Monday, September 18, 2023

Today in Comics History, September 18: Happy birthday, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson!

Born on this day in 1905: comedian and actor Eddie Anderson, best known in the role of Rochester, valet of radio and television's Jack Benny!

from "Hello Again! This is Jack Benny" in True Comics #69 (Parents' Magazine Press, February 1948), creators uncredited and unknown

As a Black actor and character on radio and television, Anderson was an atypical example of African Americans for several decades. As Wikipedia very aptly puts it:
"Eddie Anderson was the first black man to have a recurring role in a national radio show, which was significant because at the time, black characters were not uncommonly played by white actors in blackface. Although Eddie Anderson's Rochester may be considered a stereotype by some, his attitudes were unusually sardonic for such a role. ...

"In many routines, Rochester gets the better of Benny, often pricking his boss' ego, or simply outwitting him. The show's portrayal of black characters could be seen as advanced for its time. ...

"Once, when Benny and his cast and crew were doing a series of shows in New York, the entire cast, including Eddie Anderson, stayed in a prominent New York hotel. Shortly after they decamped at the hotel, a manager told Benny that some white guests from Mississippi had complained to him about Anderson staying in the hotel. He asked Benny to please "do something about it." Benny assured him that he would fix the matter. That evening, Benny moved all his people into another hotel, where Anderson would not be made to feel unwelcome." — Wikipedia

Sadly, the only other comics portrayal I could find of Anderson is this funny animal (sigh) black crow...

from Frisky Fables v.2 #8/11 (Novelty, November 1946), pencils and inks by Al Fago check out this TV clip of Eddie as Rochester getting the best (as usual) of Benny.

from a television episode of The Jack Benny Program (CBS/J&M Productions, 1950-1965), starring Jack Benny and Eddie Anderson

Happy birthday, Mr. Anderson!

from True Comics #69

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