Classic Video Showplace

Roy Glenn (Part 1)

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

As part of Astound’s celebration of Black History Month, we here at the “Showplace” are putting the spotlight on African American actors who excelled not just on the big and small screens but those who also inspired change with their courage and perseverance.

Reflecting back on the past reveals a sad inequality among many years of film, radio and television histories. While African American performers were extremely rare on radio programs and early TV shows, it was even harder to find a regular performer or even a recurring guest star on nearly any show throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
One exception to that was Roy Glenn.

Roy Edwin Glenn was born in Pittsburgh, Kansas, on June 3rd, 1914.
Glenn’s first experiences in film was in the 1936 romantic comedy, Kelly The Second (produced by legendary filmmaker Hal Roach) and Dark Manhattan, which was released a year later.

For reasons unknown, most of Roy’s first 12 roles in motion pictures were all “uncredited,” even for performances which had multiple lines. The practice of not listing all actors in a film’s credits is not unheard of, but given the racial prejudices of the time in Hollywood, his omission from the credits of so many large productions seems suspicious at best.

Glenn got his start in radio in the 1940s by guest starring on the radio drama The Adventures of Rocky Jordan (also titled: The Man With No Name). He then started getting regular recurring roles in successful radio shows like The Jack Benny Program – a role that spilled over when the popular radio comedy was made into a television show.
Roy was noted for his resonant voice–a trait that would help him get some significant film and radio roles later in his career.

Glenn also worked with Jack Webb, creator of Dragnet, in the radio drama Pete Kelly’s Blues, about a jazz musician. Glenn was cast as the piano player, a skill in which he happened to be very proficient.
The following is from a May 26th, 2018 Bill Caldwell article on Roy Glenn’s life in the “Joplin Globe:”
Black cast films were movies with all-black casts planned to appear and bring in black audiences.

In the South, segregated theaters showed the films, while in the North, they appeared in black neighborhoods or at designated showtimes. According to some sources, as many as 500 such films were produced from 1915 to 1954. They spanned genres from musicals to mysteries to crime to westerns. Most black actors and actresses never transitioned into the Hollywood films, as most black cast films were produced outside of the Hollywood system.
It was after World War II that he began to be cast in stereotypical roles. Several of his other roles were in jungle adventure films as a “native” or witch doctor. Glenn appeared in the Twentieth Century Fox film, “Slave Ship,” cast as a slave in the story about a slave trader who wanted out of the trade. He was cast in another Fox film as a singing porter in “Life Begins in College.”

But soon, Roy Glenn was given an opportunity to act more in non-stereotypical roles, and Glenn certainly made the most of those opportunities. We’ll take a look at the
second half of Roy’s career, in two weeks, here at “The Showplace.”

Be sure to tune in or set your DVRs to catch Roy Glenn’s frequent guest starring appearances on The Jack Benny Program and other TV shows and classic films airing regularly on the Astound Broadband TV Network.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.