Mantan Moreland

Mantan Moreland

  • Highest Rated: 100% Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)
  • Lowest Rated: 33% Pin-Up Girl (1944)
  • Birthday: Sep 3, 1902
  • Birthplace: Not Available
  • Appropriately nicknamed "Google Eyes" by his childhood friends, African-American actor Mantan Moreland joined a carnival at 14 and a medicine show a year later - and both times was dragged home by juvenile authorities. Most of Moreland's early adult years were spent on the "Chitlin Circuit," the nickname given by performers to all-black vaudeville. After a decade of professional ups and downs, Moreland teamed with several comics (notably Benny Carter) in an act based on the "indefinite talk" routine of Flournoy and Miller, wherein each teammate would start a sentence, only to be interrupted by the other teammate ("Say, have you seen...?" "I saw him yesterday. He was at..." "I thought they closed that place down!"). Moreland's entered films in 1936, usually in the tiny porter, waiter and bootblack roles then reserved for black actors. Too funny to continue being shunted aside by lily-white Hollywood, Moreland began getting better parts in a late-'30s series of comedy adventures produced at Monogram and costarring white actor Frankie Darro. The screen friendship between Mantan and Frankie was rare for films of this period, and it was this series that proved Moreland was no mere "Movie Negro." Moreland stayed with Monogram in the '40s as Birmingham Brown, eternally frightened chauffeur of the Charlie Chan films. The variations Moreland wrought upon the line "Feets, do your duty" were astonishing and hilarious, and though the Birmingham role was never completely free of stereotype, by the end of the Chan series in 1949 Monogram recognized Moreland's value to the series by having Charlie Chan refer to "my assistant, Birmingham Brown" - not merely "my hired man." Always popular with black audiences (he was frequently given top billing in the advertising of the Chan films by Harlem theatre owners), Moreland starred in a series of crude but undeniably entertaining comedies filmed by Toddy Studios for all-black theatres. The actor also occasionally popped up in A-pictures like MGM's Cabin in the Sky, and worked steadily in radio. Changing racial attitudes in the '50s and '60s lessend Moreland's ability to work in films; in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, a frightened black man was no longer considered amusing even by Mantan's fans. Virtually broke, Moreland suffered a severe stroke in the early '60s, and it looked as though he was finished in Hollywood. Things improved for Moreland after 1964, first with a bit in the oddly endearing horror picture Spider Baby (1964), then with a pair of prominent cameos in Enter Laughing (1968) and The Comic (1969), both directed by Carl Reiner. With more and more African Americans being hired for TV and films in the late '60s, Moreland was again in demand. He worked on such TV sitcoms as Love American Style and The Bill Cosby Show, revived his "indefinite talk" routine for a gasoline commercial, and enjoyed a solid film role was as a race-conscious counterman in Watermelon Man (1970). In his last years, Mantan Moreland was a honored guest at the meetings of the international Laurel and Hardy fan club "The Sons of the Desert," thanks to his brief but amusing appearance in the team's 1942 comedy A-Haunting We Will Go (1942).

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

Movies

Rating

Title

Credit

Box
Office

Year

No Score Yet Treasures of Black Cinema Actor 2005
No Score Yet The Young Nurses Actor 1973
No Score Yet The Biscuit Eater Waiter 1972
No Score Yet Watermelon Man Counterman 1970
92% Spider Baby Messenger 1968
55% Enter Laughing Subway rider 1967
82% The Patsy Barbershop Porter 1964
No Score Yet Siege at Red River Actor 1954
No Score Yet Juke Joint Actor 1947
No Score Yet The Chinese Ring Birmingham Brown 1947
No Score Yet The Trap Birmingham Brown 1946
No Score Yet Riverboat Rhythm Mantan 1946
No Score Yet Dark Alibi Birmingham Brown 1946
No Score Yet Tall, Tan and Terrific Mantan Moreland 1946
No Score Yet She Wouldn't Say Yes Porter 1945
No Score Yet Charlie Chan in The Shanghai Cobra Birmingham Brown 1945
No Score Yet The Scarlet Clue Birmingham Brown 1945
No Score Yet The Jade Mask Birmingham Brown 1945
No Score Yet Spider Henry 1945
No Score Yet Charlie Chan: The Scarlet Clue Birmingham Brown 1945
No Score Yet Meeting at Midnight (Black Magic) Birmingham Brown 1944
No Score Yet The Chinese Cat Birmingham Brown, Taxi Driver 1944
33% Pin-Up Girl Redcap 1944
No Score Yet Charlie Chan in the Secret Service Birmingham Brown 1944
No Score Yet Mystery of the Riverboat Napoleon 1944
No Score Yet Swing Fever Woodie 1943
No Score Yet Revenge of the Zombies Jeff 1943
No Score Yet Hit the Ice Redcap 1943
85% Cabin in the Sky First Idea Man 1943
No Score Yet Slightly Dangerous Waiter 1943
No Score Yet Cosmo Jones, Crime Smasher Eustace Smith 1943
No Score Yet She's for Me Sam 1943
No Score Yet Andy Hardy's Double Life Prentiss 1942
97% The Palm Beach Story Waiter in Diner 1942
No Score Yet Eyes in the Night Alistair 1942
No Score Yet A-Haunting We Will Go Actor 1942
No Score Yet Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost Lightnin' 1942
100% Tarzan's New York Adventure Sam 1942
No Score Yet Law of the Jungle Jefferson Jones 1942
No Score Yet Freckles Comes Home Jeff 1942
No Score Yet Footlight Serenade Dresser 1942
No Score Yet Phantom Killer Nicodemus 1942
No Score Yet It Started with Eve Railway Porter 1941
No Score Yet Let's Go Collegiate Jeff 1941
No Score Yet Dressed to Kill Sam 1941
No Score Yet The Gang's All Here Jefferson 'Jeff' Smith 1941
No Score Yet King of the Zombies Jefferson 'Jeff' Jackson 1941
No Score Yet You're Out of Luck Jeff 1941
No Score Yet Lucky Ghost Washington 1941
No Score Yet Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery Roy 1941
No Score Yet Four Jacks and a Jill Attendant 1941
No Score Yet Sign of the Wolf Ben 1941
No Score Yet Drums of the Desert Sergeant 'Blue' Williams 1940
No Score Yet Maryland Actor 1940
No Score Yet Star Dust Waiter 1940
No Score Yet Chasing Trouble Jefferson 1940
No Score Yet Up in the Air Jeff Jefferson 1940
No Score Yet There's That Woman Again Porter 1939
No Score Yet Irish Luck Jefferson 1939
No Score Yet Frontier Scout Butler 1938
No Score Yet Two-Gun Man from Harlem Bill Blake 1938
No Score Yet Spirit of Youth Actor 1938
No Score Yet Harlem on the Prairie Actor 1938
No Score Yet Next Time I Marry Tilby 1938
89% Shall We Dance Undetermined Role (uncredited) 1937

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