Spencer Williams as Andy and Alvin Childress as Amos Jones (right), 1952.
September 15, 1907|
Meridian, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||April 19, 1986
Inglewood, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Alice Herndon (1934-1957)
Alvin Childress was born in Meridian, Mississippi. He was educated at Rust College, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. When he initially entered college, Childress intended to become a doctor, enrolling in typical pre-med courses. He had no thoughts of becoming involved in acting, but became involved in theater outside of classes. Childress moved to New York City and became an actor with Harlem's Lafayette Players, a troupe of stock players associated with the Lafayette Theatre. Soon, he was engaged as an actor in the Federal Theater Project, the American Negro Theater, and in all-black race film productions such as Keep Punching (1939). His greatest success on the stage was his performance as Noah in the popular comedy, Anna Lucasta, which ran for 957 performances. He also worked at Teachers College of Columbia University. Childress also operated his own radio and record store in New York City. When he learned about casting for the Amos 'n Andy television series, Childress decided to audition for a role. He was hired a year before the show went on the air.
In 1951, he was cast as the level-headed, hard-working and honest Amos Jones in the popular television series, The Amos 'n Andy Show, which ran for two years on CBS and made a star of the old-time vaudeville comedian, Tim Moore. Childress originally tried out for the role of The Kingfish, but Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden cast him as Amos. Since he had been hired a year before the show began, Gosden and Correll turned the search for an actor to play "The Kingfish" over to Childress. In a 1979 interview, Childress shared information about some of the candidates. Cab Calloway was considered but found wanting by Gosden because of his straight hair. Childress said there were many famous men, with and without actual acting experience, who wanted to play the role.
Shortly after the television show had ended, plans to turn it into a vaudeville act were announced in 1953, with Childress, Williams and Moore playing the same roles as they had in the television series. It is not known if there were any performances. In 1956, after the television show was no longer in production, Childress and some of his fellow cast members: Tim Moore, Spencer Williams, and Lillian Randolph along with her choir, began a tour of the US as "The TV Stars of Amos 'n' Andy". The tour was halted by CBS as the network considered this an infringement of their rights to the program and its cast of characters. Despite the threats which ended the 1956 tour, Childress, along with Moore, Williams and Johnny Lee were able to perform one night in 1957 in Windsor, Ontario, apparently without legal action. When he tried for work as an actor, Childress found none as he was typecast as Amos Jones. For a short time, Childress found himself parking cars for an upscale Beverly Hills restaurant.
Childress also appeared in roles on the television series Perry Mason, Sanford and Son, Good Times and The Jeffersons and in the films Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) and The Day of the Locust (1975). When Childress appeared as a minister in a 1972 episode of Sanford and Son, he was reunited with two former cast members: Lillian Randolph of Amos 'n' Andy in the role of Aunt Hazel and Lance Taylor, Jr. of Anna Lucasta, with the role of Uncle Edgar.
Childress's first wife was the former Alice Herndon, who established herself as a successful writer and actress under the name of Alice Childress (1916–1994); the couple was married from 1934 to 1957 and had a daughter, Jean Rosa. From 1961 to 1973, Childress worked as an unemployment interviewer for the Los Angeles Department of Personnel and in the Civil Service Commission of Los Angeles County.
Stage and screen credits
- Selected stage credits
- Savage Rhythm (1931)
- Brown Sugar (1934)
- Sweet Land (1936)
- The Case of Philip Lawrence (1937)
- Haiti (1938)
- Hell's Alley (1938)
- Natural Man (1941)
- Two on an Island (1942)
- Anna Lucasta (1944–46)
- Striver's Row (1946)
- The Amen Corner (1968)
- Selected screen credits
- Harlem is Heaven (1931)
- Hell's Alley (1931)
- Out of the Crimson Fog (1932)
- Dixie Love (1934)
- Keep Punching (1939)
- Anna Lucasta (1959)
- The Day of the Locust (1975)
- "Alvin Childress, who played 'Amos' on TV, dies at 78". The Milwaukee Journal. 21 April 1986. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "Alvin Childress-Just Call Him 'Amos'". The Afro American. 25 September 1954. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "Amos And Andy Name Subs For Television Roles". St. Petersburg Times. 18 June 1951. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
- Hawes, William, ed. (2001). Filmed Television Drama 1952-1958. McFarland. p. 304. ISBN 0-7864-1132-5. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- "'Anna Lucasta' Next at Nixon". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 10 October 1946. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "Radio's Veteran Comics Smash Hit on Television". Eugene Register-Guard. 14 April 1954. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
- What Happened to TV Stars of Amos 'n' Andy?. Jet. 10 December 1981. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
- Clayton, Edward T. (October 1961). The Tragedy of Amos 'n' Andy. Ebony. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- Whatever happened to The Amos 'n' Andy Cast?. Ebony. July 1973. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- "Alvin Childress". AllMovie biography.
- Quigg, Jack (10 June 1951). "Declare: 'TV not for us'". Youngstown Vindicator. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
- "Amos 'n' Andy Look For Exit As They Plan New TV Show". Reading Eagle. 17 June 1951. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "TV's Amos Finds Fame Fleeting". The news and Courier. 14 November 1964. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
- "A Conversation with 'Sapphire' and 'Amos". Yoda'sLair.com. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
- "'Amos 'n' Andy' Set for Vaude". Baltimore Afro-American. 4 August 1953. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- Gardiner, John (25 June 1957). "The Theatre and its People". The Windsor Daily Star. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
- Television. Jet. 27 January 1972. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- "Tonight's Best on TV-The Jeffersons". Lakeland Ledger. 8 March 1975. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
- "Alvin Childress on Sanford and Son". Washington Afro-American. 25 May 1976. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "Changes in 'Lucasta' Cast". The Afro American. 10 August 1946. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- Says 'Amos 'n' Andy' Role Employment Handicap. Jet. 26 October 1961. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- "Actor of 'Amos' Fame Dies". Eugene Register-Guard. 22 April 1986. Retrieved 11 October 2010.
- "Amos of TV's Amos 'n' Andy is dead at age 78". Lodi News-Journal. 22 April 1986. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
- "Alvin Childress". Find-A-Grave. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- "Youth Theatre Presents Play". The Afro American. 5 September 1936. Retrieved 16 October 1936.
- "Harlem Protests Moving 'Haiti'". The Afro American. 2 July 1938. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
- "Eartha, Sammy, Signed for 'Lucasta'". St. Petersburg Times. 30 June 1958. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
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