Biography

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William "Willie" Best (May 27, 1916 – February 27, 1962), sometimes known as Sleep n' Eat, was an American television and film actor.

Best was one of the first African-American film actors and comedians to become well known. In the 21st century, his work, like that of Stepin Fetchit, is sometimes reviled because he was often called upon to play stereotypically lazy, illiterate, and/or simple-minded characters in films. Of the 124 films he appeared in, he received screen credit in at least 77, an unusual feat for an African-American bit player. Willie Best appeared in more than one hundred films of the 1930s and 1940s. Although several sources state that for years he was billed only as "Sleep n' Eat", Best received credit under this moniker instead of his real name in only six movies: his first film as a bit player (Harold Lloyd's Feet First) and in Up Pops the Devil (1931), The Monster Walks (1932), Kentucky Kernels and West of the Pecos (both 1934), and Murder on a Honeymoon (1935). He thereafter usually received credit as "Willie Best" or "William Best".

Best was first loved as a great clown, then later in the 20th century reviled and pitied, before being forgotten in the history of film. Hal Roach called him one of the greatest talents he had ever met. Comedian Bob Hope similarly acclaimed him as "the best actor I know", while the two were working together in 1940 on The Ghost Breakers.

As a supporting actor, Best, like many black actors of his era, was regularly cast in domestic worker or service-oriented roles (though a few times he played the role echoing his previous occupation as a private chauffeur). He was often seen making a brief comic turn as a hotel, airline or train porter, as well as an elevator operator, custodian, butler, valet, waiter, deliveryman, and at least once as a launch pilot (in the 1939 movie Mr. Moto in Danger Island). Willie Best received screen credit most of the time, which was unusual for "bit players"; most in the 1930s and '40s were not accorded due credit. This also happened to white actors in small roles, but black actors were not credited even when their roles were larger. In more than 80 of his movies, he was given a proper character name (as opposed to simple descriptions such as "room service waiter" or "shoe-shine boy"), beginning with his second film.

Best played "Chattanooga Brown" in two Charlie Chan films—The Red Dragon in 1945 and Dangerous Money in 1946. He also played the character of "Hipp" in three of RKO’s six Scattergood Baines films with Guy Kibbee: Scattergood Baines (1941), Scattergood Survives a Murder (1942), and Cinderella Swings It in 1943. (Actor Paul White, who played a young version of Best’s "Hipp" in the first film, went on to play "Hipp" in the next three films. Best returned to the role in the last two.)

After a drug arrest ended his film career, he worked in television for a while and became known to early TV audiences as Charlie, the elevator operator on CBS's My Little Margie, from 1953 to 1955.

He also played Willie, the house servant/handyman and close friend of the title character of ABC’s The Trouble with Father, for its entire run from 1950 to 1955.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William "Willie" Best (May 27, 1916 – February 27, 1962), sometimes known as Sleep n' Eat, was an American television and film actor.

Best was one of the first African-American film actors and comedians to become well known. In the 21st century, his work, like that of Stepin Fetchit, is sometimes reviled because he was often called upon to play stereotypically lazy, illiterate, and/or simple-minded characters in films. Of the 124 films he appeared in, he received screen credit in at least 77, an unusual feat for an African-American bit player. Willie Best appeared in more than one hundred films of the 1930s and 1940s. Although several sources state that for years he was billed only as "Sleep n' Eat", Best received credit under this moniker instead of his real name in only six movies: his first film as a bit player (Harold Lloyd's Feet First) and in Up Pops the Devil (1931), The Monster Walks (1932), Kentucky Kernels and West of the Pecos (both 1934), and Murder on a Honeymoon (1935). He thereafter usually received credit as "Willie Best" or "William Best".

Best was first loved as a great clown, then later in the 20th century reviled and pitied, before being forgotten in the history of film. Hal Roach called him one of the greatest talents he had ever met. Comedian Bob Hope similarly acclaimed him as "the best actor I know", while the two were working together in 1940 on The Ghost Breakers.

As a supporting actor, Best, like many black actors of his era, was regularly cast in domestic worker or service-oriented roles (though a few times he played the role echoing his previous occupation as a private chauffeur). He was often seen making a brief comic turn as a hotel, airline or train porter, as well as an elevator operator, custodian, butler, valet, waiter, deliveryman, and at least once as a launch pilot (in the 1939 movie Mr. Moto in Danger Island). Willie Best received screen credit most of the time, which was unusual for "bit players"; most in the 1930s and '40s were not accorded due credit. This also happened to white actors in small roles, but black actors were not credited even when their roles were larger. In more than 80 of his movies, he was given a proper character name (as opposed to simple descriptions such as "room service waiter" or "shoe-shine boy"), beginning with his second film.

Best played "Chattanooga Brown" in two Charlie Chan films—The Red Dragon in 1945 and Dangerous Money in 1946. He also played the character of "Hipp" in three of RKO’s six Scattergood Baines films with Guy Kibbee: Scattergood Baines (1941), Scattergood Survives a Murder (1942), and Cinderella Swings It in 1943. (Actor Paul White, who played a young version of Best’s "Hipp" in the first film, went on to play "Hipp" in the next three films. Best returned to the role in the last two.)

After a drug arrest ended his film career, he worked in television for a while and became known to early TV audiences as Charlie, the elevator operator on CBS's My Little Margie, from 1953 to 1955.

He also played Willie, the house servant/handyman and close friend of the title character of ABC’s The Trouble with Father, for its entire run from 1950 to 1955.

