As Thousands Cheer" the first Broadway show to give a Black person equal billing with a White cast. It was a topical revue with a book by Moss Hart and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. "As Thousands Cheer" was a hit, running for 400 performances during the height of the depression. Each scene was based loosely on a news story or headline of the day. Aside from introducing "Heatwave" in the show, a song that's become a classic, Irving Berlin wrote the song "Suppertime" specifically for Ethel Waters. She sang it to the ripped-from-a--newspaper headline "UNKNOWN NEGRO LYNCHED BY FRENZIED MOB." The "negro" was not unknown to Ethel Waters' character. It was her husband and the song became a show-stopper which had audiences crying openly because of the intensity of Waters' performance.
Sadly we don't have that performance, but 36 years later Ethel Waters recreated the song for an appearance on the Hollywood Palace hosted by Diana Ross and the Supremes. In 1969 it was probably considered too incendiary to show the original staging, but on Broadway Waters sang this song on an almost empty stage with a silhouette on the bare back wall of a lynched man. In this single song Ethel Waters was able to sum up the Black experiemce in 'Merka. If your eyes are not tearing up after this AMAZING performance, check your heart. You might not have one.
Ethel Waters died in 1977 at the age of 80. Luckily we have many records and movie performances to remember her by. There are so many outstanding performances, it was hard to narrow it down to just these. ENJOY!
With a very young Sammy David, Jr. in the movie "Rufus Jones For President"