Spencer Williams Jr. perhaps is best known for his portrayal of Andy Brown in the early 1950s television comedy Amos ‘n' Andy. But if you are truly familiar with Williams' work, you know that he was far more than just Andrew ‘Hogg' Brown. Spencer Williams was a man of many talents. Wearing several hats during his era of entertainment he was not only an actor, but also a talented composer, director, producer and writer.
Often credited as Spencer Williams (minus the title of JR), Williams is best known for his comedic acts upon center stage. In the first phase of his long Hollywood career, Spencer Williams toiled at Christy studios as a sound technician. He utilized employment at the studio to his advantage and offered his talents to aid in the writing of several short films. Typically these films were low budget and contained an all African-American cast, and it would be these films that catapulted Spencer Williams into a generation of films known then as race movies.
In addition to writing, Williams often found a way to etch himself into the storyline of each film be it as a comedic relief to a downhill scene or a feisty villain to a serene setting. In fact Williams was the only African-American director of his time to receive frequent acknowledgement and commissions from his white associates to make such movies. It was this credit that allowed the development of Spencer William movies such as: Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A., and Juke Joint. Plus, a few religious epics titled: Of One Blood, Go Down Death and Williams' debut film, The Blood of Jesus. The Blood of Jesus would later be selected as an insert in The Library of Congress' National Registry of Films.
In addition to acting in his own films, Williams also had a presence in The Nitwits, all four Herb Jeffries Black Westerns, a guest appearance on Bourbon Street Beat, and a role as the hospital assistant in the sleeper film Orribile segreto del dottor Hichcock, L' (The Horrible Secret of Dr. Hitchcock).
In addition to his acting, Williams spread his talents into music, and composed numerous scores utilized in movies of yesterday and today. A few classic Williams' recordings are: I Ain't Got Nobody which can be heard in Mystic Pizza; You Don't Understand featured in Pretty Woman; and Everybody Loves My Baby, heard in Road To Perdition and The Cat's Meow.
Spencer Williams acquired the role of Andy Brown after a four-year search by the character's creators Freeman Cosden and Charles Correll. In fact, despite Williams' already existing fame in the industry, Cosden and Correll often boasted that they ‘discovered' the actor after selecting him over 800 other candidates.
During the taping of Amos ‘n' Andy, Williams often clashed with Cosden and Correll. But despite the conflict, Williams continued to portray the impecunious Andrew Brown for 78 half-hour-episodes until the show's cancellation in 1953.
Shortly after the cancellation of Amos ‘n' Andy, Spencer Williams retired from the entertainment industry and at age 76, he died of kidney disease.