Benjamin Sherman Crothers
May 23, 1910
Terre Haute, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||November 22, 1986 (aged 76)|
Van Nuys, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park - Hollywood Hills, California|
Benjamin Sherman Crothers (May 23, 1910 – November 22, 1986), known professionally as Scatman Crothers, was an American actor and musician. He is known for playing Louie the Garbage Man on the TV show Chico and the Man and Dick Hallorann in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). He was also a prolific voice-over actor who provided the voices of Meadowlark Lemon in the Harlem Globetrotters animated TV series, Jazz the Autobot in The Transformers and The Transformers: The Movie (1986), the title character in Hong Kong Phooey, and Scat Cat in the animated film The Aristocats (1970).
He began his musical career as a teenager. He sang and was self-educated on guitar and drums. He was in a band that played in speakeasies in Terre Haute. During the 1930s, he formed a band, spent eight years living in Akron, Ohio, and performed five days a week on a radio show in Dayton, Ohio. The station manager thought he needed a catchier name, so Crothers suggested "Scatman" for his scat singing. He married Helen, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, in 1937. In the 1940s, the couple moved to California.
He performed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, New York. Capitol released several of his singles: "I'd Rather Be a Hummingbird", "Blue-eyed Sally", and "Television Blues". High Fidelity Records released his album Rock and Roll with Scatman Crothers. He went on USO tours with Bob Hope. Crothers also performed with bandleader Slim Gaillard. According to the jacket notes of the Let Freedom Sing CD set, Crothers was part of the music group The Ramparts, who sang "The Death of Emmett Till" (1955), a song by A. C. Bilbrew.
Film and television career
Crothers made his debut in the movie Meet Me at the Fair (1953). He had roles in the film musicals Hello Dolly! (1969) and The Great White Hope (1970) before providing the voice of "Scat Cat" in the animated film The Aristocats (also 1970). He appeared in four films with Jack Nicholson: The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), The Fortune (1975), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and The Shining (1980). He had the part of a fable-telling convict in the animated film Coonskin (1975), a train porter in Silver Streak (1976), a liveryman in The Shootist (1976), Mingo in Roots (1977), a ringmaster in Bronco Billy (1980), a baseball coach in Zapped! (1982), and angels in Two of a Kind (1983) and Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
He became the first black person to appear regularly in a Los Angeles television show when he joined Dixie Showboat. After The Aristocats in the 1970s, he found voice acting jobs as Meadowlark Lemon in the Harlem Globetrotters cartoon series and as the title character in Hong Kong Phooey. For four years he played the role of Louie the garbage man on Chico and the Man. He also had a part in the television series Roots. During his appearance on Sanford and Son he joined Redd Foxx for two musical numbers. One was a version of the standard "All of Me" in which he accompanied Foxx on tenor guitar. In 1966, Hanna-Barbera aired an animated special called The New Alice in Wonderland (or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?), an updated version of the Lewis Carroll story featuring Sammy Davis Jr. as a cool Cheshire cat. The special was followed by an audio adaptation for HB Records, but since Davis was signed to Reprise, Crothers provided the cat's voice for the album.
Crothers had guest roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1958, Dragnet in 1967, Bewitched and McMillan & Wife in 1971, Adam-12 in 1972 (as "George Strothers"), Kojak and Ironside in 1973, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Sanford and Son in 1974, Starsky and Hutch in 1977, Charlie's Angels and The Love Boat in 1978, Magnum, P.I. in 1980, and Taxi in 1983. Also in 1980, he was on two episodes of Laverne & Shirley as a porter. In the 1980s, he provided the voice of the Autobot Jazz on the television series The Transformers. He starred in three short-lived 1980s television series: One of the Boys (1982), Casablanca (1983), and Morningstar/Eveningstar (1986).
On November 22, 1986, Crothers died at the age of 76 at his home in Van Nuys, California, after struggling with lung cancer for nearly four years. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Awards and honors
- Best Supporting Actor, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, for The Shining (1980)
- Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1981
- NAACP Image Award
- Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, 1987 (posthumous)
- King Cole Trio & Benny Carter Orchestra (1950) (short subject) as Himself
- Yes Sir, Mr. Bones (1951) as Scathman
- The Return of Gilbert and Sullivan (1952)
- Meet Me at the Fair (1953) as Enoch Jones
- Surprising Suzie (1953) (short subject)
- East of Sumatra (1953) as Baltimore
- Walking My Baby Back Home (1953) as Smiley Gordon
- Johnny Dark (1954)
- Team Berlin (1955) (short subject)
- Between Heaven and Hell (1956) as George (uncredited)
- The Gift of Love (1958) as Sam the Gardner (uncredited)
- Tarzan and the Trappers (1958) as Tyana
- Alias Jesse James (1959) as a railroad porter (uncredited)
- Porgy and Bess (1959) as Crabman
- The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961) as Musinga
- Lady in a Cage (1964) as the junkyard proprietor's assistant (uncredited)
- The Patsy (1964) as the Shoeshine Boy
- The Family Jewels (1965) as an airport employee (uncredited)
- Three on a Couch (1966) as a jazz band member (uncredited)
- Alvarez Kelly (1966) as Bellhop (uncredited)
- Hook, Line & Sinker (1969) as a corpse (uncredited)
- Hello, Dolly! (1969) as Mr. Jones, a porter (uncredited)
- Bloody Mama (1970) as Moses the caretaker
- The Great White Hope (1970) as a carnival barker (uncredited)
- The Aristocats (1970) as Scat Cat (voice)
- Chandler (1971) as Smoke
- Lady Sings the Blues (1972) as Big Ben
- The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) as Lewis
- Detroit 9000 (1973) as Reverend Markham
- Slaughter's Big Rip-Off (1973) as Cleveland
- Black Belt Jones (1974) as Pop Byrd
- Truck Turner (1974) as Duke
- Win, Place or Steal (1975) as the Attendant
- Linda Lovelace for President (1975) as Super Black
- The Fortune (1975) as the Fisherman
- Coonskin (1975) as Pappy / Old Man Bone (voice)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) as Turkle
- Friday Foster (1975) as Noble Franklin
- Stay Hungry (1976) as William
- The Shootist (1976) as Moses Brown
- Chesty Anderson, USN (1976) as Ben Benson
- Silver Streak (1976) as Ralson, a railroad porter
- Mean Dog Blues (1978) as Mudcat
- The Cheap Detective (1978) as Tinker
- Scavenger Hunt (1979) as Sam
- Banjo the Woodpile Cat (1979) as Crazy Legs (voice)
- The Shining (1980) as Dick Hallorann
- Bronco Billy (1980) as Doc Lynch
- The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981) (made for TV) as Dewey Stevens
- Zapped! (1982) as Coach Dexter Jones
- Deadly Eyes (1982) as George Foskins
- Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) as Mr. Bloom (segment "Kick the Can")
- Two of a Kind (1983) as Earl
- The Journey of Natty Gann (1985) as Sherman
- Morningstar/Eveningstar (1986) (TV Series) as Excell Dennis
- The Transformers: The Movie (1986) as Jazz (voice)
- Rock Odyssey (1987) as Jukebox (voice), posthumous release
- The Adventures of Jim Bowie – episode – The Quarantine – Cicero (1957)
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents – episode – Don't Interrupt – Timothy (1958)
- Beany and Cecil - multiple episodes and bumpers - Go Man Van Gogh (singing voice only at first, then regular voice, 1959–1960)
- Bonanza – episode – The Smiler – Jud (1961)
- The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo (1964)
- Dragnet – episode – The Missing Realtor – Dave Richmond (1967)
- Harlem Globetrotters – George 'Meadowlark' Lemon (1970–71)
- The Wonderful World of Disney – Disney on Parade – King Louie (voice, uncredited) (1971)
- Bewitched – episode – Three Men and a Witch on a Horse – Handler (1971)
- The Lorax – TV special – Singer (voice, uncredited) (1972)
