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1926 __ « Amos 'n' Andy »
Comment : Amos 'n' Andy is a situation comedy based on stock sketch comedy characters but set in the African-American community, and popular in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s. The show began as one of the first radio comedy serials, written and voiced by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll and originating from station WMAQ in Chicago, Illinois. After the series was first broadcast in 1928, it grew in popularity and became a huge influence on the radio serials that followed. The program ran on radio as a nightly serial from 1928 until 1943, as a weekly situation comedy from 1943 until 1955, and as a nightly disc-jockey program from 1954 until 1960. A television adaptation ran on CBS-TV from 1951 until 1953, and continued in syndicated reruns from 1954 until 1966.Amos 'n' Andy creators Gosden and Correll were white actors familiar with minstrel traditions. They met in Durham, North Carolina, in 1920, and by the fall of 1925, they were performing nightly song-and-patter routines on the Chicago Tribune's station WGN. Since the Tribune syndicated Sidney Smith's popular comic strip The Gumps, which had successfully introduced the concept of daily continuity, WGN executive Ben McCanna thought the notion of a serialized drama could also work on radio. He suggested to Gosden and Correll that they adapt The Gumps to radio. They instead proposed a series about "a couple of colored characters" and borrowed certain elements of The Gumps. Their new series, Sam 'n' Henry, began January 12, 1926, fascinating radio listeners throughout the Midwest. That series became popular enough that in late 1927 Gosden and Correll requested that it be distributed to other stations on phonograph records in a "chainless chain" concept that would have been the first use of radio syndication as we know it today. When WGN rejected the idea, Gosden and Correll quit the show and the station that December. Contractually, their characters belonged to WGN, so when Gosden and Correll left WGN, they performed in personal appearances but could not use the character names from the radio show.Amos Jones and Andy Brown worked on a farm near Atlanta, Georgia, and during the episodes of the first week, they made plans to find a better life in Chicago, despite warnings from a friend. With four ham-and-cheese sandwiches and $24, they bought train tickets and headed for Chicago, where they lived in a State Street rooming house and experienced some rough times before launching their own business, the Fresh Air Taxi Company. (The first car they acquired had no roof; the pair turned it into a selling point.) Amos was naïve but honest, hard-working and (after his 1935 marriage to Ruby Taylor) a dedicated family man. Andy was more blustering, with overinflated self-confidence. Andy, being a dreamer, tended to let Amos do most of the work. Their Mystic Knights of the Sea lodge leader, George "the Kingfish" Stevens, was always trying to lure the two into get-rich-quick schemes, especially the gullible Andy. Other characters included John Augustus "Brother" Crawford, an industrious but long-suffering family man; Henry Van Porter, a social-climbing real estate and insurance salesman; Frederick Montgomery Gwindell, a hard-charging newspaperman; William Lewis Taylor, the well-spoken, college-educated father of Amos's fiancee; and "Lightning", a slow-moving Stepin Fetchit-type character. The Kingfish's catch phrase "Holy mackerel!" soon entered the American lexicon. Of the three central characters, Correll voiced Andy Brown while Gosden voiced both Amos and the Kingfish. The majority of the scenes were dialogues between either Andy and Amos or Andy and Kingfish. Amos and Kingfish, both voiced by Gosden, only rarely appeared together. Since Correll and Gosden voiced virtually all of the parts, the female characters, such as Ruby Taylor, Kingfish's wife Sapphire, and Andy's various girlfriends, did not appear as voiced characters in the original serial, but entered the plots only as discussed by the male characters. When the series switched to a weekly situation comedy in 1943, actresses began voicing the female characters and other actors were recruited for some of the male supporting parts. However, Correll and Gosden continued to voice the three central characters on radio until the series ended in 1960. With the listening audience increasing in the spring and summer of 1928, the show's success prompted the Pepsodent Company to bring it to the NBC Blue Network on August 19, 1929. At this time the Blue Network was not heard on stations in the West. Western listeners complained to NBC that they wanted to hear the show. Under special arrangements Amos 'n' Andy debuted coast-to-coast November 28, 1929, on NBC's Pacific Orange Network and continued on the Blue. At the same time, the serial's central characters -- Amos, Andy and George "The Kingfish" Stevens -- relocated from Chicago to New York City's Harlem. The story arc of Andy's romance (and subsequent problems) with the Harlem beautician Madame Queen entranced some 40 million listeners during 1930 and 1931, becoming a national phenomenon. Many of the program's plotlines in this period leaned far more to straight drama than comedy, including the near-death of Amos's fiancee Ruby from pneumonia in the spring of 1931, and Amos's brutal interrogation by police following