Mantan Moreland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Mantan Moreland
The Trap (1946) - Moreland & Mouse.jpg
1946 film The Trap
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
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]


Born in Monroe, Louisiana, to Frank, an old-time Dixie band leader, and Marcella,[2] Moreland began acting by the time he was an adolescent, running away to join a minstrel show in 1910.[2] 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.[3]

Moreland was offered fewer roles in the 1950s, when filmmakers began to reassess roles given to black actors.[citation needed][4] He was briefly considered as a possible addition to the Three Stooges when Shemp Howard died in 1955.[5] 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 Bill Cosby, Moms Mabley and Carl Reiner.

Moreland died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1973 in Hollywood.[1][6]

Partial filmography[edit]



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

Cultural references[edit]

Robert B. Parker makes an allusion to Moreland in Hush Money, one of his long-running series of Spenser novels.[7][non-primary source needed]

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael H. Price - Mantan the Funnyman (2007), a biography of Moreland


  1. ^ a b "Moreland, Actor Is Dead At 72. Played in Chan Films and in Black 'Codot'". The New York Times. September 29, 1973. Retrieved 2014-10-30. Mantan Moreland, the comedian who played the chauffeur Birmingham Brown in the Charlie Chan movies, died today at the age of 72. 
  2. ^ a b "Charlie Chan's Right-Hand Man - The Eyes Have It". Washington Afro-American. Washington, D.C. February 26, 1957. p. 5, Afro Magazine Section. Retrieved December 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ Dave Kehr (June 13, 2010). "Golly, Pop, You Always Get 'Em, Even on a Poverty Row Budget". The New York Times. p. AR12. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Jennifer. "From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations Of African Americans In Film". Duke University Library. Duke University. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Parker, Robert B. Hush Money, page 12, New York: Putnam

External links[edit]