Mantan Moreland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Mantan Moreland
MantanMorelandKoZ1941 USPD.JPG
Born (1902-09-03)September 3, 1902
Monroe, Louisiana, U.S.
Died September 28, 1973(1973-09-28) (aged 71)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place
Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery
Other names Man Tan Moreland
Manton Moreland
Moreland
Occupation Actor, comedian
Years active 1933-1973
Spouse(s) Hazel Moreland (1 child)

Mantan Moreland (September 3, 1902 - September 28, 1973) was an American actor and comedian most popular in the 1930s and 1940s.[1]

Career[edit]

Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Moreland began acting by the time he was an adolescent, reportedly running away to join the circus.[citation needed] By the late 1920s, he had made his way through vaudeville, working with various shows and revues, performing on Broadway and touring Europe. Initially, Moreland appeared in low-budget "race movies" aimed at African-American audiences, but as his comedic talents came to be recognized, he received roles in larger productions.

Monogram Pictures signed Moreland to appear opposite Frankie Darro in the studio's popular action pictures. Moreland, with his bulging eyes and cackling laugh, quickly became a favorite supporting player in Hollywood movies. He is perhaps best known for his role as chauffeur Birmingham Brown in Monogram's Charlie Chan series. At the height of his career, Moreland received steady work from major film studios, as well as from independent producers who starred Moreland in low-budget, all-black-cast comedies.

Moreland also toured America in vaudeville, making personal appearances in the nation's movie theaters. His straight man was Ben Carter, and they developed an excellent rapport and impeccable timing. Their "incomplete sentence" routines can be seen in two Charlie Chan pictures, The Scarlet Clue and Dark Alibi.[2]

Moreland was offered fewer roles in the 1950s, when filmmakers began to reassess roles given to black actors.[citation needed] He was briefly considered as a possible addition to the Three Stooges when Shemp Howard died in 1955.[3] Moreland returned to the stage and appeared in two all-black variety films in 1955, with Nipsey Russell standing in for Ben Carter as his straight man.

Later career and death[edit]

Moreland's last featured role was in the 1968 darkly humorous horror film Spider Baby, which was patterned after Universal's thrillers of the 1940s. After suffering a stroke in the early 1960s, Moreland took on a few minor comedic roles, working with the likes of Bill Cosby, Moms Mabley and Carl Reiner.

Moreland died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1973 in Hollywood.[4]

Selected filmography[edit]

Television
Year Title Role Notes
1957 Hallmark Hall of Fame 1 episode
1969 Julia Henry James 1 episode
1970 The Bill Cosby Show Uncle Dewey 1 episode
Adam-12 Philip Richards 1 episode

Stage performances[edit]

  • Blackbirds (1928)
  • Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1930 (1930)
  • Singin' the Blues (1931)
  • Blackberries of 1932 (1932)
  • Yeah-Man (1932)
  • Shuffle Along of 1933 (1933)
  • Waiting for Godot (1957)

Recordings[edit]

  • That Ain't My Finger (Laff)
  • Elsie's Sportin' House (Laff)
  • Tribute to the Man (Laff)

Cultural references[edit]

The lyrics of The Coasters' 1963 song "Bad Detective" are sung from the first-person perspective of Birmingham Brown, Mantan Moreland's character in the Charlie Chan movie series.

Robert B. Parker makes an allusion to Moreland in Hush Money, one of his long-running series of Spenser novels.[5]

In the Spike Lee film Bamboozled two characters recreate Moreland's "Incomplete Sentence" routine. Additionally, the fictional TV show which the plot spins around is called "Mantan: The New Millenium Minstrel Show".

The Beastie Boys sampled a punch-line from one of his rude-n-crude “party records” - "That Ain't My Finger" (1965) in a song called “B-Boys makin’ with the Freak Freak” from Ill Communication.

References[edit]

  1. ^ New York Times
  2. ^ Dave Kehr (June 13, 2010). "Golly, Pop, You Always Get 'Em, Even on a Poverty Row Budget". The New York Times. p. AR12. 
  3. ^ disclosed by Moe Howard in a 1971 interview with film historian Michael H. Price, cited in Price's 2007 biography of Moreland, Mantan the Funnyman, from Midnight Marquee Press of Baltimore.
  4. ^ Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. p. 794. ISBN 0-415-93853-8. 
  5. ^ Parker, Robert B. Hush Money, page 12, New York: Putnam

Literature[edit]

External links[edit]