(Michael Feingold’s article appeared on Theatermania, 10/31.)

A rediscovered film at MoMA prompts reflections on a great artist's extraordinary career.

This is part II of Michael Feingold's latest "Thinking About Theater" column.
Click here to read part I.

When Bert Williams and his partner, George Walker, began to create some of the first musicals written and performed entirely by African-Americans (though customarily with a white producer as enabler), the roles they performed onstage gradually evolved away from the era's familiar minstrel-show conventions toward a more universal brand of comedy. Walker — trim, wiry, and nattily dressed — was the suave sharpie whose schemes, virtually guaranteed to collapse, would invariably do so directly on the head of his sidekick, Williams' slow-moving, slow-thinking, chronically suspicious bumpkin, tricked out with character names like Shylock Homestead or Skunkton Bowser. The pairing was classic: History bulges with examples of it, from ancient Greek comedy down to the Hope & Crosby of the Road movies.

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