African American actor and performer Eddie Green (1896-1950) was successful in nearly every branch of entertainment he turned his hand to.
A Baltimore native, Green was only eight years old when he began playing local social events as a boy magician, which then led to a professional career on the vaudeville circuits, and then to Minsky’s burlesque for over a decade. During this period he also wrote numerous songs, the best known of which was “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (1917), later recorded by Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Ted Lewis, Fats Waller, and many others.
From vaudeville and burlesque Green went to Broadway, starting with Hot Chocolates (1929) with James Baskett, Edith Wilson, and Louis Armstrong. This led to two early film shorts, Sending a Wire (1929) with Baskett, and The Devil’s Parade (1930) with Sidney Toler and Joan Blondell. And then back to Broadway for Blackberries of 1932 (for which he also wrote the book), A Woman’s A Fool to be Clever (1938), and The Hot Mikado (1939) with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, which also played the New York World’s Fair.
He next directed and starred in the race picture What Goes Up (1939), and appeared in, and produced Dress Rehearsal (1939) and Comes Midnight (1940), the latter with with Baskett and Amanda Randolph. Through Rudy Vallee he appeared on The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour on radio, leading to perhaps his best known and best remembered radio work, on the shows Amos ‘n’ Andy and Duffy’s Tavern. He also appeared in the movie version of Duffy’s Tavern (1945), and three additional race films, Eddie Green’s Laff Jamboree (1945); Mantan Messes Up (1946) with Mantan Moreland, and Buck and Bubbles; and Mr. Adams Bomb (1949), which he also directed.
If you want to know more, see Eddie Green: The Rise of an Early 1900s Black Entertainment Pioneer by Elva Diane Green, Eddie Green’s daughter, available here.
To learn still more about vaudeville and burlesque, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.