Spencer Bell (actor)

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Spencer Bell
Blue Blood lobby card.jpg
Lobby card for Blue Blood (1925)
Born(1887-09-25)September 25, 1887
DiedAugust 18, 1935(1935-08-18) (aged 47)
Cause of deathSurgical complications
Resting placeSawtelle Military Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
Other namesG. Howe Black
OccupationActor
Years active1919–1934

Spencer Bell (September 25, 1887 – August 18, 1935) was an American stage and film actor, best known for playing opposite Larry Semon in many of his silent comedy shorts from the late 1910s to 1928. Bell was one of the first African American comedic actors of the silent film era, and was the first to be signed to film contract.[1] Over the course of his fifteen year film career, Bell appeared in more than seventy comedy shorts.

Career[edit]

Bell was born in Lexington, Kentucky. Prior to his Hollywood film career, he worked as a chauffeur and performed in vaudeville and minstrel shows. He enlisted in the United States Army and served in World War I.[1] Bell made his film debut in Larry Semon's 1919 silent comedy short, Passing the Buck. As was typical for African American actors of the era, Bell was typecast in stereotypical roles. His characters were often depicted as bumbling, lazy buffoons who were prone to comedic accidents.

One of Bell's most notable roles was that of Snowball/Rastus/the Cowardly Lion in Larry Semon's The Wizard of Oz (1925), In that film, Semon credited Bell under the stage name "G. Howe Black" (In a mainly positive review, a Variety critic admonished Semon for crediting Bell with the demeaning name writing that Bell, "deserved [a] better fate").[2] He was again credited as such in Semon's 1925 silent slapstick film, The Perfect Clown. During the 1930s, Bell regularly appeared in the Mickey McGuire film series starring Mickey Rooney, and briefly ran an acting troup in Harlem. Bell's final film appearance was in the 1934 comedy short Mickey's Medicine Man.

Death[edit]

On August 18, 1935, Bell died at his home in Los Angeles, California of complications from abdominal surgery he underwent in July 1935.[3] He is buried at Sawtelle Military Cemetery (now known as Los Angeles National Cemetery).[4]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1922 The Counter Jumper A Clerk
1923 No Wedding Bells The Butler
1923 The Gown Shop Janitor
1923 Lightning Love Butler
1924 Her Boy Friend Dock worker
1924 Kid Speed The Speed Kid's co-driver Alternative title: The Four Wheel Terror
1925 Wizard of Oz Cowardly Lion/Rastus/Snowball Credited as G. Howe Black
1925 Blue Blood Amos Jeenkins
1925 The Perfect Clown Snowflake Credited as G. Howe Black
1926 The Prince of Broadway Snowball
1927 Oh, What a Man! Waiter
1928 The Midnight Taxi Rastus
1929 The Rodeo Magnolia's Husband
1931 Smart Money Suntan Uncredited
1932 Heavens! My Husband! Porter Uncredited
1933 Blue of the Night Porter Uncredited

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Notable Kentucky African Americans Database". University of Kentucky Libraries. nkaa.uky.edu. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  2. ^ Simpson, Paul (2013). A Brief Guide To OZ: 75 Years Going Over The Rainbow. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 1-472-11036-6. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  3. ^ "Movie Actor Dies After Operation". Pittsburgh Courier. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. August 31, 1935. p. 6.
  4. ^ Wilson, Scott; Mank, Gregory William (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3 ed.). McFarland. p. 54. ISBN 0-786-47992-2.

External links[edit]