Beulah (series)

Beulah (series)

:"For other uses, see Beulah."

"The Beulah Show" is an American situation-comedy series that ran in radio on CBS from 1945 to 1954, and in television on ABC from 1950 to 1953. It is notable for being the first sitcom to star an African American.

Originally portrayed by Caucasian actor Marlin Hurt, Beulah Brown first appeared in 1939 when Hurt introduced and played the character on the "Hometown Incorporated" radio series and in 1940 on NBC radio's "Show Boat" series. In 1943, Beulah moved over to "That's Life" and then became a supporting character on the popular "Fibber McGee and Molly" radio series in late 1944. In 1945, Beulah was spun off into her own radio show, "The Marlin Hurt and Beulah Show", with Hurt still in the role. Beulah was employed as a housekeeper and cook for the Henderson family: father Harry, mother Alice and son Donnie. After Hurt died of a heart attack in 1946, he was replaced by another white actor, Bob Corley, and the series was retitled "The Beulah Show".

When black actress Hattie McDaniel took over the role on November 24, 1947, she earned $1000 a week for the first season, doubled the ratings of the original series and pleased the NAACP which was elated to see a historic first: a black woman as the star of a network radio program.

McDaniel continued in the role until she became ill in 1952 and was replaced by Lillian Randolph, who was in turn replaced for the 1953-54 radio season by her sister, Amanda Randolph

Television

In 1950 Roland Reed Productions adapted the property into a TV situation comedy for ABC, and the "Beulah" TV show ran for three seasons, Tuesday nights at 7:30 ET from October 3, 1950 to September 22, 1953.

Most of the comedy in the series derived from the fact that Beulah, referred to as "the queen of the kitchen," [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/B/htmlB/beulah/beulah.htm] has the ability to solve the problems that her employers cannot figure out. Other characters included Beulah's boyfriend Bill Jackson, a handyman who is constantly proposing marriage, and Oriole, a befuddled maid for the family next door.

Ethel Waters was seen in the title role from 1950 to 1952. McDaniel filled in briefly in 1952 and was succeeded by Louise Beavers the same year. Butterfly McQueen portrayed Oriole, a role similar to her Prissy character in the film "Gone with the Wind".

Ruby Dandridge, Mrs. Kelso in "Cabin in the Sky" and mother of Dorothy Dandridge, replaced McQueen when the entire television cast was overhauled upon the arrival of Hattie McDaniel. Percy "Bud" Harris originally portrayed Bill, but walked out on the part during the first season, accusing the producers of forcing him to portray an "Uncle Tom" character. He was succeeded in the role by "Casablanca" pianist Dooley Wilson until Ernest Whitman followed radio co-stars McDaniel and Dandridge to TV in April of 1952. The show was directed at various times by such future sitcom veterans as Richard (L.) Bare and Abby Berlin.

Like the contemporary television program "Amos 'n' Andy", "Beulah" came under attack from many critics, including the NAACP, which accused the show of supporting stereotypical depictions of black characters. Beulah is considered by some to be a characterization of the stereotypical "mammy", similar to "Aunt Jemima".

After "Beulah" was cancelled at the end of the 1952-53 television season, black characters virtually disappeared from television, with only small and infrequent roles surfacing. The next television program to star a black woman in the title role was "Julia" in 1968, starring Diahann Carroll.

The television sitcom produced 87 episodes. It is believed that most episodes of the TV series have been destroyed with only seven episodes known to survive. A DVD containing four episodes was released by Alpha Video on August 28, 2007.

Cast

1945-1954 (radio)

* Marlin Hurt: Bill Jackson, Beulah (1945-1946)
* Bob Corley: Beulah (1947)
* Hattie McDaniel: Beulah (1947-1952)
* Lillian Randolph: Beulah (1952-1953)
* Amanda Randolph: Beulah (1953-1954)
* Hugh Studebaker: Harry Henderson
* Mary Jane Croft: Alice Henderson
* Henry Blair: Donnie Henderson (1947-1953)
* Sammy Ogg: Donnie Henderson (1953-1954)
* Ruby Dandridge: Oriole
* Ernest Whitman: Bill Jackson
* Announcer: Marvin Miller (1947-1953)
* Announcer: Johnny Jacobs (1953-1954)
* Supporting cast members: Louise Beavers, John Brown, Lois Corbet, Dorothy Dandridge, Vivian Dandridge, Roy Glenn, Jess Kirkpatrick, Butterfly McQueen, Nicodemus Stewart,

1950-1951 (television)

* Ethel Waters: Beulah
* Wiliam Post, Jr.: Harry Henderson
* Ginger Jones: Alice Henderson
* Clifford Sales: Donnie Henderson
* Percy "Bud" Harris: Bill Jackson (October 1950 to early 1951)
* Dooley Wilson: Bill Jackson (early 1951 to 1952)
* Butterfly McQueen: Oriole

1951-1952 (television)

* Ethel Waters: Beulah
* Wiliam Post, Jr.: Harry Henderson
* Ginger Jones: Alice Henderson
* Clifford Sales: Donnie Henderson
* Dooley Wilson: Bill Jackson
* Butterfly McQueen: Oriole

April 1952 (television)

* Hattie McDaniel: Beulah
* David Bruce: Harry Henderson
* Jane Frazee: Alice Henderson
* Stuffy Singer: Donnie Henderson
* Ernest Whitman: Bill Jackson
* Ruby Dandridge: Oriole

1952-1953 (television)

* Louise Beavers: Beulah
* David Bruce: Harry Henderson
* Jane Frazee: Alice Henderson
* Stuffy Singer: Donnie Henderson
* Ernest Whitman: Bill Jackson
* Ruby Dandridge: Oriole

References

*Bodroghkozy, Aniko. [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/B/htmlB/beulah/beulah.htm Museum of Broadcast Communications: "Beulah"]

Listen to

* [http://www.otrsite.com/ra/ra1083.ram Jerry Haendiges' Preview Listening Lounge: "The Beulah Show" (1954)]

External links

* [http://imdb.com/title/tt0042081/ "Beulah" at IMDb]


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