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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Beulah Show, The


The Beulah Show is an American situation-comedy radio series that ran on CBS from 1945 to 1954, and made its way to television on ABC from 1950 to 1953. It is notable for being the first sitcom to star an African American.

Originally portrayed by White actor Marlin Hurt, Beulah Brown first appeared in 1939 when Hurt introduced and played the character on the Hometown Incorporated radio series and in 1940 on NBC radio's Show Boat series. In 1943, Beulah moved over to That's Life and then became a supporting character on the popular Fibber McGee and Molly radio series in late 1944. In 1945, Beulah was spun off into her own radio show, The Marlin Hurt and Beulah Show, with Hurt still in the role. Beulah was employed as a housekeeper and cook for the Henderson family: father Harry, mother Alice and son Donnie. After Hurt died of a heart attack in 1946, he was replaced by another white actor, Bob Corley, and the series was retitled The Beulah Show.

When black actress Hattie McDaniel took over the role on November 24, 1947, she earned $1000 a week for the first season, doubled the ratings of the original series and pleased the NAACP which was elated to see a historic first: a black woman as the star of a network radio program.

McDaniel continued in the role until she became ill in 1952 and was replaced by Lillian Randolph, who was in turn replaced for the 1953-54 radio season by her sister, Amanda Randolph.


In 1950 Roland Reed Productions adapted the property into a TV situation comedy for ABC, and the Beulah TV show ran for three seasons, Tuesday nights at 7:30 ET from October 3, 1950 to September 22, 1953.

Most of the comedy in the series derived from the fact that Beulah, referred to as "the queen of the kitchen,"  has the ability to solve the problems that her employers cannot figure out. Other characters included Beulah's boyfriend Bill Jackson, a handyman who is constantly proposing marriage, and Oriole, a befuddled maid for the family next door.

Ethel Waters was seen in the title role from 1950 to 1952. McDaniel filled in briefly in 1952 and was succeeded by Louise Beavers the same year. Butterfly McQueen portrayed Oriole, a role similar to her Prissy character in the film Gone with the Wind.

Ruby Dandridge, Mrs. Kelso in Cabin in the Sky and mother of Dorothy Dandridge, replaced McQueen when the entire television cast was overhauled upon the arrival of Hattie McDaniel. Percy "Bud" Harris originally portrayed Bill, but he walked out on the part during the first season, accusing the producers of forcing him to portray an "Uncle Tom" character. He was succeeded in the role by Casablanca pianist Dooley Wilson until Ernest Whitman followed radio co-stars McDaniel and Dandridge to TV in April 1952. The show was directed at various times by future sitcom veterans as Richard (L.) Bare and Abby Berlin.

Like the contemporary television program Amos 'n' Andy, Beulah came under attack from many critics, including the NAACP, which accused the show of supporting stereotypical depictions of black characters with Beulah viewed as a stereotypical "mammy" similar to Aunt Jemima.

After Beulah was cancelled at the end of the 1952-53 television season, black characters virtually disappeared from scripted television, with only small and infrequent roles surfacing on sitcoms. However, television wasn't completely devoid of African Americans, as black people did occasionally appear on "variety" shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace, as proven by kinescopes from the 1950s/1960's. The next television program to star a black woman in the title role was Julia in 1968, starring Diahann Carroll.

The television sitcom produced 87 episodes. It is believed that most episodes of the TV series have been destroyed with only around seven episodes known to survive.

1 comment:

  1. 凡是遇到困擾的問題,不要把它當作可怕的,討厭的,無奈的遭遇,而要把它當作歷練、訓練和幫助。........................................



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