TOONES, Fred

(1906–1962)
   Fred Toones was an African American actor in B Westerns of the pre-civil rights era. Due to the racist culture of the time, he was cast exclusively as the comic Negro in menial, service-type roles, always deferring to white authority. Toones was often billed as “Snowflake.” He appeared as a cook in Gold Mine in the Sky (1938) and Bells of San Angelo (1947). Sometimes, as in Hawaiian Buckaroo (1938), he was required to reinforce the stereotype of the shiftless, lazy black person, constantly being scolded for loafing. In Raiders of the West (1942), a Texas Rangers film, Snowflake refuses to enter a house that he thinks is haunted by ghosts. Laughed at by the Rangers, he explains, “Spooks may not bother white folks, but they got a special attraction for us colored folks.” In The Lonely Trail (1936), Snowflake, playing the role of an uneasy servant, is serving drinks when he is told to drop everything and answer the door. Childlike, he does just that: he drops the tray of glasses and answers the door. One of the great ironies of African American actors such as Toones is that after the civil rightsera, many of the scenes in which they appeared were deleted from films, for good reason. Yet, at the same time, these practices effectively erased these actors’ roles, which were performed in the only way open to African Americans at the time.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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