Starter of this subject: Bill Mahan
Last post in this subject: 1/26/2002
Messages in this subject: 2
|Some of the funniest episodes of Amos 'n Andy involved their lawyers. On 12/26/48 an episode titled "The Mysterious New Year's Card" aired. The mysterious card landed the Kingfish in divorce court. This time his lawyer was "Stonewall". Stonewall steals the show in his representation of the "Kingfish". It is one of the funniest courtroom bits I ever heard. In a piece I only know from an exerpt titled "The Great Debate", lawyer Gabby Gibson has a political debate with "Shorty the Barber" that brought tears to my eyes. I don't know if that was the name of the show's episode and I don't have the date. Later the lawyer becomes Algonquin J. Calhoun. Can anyone pinpoint the "Great Debate" for me? Does anyone know why they kept changing the lawyers name and who played them?|
The "Debate" bit was actually taken from the act that Lou "Shorty" Lubin had done on radio and in vaudeville in the 1930s with his former partner Bert Swor, under the billing "Swor and Goode" and "Swor and Lubin." When Lubin joined the cast of A&A in 1944, he brought this routine with him, and performed it several times with different partners, including James Baskett (Gabby), Freeman Gosden (F. M. Gwindell), and Johnny Lee (Calhoun).
The Baskett version was probably the most successful, and was first heard in the episode of 3/16/45 ("The Lecture Bureau.) Baskett and Lubin also made a phonograph record of the sketch in 1947 for inclusion in the "Amos 'n' Andy" album issued by Top Ten Records. This record has been dubbed to tape by various collectors and is widely circulated, but the performance on the disc was recorded especially for the album set and was not taken from a broadcast.
Basically, death and illness were responsible for the changes in the lawyers over the course of the late 1940s. James Baskett suffered from a rare heart condition, and became gravely ill in 1947, shortly after completing his role as "Uncle Remus" in Disney's Song of the South. After learning that Baskett didn't have long to live, Correll and Gosden joined with Walt Disney to petition the Motion Picture Academy for some sort of special recognition for him -- and the result was the special Oscar he received for his work in the film. Baskett continued to appear sporadically on A&A during the 1947-48 season, but he was usually too ill to work. He died during the program's 1948 summer hiatus, at the age of 44.
During the 1947-48 season, Correll and Gosden hired veteran comedian Eddie Green as Baskett's replacement, but chose not to recast the character of Gabby Gibson. Instead, Green became LaGuardia Stonewall (the first name was dropped after the death of former New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.). Green remained with the show for three seasons -- but in 1949 he too fell ill, and once again Correll and Gosden had to find a replacement.
Johnny Lee was another veteran of vaudeville and burlesque. Correll and Gosden made a habit of attending plays put on by the American Negro Theatre, and saw Lee in the cast of one such production, playing a loudmouthed streetwise character. Lee was hired in 1949 to play "Calhoun the Politician," but after Eddie Green's death in 1950, Calhoun took over the role of legal advisor to the Kingfish, continuing that role in the A&A TV series beginning in 1951. He died in 1965.