Stewart grew up in Harlem and, for a time, the British West Indies. By the age of 14 he was dancing and performing standup comedy at "The Hoofers Club," a legendary gathering spot for such dancing greats as Bill "Bojnagles" Robinson, the Step Brothers and Honi Coles. He went on to appear at the "Cotton Club," with many of the popular acts of the day.
In 1936 while appearing at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles with Cab Calloway and his band, Stewart was spotted by Mae West and signed for a role in her film "Go West Young Man." He went on to appear in numerous films starring opposite such stars as John Barrymore and Bing Crosby. His credits include "Stormy Weather," "Cabin in the Sky," and "Carmen Jones." In the 60's, Stewart appeared in the opening scene of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and more recently had a featured role in "Silver Streak".
Stewart was a popular radio guest performer throughout the 40s and when television bowed in the 50s, he appeared often. On the popular "Amos 'N' Andy" TV series, he had the recurring role of Lightnin'. On Broadway, Stewart appeared in Irving Berlin's smash musical "Louisiana Purchase."
In 1950, Stewart built the Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles in order to give black performers an opportunity to play the types of roles they were denied elsewhere. Today, this theatre is one of the oldest and finest ... theatres in the country and its alumni supporters include John Amos, Isobel Sanford and Margaret Avery. His theatre's long-running production of "Norman Is That You?" was adapted for the screen by MGM.
After 57 years in show business, Stewart today focuses on working with young people in the ... community. Stressing "education through entertainment," he encourages youths from the inner city not to join a gang but to join a theatre group.
For stressing positive humanitarian themes in his theatre productions and for culturally enriching his community, Stewart has been praised by the Mayor, the police commission, and written up in all the local newspapers. Earlier this year, he was named "Hometown Hero of the Month" by the CBS-TV affiliate in Los Angeles, which honored him with a month-long series of on-air profiles.
Stewart, his wife Edna and his daughter Valarie continue to operate the Ebony Showcase Theatre (a non-profit organization). The theatre offers acting lessons as well as classes on writing, directing and filmmaking.
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