the murder of the cheap hoodlum Jack Dixon that December. Following official protests by the National Association of Chiefs of Police, Correll and Gosden were forced to abandon that storyline – turning the entire sequence into a bad dream, from which Amos gratefully awoke on Christmas Eve. The innovations introduced by Gosden and Correll made their creation a turning point for radio drama, as noted by broadcast historian Elizabeth McLeod: "As a result of its extraordinary popularity, Amos 'n' Andy profoundly influenced the development of dramatic radio. Working alone in a small studio, Correll and Gosden created an intimate, understated acting style that differed sharply from the broad manner of stage actors – a technique requiring careful modulation of the voice, especially in the portrayal of multiple characters. The performers pioneered the technique of varying both the distance and the angle of their approach to the microphone to create the illusion of a group of characters. Listeners could easily imagine that that they were actually in the taxicab office, listening in on the conversation of close friends. The result was a uniquely absorbing experience for listeners who in radio's short history had never heard anything quite like Amos 'n' Andy. While minstrel-style wordplay humor was common in the formative years of the program, it was used less often as the series developed, giving way to a more sophisticated approach to characterization. Correll and Gosden were fascinated by human nature, and their approach to both comedy and drama drew from their observations of the traits and motivations that drive the actions of all people: While often overlapping popular stereotypes of African-Americans, there was at the same time a universality to their characters which transcended race... Beneath the dialect and racial imagery, the series celebrated the virtues of friendship, persistence, hard work, and common sense, and as the years passed and the characterizations were refined, Amos 'n' Andy achieved an emotional depth rivaled by few other radio programs of the 1930s. Above all, Correll and Gosden were gifted dramatists. Their plots flowed gradually from one into the next, with minor subplots building in importance until they took over the narrative, before receding to give way to the next major sequence, and seeds for future storylines were often planted months in advance. It was this complex method of story construction that kept the program fresh, and enabled Correll and Gosden to keep their audience in a constant state of suspense. The technique they developed for radio from that of the narrative comic strip endures to the present day as the standard method of storytelling in serial drama." (Elizabeth McLeod). Only a few dozen episodes of the original serial have survived in recorded form. However, a number of scripts from the original episodes have been discovered, and were utilized by Elizabeth McLeod in preparing her 2005 book cited above. Amos 'n' Andy was officially transferred by NBC from the Blue Network to the Red Network in 1935, although the vast majority of stations carrying the show remained the same. Several months later, Gosden and Correll moved production of the show from NBC's Merchandise Mart studios in Chicago to Hollywood. After a long and successful run with Pepsodent, the program changed sponsors in 1938 to Campbell's Soup; because of Campbell's closer relationship with CBS, the series switched to that network on April 3, 1939. In 1943, after 4,091 episodes, the radio program went from a 15-minute CBS weekday dramatic serial to an NBC half-hour weekly comedy. While the five-a-week show often had a quiet, easygoing feeling, the new version was a full-fledged sitcom in the Hollywood sense, with a regular studio audience (for the first time in the show's history) and an orchestra. More outside actors, including many African-American comedy professionals, were brought in to fill out the cast. Many of the half-hour programs were written by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, later the writing team behind Leave It to Beaver and The Munsters. In the new version, Amos became a peripheral character to the more dominant Andy and Kingfish duo, although Amos was still featured in the traditional Christmas show, where he explains the Lord's Prayer to his daughter, Arbadella. The later radio program and the TV version were advanced for the time, depicting Blacks in a variety of roles including as successful business owners and managers, professionals and public officials, in addition to the comic characters at show's core. It anticipated many later comedies featuring working class characters (both Black and White) including All in the Family, The Honeymooners and Sanford and Son. (Compiled from various sources)The rise of Sam and Henry/Amos 'n' Andy in 1926-29 did have a major influence in getting people accustomed to the habit of following characters in a continuing storyline as opposed to simply listening to speeches or music -- and they were probably the single most important factor in the early development of radio drama. There's no doubt that there were people who bought radios just to find out what all the talk was about. (Elizabeth McLeod, 1999)
Urls : http://jeff560.tripod.com/am10.html (last visited ) http://www.midcoast.com/~lizmcl/ (last visited ) http://www.amosandy.com/ (last visited )

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