This gravel-voiced African-American comic player from the vaudeville stage and nightclub revues is best remembered as Jack Benny's worried valet and straight man, 'Rochester' for 28 years on Benny's r...
Attempted comeback with nightclub act in Houston which led to being cast in Broadway revival of "Good News"; forced to resign due to bad health
Reputedly his raspy voice was the result of a strain on his vocal chords suffered when he was a 12-year-old child hawking newspapers
Toured Europe with Benny
Retired from films
Film "Brewster's Millions" was banned in Memphis as "inimical to the friendly relations between the races" because it portrayed "too much social equality and racial mixture"
Joined an all-black revue at age 14; eventually played the Roxy, Cotton Club and Apollo in Harlem and appeared in vaudeville
Performed in vaudeville as a song-and-dance team with his brother Cornelius (dates approximate)
First speaking part in films, "What Price Hollywood?"
Cast in bit role as a Pullman porter on Jack Benny's radio program; Benny hired him to play the valet Rochester Van Jones
Had first dramatic role in "Green Pastures"
Film debut, "No Place to Go/Her Primitive Mate"
Reprised role of Noah in TV adaptation of "Green Pastures"
Acted on screen with Benny in "Buck Benny Rides Again"
Returned to films in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World"; final feature appearance
Played rare leading role in features in Vincente Minnelli's all-black cast musical, "Cabin in the Sky"
This gravel-voiced African-American comic player from the vaudeville stage and nightclub revues is best remembered as Jack Benny's worried valet and straight man, 'Rochester' for 28 years on Benny's radio and later TV show (1950-65). Although he entered films in the late 1920s usually playing stereotyped servants, and appeared as Noah in "Green Pastures" (1936) and Uncle Peter in "Gone With the Wind" (1939), the rolling-eyed Anderson had his most notable film performance as the lead opposite Ethel Waters in Vincente Minnelli's all-black musical "Cabin in the Sky" (1943).
second wife; divorced
met when they both performed at the Cotton Club in L.A.; died in 1954
adopted son; played baseball with the Chicago Cubs
imprisoned on marijuana charges in the 1950s
with Eddie, joined vaudeville team The Three Black Aces in 1919
"From his first radio appearance on East Sunday in 1937 to the last of the television "specials" that followed the formal demise of Benny's television series in 1964, the surest laugh in show business was the one that renewed itself every time Mr. Anderson summoned a full measure of skepticism to his throat and punctured the ultimate poseur's latest pretension with a rasping, "What's that, boss?" --Robert McG. Thomas Jr. (From The New York Times Obituary, March 1, 1977)
"To most listeners, however, lost in 'reality' that characterized big-time radio, Rochester was not a character on a show, but an actual employee of an actual person, who after all, was playing himself.
"Mr. Benny added to the illusion by omitting Mr. Anderson's name from the cast, so that audiences would not think of him as an actor." --Robert Mc.G. Thomas Jr. (From The New York Times obituary, March 1, 1977)