FETCHIT, Stepin

(1902–1985)
   Born Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry in Key West, Florida, Fetchit renamed himself after a racehorse that had won him some money. He played stereotypical comic Negro roles throughout the 1930s and 1940s. While Fetchit prospered in this capacity, he nevertheless serves as an unfortunate example of the severe white racism of the time. Fetchit was probably the most famous African Americanactor of his day, leading a lavish lifestyle from his film earnings. Eventually, however, he went bankrupt. In the 1970s, Fetchit converted to the Black Muslim faith. Generally, his characters were childlike in their simplicity and lazy to the extreme. Fetchit perfected a slurred, mumbling speech pattern thought by whites to represent typical African American dialect. In Wild Horse (Allied, 1931) even the simplest of tasks baffle Stepin. One comic scene shows him attempting to make an old mule get up and obey him. In another scene, Stepin is told to post rodeo flyers around town. After he posts one to a barn wall, he leans back against the wall. When he walks away, the flyer is pasted to his back. Utterly baffled, Stepin walks around trying to figure out what happened to the rodeo flyer. His best acting role was in Anthony Mann’s Bend of the River (1952) in which his character, while still submissive, is not comic.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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