green, coming up on November, I have, of course, been thinking about Eddie and my mom, Norma. Through a second marriage Norma is also the mom of my three brothers and one sister, Nathaniel Lance (who has passed on), Brad, Brian and Donna. Through them (and me) she was also grandma Norma and great-grandma Norma. Mom passed away this month in 2010. Her birthday month is November. My brother Brad’s birthday is in October. So, I think I just figured out why I am nostalgic. Plus, November is BIG for me in another anonymous way but I’ll save that for another post.
Back to mom. I showed my youngest brother Brian this picture of Eddie and mom and he did not recognize the lady in that fur. Our family does not have a lot of pictures from 1946, and mom didn’t talk to much about those years. As you can see, those years were pretty good for Eddie and Norma.
While doing my research for the book I found an article in the Los Angeles California Eagle newspaper by J. T. Gipson in her “Notes from a Newsgirl” column, that “Eddie (Duffy’s Tavern) Green and wife, nee Norma Amato, are vacationing in the East. Norma plans to relieve New York of some of their latest creations”.
Such as this ensemble or these hats from 1946:
In those days mom was always in the news. Before she married Eddie she had aspired to become an opera star. Here is what was printed in another article in a 1944 Los Angeles California Eagle newspaper: “Keep your ears on Norma Amato’s delightful thrushing…she has the kind of voice you hear only in a dream”.
Together, she and Eddie liked to entertain at home. Jessie Mae Brown of the Los Angeles California Eagle reported in her column “What’s Doing in the Social Set” that “Television with all its newness will be the incentive for an exclusive soiree at the Eddie Green’s Second avenue home. After waiting several years in suspense for television, I look forward to this party with keen interest as well as pleasure.”
I found a picture of a 1946 television set. I don’t know if this was the same one or even the same day, but mom told me that Eddie cut a hole in the wall between the kitchen and the dining room and set the tv in the hole, leaving the ugly back of the set sticking out into the kitchen.
Eddie did not start out in life this way. He was born in an alley house in Baltimore (no sewage system and disease) to struggling parents. He ran away from home when he was nine and by the time he was seventeen he was working but still lived in an alley house on Ten Pin Alley (an actual alley listed on a map).
Eddie worked his way up. He taught himself to read. He discovered what he liked to do and he determined to do it the best he knew how. My father was thirty years older than mom. By the time she met Eddie it was all about traveling, nightclubs, parties, dinners, she did not talk much about what she knew of Eddie’s early life. He took her to Baltimore to show her his old living situation. She met his daughter from a previous marriage. But it was necessary for me to do extensive research in order to write the biography Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer. And thank goodness I did because my father’s story radiated inspiration for me. I’ve heard that others have felt the same after reading the book.
My next post will be from my new, updated blog which will feature news of the book, purchasing and what not, and it will also feature reviews I have received (all wonderful so far!). Thank you so much for being a part of my journey here on this blog.
Hi there. In recounting my father’s (Eddie Green) life in the entertainment business on this blog, I have also been writing a biography of my father. Eddie died in 1950 and I am now in the year 1949 when he began to experience his medical problems. So, I am almost finished with my first draft, minus add-ons and proofreading. I have deliberately let this blog lag behind the book so no one will get the whole story before the book comes out. I have to leave something for which folks will clamor. Or, not.
I have shared in my “Hookups” post about a radio show that Eddie was on in 1935, “Uncle Charlies Tent Show” starring Charles Winninger, and about Eddie being on the Rudy Vallee show, and about Eddie appearing in and writing comedy sketches for “Hot Chocolates” in 1929, with the music of Fats Waller and Andy Razaf, and Louis Armstrong. And today I would like to share a bit of my father with you, as he appeared on the first public broadcast demonstration of television. Woo Hoo!
First, however, I am going to post some information about Mr. George Wiltshire. George Wiltshire was my father’s “straight man” in an act Eddie had going in 1936. I needed to do some background searching on George before writing about him, so yesterday I looked him up and while doing so I became aware of the fact that there are a lot of people who have had successful careers in show business of whom we no longer hear.
