Introducing Bert Williams

Feb 2, 2008

MoMA

Bahamian-born and California-raised, Egbert Austin Williams (1874–1922) was, in the early years of the twentieth century, the preeminent black star of the American stage. From his pioneering work with partner George Walker to his solo work in various editions of Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies, Williams struggled tirelessly and creatively to balance the demands of white audiences with the political and social needs of his black supporters. Fellow Follies star W. C. Fields described him as “the funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.”

This program is presented to coincide with the release of a new critical study of Williams’s life and career by Camille F. Forbes (University of California, San Diego), who will introduce the screening. The prints are newly restored by the Museum from original nitrate elements in its Biograph Collection. Both films are silent, with musical accompaniment by Ben Model.

Organized by Steven Higgins, Curator, Department of Film.

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