James Baskett

James Baskett (February 16, 1904 – July 9, 1948) was an American actor known for his portrayal of Uncle Remus, singing the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" in the 1946 Disney feature film Song of the South. In recognition of his warm portrayal of the famous black storyteller he was given an Honorary Academy Award, making him the first black male performer to receive an Oscar.

James Baskett
Uncle Remus 1946
Baskett as Uncle Remus in Song of the South
BornFebruary 16, 1904
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
DiedJuly 9, 1948 (aged 44)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeCrown Hill Cemetery (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Other namesJimmie Baskette
Jimmy Baskette
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1929–48

Career

After abandoning his plans to study pharmacology for financial reasons, James Baskett supported himself as an actor, moving from his home town of Indianapolis, Indiana to New York City, and joining the company of Bill Robinson, better known as Mr. Bojangles. As Jimmie Baskette, he appeared on Broadway with Louis Armstrong in the all-black musical revue Hot Chocolates in 1929, and was announced for Hummin' Sam in 1933, although it failed to open. Mr. Baskett also acted in several all-black films made in the New York area, including Harlem Is Heaven (1932) starring Bill Robinson. He went to Los Angeles, California and had a supporting role in Straight to Heaven (1939), starring Nina Mae McKinney, and bit parts in the films Revenge of the Zombies (1943) and The Heavenly Body (1944). He was invited by Freeman Gosden to join the cast of the Amos 'n' Andy radio show as lawyer Gabby Gibson, whom he portrayed from 1944 to 1948.

In 1945, he auditioned for a bit part voicing one of the animals in the new Disney feature film Song of the South (1946), based on the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris. Walt Disney was impressed with Baskett's talent and hired him on the spot for the lead role of Uncle Remus. Baskett was also given the voice role of Brer Fox, one of the film's animated antagonists, and even filled in as the main animated protagonist, Brer Rabbit, in one sequence. This was one of the first Hollywood portrayals of a black actor as a non-comic character in a leading role in a film meant for general audiences.[1]

Baskett was not allowed to attend the film's premiere in Atlanta, Georgia because Atlanta was racially segregated by law.[2][3]

Although Baskett was occasionally criticized for accepting such a "demeaning" role, his acting was almost universally praised, and columnist Hedda Hopper was one of the many journalists who declared that he should receive an Academy Award for his work.[4]

Academy Award

On March 20, 1948, Baskett received an Honorary Academy Award for his performance as Uncle Remus.[5] He was the first African-American male actor to win an Academy Award.

Illness and death

Baskett had been in poor health around 1946 during the filming of Song of the South due to diabetes and suffered a heart attack. His health continued to decline, and he was often unable to attend the Amos and Andy show he was in. On July 9, 1948 during the show's summer hiatus,[6] Baskett died of heart failure resulting from diabetes at age 44.[7][8] He was survivied by his wife Margaret and his mother Elizabeth. He is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.[9]

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1932 Harlem Is Heaven Money Johnson Film debut; credited as Jimmy Baskette
1933 20,000 Cheers for the Chain Gang Vocalist Uncredited
1938 Gone Harlem Credited as Jimmie Baskette
1938 Policy Man Credited as Jimmie Baskette
1939 Straight to Heaven First Detective
1940 Comes Midnight
1943 Revenge of the Zombies Lazarus Alternative title: The Corpse Vanished
1944 The Heavenly Body Porter Uncredited
1946 Song of the South Uncle Remus
Br'er Fox (voice)
Br'er Rabbit (voice, one scene)
(final film role)