What a handsome man. George Wiltshire was born in 1900. I read that he was an actor, known for Killer Diller (1948), Midnight Menace (1946) and Hi-De-Ho (1947), that he first appeared in the 1930 Broadway revue play “Hot Rhythm” at the Times Square Theatre, that he made his first film appearance in the 1938 all-black film “Keep Punching” and, more recently, that he had appeared in a couple of episodes of “Sanford and Son” in 1976, as Elroy Pitt, a sidekick of Hutch (Arnold Johnson), and a friend of “Fred” (Redd Foxx). Imagine that, one person who was alive in 1976, besides my mom and my Godfather, who knew Eddie. I found an article that spotlighted George in 1939 as having been one of the leading straight men and as the only “straight man” still carrying on. George died in 1976 in California. What I found in only one place was this:
EDDIE GREEN AMD GEORGE WILTSHIRE
ON TELEVISION TRYOUT BROADCAST
NEW YORK CITY, July —Eddie Green., popular stage, radio and screen comedian, and George Wiltshire, well-known “straight-man,” are the two men of color chosen to lend their bit to the firsttest television broadcast by the Radio Corporation of America. The program was specially broadcast to a select group of listeners and watchers. The program, announced by Milton Cross, also featured Ed Wynn, Graham MacNamarra, Henry Hull and the Pickens Sisters.
July 7 – At David Sarnoff’s request for an experiment of RCA’s electronic television technology, NBC’s first attempt at actual programming is a 30-minute variety show featuring speeches, dance ensembles, monologues, vocal numbers, and film clips. It is shown to 225 of RCA’s licensees on 22 centimeter screens.
The film can actually be found online as “First Television Broadcast NBC/RCA July 7, 1936 Part 2 of 2.” Eddie and George’s act is at the very beginning of Part 2. Trust me, I was a bit shocked at first at the way they looked, but there they were in 1936, on television, because these two men were who the people wanted to see. As far as I have been able to ascertain, Eddie Green and George Wiltshire were the first two black men to appear on television. Be aware, the film may begin in the middle on my site, so you might have to run it back to the very beginning which is where you will hear Milton Cross make the introduction, Eddie and George are the first act to appear, then the Rockettes, etc. If you would like to see an explanation of this broadcast with David Sarnoff go to “First Television Broadcast NBC/RCA July 7, 1936 Part 1 of 2.”
I did not type the whole act, but simply as clarification, I have typed in a portion of Eddie’s “Grandfather Joke”, the last joke of the skit, because the sound portion of the film is not very good. This was one of Eddie’s stock in trade jokes that his audiences got a kick out of. This particular joke was about how fast his grandfather can cook a meal in his restaurant (I typed a mini version):
(Eddie) “75 people were coming from L. A. to New York and they only had 10 minutes for lunch. (George) There were 75 people and they only had 10 minutes for lunch? (Eddie) That’s right. (George) I bet it scared him (grandpa) to death. (Eddie) It didn’t even scare the waiter. Grandpa was back in the kitchen smokin’ a pipe. The waiter just walked over to the kitchen door and yelled “HAM AND EGGS FOR SEVENTY-FIVE”. (George) And what did grandpa say? (Eddie) TAKE ‘EM AWAY BEFORE I BURN THEM!
Ha ha, so funny. I didn’t even get the joke for about two weeks, probably because I was so busy focusing on the white lips. I got over it, though. I love seeing my father on stage, especially since I was only three years old when Eddie died. I have come to realize that Eddie put in the work necessary to get where he eventually got. I actually found the script for the joke in the library last month. I did not put the film up on the internet, but I thank those who did. I thank Mr. Wiltshire’s people, if there are any left out there, for the chance to bring him a bit of recognition. And I certainly thank those of you who have stopped by and are hanging in here with me.