A Conversation With
"Sapphire" and "Amos"

These brief excerpts are from a lengthy interview, conducted in the Fall of 1979, with Ernestine Wade and Alvin Childress.

Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, the voices of Amos and Andy on radio, conducted a long and careful search for just the right actors to portray all the characters on television.  Alvin Childress told me that he was chosen to play Amos a year in advance of production.

Let's join the interview as Mr. Childress discloses that he was then assigned the task of finding suitable candidates to be auditioned for the role of "Kingfish":

Mr. Childress:  I auditioned Cab Calloway. ... Mr. Gosden called and said, "Al, I like Cab.  That Cab's all right.  I know he's got experience."  He said, "Would you tell him to kink his hair?"  I said, "No, sir, Mr. Gosden, you tell him.  I ain't going to tell him."  You know Cab.  He has straight hair.

Miss Wade:  Who else did you see besides Cab?

Mr. Childress:  Well, there was Lucky Millinder.  I auditioned him. ... Yeah, a band leader.  All these people, big shot people, they wanted the part.

. . .

Miss Wade:  Actually, I never was of the opinion that there was any intention or projection of racial overtones--not to my way of thinking.  Just about everyone who saw the show, regardless of race, creed or color, identified with somebody on the show or knew someone in the family.  I have been on escalators going up or coming down and people -- "Oh, I know who you are.  I got an uncle just like your husband."

Another time I was making a purchase and my saleswoman was talking to me and another woman a few feet away had her patron.  She didn't want to be rude and talk over our conversation, but finally she came out: "You know I want to ask you something."  I said "What is it?"  And she said "I know who you are and I want to ask you, is that your real husband?"  I said "How could you ask me that?"  And this woman who was waiting on me said "That's what I want to know."  We had a lot of fun with that show.

. . .

Mr. Lowe:  You said that the show was well acted.  There is no question about that.  You and Tim Moore were every bit as effective as the Bunkers or the Honeymooners.  Our impression is that Mr. Moore was just a genius at comedy.  How did you feel about him?  Was he easy to work with?

Miss Wade:  Yes.  We had a very good rapport with each other and the entire company. ... Tim and Spencer [Spencer Williams, Jr. played "Andy"], everybody on the show was very agreeable. ... Tim was a panic.  He kept everybody in stitches when they weren't working and he enjoyed it.  He enjoyed being on.  The other men played pinochle much of the time and he didn't play, so he was around regaling whoever would listen with the experiences of his youth, and other periods in his life, because he had a very varied career.

Mr. Lowe:  We know he had been a boxer.

Miss Wade:  And a jockey, and an actor, and I don't know what else.

Mr. Lowe:  Well, he was certainly perfect for the part.

Miss Wade:  He was, he was.

In the stairwell entrance to Miss Wade's residence there was a terrific framed collection of inscribed photos from several of the Amos 'n' Andy cast members.   I regret that my snapshot of a portion of it is so poorly reproduced.

The inscription reads:

My Best Wishes
My Darling Battle ax
From The Kingfish
Tim Moore

Go back to the Tim Moore page.

© 1997 by James R. Lowe, who reserves all rights to the content of this page not successfully claimed by others.  The interview with Ernestine Wade and Alvin Childress first appeared in "The Videophile" (Issue 27, October 1980) and is © 1980 by Small Potatoes Publishing Company.