1941 film King of the Zombies
September 3, 1902|
Monroe, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||September 28, 1973
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Other names||Man Tan Moreland
|Spouse(s)||Hazel Moreland (1 child)|
Born in Monroe, Louisiana to Frank, an old-time Dixie band leader, and Marcella, Moreland began acting by the time he was an adolescent, running away to join a minstrel show in 1910. 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.
Moreland was offered fewer roles in the 1950s, when filmmakers began to reassess roles given to black actors. He was briefly considered as a possible addition to the Three Stooges when Shemp Howard died in 1955. 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
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.
- That's the Spirit (1933)
- The Green Pastures (1936)
- Harlem on the Prairie (1937)
- Two-Gun Man from Harlem (1938)
- Irish Luck (1939)
- One Dark Night (1939)
- Chasing Trouble (1940)
- On the Spot (1940)
- Up in the Air (1940)
- Four Shall Die (1940)
- Laughing at Danger (1940)
- You're Out of Luck (1941)
- Lady from Louisiana (1941)
- King of the Zombies (1941)
- Let's Go Collegiate (1941)
- Dressed to Kill (1941)
- The Gang's All Here (1941)
- Up Jumped the Devil (1941)
- Lucky Ghost (1942)
- Sleepers West (1942)
- Treat 'Em Rough (1942)
- Eyes in the Night (1942)
- Freckles Comes Home (1942)
- Footlight Serenade (1942)
- Girl Trouble (1942)
- Law of the Jungle (1942)
- Phantom Killer (1942)
- Professor Creeps (1942)
- Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)
- Cabin in the Sky (1943)
- Swing Fever (1943)
- It Comes Up Love (1943)
- We've Never Been Licked (1943)
- Revenge of the Zombies (1943)
- Cosmo Jones, Crime Smasher (1943)
- Pin-Up Girl (1944)
- Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944)
- Mystery of the River Boat (1944) serial
- Bowery to Broadway (1944)
- The Chinese Cat (1944)
- Chip Off the Old Block (1944)
- This Is the Life (1944)
- Black Magic (1944)
- The Spider (1945)
- Captain Tugboat Annie (1945)
- The Scarlet Clue (1945)
- The Jade Mask (1945)
- The Shanghai Cobra (1945)
- Mantan Messes Up (1946)
- The Trap (1946)
- Tall, Tan, and Terrific (1946)
- Dark Alibi (1946)
- Shadows Over Chinatown (1946)
- Ebony Parade (1947)
- The Chinese Ring (1947)
- Shanghai Chest (1948)
- The Golden Eye (1948)
- Docks of New Orleans (1948)
- The Feathered Serpent (1948)
- Sky Dragon (1949)
- Rock 'n' Roll Revue (1955)
- Basin Street Revue (1956)
- The Patsy (1964)
- Spider Baby (1964)
- Alvarez Kelly (1966)
- Enter Laughing (1967)
- Watermelon Man (1970)
- The Biscuit Eater (1972)
- The Young Nurses (1973)
|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|
- That Ain't My Finger (Laff)
- Elsie's Sportin' House (Laff)
- Tribute to the Man (Laff)
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.
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".
In Episode 8 of Season 6 of the animated series Archer, Archer makes an oblique reference to the same line from "That Ain't My Finger".
- "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.
- New York Times
- "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.
- Dave Kehr (June 13, 2010). "Golly, Pop, You Always Get 'Em, Even on a Poverty Row Budget". The New York Times. p. AR12.
- 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.
- 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.
- Parker, Robert B. Hush Money, page 12, New York: Putnam
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mantan Moreland.|
- Mantan Moreland at the Internet Movie Database
- Mantan Moreland at the Internet Broadway Database
- Mantan Moreland at AllMovie
- Mantan Moreland - Biography on (re)Search my Trash
- B-Horror's Humorous Hero - Retrospect of Moreland's career
- The African American Registry - Short biography
- Mantan Moreland at Find a Grave
- Literature on Mantan Moreland