LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – Spencer Williams

Spencer Williams—A highly regarded actor and filmmaker, Spencer Williams will always be best remembered for being Andy on The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show that ran on television between 1951 and 1953 for a total of 78 episodes. Williams was born in 1873, and began his career in showbiz working for Oscar Hammerstein in the early 1900s. He was also mentored by legendary vaudeville performer Bert Williams, considered one of the greatest comedian of all time, and one half of the Walker and Williams comedy duo. Spencer Williams began working in film in the 1920s, with producer Al Christie hiring him to write dialog for a series of short all-black comedies. Williams cut his teeth behind the camera working for Christie in a variety of capacities, which prepared him for a career on his own making race films. Williams wrote Harlem Rides the Range (starring Herb Jeffries) and Son of Igagi. Alfred Sack, a distributor of race movies, was so impressed with Williams work as a writer, he offered him a chance to write and direct his own film. Williams’ debut film as a writer-director was 1941’s Blood of Jesus, and a huge financial success that led to eleven more films throughout the 1940s. Also an accomplished comedic actor, Williams would leave directing to star in The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show. Williams continued to act after the cancellation of the show, but would retire from showbiz altogether in 1959.

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