(Above: Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams as ‘Amos ‘n Andy’)
For Black History Month, The Film Detective features a daily “achievement in African-American cinema.”
Today’s film, Amos ‘n Andy: Anatomy of a Controversy, is acknowledged as “one of the more intriguing titles on the list.”
The hour-long documentary examines the phenomenon of The Amos n’ Andy Show, a sitcom that ran on CBS from 1951 to 1953 and was “the first television series to feature black actors playing main roles.” When the syndicated documentary first aired in 1983, it had been 30 years since Amos n Andy’s cancellation and nearly 20 years since CBS pulled the popular show off the rerun market.
So why was Amos ‘n Andy controversial?
As the NAACP noted in 1951, “Every character in this one and only TV show with an all Negro cast is either a clown or a crook…Millions of white Americans see this Amos ‘n” Andy picture of Negroes and think the entire race is the same.”
By 1983, however, blacks had long played all types of roles on TV and in movies – from serious parts to Amos ‘n Andy-like caricatures on Good Times (JJ Evans “Dyn-O-Mite”) and Sanford and Son (whose star Redd Foxx appears in the documentary). And Amos ‘n Andy seemed like just another creaky black-and-white relic from the early days of television.
You can watch Anatomy for free on The Film Detective or right here:
CBS, which produced 78 episodes of the sitcom, has somewhat loosened its tight grip on the program in recent years. You can now stream nearly every episode free at Uncle Earl’s Classic TV Channel, and slightly fewer episodes on YouTube.
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