Sammy "Sunshine" Morrison
The son of a New Orleans-based chef, little Ernie Morrison moved with his family to Beverly Hills when his father was hired by oil-magnate E.L. Doheny. Morrison was discovered for films by the father of child-star Baby Marie Osborne, who was looking for a funny black youngster to appear in support of his daughter. Renamed "Sunshine Sammy" because of his wide, beaming smile, Morrison made his film debut at age five in 1917. Two years later, he was signed by comedy producer Hal Roach, who cast Sunshine Sammy in "buttinsky" roles in the films of Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard. In 1922, Roach decided to build a new comedy series around Morrison's talents, and that's how Our Gang was born. Morrison appeared in 28 Our Gang shorts from 1922 to 1924, usually identified under his established soubriquet of Sunshine Sammy, but sometimes playing a character named Booker T. After leaving Roach, Morrison worked in vaudeville as a dancer, singer, and comedian. Returning to films in 1940, Morrison played Scruno in Monogram's East Side Kids comedies, and also showed up in a handful of 20th Century Fox musicals as a member of the dancing Step Brothers. He spent the war years entertaining troops in a USO act. After the war, he quit acting when he secured a engineering job at the Compton company, an L.A.-based aerospace firm. Retiring from Compton in the early '70s, Morrison accepted a few choice roles in such TV series as Good Times and The Jeffersons; he also became a familiar figure on the nostalgia-convention circuit. In 1987, two years before his death, Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.