Mantan Moreland
Mantan Moreland
(September 3, 1902 - September 28, 1973) was an American actor and comedian most popular in the 1930s and 1940s.


Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Moreland began acting by the time he was an adolescent, reportedly running away to join the circus. By the late 1920s, he had made his way through vaudeville, working with various shows and revues, performing on Broadway and touring Europe. Initially, Moreland appeared in low-budget "race movies" aimed at African-American audiences, but as his comedic talents came to be recognized, he received roles in larger productions.


From the 1941 film King of the Zombies

Monogram Pictures signed Moreland to appear opposite Frankie Darro in the studio's popular action pictures. Moreland, with his bulging eyes and cackling laugh, quickly became a favorite supporting player in Hollywood movies. He is perhaps best known for his role as chauffeur Birmingham Brown in Monogram's Charlie Chan series. At the height of his career, Moreland received steady work from major film studios, as well as from independent producers who starred Moreland in low-budget, all-black-cast comedies.

Moreland also toured America in vaudeville, making personal appearances in the nation's movie theaters. His straight man was Ben Carter, and they developed an excellent rapport and impeccable timing. Their "incomplete sentence" routines can be seen in two Charlie Chan pictures, The Scarlet Clue and Dark Alibi.

Moreland was offered fewer roles in the 1950s, when filmmakers began to reassess roles given to black actors. According to a legend, Moreland was briefly considered as a possible addition to the Three Stooges when Shemp Howard died in 1955. However, it was still unable to be proved true since the only source of this rumor is coming from Moreland's biography, Mantan the Funnyman (2007), by Michael H. Price. Moreland returned to the stage and appeared in two all-black variety films in 1955, with Nipsey Russell standing in for Ben Carter as his straight man.

Later career and deathEdit

Moreland's last featured role was in the 1968 darkly humorous horror film Spider Baby, which was patterned after Universal's thrillers of the 1940s. After suffering a stroke in the early 1960s, Moreland took on a few minor comedic roles, working with the likes of Bill Cosby, Moms Mabley and Carl Reiner.

Moreland died of a cerebral hemorrhage in September 28, 1973 at the age of 71 in Hollywood.

Selected filmographyEdit

  • That's the Spirit (1933)
  • The Green Pastures (1936)
  • Harlem on the Prairie (1937)
  • Two-Gun Man from Harlem (1938)
  • One Dark Night (1939)
  • Chasing Trouble (1940)
  • Up in the Air (1940)
  • You're Out of Luck (1941)
  • Lady from Louisiana (1941)
  • Cracked Nuts (1941)
  • King of the Zombies (1941)
  • Let's Go Collegiate (1941)
  • The Gang's All Here (1941)
  • Lucky Ghost (1942)
  • Treat 'Em Rough (1942)
  • Eyes in the Night (1942)
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Rx (1942)
  • Freckles Comes Home (1942)
  • Footlight Serenade (1942)
  • Girl Trouble (1942)
  • Law of the Jungle (1942)
  • Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)
  • Cabin in the Sky (1943)
  • Swing Fever (1943)
  • It Comes Up Love (1943)
  • We've Never Been Licked (1943)
  • Revenge of the Zombies (1943)
  • Cosmo Jones, Crime Smasher (1943)
  • Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944)
  • Mystery of the River Boat (1944) serial
  • Bowery to Broadway (1944)
  • The Chinese Cat (1944)
  • Chip Off the Old Block (1944)
  • This Is the Life (1944)
  • Black Magic (1944)
  • The Spider (1945)
  • Captain Tugboat Annie (1945)
  • The Scarlet Clue (1945)
  • The Jade Mask (1945)
  • The Shanghai Cobra (1945)
  • Mantan Messes Up (1946)
  • The Trap (1946)
  • Tall, Tan, and Terrific (1946)
  • Dark Alibi (1946)
  • Shadows Over Chinatown (1946)
  • Ebony Parade (1947)
  • The Chinese Ring (1947)
  • Shanghai Chest (1948)
  • The Golden Eye (1948)
  • Docks of New Orleans (1948)
  • The Feathered Serpent (1948)
  • Sky Dragon (1949)
  • Rock 'n' Roll Revue (1955)
  • Basin Street Revue (1956)
  • The Patsy (1964)
  • Alvarez Kelly (1966)
  • Enter Laughing (1967)
  • Spider Baby (1968)
  • Watermelon Man (1970)
  • The Biscuit Eater (1972)
  • The Young Nurses (1973)

Stage performancesEdit

  • Blackbirds (1928)
  • Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1930 (1930)
  • Singin' the Blues (1931)
  • Blackberries of 1932 (1932)
  • Yeah-Man (1932)
  • Shuffle Along of 1933 (1933)
  • Waiting for Godot (1957)


  • That Ain't My Finger (Laff)
  • Elsie's Sportin' House (Laff)
  • Tribute to the Man (Laff)


  • Price, Michael H. (2007). Mantan the Funnyman: The Life and Times of Mantan Moreland. Midnight Marquee Press, Inc. ISBN 1-887-66470-X
  • Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. pp. 794. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.

External linksEdit

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