Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ernestine Wade - 'Sapphire' on "Amos 'n' Andy"

Ernestine Wade was a veteran radio actress who had been on several radio shows, but she became well-known as the character 'Sapphire Stevens', wife of the 'Kingfish' character, on the "Amos 'n' Andy" show, first on radio in the 1940s, and then on tv in the early 1950s.

I remember watching the tv show when it was in reruns in the late 1950s, and I was just a kid, and couldn't appreciate the humor fully. It was much later, in the early 1970s, when I'd seen some 16mm prints of the tv shows, that I came to enjoy the shows, not just for the humor, but for the fine actors and actresses who played the various characters.

As a fan of some 'feisty female' characters on some tv shows, I wanted to obtain a signed photo of Ernestine Wade. I searched the photo shops, but couldn't find anything appropriate. So I wrote her a letter, in care of her agent, since I couldn't find a home address for her. This was in June of 1981. Along with my letter, I enclosed a large stamped self-addressed envelope to accommodate an 8x10 photo, which I'd hoped to receive.

In July, Ms. Wade replied with a two-page handwritten letter, and two 4x5 signed photos. She apologized for her late response, and explained that she no longer had any 8x10 photos. Her very polite and appreciative letter can be read here and here. One photo is a standard portrait pose and the other is in character as 'Sapphire'.

For more information about the "Amos 'n' Andy" saga, and the controversy surrounding it, I recommend a 1986 tv documentary, "Amos 'n' Andy: Anatomy of a Controversy". A recommended book is Holy Mackerel: The Amos 'n' Andy Story by Bart Andrews (Dutton, 1986).

Recordings of the radio show can be found for sale by various dealers on the internet, as well as dvds of the tv shows.

Free downloads of some selected radio shows from various years can be found starting on this page.

And here's a condensed edition of a tv episode.

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