The Orginal Amos & Andy - Get This Book!

Discussion in 'Radio' started by scotrace, Mar 2, 2007.

  1. scotrace

    scotrace Head Bartender Staff Member

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    Fans of OTR will surely be familiar with the Amos & Andy radio shows. They were so extraordinarily popular and woven into the fabric of the lives of legions of Americans that everything stopped when the show was scheduled to air. Restaurant conversations halted; even the motion picture houses stopped the film long enough to air Amos & Andy for the audience (or risk having patrons just stay home so as not to miss the broadcast).

    I've been reading an excellent book. The Original Amos 'n' Andy: Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll And The 1928-1943 Radio Serial. The author, Elizabeth McLeod, has produced a deft and scholarly look at a bit of radio history that was in great danger of being lost forever.

    The radio show went beyond those years, but it is the early episodes (thousands) that warrant the attention of this book. What I found fascinating is that, while the Amos & Andy series is often regarded in modern commentary as patently racist and a propagation of stereotypes, the creators of the two characters, Gosden and Correll, took great pains to achieve just the opposite. The author addresses this early on and powerfully. Both Amos and Andy were treated as real people and given multi-layered story lines and and dignified treatment. They could easily have bent to sponsor pressure and allowed the characters to become silly minstrels doing gag lines. Instead, the programs followed the two as their own lives followed the pattern of many African-Americans of the time: migration from the southern US to Chicago in search of work, and from there to New York. They fell in love, got taken by slicksters, felt hunger, pain, and joy, got and lost work, cried at loss, and expressed it all through amazingly real story lines that hooked a generation of listeners. Astonishingly, Gosden and Correll voiced virtually all of the shows dozens of characters!
    Amos & Andy received wheelbarrows full of not just fan mail, but objects that had to do with the story line of the shows, attesting to the way listeners thought of them - as real individuals about whom they came to care.
    Sadly, none of the early, and if this book is to believed (and it is), best, original broadcasts remain in audio form, only the scripts survive. Ms. McLeod has done obvious, painstaking, laborious research, including the transcriptions of the early scripts.
    The result is a truly excellent, well-executed telling of a fascinating story. She has accomplished something very difficult for a writer: she has presented in a very immediate and attention-keeping way what is actually a quite scholarly narrative. Her affection for the material is obvious and it is hard to imagine this book would have been as deliciously readable if that were not the case.
    This is by our own LizzieMaine. I hope you will find a copy and read it. An excellent history of Old Time Radio.

    [​IMG]


    The Original Amos 'n' Andy: Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll And The 1928-1943 Radio Serial
     
  2. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Thank you for the plug -- needless to say, it was a very labor-intensive book to write!
     
  3. Feraud

    Feraud Bartender

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    A highly anticipated work! I will be reading this after I finish Jimmy Stewart: Bomber Pilot.
    Now how do I get our illustrious member to autograph my copy? ;)
     
  4. The Wolf

    The Wolf Call Me a Cab

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    Thanks Scotrace for telling us about the book.
    Congratulations Lizzie, on the book.
    It sounds like a must read.

    Sincerely,
    the Wolf
     
  5. Leading Edge

    Leading Edge One of the Regulars

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    Do other new members go broke. . .

    Just kidding.

    Thanks for posting the resource. I will purchase it as soon as I finish these comments because I had not realized just how important the Amos and Andy shows were as part of my personal coming of age until I posted last night. One has to respect personally significant cultural pieces like that by incorporating that into the heritage that one passes on to subsequent generations. Perhaps it is my a/vocation as a high school teacher that creates for me not only the onus, but also the responsibility to do so.

    Re: (as a newbie, dare I say "OUR" own?) LizzieMaine, author
    SHUUUT UUP ! ! ! ! :eusa_clap
    (spoken as only a sixteen-year old girl open-mouthedly chomping gum and wearing badly selected, overly applied make-up could say it)

    (Back to the beginning) Yes, I am spending more money than I would have expected just a la advice and comments of Fedora Loungers AND it is money well spent. Thank you one and all.
     
  6. davew

    davew New in Town

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    Elizabeth,
    Just wanted to tell you how much i enjoyed your talk and presentation at the Friends of old time radio in NJ a couple years back. It was both informative and thoroughly entertaining!Would like to see you back at some point.......

    Best,Dave
     
  7. Dr Doran

    Dr Doran My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Hello Lizzie,

    I just now (five minutes ago) ordered your book on Amos n Andy for my father who is 86 and who remembers the show fondly as a youth. I have not read your book but I understand that you are resisting the idea that, as the rap band Public Enemy believed, Amos n Andy was strictly racist in its portrayal of blacks. That is a refreshing view to take in the face of contemporary academia's burning lust to discover racism, sexism, and oppression in every social norm, in every smile in a painting, in every depiction of a foreigner or a foreign land in a travel narrative, under every rock. (I know this because I am in academia.) I commend you for fighting the prevailing current.
     
