Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Eddie Anderson (September 18, 1905 - February 28, 1977) was an African-American comic actor and star of movies, television and especially old-time radio, where he played the butler Rochester to Jack Benny's eponymous title character on The Jack Benny Show. Anderson was not Benny's butler in real life, as many listeners of the time thought. Anderson was also well-known for his role in the groundbreaking musical film, Cabin in the Sky.
At a young age, Anderson permanantly damaged his vocal cords, leading to his trademark "raspy" voice.
Benny's call of "Rochester," and Anderson's answers (often a raspy "Yes, Boss," but just as often a snappy joke at Benny's expense) were among the weekly highlights of the show. Benny once asked the character Rochester why he was named Rochester, to which Rochester replied: "I don't know, boss, I was born in Syracuse."
Because of the popularity of the Rochester character, some newspapers reportedly listed the show as The Eddie Anderson Show.
Anderson was as responsible as was Benny for the show's tremendous success across so many segments of American society, and the relationship between Anderson and Benny became more complex and intimate as the years went by.
Anderson's portrayal of a servant was a common role for African-American leads in that era, such as Ethel Waters in Beulah. In the meantime, Amos and Andy depicted African-Americans in more typical working class and professional roles.
Anderson appeared in over 60 films including as one of the taxi drivers in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."
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