28 For 28: 28 Days of Blaxploitation Legends – Day 21, Scatman Crothers

Close your eyes and listen for the Scatman laughing. It’s quick, but I know it’ll jump out at you.

Scatman Crothers has one of the most distinct voices in cinema history. It only takes the utterance of just a few syllables to know it’s Scatman making the sounds. This could be because of the familiarity a generation of cartoon watchers have with Crothers’s voice over work in the 70s and 80s. His voice was everywhere. He was Hong Kong Phooey for Christ’s sake.

When the voice comes through the speakers of my entertainment system, I immediately look at the TV no matter where I am or what I’m doing, just to figure out whether a classic cartoon is playing.

Scatman was much more than that though. He appeared in some of the best movies ever made, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or The Shining. At the same time, though, Crothers could be found playing parts like Duke, the retired pimp friend of Truck Turner.

People make jokes about NIcholas Cage not being able to say no to a part, a review of Scatman’s career, might make one believe the same thing about him. He never had the same kind of leading man opportunities a guy like Cage has, but when it comes to secondary roles and bit parts, nobody did it better than Scatman, and Scatman did it a lot.

Scatman Crothers in Slaughter's Big Rip-Off.

Scatman Crothers in Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off with Jim Brown.

Why We Love and Respect Him: Scatman Crothers is to films what a shaker of seasoning is to a gourmet chef. Too little of him and the consumer will be thrown off balance and out of rhythm with movie. With just the right amount of Scatman used accordingly by trained professionals great creations can emerge from the creative kitchen. The Scatman seasoning recipe might not make a 5-star dish every time, but it’ll be a dish good enough to make most people at least smile a little.

What more can you ask for than that?

Best Known For: Playing the wise Yoda-like character who pops into a movie, and then pops right back out. And other times, he’s known for just playing guys named Pops.

Scatman Crothers in Black Belt Jones.

We love Scatman Crothers too.

Blaxploitation Role Call:

Detroit 9000 (1973) as Reverend Markham: The Reverend is yet another crooked character in the crooked world of politics and organized crime depicted in Detroit 9000. You can’t trust anybody.

Black Belt Jones (1974) as Pop Byrd: Pop founded a karate school but he and his students were no match for the gangsters buying out the business by leaning on Pop to sell. They lean too hard and Pop dies. His daughter Sydney calls in Black Belt Jones to help set things straight.

Truck Turner (1974) as Duke: Duke is an old-school pimp who tips off his buddy Truck Turner the location of a close friend of Gator, the man Truck was hired to capture. Duke’s tip leads Truck right to Gator where a shootout occurs.

Coonskin (1975) as Pappy / Old Man Bone (Animated): Pappy tells the tale of a rabbit, a bear, and a fox who do battle with the mafia, try to straighten out a racist, homophobic cop, and ultimately figure out what life in America is like for black people.

Friday Foster (1975) as Reverend Noble Franklin: Franklin is a somewhat slimy reverend who hangs out with the politically elite and financially blessed. It just so happens some of these very people are the ones Friday believes are being targeted by terrorists.

Bio Links:

Voice Director Wally Burr talks about Scatman Crothers as the voice of Jazz on the original Transformers cartoons.

Great discussion until they can’t remember the name of THE SHINING. THE S-H-I-N-I-N-G. Holy shit people. Took forever for them to come up with that. Cartoon and toy geeks can be so trying on my patience sometimes. I can say that, right? I mean, some of my best friends are cartoon and toy geeks. Anyway, the video is by Rosemary Ward, a Transformers and GI Joe geek a who does interviews and writes about the subjects.

There’s also an entire kick-ass Playlist of Scatman Crothers YouTube Videos somone put together for your perusal,  just in case you’re bored and have a few hours on your hands.

Scatman Crothers IMDB

Scatman Crothers WIki

Phil Harris and Scatman Crothers sing a little bit.

This kind of reminds me of the classic scenario comedians go to sometimes, “White folks are like… and Black folks are like…”

Scatman Crothers also appeared on a few records back in the day, including one with the Exactly Like You, which happens to be the YouTube video right after the picture of the cover of an album with Exactly Like You on it.  Convenient, Huh?


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