Born in Vidalia, Louisiana, Spencer Williams Jr. attended the University of Minnesota, dropping out to join the Army. Returning South after his 1923 discharge, he got his start in movies by writing for a series of short black films based on stories by Octavus Roy Cohen. These films were made by an affiliate of Paramount Pictures, and Williams soon moved to an office on Paramount's lot in Hollywood.A talented actor, he appeared in some of the first African American talking movies of the 1920s, including The Lady Fare, Oft in the Silly Night, and Music Has Charms. His work as a producer included silent films such as Hot Biscuits (1929) and the earliest black Westerns, Bronze Buckaroo (1938) and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). Films that Williams wrote, directed, and starred in range from the comedy Juke Joint (1947) to the allegorical The Blood of Jesus (1941).In 1951 Williams accepted the role for which he is most famous, Andy Brown on the television version of Amos ‘n’ Andy. The show used exaggeration and stereotypes as a comic motif, but, airing in a changing and turbulent political climate, it was denounced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Suffering from lack of support, the show lasted three years. After its cancellation Williams supported himself on a veteran's pension and social security, until his death from a kidney disorder in 1969.See also Film, Blacks in American; Television and African Americans.
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