Willie Best

Willie Best



One of the hard-working, unappreciated Negro actors of Hollywood's "Golden Era" who produced good work with what he was given. He starred alongside some of film's great comedians including the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Laurel and Hardy and three films with Shirley Temple. In addition to being a talented comedian and character actor, Best was also a musician/song writer. After a drug arrest ended his film career, he worked in television for a while before retiring to obscurity. He passed away at the Motion Picture Country Home and is buried in North Hollywood, California.

Best was one of the victims of the racist attitudes of the era, never given the opportunity to fully flex his comedic muscle beyond the stereotyped porter and janitor roles that dominated his career. Sadly he was also a victim of backlash for these same roles during the Civil Rights movement and it is hard to watch many of his films without cringing, despite his ability.

Bob Hope referred to Best, as his comedic co-star in The Ghost Breakers (1940), as one of the finest talents he had ever worked with.

In his earliest film appearances, in the early 1930s, if he was given screen credit he was billed as "Sleep 'n' Eat".

He came to Hollywood serving as a chauffeur for a Mississippi white couple on vacation, and decided to stay and seek a career in show business.


May 27, 1913

Place of birth

Sunflower, Mississippi, USA

Known for