Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and the UGLY: Amos & Andy

If rare is your thing, you'll appreciate these two PD tapes featuring Amos & Andy. We could probably all agree that this duo didn't star in very many PD tapes (aside from the VHS collection of the actual live action show, that is.)
Kids Klassics (1985) vs. Trans-Atlantic Video (1986). Enjoy the 'Rasslin' Match'.

Now for some info on the two Van Beuren Amos & Andy cartoons, graciously borrowed from :
The Rasslin' Match (1934)
This is one of the few Amos & Andy cartoons, so you definitely won't see this around much! I have the two cartoons, and they are both hilarious, this one being my favorite. Kingfish somehow manages to get Andy to fight the champ, and of course Andy doesn't do too well, but he does make a few great jokes of course! It's also hilarious how during the big match, Amos and Andy's voices were done seperately than the crowd's cheers but on the same vocal track, so every time they spoke a line, the crowd was silent all of a sudden, then cheered again when they were finished speaking!. But this is serious old-school stuff here, no computer crap, real elbow-grease animation. (courtesy

The Lion Tamer (1934)
'The Lion Tamer' is an animated short starring Andy Brown and Amos Jones, two black men with the voices of Charles J. Correll and Freeman F. Gosden. I have not seen other cartoons with these two characters and after this one I do not really want to. The story that involves Andy as a lion tamer, a fake lion with two men in a suite, and a real dangerous one is as predictable as these things can be. You can probably guess the outcome by reading the sentence before this one.

Besides the story that is not good we have a racist kind of animation. The black men (and the black audience watching the lion tamer for that matter) are caricatures, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but here it is sort of offending. Of course you should watch pass that, but with a predictable cartoon like 'The Lion Tamer' that's pretty hard. (courtesy


Craig D said...

So, as it turns out, the Van Beuren Studio invented "illustrated radio!"

Thanks for the links, ramapith. It's been 25 years since I saw either of these and I have to say they look better than I remembered them.

Mike Matei said...

Just when I think these PD boxes can't get any worse. I gotta get those cartoons on dvd.

Unknown said...

The actors who played Amos & Andy on the radio were white. I think they made some theatrical shorts in blackface.

Thanks to ramapith for linking to the cartoons.

Unknown said...

Correll and Freeman did one feature called "Check and double Check," it also featured Duke Ellington. It's interesting because Amos and Andy in mondern context, have developed a certain racist image, becuse it was two white men portraying black men. My personal feeling, is that this interpretation is very much undeserved. The early OTR shows were in fact, a more or less soap opera. The characters were two black sharecroppers who moved to Chicago to achieve fame and fortune. This reflected the influx at the time, of a large African-American population migrating to Chicago. The Characters were very human, and far from demeaning. We were able to share the travails of two men trying to achieve the American Dream.

In later years, as the show became more of a sitcom, criticsm has ben leveled at the buffoonery of both Andy and the Kingfish. They were comic characters. The fact that they were African American was incidental. It's quite often overlooked that the character of Amos became a somewhat elder statesman type of character, always providing the voice of reason in counterpoint to the Kingfish's schemes against Andy. The laziness of Andy was counterbalanced by the industriousness and concientiousness of Amos. Thus negating any negative stereotype in favor of a comic type. I believe the characters would have been just as funny no matter their ethnicity. But, tied in to societal trends used as the inspiration for the show, the characters must needs be African-American. And once established, they must remain as such. Correll and Freeman were not in a position to make trail blazing decisions on civil rights in 1928 when A&A where created. In later years, after they were established, it should also be noted that they probably regularly employed more African-American actors than any other show on national radio.

Whit said...

Aside from the usual Amos & Andy issues, these two early cartoons just may be the first realistic portrayals of human beings in animation, crude though they look today.