Comic actor Eddie Anderson was born into a show business family. His father was a minstrel performer, and his mother a circus tight rope walker.
Anderson entered show business at age 14, teaming with his brother Cornelius in a song-and-dance act. After appearing in his first film Green Pastures, Anderson was given a part as a railway porter on The Jack Benny Program. Response to Anderson’s performance was so positive that he was invited back and Jack Benny encouraged the show’s writers to expand his role. The porter that Anderson played eventually became “Rochester,” Benny’s chauffeur. By the early 1940s, Anderson’s “Rochester” had become so popular that he enjoyed star billing with Benny.
Early on, Anderson’s “Rochester” reflected the negative, stereotypical portrayal of black men. Over the course of the show’s long run, Anderson was able to add depth to “Rochester.” As “Rochester” became a valued member of The Jack Benny Program cast, the show’s writers eliminated some of the stereotypes. Anderson’s talent and popularity enabled him to evolve into one of the more outspoken black actors in radio. In addition to his radio career, Anderson co-starred with Jack Benny in several films and on his television series.
Eddie Anderson died on February 28, 1977.
He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2001.