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Oscar Smith (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Oscar Smith
BornOctober 28, 1885
Topeka, Kansas, USA
DiedMarch 18, 1956 (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, USA
SpouseNora LaVertt
Children1 (Shirley Mae)

Oscar Smith (1885–1956) was an American actor who worked in Hollywood at Paramount Pictures from the 1920s through the 1940s.[1][2] Like most black actors of his time, his appearances onscreen were often uncredited. He was known for his short stature, his youthful appearance (he was nicknamed "The Cute Kid"), and his stutter.[3]


Oscar was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Scott Smith and Sarah Jones. He was hired on at Paramount around 1919 as the valet and shoe-shiner of Wallace Reid; the pair met when Oscar was shining shoes in a Los Angeles barber shop.[3] Oscar and his wife, Nora, lived with the Reids for a time while working for the couple. When Reid died, in his will, he stipulated that Oscar be given a shoe shine stand at Paramount for the rest of Oscar's life.[1][4][5]

Oscar's shoeshine stand was located right inside the studio gates on Bronson Avenue, and it became known as a spot where one could hear major Hollywood gossip;[6] this position led to numerous small on-screen roles in Paramount films.[7][8] (His cousin was left in charge of the stand when Oscar would go to work on set.)[9] In 1928, on the merit of his performance in The Canary Murder Case, he signed a long-term contract as an actor, a first for a black performer at Paramount.[10]

Oscar also kept busy working as an agent for aspiring black actors. He also had a membership in the Make-Up Artists Guild; he is noted as having worked on the makeup of black actors on the set of 1943's Happy Go Lucky.[11]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ a b Roland, Zelda (2017-11-07). "How Central Casting Found "Racial Types" For Classical Hollywood Films". KCET. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  2. ^ Cripps, Thomas (1993). Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900–1942. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195021301.
  3. ^ a b "Film Success of Negro Youth Reads Like Horatio Alger Story". Salt Lake Telegram. 11 Apr 1929. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  4. ^ Petty, Miriam J. (2016-03-08). Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood. Univ of California Press. ISBN 9780520964143.
  5. ^ Eyman, Scott (2000-11-30). Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise. JHU Press. ISBN 9780801865589. oscar smith paramount.
  6. ^ "Prince of Bootblacks Favorite in Hollywood". The Pittsburgh Courier. 7 Mar 1936. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  7. ^ Sikov, Ed (2017-06-14). On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781496812650.
  8. ^ a b "Bootblack Has Part in Paramount Films". The Afro American. 15 December 1928. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  9. ^ "Oscar Keeps Stand". The Tampa Tribune. 16 Dec 1934. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  10. ^ Paramount Around the World (1928). New York The Museum of Modern Art Library. 1928.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Hollywood Bootblack Triple-Threat Man". The Birmingham News. 31 Jan 1943. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  12. ^ Vermilye, Jerry (2014-01-10). Buster Crabbe: A Biofilmography. McFarland. ISBN 9780786451807.
  13. ^ Ankerich, Michael G. (2011-02-25). The Sound of Silence: Conversations with 16 Film and Stage Personalities Who Bridged the Gap Between Silents and Talkies. McFarland. ISBN 9780786463831.
This page was last edited on 26 September 2023, at 22:02
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