On this day in comedy on January 5, 1906, Comedian, Actor, Fred “Snowflake” Toones was born
Toones was one of the most prolific character actors in Hollywood history of any race. He appeared in over 200 motion pictures in a career that spanned from 1928-1951. His specialty was westerns and he worked for acclaimed directors such as Preston Sturges and with noted cinema stars like John Wayne, Bruce Bennett, Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges, just to name a few. In most of his appearances his characters often went by Toones’ stage name of “Snowflake”, but many times he went uncredited.
Fred Toones was part of the old studio system which meant Fred Toones was a victim of old Hollywood stereotyping. Toones stereotype was that of the domestic. He played a porter over 50 times. He also played janitors, elevator operators, doormen, bellhops, stable grooms, valets, butlers, cooks, and bartenders. In six of his films Toones portrayed a shoeshine man. The irony of this was the fact that not only did Fred Toones play shoe shiners in the movies, he actually ran a shoeshine stand at Republic Studios.
Some would consider Toones a poor man’s Stepin Fetchit, but that characterization would be inaccurate. In the over 200 films Toones made he was only credited in 73 of them. As an uncredited actor, those roles were considered bit player work and he was paid as such. Whereas Stepin Fetchit made only 53 films, but he was paid for all of them. So even though they played the exact same roles, Stepin Fetchit became the first Black millionaire movie star and Fred Toones shined shoes on a studio lot.
Fred Toones died on February 13, 1962
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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