Episode 168: "A Natural Born Gambler"

published 10 years ago by The BMA

Movie: In 1916 the Biograph Film Company signed black comedian Bert Williams to write, produce, direct and star in two comedies. One of the films Williams created was "A Natural Born Gambler". Williams was required by the studio to wear "darkie" makeup, however in 1916 a black production with a black cast was unprecedented. The film borrows from Williams' Vaudeville skits. It makes heavy use of stereotypes, e.g., stealing, cheating, minstrel speak, mainly for the amusement of white audiences of the time. But Williams portrays a leadership role throughout, something unseen in black performances of that period. The closing sequence, probably the most entertaining, is straight from Williams' stage act. Bert plays an imaginary card game in a skit Williams made famous on Vaudeville.

more episodes from BMA: Black Media Archive