Willie Best

Active - 1930 - 1951  |   Born - May 27, 1916   |   Died - Feb 27, 1962   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Mystery

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Biography by AllMovie

African American actor Willie Best made his screen debut in Harold Lloyd's Feet First (1930). When Best, a veteran of a travelling show, came to Hollywood, he immediately fell prey to the stereotyping of the era. Promoted as a "new Stepin Fetchit," Best was transformed into a shuffling, "Yassuh boss" character billed as "Sleep 'N' Eat." Studio press releases of the 1930s made outrageous claims that not only did Best enjoy humiliating himself in "darkie" roles, but that the only compensation he wanted for his screen work was three square meals a day and a warm place to sleep. Despite the demeaning nature of his roles, Best performed them with consummate skill and razor sharp comic timing. Bob Hope, who worked with Best in The Ghost Breakers (1940) and Nothing But the Truth (1941), once referred to Willie as "the finest actor I knew." In the 1950s, Willie Best was a fixture at the Hal Roach Studios, playing supporting roles in such Roach-produced TV series as My Little Margie, The Stu Erwin Show and Mark Saber.

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