See also

References

  1. ^ As Jim Korkis notes, "Song of the South came out in 1946 and there was no balance of media images... African American performers often portrayed comic roles where their characters were described as lazy, slow-witted, easily scared or flustered, subservient and worse. That image was what the American public was seeing and accepting as the norm for African Americans." Jim Korkis, "The Sad Song of the South", USA Today (accessed 24 August 2013)
  2. ^ In a 15 October 1946 article in the Atlanta Constitution, columnist Harold Martin noted that to bring Baskett to Atlanta, where he would not have been allowed to participate in any of the festivities, "would cause him many embarrassments, for his feelings are the same as any man's." The modern claim that no Atlanta hotel would give Baskett accommodation is false: there were several black-owned hotels in Atlanta at the time, including the Savoy and the McKay. Atlanta's Black-Owned Hotels: A History.
  3. ^ Ronald H. Bayor, "Roads to Racial Segregation: Atlanta in the Twentieth Century", Journal of Urban History, Vol. 15, No. 1, 3–21 (1988).
  4. ^ Turner Classic Movies, Song of the South (1946) (accessed 24 August 2013)
  5. ^ Cohen, Karl F. (2004). Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America. McFarland. p. 61. ISBN 0-7864-2032-4.
  6. ^ Old-time.com
  7. ^ AFI
  8. ^ Auchmutey, Jim (2006-11-12). "Finding Uncle Remus". accessatlanta.com. Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved 2008-11-17. (Dead link)
  9. ^ Bodenhamer, David J.; Barrows, Robert Graham; Gordon, David (1994). The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Vanderstel, David Gordon. Indiana University Press. p. 485. ISBN 0-253-31222-1.

External links

1948 in animation

Events in 1948 in animation.

20th Academy Awards

No film received more than three awards at the 20th Academy Awards. This would not recur until the 78th Academy Awards.

Rosalind Russell was highly favored to win Best Actress her performance in Mourning Becomes Electra, but Loretta Young won instead for The Farmer's Daughter.

James Baskett received an Academy Honorary Award for his portrayal of Uncle Remus in Song of the South, which made him the first African-American man and the first Walt Disney star to win an Academy Award for acting.At age 71, Edmund Gwenn was the oldest Oscar-winner to that time. The previous oldest was Charles Coburn, who was 66 at the time of his win. In 1976, George Burns would become the oldest Oscar-winner, at age 80.

Baskett

Baskett is a surname that may refer to:

Ann Baskett (contemporary), English actress, critic, and painter

Hank Baskett (b. 1982), American professional football player

James Baskett (1904–1948), American actor; portrayed Uncle Remus in the Disney film Song of the South

John Baskett (d.1742), a printer

Kendra Baskett (a.k.a. Kendra Wilkinson) (b. 1985), American glamour model and television personality

Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear

Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear (also spelled Brer Fox and Brer Bear, ) are fictional characters from the Uncle Remus folktales adapted and compiled by Joel Chandler Harris.

In the animated sequences of the 1946 Walt Disney-produced film Song of the South like in the tales, Brer Fox is the stories' antagonist, while Brer Bear is his dim-witted henchman. Brer Fox was voiced by actor James Baskett, who also portrayed the live-action character Uncle Remus, and Brer Bear was voiced by Nick Stewart. In later appearances of the characters, the two were voiced by Jess Harnell and James Avery. In contrast to the earlier illustrations of Frederick S. Church, A. B. Frost, and E. W. Kemble, the Disney animators depict the characters in a more slapstick, cartoony style.The cult film Coonskin, directed by Ralph Bakshi, focuses on a trio of characters inspired by the original folktales. Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Bear and Br'er Fox (renamed "Preacher Fox" in the film) all appear, and the elements of the stories are moved to a then-contemporary urban setting.

Daniel J. Bloomberg

Daniel J. Bloomberg (July 4, 1905 – August 14, 1984) was an Academy Award-winning audio engineer. Bloomberg's first Hollywood credit was in 1934, his last his Oscar-nominated work on John Ford’s The Quiet Man 18 years later. In the intervening time, he worked on several films in the Dick Tracy and Zorro series.

Although his work was mainly confined to B pictures, Bloomberg did enjoy the distinction of winning five technical awards from the Academy, as well as eight Academy Award nominations. He also won an Honorary Award in 1945 for designing and building a musical scoring auditorium with state-of-the-art acoustics.

Bloomberg was married to award-winning British actress and beauty queen Eugenie Prescott Bloomberg (born: 1909, Cheshire, England, UK) whose film credits include The Rising Generation (1928), The Flying Squad (1929) and Diggers (1931).

Harlem Is Heaven

Harlem Is Heaven is a 1932 American pre-Code crime drama and musical film directed by Irwin Franklyn and featuring a virtually all African-American cast. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson stars in his first leading role on screen, along with Putney Dandridge, John Mason, and some of the top entertainers of the period from Harlem's famous Cotton Club, including James Baskett, Anise Boyer, Henri Wessell, and Alma Smith. Eubie Blake and his orchestra perform most of the background music and instrumentals during the film's onstage song and dance numbers.

Joseph A. Ball

Joseph Arthur Ball (August 16, 1894 – August 27, 1951) was an American inventor, physicist, and executive at Technicolor. He was the technical director of the first color movie Becky Sharp, and a recipient of an Academy Honorary Award at the 11th Academy Awards for his contributions to color film photography. He held many patents in color photography and was credited with creating the three-component process.

Louis Mesenkop

Louis Mesenkop (February 6, 1903 – February 19, 1974) was an American sound engineer. He won two Academy Awards for Best Special Effects and was nominated for another in the same category. Mesenkop was part of the production team who received an Academy Honorary Award at the 11th Academy Awards for their efforts on the Paramount film Spawn of the North.

Monsieur Vincent

Monsieur Vincent is a 1947 French film about Vincent de Paul, the 17th-century priest and charity worker. It depicts his struggle to help the poor in the face of obstacles such as the Black Death.

In 1949, it won an honorary Academy Award as the best foreign language film released in the United States in 1948. The Vatican placed it amongst their list of approved films under the category of Religion due to its thematic nature in 1995. Pierre Fresnay portrayed Vincent.

Piero Tosi

For the castrato singer, see Pier Francesco Tosi.Piero Tosi (born April 10, 1927) is an Italian costume designer.

Revenge of the Zombies

Revenge of the Zombies is a 1943 horror film directed by Steve Sekely, starring John Carradine and Gale Storm. Dr. Max Heinrich von Altermann (John Carradine), is a mad scientist working to create a race of living dead warriors for the Third Reich.

The film was a follow-up to the horror-comedy King of the Zombies (1941) with Mantan Moreland reprising his role as Jeff and Madame Sul-Te-Wan returning as a different character.

Sidney Poitier

Sir Sidney Poitier, (; born February 20, 1927) is a Bahamian-American actor and film director.

In 1964, Poitier became the first Bahamian and first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field. He continued to break ground by starring in three successful 1967 films, all of which dealt with issues involving race and race relations: To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, making him the top box-office star of that year.Poitier has directed a number of films, including Uptown Saturday Night, Let's Do It Again, and A Piece of the Action, with Bill Cosby; Stir Crazy, starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder; and Ghost Dad, also with Cosby. From 1997 to 2007, he served as the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan.Poitier was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974. On August 12, 2009, Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama. In 2016, he was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding lifetime achievement in film. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Poitier 22nd of 25 on their list of Greatest Male Stars of classic Hollywood cinema. In 2002, thirty-eight years after receiving the Best Actor Award, Poitier was chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Academy Honorary Award, in recognition of his "remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being".

Song of the South

Song of the South is a 1946 American live-action/animated musical film produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures. It is based on the collection of Uncle Remus stories as adapted by Joel Chandler Harris, and stars James Baskett as Uncle Remus. The film takes place in the southern United States during the Reconstruction Era, a period of American history shortly after the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery. The story follows 7-year-old Johnny (Bobby Driscoll) who is visiting his grandmother's plantation for an extended stay. Johnny befriends Uncle Remus, one of the workers on the plantation, and takes joy in hearing his tales about the adventures of Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox, and Br'er Bear. Johnny learns from the stories how to cope with the challenges he is experiencing while living on the plantation.

