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(From Wikipedia):

Amos ‘n’ Andy is a situation comedy based on stereotypes of African-Americans and popular in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s. The show began as one of the first radio comedy serials, written and voiced by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll and originating from station WMAQ in Chicago, Illinois. After the series was first broadcast in 1928, it grew in popularity and became a huge influence on the radio serials that followed. The program ran on radio as a nightly serial from 1928 until 1943, as a weekly situation comedy from 1943 until 1955, and as a nightly disc-jockey program from 1954 until 1960. A television adaptation ran on CBS-TV from 1951 until 1953, and continued in syndicated reruns from 1954 until 1966.

Origin:

Amos ‘n’ Andy creators Gosden and Correll were white actors familiar with minstrel traditions. They met in Durham, North Carolina, in 1920, and by the fall of 1925, they were performing nightly song-and-patter routines on the Chicago Tribunes station WGN. Since the Tribune syndicated Sidney Smith’s popular comic strip The Gumps, which had successfully introduced the concept of daily continuity, WGN executive Ben McCanna thought the notion of a serialized drama could also work on radio. He suggested to Gosden and Correll that they adapt The Gumps to radio. They instead proposed a series about “a couple of colored characters” and borrowed certain elements of The Gumps. Their new series, Sam ‘n’ Henry, began January 12, 1926, fascinating radio listeners throughout the Midwest. That series became popular enough that in late 1927 Gosden and Correll requested that it be distributed to other stations on phonograph records in a “chainless chain” concept that would have been the first use of radio syndication as we know it today. When WGN rejected the idea, Gosden and Correll quit the show and the station that December. Contractually, their characters belonged to WGN, so when Gosden and Correll left WGN, they performed in personal appearances but could not use the character names from the radio show.

When WMAQ, the Chicago Daily News station, hired the team and their WGN announcer, Bill Hay, to create a series similar to Sam ‘n’ Henry, they offered higher salaries than WGN and the rights to pursue the “chainless chain” syndication concept. The creators later told an anecdote that they named the new characters Amos and Andy after hearing two elderly African-Americans greet each other by those names in a Chicago elevator. Amos ‘n’ Andy began March 19, 1928, on WMAQ, and prior to airing each program they recorded their show on 78 rpm disks at Marsh Laboratories, operated by electrical recording pioneer Orlando R. Marsh.

For the program’s entire run as a nightly serial, Gosden and Correll portrayed all the male roles, performing over 170 distinct voice characterizations in the show’s first decade. With the episodic drama and suspense heightened by cliffhanger endings, Amos ‘n’ Andy reached an ever-expanding radio audience. It was the first radio program to be distributed by syndication in the United States, and by the end of the syndicated run in August 1929, at least 70 stations besides WMAQ carried the program by means of recordings.

Early storylines and characters:

Amos Jones and Andy Brown worked on a farm near Atlanta, Georgia, and during the episodes of the first week, they made plans to find a better life in Chicago, despite warnings from a friend. With four ham and cheese sandwiches and $24, they bought train tickets and headed for Chicago, where they lived in a State Street rooming house and experienced some rough times before launching their own business, the Fresh Air Taxi Company. With the listening audience increasing in the spring and summer of 1928, the show’s success prompted the Pepsodent Company to bring it to the NBC Blue Network on August 19, 1929. At this time the Blue Network was not heard on stations in the West. Western listeners complained to NBC that they wanted to hear the show. Under special arrangements Amos ‘n’ Andy debuted coast-to-coast November 28, 1929, on NBC’s Pacific Orange Network and continued on the Blue. At the same time, the serial’s central characters — Amos, Andy and George “The Kingfish” Stevens — relocated from Chicago to New York City’s Harlem.

Amos was naïve but honest, hard-working and (after his 1935 marriage to Ruby Taylor) a dedicated family man. Andy was more blustering, with overinflated self-confidence. Andy, being a dreamer, tended to let Amos do most of the work. TheirMystic Knights of the Seas lodge leader, George “the Kingfish” Stevens, was always trying to lure the two into get-rich-quick schemes, especially the gullible Andy. Other characters included John Augustus “Brother” Crawford, an industrious but long-suffering family man; Henry Van Porter, a social-climbing real estate and insurance salesman; Frederick Montgomery Gwindell, a hard-charging newspaperman; William Lewis Taylor, the well-spoken, college-educated father of Amos’s fiancee; and “Lightning”, a slow-moving Stepin Fetchit-type character. The Kingfish’s catch phrase “Holy mackerel!” soon entered the American lexicon.

Of the three central characters, Correll voiced Andy Brown while Gosden voiced both Amos and the Kingfish. The majority of the scenes were dialogues between either Andy and Amos or Andy and Kingfish. Amos and Kingfish, both voiced by Gosden, only rarely appeared together. Since Correll and Gosden voiced virtually all of the parts, the female characters, such as Ruby Taylor, Kingfish’s wife Sapphire, and Andy’s various girlfriends, did not appear as voiced characters in the original serial, but entered the plots only as discussed by the male characters. When the series switched to a weekly situation comedy in 1943, actresses began voicing the female characters and other actors were recruited for some of the male supporting parts. However, Correll and Gosden continued to voice the three central characters on radio until the series ended in 1960.

The story arc of Andy’s romance (and subsequent problems) with the Harlem beautician Madame Queen entranced some 40,000,000 listeners during 1930 and 1931, becoming a national phenomenon. Many of the program’s plotlines in this period leaned far more to straight drama than comedy, including the near-death of Amos’s fiancee Ruby from pneumonia in the spring of 1931, and Amos’s brutal interrogation by police following the murder of the cheap hoodlum Jack Dixon that December. Following official protests by the National Association of Chiefs of Police, Correll and Gosden were forced to abandon that storyline — turning the entire sequence into a bad dream, from which Amos gratefully awoke on Christmas Eve.

The innovations introduced by Gosden and Correll made their creation a turning point for radio drama, as noted by broadcast historian Elizabeth McLeod: (more here).

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