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Jack Benny and the Golden Age of American Radio Comedy$
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Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520295049

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520295049.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

Eddie Anderson, Rochester, and Race in 1930s Radio and Film

Eddie Anderson, Rochester, and Race in 1930s Radio and Film

(p.120) Four Eddie Anderson, Rochester, and Race in 1930s Radio and Film
Jack Benny and the Golden Age of American Radio Comedy

Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

University of California Press

African-American dancer, singer, comedian Eddie Anderson pursued an entertainment career in California, his opportunities limited by Jim Crow-era racism in Hollywood but also shaped opportunities in night clubs and cabarets that catered to both black and white patrons. Winning an audition for a one-time role on Benny’s radio show, Anderson’s inimitable gravelly voice spurred Benny to create a full time part, the character of Rochester Van Jones, Jack’s butler and valet, in late 1937. Although initially hampered by stereotyped minstrel-show dialogue and character habits, Rochester soon became renowned by both white and black listeners for his ability to criticize the “Boss” in impertinent manner. Virtually co-starred in three films with Benny that were highly successful at the box office, commenters in the black press in 1940 hoped that Rochester offered “a new day” in improved race relations.

Keywords:   race, vaudeville, night clubs, film, radio, stereotypes, minstrel show, Jim Crow, skin color, celebrity

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