Stars of Vaudeville #231: Eddie “Rochester” Anderson
Originally posted in 2010
Indelibly identified with the character “Rochester”, Jack Benny’s raspy-voiced, wisecracking comic butler on radio and tv from 1937 to 1965, Eddie Anderson had a substantial show piz pedigree and resume prior to his debut on the Benny program. His parents were both entertainers. His father played in minstrel shows and vaudeville, and his mother was a circus tightrope walker. Eddie was in his early teens when he broke into black vaudeville and revue shows in the San Francisco area as a song and dance man and comic, in various teams with his brothers. One of those teams, The Three Black Aces, enjoyed considerable success in the late 20s and early 30s at prominent venues like the Roxy and the Cotton Club.
By the mid 30s, Anderson was getting cast in major films. You can see him in Showboat (1936), Jezebel (1937), You Can’t Take it With you (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), Tales of Manhattan (1942), and Cabin in the Sky (1943), among others. The success of his role as Rochester gradually made casting him as anything else hopeless. He passed away in 1977, three years after Benny.
To find out more about vaudeville past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc