Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feb 16: Happy B-Day Mr Baskett

On this day in 1904, actor James Baskett was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Best known for his portrayal of Uncle Remus in Disney's 1946 Song of the South, he was given an Honorary Academy Award in 1948 (for that very performance) - making Baskett the first male performer of African descent to receive an Oscar!
In his early days, Baskett supported himself as an actor by first moving from his hometown to Chicago and then to New York City in order to work with Bill Robinson (also known as Mr. Bojangles). As Jimmie Baskette he also appeared on Broadway with jazz-great Louie Armstrong in the 1929 musical revue Hot Chocolates.
By 1945, Baskett was now living in California and had appeared in a hand-full of feature films. That same year he auditioned for a bit part for Walt Disney's newest feature Song of the South. Disney was so impressed that Baskett was offered the lead role of Uncle Remus and the voice role of Brer Fox!
Unbelievably Baskett was unable to attend the premiere of Song of the South (at the Fox Theater) due to the fact that it was held in Atlanta, Georgia - at the time a racially segregated city in which he was banned from entering the theater itself!
Sadly Song of the South was Baskett's last performance as he passed away a few months after receiving his Oscar.

Click HERE for more February 16 Disney history.

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