- Nichols – episode – Eddie Joe – Jack (1972)
- The New Scooby-Doo Movies – episodes – The Ghostly Creep from the Deep/The Loch Ness Mess/Mystery of Haunted Island (1972–73)
- Kojak – episode – The Corrupter – Gaylord Fuller (1973)
- Hong Kong Phooey – 16 episodes – Hong Kong Phooey / Penrod 'Penry' Pooch (1974)
- Mannix – episode – The Green Man – Mudcat (1974)
- The Odd Couple (1970 TV series) – episode – The Subway Show (1974)
- McMillan & Wife – episode – Downshift to Danger – Floyd (1974)
- Chico and the Man – Louie the Garbage Man (1974–78)
- Sanford and Son – episode – The Stand-In – Bowlegs (1975)
- Roots – TV miniseries – Mingo (1977)
- Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Angie Dickinson – TV Special – Himself (1977)
- Laff-A-Lympics – Hong Kong Phooey (1977)
- CB Bears – Segment title narrator (1977)
- The Skatebirds – Scat Cat (1977)
- Starsky and Hutch – episode – Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road – Fireball (1977)
- Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels – Additional Voices (1977–80)
- NBC Salutes the 25th Anniversary of the Wonderful World of Disney – TV Movie documentary – Himself (1978)
- Charlie's Angels – episode – Angels in Vegas – Jip Baker (1978)
- The Love Boat – cruise ship passenger (1978)
- Vega$ – episodes – High Roller & The Usurper – Rosey (1978–79)
- The Super Globetrotters – Nate Branch / Liquid Man (1979)
- The Incredible Hulk – episode – My Favorite Magician – Edgar McGee (1979)
- Laverne & Shirley – episode – Murder on the Moosejaw Express Part 1 & Part 2 – Porter (1980)
- Magnum, P.I. – episode – Lest We Forget – Tickler (1981)
- Trollkins – Additional Voices (1981)
- The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island – TV Movie – Dewey Stevens (1981)
- Jokebook – Main Title Singer (1982)
- Benson – episode – In the Red – Rev. Tompkins (1982)
- Casablanca – Sam (1983)
- Taxi – episode – A Grand Gesture – Walt (1983)
- This Is Your Life – episode – Scatman Crothers – Himself (1984)
- The Transformers – voice of Autobot Jazz (1984–86)
- Paw Paws – Eugene the Genie (1985–86)
- The Paper Chase – Mr. Sims (1985)
- The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters – Himself (1986)
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 136. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- "Scatman Crothers Dies at 76; Actor Got Start in Speakeasies". The New York Times. Associated Press. 23 November 1986. p. 1045. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- Cohen, Jerry (23 November 1986). "Versatile Entertainer, 76, Began Long Career in Speak-Easy at 14: Singer-Actor Scatman Crothers Dies of Cancer". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 18 April 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- Price, Mark J. (27 February 2017). "Local history: Scatman Crothers strolled to fame while living in Akron hotel". Akron Beacon Journal. GateHouse Media, LLC. Archived from the original on 2 April 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- Louis, Henry; Brooks Higginbotham, Evelyn (2009). Harlem Renaissance Lives from the African American National Biography. Oxford University Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-19-538795-7. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
- "The Ramparts. The Death of Emmett Till". Dootone Records. 1955. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Berger, Brian (May 23, 2012). "Scatman Crothers". HiLoBrow. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- "Ballad of Emmett Till Released by Record Firm". The Carolina Times. December 31, 1955. p. 1. Retrieved 19 April 2019 – via North Carolina Newspapers.
- White, Robert; White, Phyllis (1 March 2011). Hollywood and the Best of Los Angeles. Hunter Publishing. pp. 568–. ISBN 978-1-58843-286-5. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
- "Scatman Crothers". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved 2016-10-04.