  8. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Thanks for the kind words -- what I've tried to do in the book is simply point out that the reality of the program is not a simple matter of black and white, so to speak: it's actually a very complex story, and while I don't presume to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't think about the program, I do try to lay out the facts of its history and content in such a way that the reader can at least reach an informed decision. Too many academic studies of the program have glossed over the actual content in favor of broad social generalization, and what I'm trying to do in the book is make up for some of that sort of thing.

    Actually, the best compliment I got on the book came from Freeman Gosden's widow: "Strong men are scared to death of this subject -- so no wonder it took a woman to write this book!" lol
     
  9. Dr Doran

    Dr Doran My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Nice!
     
  10. Parallel Guy

    Parallel Guy One of the Regulars

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    Of course, Amos and Andy was racist but the important point is that the era was racist and the show provided a more human view of African Americans of the time. Until I started my own intensive study of the time, I always wondered why my father was so racist. Now I realize how pervasive the attitude was...and how casual. We couldn't move from that to enlightenment in one leap, it took a series of bridges which included Amos and Andy, Sammy Davis, Jr. and many, many others.
     
  11. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    By the way, I might mention that fans of the PBS "History Detectives" program should keep an eye out -- I'll be appearing on that show in one of the early episodes of the new season. I made a fast trip to NYC back in December to identify and authenticate for them an ultra-rare home recording of an "Amos 'n' Andy" broadcast from 1931, and they tell me that the segment will probably air sometime late in June.
     
  12. Feraud

    Feraud Bartender

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    Looking forward to it!
     
  13. Leading Edge

    Leading Edge One of the Regulars

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    :eusa_clap Pleeeease let us know when! :eusa_clap
     
  14. Dr Doran

    Dr Doran My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    My father just received your book and spoke at length of the many voices that the two actors had. He also was able to play from memory the Amos n Andy theme song on the piano. I know nothing of this, but so far he likes your book, Lizzie, and certainly remembers the show well and has a high opinion of the technical ability of its makers.
     
  15. dhermann1

    dhermann1 I'll Lock Up

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    I've said this before: Lizzie, you should be a professor at NYU or UCLA! Then again, you'd probably hate the weather in LA!
     
  16. Tony in Tarzana

    Tony in Tarzana My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I just placed my order on Amazon.

    If you click on the author's name, you'll see that our LizzieMaine, at age 5 wrote a book about how to create an employee handbook. Wow! lol
     
  17. scotrace

    scotrace Head Bartender Staff Member

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  18. just_me

    just_me Practically Family

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    This question/answer is in the S. FL Sun-Sentinel's TV column. The columnist is Tom Jicha:

    Q. The '50s TV series Amos 'n' Andy was very funny. Can you tell me where I can buy episodes and if they will ever show them on TV again? Also how long was the show on the air? Deb, e-mail

    A. Amos 'n' Andy is arguably the most controversial show in TV history. It ran in original episodes for only two seasons, 1951-53, and was extremely popular, continuing in syndicated reruns for more than a decade. However, many felt it furthered racial stereotypes. The NAACP was finally successful in getting CBS to withdraw it from the market in the mid-'60s. Even though CBS has fielded countless offers to buy the tapes, it has refused to change its position. The show continues to be locked away in a vault, the only series I know of to be treated in this manner. Moreover, the network's lawyers have sued to stop the sale of bootleg copies whenever they have become aware of them. Still they can be found without much effort. My feeling is, those who protested had a legitimate complaint at the time, because Amos 'n' Andy was one of a very few shows with all-black casts, so the over-the-top characterizations were the only mass depiction of black families. This, of course, is no longer the case. If CBS could put on a show like Good Times (remember Jimmie "Dyn-o-mite" Walker?) it's odd that it would continue to lock away Amos 'n' Andy. With an African-American in the White House, it's time to free Amos 'n' Andy.
     
  19. Dr Doran

    Dr Doran My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Thank you just_me, that is very interesting. I think it may be time for a fresh look at these issues also, and I think that this may be the moment to do it. I can speak from long experience in the highest echelons of academia [I am now writing my doctoral dissertation at Berkeley on a historical (though not modern history) topic] that the present academia viewpoint on race and racism is entirely counterproductive and so obsessed with domination and submission (a legacy of, among others, Michel Foucault, who was himself a sadomasochist in his private life -- what a coincidence) that it misses the forest for the trees in every possible way. Lizzie's book may go some way to giving a more nuanced look at this everpresent theme in American and non-American history.
     
  20. dhermann1

    dhermann1 I'll Lock Up

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    I recall the series vividly. The paradox is that while the show presented a lot of positive images of African Americans, really the vast majority of the characters, it really made its bread and butter from the buffoons. This, of course, is typical of every sit com in history. But the characters of Kingfish (who wound up being the real star of the TV show), of Andy Brown, and especially of Calhoun, would probably still make people squirm. Just embarrassing.
    That said, I think it's time to let people decide for themselves how they feel about it. It's history, almost ancient history, now.
     

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