Personal Info

Known For Acting

Gender Male

Known Credits 91

Birthday 1913-05-27

Day of Death 1962-11-27

Place of Birth Sunflower, Mississippi, USA

Official Site -

Also Known As

  • William Best
  • Sleep 'n' Eat
  • Sleep 'n Eat
  • Sleep n' Eat

Acting TV ShowsMovies

Waterfront(81 episodes) as Billy Slocum
2004 TV in Black: The First Fifty Years
1975 Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? as Himself
1962 Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy as Charlie (archive footage)
1952 My Little Margie(41 episodes)
1951 South of Caliente as Willie, Stable Boy
1951 Racket Squad(1 episode)
1950 The Stu Erwin Show(129 episodes)
1947 The Red Stallion as Jackson
1947 Suddenly It's Spring as Porter on Train
1946 Dangerous Money as Chattanooga Brown
1946 The Bride Wore Boots as Joe
1946 The Face of Marble as Shadrach
1945 She Wouldn't Say Yes as Porter (uncredited)
1945 Hold That Blonde! as Willie Shelley
1945 Charlie Chan in The Red Dragon as Chattanooga Brown
1945 Pillow to Post as Lucille, Colonial Auto Court Porter
1945 The Monster and the Ape as Flash
1944 The Mark of the Whistler as Men's Room Attendant (uncredited)
1944 The Girl Who Dared as Woodrow
1944 Home in Indiana as Mo' Rum (uncredited)
1943 The Kansan as Bones
1943 Dixie as Steward (uncredited)
1943 Cabin in the Sky as Second Idea Man
1943 The Powers Girl as Men's Room Attendant
1942 The Hidden Hand as Eustis the Chauffeur
1942 Busses Roar as Sunshine
1942 A-Haunting We Will Go as Waiter
1942 Maisie Gets Her Man as Sam
1942 Juke Girl as Jo-Mo
1942 Whispering Ghosts as Euclid White Brown
1941 Breakdowns of 1941 as Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)
1941 Nothing But the Truth as Samuel
1941 The Smiling Ghost as Clarence
1941 Highway West as Bub Wellington
1941 Kisses for Breakfast as Arnold
1941 The Lady from Cheyenne as George
1941 Road Show as Willie
1941 High Sierra as Algernon
1940 Who Killed Aunt Maggie? as Andrew
1940 Money and the Woman as George Washington Jones
1940 The Ghost Breakers as Alex
1940 Blondie on a Budget as Newsboy
1940 I Take This Woman as Sambo
1939 Slightly Honorable as Art, the Elevator Operator
1939 At the Circus as Redcap (uncredited)
1939 Blackmail as Bunny - the Janitor
1939 Way Down South as Chimney Sweep
1939 Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation as Driver
1939 Nancy Drew... Trouble Shooter as Apollo Johnson
1939 Mr. Moto in Danger Island as Launch Pilot
1939 The Saint Strikes Back as Algernon, Simon's Butler
1938 Blondie as Porter
1938 Spring Madness as Porter on Train
1938 Straight, Place and Show as Hannibal
1938 Youth Takes a Fling as George
1938 Vivacious Lady as Train Porter
1938 Goodbye Broadway as Jughead
1938 Merrily We Live as George
1938 Gold Is Where You Find It as Joshua
1938 Everybody's Doing It as Jasper - Elevator Operator
1938 Crashing Hollywood as Train Porter (uncredited)
1937 Saturday's Heroes as Sam
1937 The Lady Fights Back as McTavish
1937 Super-Sleuth as Warts, Martin's manservant
1937 Meet the Missus as Bootblack
1937 You Can't Buy Luck as Airline Porter
1937 Racing Lady as Brass
1937 We Who Are About to Die as Airport Porter
1936 Night Waitress as Black Pedestrian
1936 General Spanky as Henry
1936 Mummy's Boys as Catfish
1936 Down The Stretch as Noah
1936 The Bride Walks Out as Smokie
1936 Thank You, Jeeves! as Drowsy
1936 Murder on a Bridle Path as 'High-Pockets'
1936 Two in Revolt as Eph
1936 Silly Billies as Excitement
1935 To Beat the Band as Elevator Operator
1935 The Littlest Rebel as James Henry
1935 Hot Tip as Apollo
1935 Jalna as Sam, the Janitor
1935 The Arizonian as Pompey
1935 The Nitwits as Sleepy
1935 Murder on a Honeymoon as Willie (as Sleep 'n' Eat)
1934 West of the Pecos as Jonah (as Sleep 'n' Eat)
1934 Little Miss Marker as Dizzy Memphis (uncredited)
1932 The Monster Walks as Exodus (as Sleep n' Eat)
1931 Up Pops the Devil as Laundryman
1930 Feet First as Janitor
1930 Ladies of Leisure as George, the Elevator Operator

By signing up for an account on TMDb, you can post directly to Twitter and Facebook.

You need to be logged in to continue. Click here to login or here to sign up.

Global

s focus the search bar
p open profile menu
esc close an open window
? open keyboard shortcut window

On media pages

b go back (or to parent when applicable)
e go to edit page

On TV season pages

(right arrow) go to next season
(left arrow) go to previous season

On TV episode pages

(right arrow) go to next episode
(left arrow) go to previous episode

On all image pages

a open add image window

On all edit pages

t open translation selector
ctrl+ s submit form

On discussion pages

n create new discussion
w toggle watching status
p toggle public/private
c toggle close/open
a open activity
r reply to discussion
l go to last reply
ctrl+ enter submit your message
(right arrow) next page
(left arrow) previous page