Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Scatman Crothers - original name: Benjamin Crothers - (May 23, 1910 - November 22, 1986) He was an actor, singer, dancer and musician. Crothers was born in Terre Haute, Indiana and was best known for his work as a musician/singer and on the TV show Chico and the Man as Louie the Garbage Man. Crothers got the name Scatman when he auditioned for a radio show in 1932 in Dayton, Ohio The director didn't think his given name was catchy enough, so Crothers told the director to call him "Scatman" because of his talent at scat singing. He continued to enjoy this talent throughout his career, even teaching scat singing to college students.
Scatman Crothers started his musical career as a 15 year old drummer in a speakeasy band in his home town of Terre Haute. He played a variety of instruments including drums and guitar on jazz club band circuits in his early days as an entertainer. He formed his own band in the 1930s and finally traveled to California with the band in 1948.
He did an uncredited turn as a dancer in the Jealousy segment of the Duke Ellington short, Symphony in Black (1935), dancing with a woman in his apartment before taking her out. He encounters his jilted lover, played by the also uncredited 20-year-old Billie Holliday. They briefly have words, he pushes her down and exits with his new girlfriend before her song.
He decided to try acting and made his debut in the movie Meet Me At The Fair (1953) He worked in both the movies and television, often taking bit parts. He also made musical shorts. His films include:
- The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961)
- Lady in an Cage (1964)
- The Patsy (1964)
- Hello Dolly (1969)
- The Great White Hope (1970)
- The Aristocats (1970)
- Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
- King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
- Slaughter's Big Rip-Off (1973)
- Truck Turner (1974)
- The Fortune (1975)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
- The Shootist (1976)
- Mean Dog Blues (1978)
- The Cheap Detective (1978)
- Bronco Billy (1980)
- The Shining (1980)
- Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
- Transformers: The Movie (1986)
(Not a definitive list)
Even though Crothers worked in television since the beginning, he really came into his own in the medium doing the voices of cartoon characters such as Hong Kong Phooey in the 1970s after his talent for voice-over work was noticed in The Aristocats. He appeared as a guest on many of the shows popular in the 1970s, but was most noted for his supporting role on the sitcom Chico and the Man. He starred in three short-lived 1980s television series: One of the Boys (1982), Casablanca (1983), and Morningstar/Eveningstar (1986). He also performed the voice of Jazz on Transformers (1984-1986).
Scatman Crothers married Helen Sullivan in 1937 and had one daughter, Donna, in 1949. In 1985 Crothers developed a malignant tumor behind his left lung. He tried to work through the illness, but the inoperable tumor spread to his esophagus in 1986. He died on November 22, 1986. He is buried next to his wife Helen (1918-1997) in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, the same cemetery as his Chico co-star, Freddie Prinze.
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