Walt Disney had wanted to produce a film based on the Uncle Remus stories for some time. It was not until 1939 that he began negotiating with the Harris family for the film rights, and finally in 1944, filming for Song of the South began. The studio constructed a plantation set for the outdoor scenes in Phoenix, Arizona, and some other scenes were filmed in Hollywood. The film is predominantly live action, but includes three animated segments, which were later released as stand-alone television features. Some scenes also feature a combination of live action with animation. Song of the South premiered in Atlanta in November 1946 and the remainder of its initial theater run was a financial success. The song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Original Song and Baskett received an Academy Honorary Award for his performance as Uncle Remus.

Since its original release, Song of the South has remained a subject of controversy. Some critics have described the film's portrayal of African Americans as racist and offensive, maintaining that the black vernacular and other qualities are stereotypes. In addition, the plantation setting is sometimes criticized as idyllic and glorified. Because of this controversy, Disney has yet to release Song of the South on any home video format in the United States. Some of the musical and animated sequences have been released through other means, and the full film has seen home video distribution in other countries around the world. The cartoon characters from the film have continued to feature in a variety of books, comics, and other media. The Disney theme park ride Splash Mountain is also based on the film.

Thomas Armat

Thomas J. Armat (October 25, 1866 – September 30, 1948) was an American mechanic and inventor, a pioneer of cinema best known through the co-invention of the Edison Vitascope.

Uncle Remus

Uncle Remus is the fictional title character and narrator of a collection of African-American folktales adapted and compiled by Joel Chandler Harris, published in book form in 1881. A journalist in post-Reconstruction Atlanta, Georgia, Harris produced seven Uncle Remus books. He wrote these stories to represent the struggle in the Southern United States, and more specifically in the plantations. He did so by introducing tales he had heard and framing them in the plantation context. He wrote his stories in a dialect that represented the voice of the narrators and their subculture. For this choice of framing, his collection has encountered controversy.

W. Howard Greene

William Howard Greene (August 16, 1895, River Point, Rhode Island - February 28, 1956, Los Angeles, California) was an American cinematographer.

William Garity

William E. "Bill" Garity (April 2, 1899 – September 16, 1971) was an American inventor and audio engineer who attended the Pratt Institute before going to work for Lee De Forest around 1921. Garity worked with DeForest on the Phonofilm sound-on-film system until 1927, when Pat Powers hired Garity to develop a sound system that Powers called Powers Cinephone.

Garity is best known for his employment at Walt Disney Studios, which used the Cinephone system in the late 1920s and early 30s. In 1937, also at the Disney Studios, Garity developed the multiplane camera. Ub Iwerks, having left Disney to work at his own studio, developed an unrelated multiplane camera, during this same time period.In 1940, Garity developed Fantasound, an early stereophonic surround sound system for Disney's Fantasia. After leaving the Disney studio, Garity later became vice president and production manager for Walter Lantz Productions. He was inducted in the Disney Legends program in 1999.

Y. Frank Freeman

Young Frank Freeman (14 December 1890 – 6 February 1969) was an American film company executive for Paramount Pictures. Freeman was born in Greenville, Georgia, and graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1910. In addition to his work with Paramount, he also worked in the fields of banking, higher education, and athletics.He was the first winner of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1957. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. He died in California and was buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

"Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" is a song composed by Allie Wrubel with lyrics by Ray Gilbert from the Disney 1946 live action and animated movie Song of the South, sung by James Baskett. For "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah", the film won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and was the second in a long line of Disney songs to win this award, after "When You Wish upon a Star" from Pinocchio (1940). In 2004 it finished at number 47 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs, a survey of top tunes in American cinema.

The song is influenced by the chorus of the pre-Civil War folk song "Zip Coon", a "Turkey in the Straw" variation: "Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day".

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