|Intro||American child actor|
|A.K.A.||Glenn Leedy Allen, Glen Allen|
|Was||Actor Child actor|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Film, TV, Stage & Radio|
|Birth||31 December 1935, Sand Springs, Osage County, Oklahoma, USA|
|Death||19 April 2004, Brawley, Imperial County, California, USA (aged 68 years)|
Glenn Leedy (31 December 1935 - 19 April 2004) was an American actor, best known for being the first African-American child actor to work for Walt Disney Studios in the film Song of the South (1946).
Glenn Leedy was born as Glenn Leedy Allen on December 31, 1935, in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, to Lester Leedy and Pauline Roberson.
Leedy was still an infant when his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Following the death of his mother, Pauline Roberson, Leedy, and his sister, Leslie, were adopted by their grandmother, Ivy Allen, from whom they added their surname.
Even in the 1940s, the possibilities offered by Hollywood cinema to African-American actors were scarce and limited to strongly stereotyped and often degrading parts. It was also true for African-American child actors. For them, The Little Rascals (Hal Roach's Rascals series) was the only space where they could show their talent. Hollywood employed the child actors of the Rascals series for supporting parts in feature films, from Ernie Morrison in the 1920s to Billie Thomas and Cordell Hickman in the 1940s.
Leedy was somewhat of an exception. He was discovered and recruited at the age of 7 by a talent scout from the Walt Disney movie studios, while playing in the playground of his school, Booker T. Washington School, in Phoenix, Arizona. He then subsequently moved with his family to California.
Shortly after, in 1942, Leedy made his acting debut with a minor uncredited role in Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The same year, he lent his voice to the "Jasper" character in director George Pal's short animation Jasper and the Haunted House. He continued to be the voice of this character in the following shorts of the series through 1945. The Jasper series is the first to use the work of African-American singers, actors, and musicians for voice, but it largely re-proposed the stereotypical and paternalistic image of "happy and submissive" blacks that the contemporary film industry loved to propagate.
In 1943, Leedy portrayed a boy in a church in Vincente Minnelli's musical Cabin in the Sky.
In 1945, Disney movie studios decided to produce an animation film, Song of the South (1946), set in the post-slavery South and inspired by the tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris. Leedy was cast as "Toby," one of the leading roles, alongside Ruth Warrick, Bobby Driscoll, and James Baskett. Baskett was the voice behind the Uncle Remus character — an old storyteller who appears with traits very similar to those of the animated scarecrow from the Jasper series.
The film was widely successful and Leedy's artistic value and the talent were unanimously recognized. The song Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah sung by James Baskett and picked up in the finale by the three children won the Oscar for best song and Baskett was awarded a special honorary Oscar, the first African-American male actor to receive an Oscar after Hattie McDaniel in 1940 (for Gone with the Wind).
However, in the new post-war climate, at the dawn of the struggle for civil rights, the film immediately sparked bitter controversy over the stereotypical image of African Americans it promoted. It has remained a subject of controversy, with some critics describing the film's portrayal of African Americans as racist and offensive, maintaining that the black vernacular and other qualities are stereotypes. In addition, the plantation setting is sometimes criticized as idyllic and glorified. To this day, Song of the South is one of the very few Disney classics not to be available on DVD.
George Pal's attempt to meet criticism by modifying the character of "Jasper" and freeing him from his most obvious racist stereotypes also failed. The series ended in 1947 and Leedy, however, was long gone. To mark the break with his past, Leedy then began acting under the name of Glen Allen. Under his new name, he appeared in two films in 1947: Bud Pollard's Look-Out Sister and Walter Colmes' The Burning Cross. The Burning Cross is a tale of "Johnny Larimer" (played by Henry H. Daniels Jr.), a returning war veteran who joins the Klan in his town and later denounces it after feeling remorseful and works on bringing down the group. The film was widely censored in a few southern states.
After The Burning Cross, Leedy retired from acting.
Leedy was married three times.
On May 21, 1955, he married Blanche Hill. The couple had four children before separating in 1970.
He then married Carol Wilson on Oct. 22, 1979, and they had three children while residing in Los Angeles. They later moved to El Centro, where he found his father, Lester Leedy. He and Carol divorced in 1985.
Leedy then met Janie Tucker in 1985, with whom he lived and raised a family of eight children. The two married on Jan. 15, 1994.
Leedy died of emphysema on April 19, 2004, at the age of 68, at Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, California. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in El Centro, Imperial County, California.