Cause of deathcancer RoleChild actor OccupationActor ParentsErnie Morrison Sr.
Years active1916-1976 TV showsOur Gang NameErnie Morrison
Full NameErnest Fredric Morrison BornDecember 20, 1912 (1912-12-20) New Orleans, Louisiana Other namesSunshine Sammy
Smiling Sambo DiedJuly 24, 1989, Lynwood, California, United States MoviesGhosts on the Loose, Boys of the City, Dogs of War, Flying Wild, Smart Alecks Similar PeopleHal Roach, Sam Katzman, H M Walker, William "Billy" Benedict, William Beaudine
Whack history visuals 10 ernie morrison 1st black child movie star
Ernest Fredric Morrison (December 20, 1912 – July 24, 1989) was an African American child actor who performed under the stage name "Sunshine Sammy." Morrison was the only black member of the East Side Kids, and was also an original Our Gang kid, a sidekick to Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard, a silent screen comedian, a vaudevillian, a dancer, and band leader.
Born in 1912 in New Orleans, Morrison fell into show business because a child actor being used for a film could not be persuaded to do anything but howl. One of the crew members asked Morrison's father to bring in his newborn son, and since the newest member of the Morrison clan gave the film crew what they needed, they decided to christen him "Sunshine," since he did not cry. Morrison's father added "Sammy" to his son's moniker.
Morrison ultimately appeared in two-reel silent comedies opposite both Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard, two of the era's biggest comedians. He was the first African American actor to be signed to a long-term contract, signing with comedy producer Hal Roach in 1919. When Roach conceived his Our Gang series, featuring child actors in a natural juvenile setting in 1921, Sammy was the first child recruited. Morrison left the series in 1924 to work in vaudeville, where his talents were featured on the same bills with such up-and-coming acts as Abbott and Costello and Jack Benny.
After doing some touring in Australia with partner Sleepy Williams, Morrison returned to the United States, and was chosen by Sam Katzman to be one of the East Side Kids. From the beginning, Morrison tapped into his experiences growing up on the East Side of New York City to shape the character of "Scruno." He spent three years with the gang before leaving to pursue other opportunities, often doing promotional stints with Huntz Hall and Bobby Jordan. Morrison left the Kids when he was offered an opportunity to work with the Step Brothers act, a prominent black stage and film dance act. He was drafted into the army during World War II. After being discharged, he was offered a part in The Bowery Boys series that was just being launched, but he declined the offer. Morrison made mention of this in interviews, saying he "didn't like the setup."
Later years and death
By the late 1960s, it was mentioned by friend Leo Gorcey in interviews, that Morrison later got into work in military defense plants. Morrison eventually left show business and ended up working for an aircraft-plant making parts for aircraft (or perhaps "missile work"), apparently doing very well financially. (bad link) In later years, Morrison appeared in a guest spot on Good Times.
Morrison died of cancer in Lynwood on July 24, 1989. He is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood California.