Show: Remembering When

Episode: 868-002 Amos N Andy


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Episode Description:

Amos 'n' Andy is a situation comedy set in the black community. It was very popular in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s on both radio and television.

Amos and Andy began as one of the first radio comedy series, written and voiced by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll and originating from station WMAQ in Chicago. After the program was first broadcast in 1928, it grew to become a huge influence on radio series that followed. Early episodes were broadcast from the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs, California. The show ran as a nightly radio serial from 1928 until 1943, as a weekly situation comedy from 1943 until 1955, and as a nightly disc-jockey program from 1954 until 1960. A television adaptation ran on CBS-TV from 1951 until 1953, and continued in syndicated reruns from 1954 until 1966.

Amos 'n' Andy creators Gosden and Correll were white actors familiar with minstrel traditions. They met in Durham, North Carolina, in 1920. Both men had some scattered experience in radio, but it was not until 1925 that the two appeared on Chicago's WQJ. Their appearances soon led to a regular schedule on another Chicago radio station, WEBH, where their only compensation was a free meal. The pair's hopes were that the radio exposure would lead to stage work; they were able to sell some of their works to local bandleader Paul Ash which brought them enough name recognition to be offered jobs at the Chicago Tribune's station WGN in 1925. The offer was steady and lucrative enough to allow them to now become full-time broadcasters. The Victor Talking Machine Company was also interested enough to offer them a recording contract.

Since the Tribune syndicated Sidney Smith's popular comic strip The Gumps, which had successfully introduced the concept of daily continuity, WGN executive Ben McCanna thought a serialized version would work on radio. He suggested that Gosden and Correll adapt The Gumps for radio. The idea seemed to involve more risk than either Gosden or Correll was willing to take; neither was adept at imitating female voices, which would have been necessary for The Gumps. They were also conscious of having made names for themselves with their previous act. By playing the roles of characters doing dialect, they would be able to conceal their identities enough to be able to return to their old pattern of entertaining if the radio show was a failure.

Hired by CBS as producers of the television show, Gosden and Correll were ready to try bringing the show to television as early as 1946; the search for cast members went on for 4 years before filming began. According to a 1950 newspaper story, Gosden and Correll had initial aspirations of voicing the characters Amos, Andy and Kingfish for television, while the actors hired for these roles performed and apparently were to lip-sync the story lines. A year later, both spoke about how they realized they were visually unsuited to play the television roles, citing difficulties with making the Check and Double-Check film. No further mention was made about Gosden and Correll continuing to voice the key male roles in the television series. Corell and Gosden did record the lines of the main male characters for the television show to serve as a guideline for the television show dialogue at one point. In 1951, the men set a date of 1953 for their retirement from broadcasting; there was speculation that their radio roles might be turned over to African American actors at that time.

Adapted to television, The Amos 'n Andy Show was produced from June 1951 to April 1953 with 78 filmed episodes, sponsored by the Blatz Brewing Company. The television series used African-American actors in the main roles, although the actors were instructed to keep their voices and speech patterns as close to Gosden and Correll's as possible. Produced at the Hal Roach Studios for CBS, it was one of the first television series to be filmed with a multicamera setup, four months before the more famous I Love Lucy used the technique. The lighting cameraman (Director of Photography) was Robert de Grasse ASC. The operating cameramen (camera operators) were Robert de Grasse, Lucien Andriot ASC, and Benjamin Kline ASC. The classic theme song was "The Perfect Song." In the TV series, however, the theme became Gaetano Braga's "Angel's Serenade", which sounded similar to "The Perfect Song" (and because it was in the public domain), performed by The Jeff Alexander Chorus. The program went on the air June 28, 1951.

The main roles in the television series were played by the following African-American actors:

Amos Jones – Alvin Childress
Andrew Hogg Brown (Andy) – Spencer Williams
George "Kingfish" Stevens – Tim Moore
Sapphire Stevens – Ernestine Wade
Ramona Smith (Sapphire's Mama) – Amanda Randolph
Madame Queen – Lillian Randolph
Algonquin J. Calhoun – Johnny Lee
Lightnin' – Nick Stewart (aka, Nick O'Demus)
Ruby Jones – Jane Adams

This time, the NAACP mounted a formal protest almost as soon as the television version began, and that pressure was considered a primary factor in the video version's cancellation (the sponsor, Blatz Beer, was targeted as well, finally discontinuing their advertising support in June 1953). It has been suggested that CBS erred in its choice of having the program premiere during the NAACP national convention for that year, as the timing may have increased the objections to it. The show was widely repeated in syndicated reruns until 1966 when CBS acquiesced to pressure from the NAACP and the growing civil rights movement and withdrew the program. Until recently, the television show had been released only on bootleg videotape versions, but by 2005, 72 of the 78 known TV episodes were available in bootleg DVD sets.

When the show was cancelled, 65 episodes had been produced. An additional 13 episodes were produced to be added to the syndicated rerun package. These episodes were focused on Kingfish, with little participation from Amos 'n' Andy. This is because these episodes were to be titled The Adventures of Kingfish, but they premiered under the Amos 'n' Andy title instead. The additional episodes first aired on CBS on January 4, 1955. Plans were made for a vaudeville act of the television program in August 1953, with Tim Moore, Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams playing the same roles. It is not known whether there were any performances. Still eager for television success, Gosden, Correll and CBS made initial efforts to give the series another try. The plan was to begin televising Amos 'n' Andy in the fall of 1956, with both of its creators appearing on television in a split screen with the proposed African-American cast.

Episode Short Description: N/A

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[SD File Downloads]: 24

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SD (Standard Definition) File

File Name of SD Episode: 868-002 Amos N Andy.mpg

Total SD Episode Video Runtime (hh:mm:ss): 00:28:29

File Size of SD Episode Video: 1,178,520,500 Bytes

Resolution of SD Episode Video: 720x480

Date SD Episode Video Uploaded: Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 10:54


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