Updated: Apr 27
Here is a trivia question that is not easily answered. Which former Kansas City Monarch appeared in such movie classics as Gone with the Wind and King Kong? Does the name Edgar “Blue” Washington come to mind? Probably not, but it should. He is known to have made cameo appearances in at least 64 major motion pictures. Several were feature films directed by the legendary director, John Ford.
As a character actor of many stereotypical roles, Washington’s 1920’s and 1930’s appearances typified Hollywood’s raciest views towards African-Americans. In a movie career that lasted nearly 30 years, he played everything from slave to Pullman Porter while pursuing stardom in cinema.
Born February 12, 1898 at Los Angeles, California, Washington joined the Kansas City Monarchs as a first baseman in 1920, the first year of the new Negro National League. As the team’s starting first basement, he performed admirable but opted not to return to the Negro National League for a second season. His sites were set on much larger audiences. In fact, while Washington was leading the Monarchs to victories over such teams as the Chicago American Giants and Indianapolis ABC’s in the League’s inaugural season, two of his movies were simultaneously running in national theaters.
Rowdy Ann, a silent two reel western comedy featuring Fay Tincher, completed in 1919, and Haunted Spooks, released in 1920, with actor Harold Lloyd, directed by Hal Roach, were already in major circulation. Washington’s 1919 appearance would be the first in a long line of motion pictures.
Not surprising for African-American actors of that generation, many of Washington’s characters and rolls were insignificant. He played a doorman in the 1928 silent version of There It Is and a prisoner in a bathtub in the 1929 version of Weary River. In 1929 he appeared as a church member in Hallelujah, the first all-black film production by a major studio. That was his first non-silent movie appearance. He added a cameo appearance in 1931’s version of KiKi which is included within the silent film’s top 100 best.
One of Washington’s most productive years in Hollywood was 1933. That year he appeared in six movies, playing everything from a Butler to a Chauffeur and even a Warrior in the 1933 version of King Kong.
Throughout the 1930’s and well into the 1940’s Washington’s face appear in numerous films. He appeared in at least three Charlie Chan movies and several Tarzan movies. In Gone with the Wind, 1939, Washington played Renegade’s companion.
In 1942 he suited up as a Nubian Slave in Road to Morocco which featured Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Anthony Quinn. John Ford, the well-known Hollywood director, worked with the former Kansas City Monarch often. Washington had bit parts in such Ford classics as: The Whole Town’s talking, 1935, The Prisoner of Shark Island, 1936 and the 1940 version of The Long Voyage Home. Washington’s last movie appearance, The Wings of Eagles, 1957, was another Ford production.
Not so surprisingly, Washington appeared in two baseball themed movies, The Kid from Left Field, 1953, and the original version of Angeles in the Outfield, 1951.
Washington’s son Kenny Washington received national acclaim while attending UCLA and in 1946 helped reintegrate the National Football League. The well known Kansas City Monarch first baseman turned Hollywood actor died on September 15, 1970 in Los Angeles, California.