Classic Entertainment Autographs

Cat. #0017510: MANTAN MORELAND

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Scarce vintage black ink signature on a 4x6-inch light green card, acquired in-person by inveterate collector John Virzi in the 1960s. In good condition and suitable for matting with a favorite photograph. Nicknamed "Google Eyes" from his youth, beloved African-American character actor Mantan Moreland began made his bones in carnivals, medicine shows and all-Black vaudeville reviews. After a decade of professional ups and downs, he teamed with several comics, notably Benny Carter, popularizing an "indefinite talk" routine, wherein each teammate would start a sentence, only to be interrupted by the other, to tremendous comic effect.  Already wildly popular by the time he entered films in 1936, he delighted audiences in admittedly stereotyped servant roles. Too funny to continue being shunted aside by lily-white Hollywood, Moreland began getting better parts in a late-1930s series of comedy adventures produced at Monogram and costarring white actor Frankie Darro. The series was a smash hit and the studio rewarded him with the plum role of Birmingham Brown, the eternally frightened chauffeur of the Charlie Chan film series. The variations Moreland wrought upon the line "Feets, do your duty" were astonishing and hilarious. During the same period, the actor also occasionally popped up in A-pictures such as the Laurel and Hardy comedy A-Haunting We Will Go (1942), Cabin in the Sky (1943) and The Palm Beach Story (1942), but was more typically confined to B-flicks like King of the Zombies (1941), The Strange Case of Dr. Rx (1942), Law of the Jungle (1942), and Revenge of the Zombies (1943). Changing racial attitudes in the 1950s and 1960s greatly reduced the actor's ability to work in films and, by the mid-'60s, he was broke and incapacitated, following a stroke. His output was thereafter rather sporadic, including a bit in the oddly endearing horror picture Spider Baby (1964), and prominent cameos in Enter Laughing (1968) and The Comic (1969), both directed by Carl Reiner. He also did much work on T.V. before his death of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 71.