Stepin Fetchit

Stepin Fetchit

Original Name Lincoln Perry
Key West, Monroe County, Florida, USA
Death 19 Nov 1985 (aged 83)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Section K, Lot T-13, Grave 116 Unmarked
Memorial ID 6808788 · View Source
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Actor. Hollywood's first African-American movie star. Born in Key West, Florida, he ran away from home at 14 to join a minstrel show and graduated to the vaudeville circuit as a comedic song-and-dance man. He allegedly took his stage name from a racehorse that had won him some money. His first screen appearance was in the silent "In Old Kentucky" (1927). In an era when most black roles in American films were still being played by white actors in burnt cork, Fetchit's magnetic, scene-stealing presence created quite a stir. After signing with the Fox studio in 1929 he went on to become the first black actor to receive featured billing and the first to become a millionaire. How he did it remains controversial to this day. The character he created, described as "the laziest man in the world", was a shiftless, shuffling, whining dolt that pandered to Hollywood's stereotypical view of African-Americans. Some of his films, among them "Hearts of Dixie" (1929), "Judge Priest" (1934), "Carolina" (1934), and "Steamboat 'Round the Bend" (1935), were set in a fictional Old South, with Fetchit playing a slave who, according to historian Gary Null, "just grinned for joy every time his laziness was rewarded with a kick in the pants". His roles in "The Big Fight" (1931), "Stand Up and Cheer" (1934), and "On the Avenue" (1937) were pretty much the same but in contemporary dress. Fetchit's superb comic timing and undeniable gifts as an actor led some reviewers to compare him to Chaplin and Keaton, but he was also a favorite target of the NAACP and black-owned newspapers, which branded him as a sell-out. He responded to his critics by saying he was just trying to make a living. At the height of his fame Fetchit lived like a superstar, owning 16 cars (including a pink Rolls Royce) and a mansion staffed by 16 Chinese servants. But in the 1940s, with changing public tastes and competition from such black actors as Mantan Moreland and Willie Best, his career faded and he declared bankruptcy in 1947. He resurfaced in the late 1960s as a convert to the Black Muslim faith in the entourage of boxer Muhammad Ali. In 1969 his son, Donald Perry, killed three people and then committed suicide on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The following year he sued CBS for defamation of character, claiming the network had used clips of his work "out of context" in a TV documentary about ethnic caricatures in Hollywood films. Although he lost, the lawsuit had some positive impact on his long-sullied reputation. Historians began to reexamine Fetchit's place in American Cinema, with revisionists claiming that his "laziest man" character represented a sly form of passive-resistance to white society in the 1930s. Fetchit made two final film appearances, in "Amazing Grace" (1974) and "Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood" (1976), before he was debilitated by a stroke. He died at the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, California.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Cinnamonntoast4
  • Added: 29 Sep 2002
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6808788
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Stepin Fetchit (30 May 1902–19 Nov 1985), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6808788, citing Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .