Miller, Flournoy E., 1886-1971

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Flournoy Miller (1887-1971), African American actor, entertainer and playwright. His daughter Olivette Miller is a jazz harpist.

From the description of Flournoy Miller papers, [ca. 1920-1979]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 85016136

Flournoy Miller, actor, comedian, playwright, lyricist and producer, was born in Columbia, Tennessee. He began his entertainment career while attending Fisk University where he teamed up with his childhood friend, Aubrey Lyles to form a 25 year partnership.

In 1907, Miller and Lyles were offered their first professional positions as playwrights for the Pekin Stock Company in Chicago. The first play they co-wrote for the Company was "The Mayor of Dixie." In 1915, they had their first success while starring in "Darkydom," the first major black musical comedy. Their biggest success came in 1921 when they joined with "Eubie Blake" and "Noble Sissle" to write and produce "Shuffle Along." Following the closing of "Shuffle Along" in 1924, they produced a variety of musical comedies which included "Runnin' Wild" (1924) and "Rang Tang" (1927). After the unsuccessful run of their production "Keep Shufflin'" (1928), the team broke up, ending a twenty-five year partnership. During this time Miller wrote and appeared in Lew Leslie's "Blackbirds" (1930). One year later, the team reunited for one last time and produced "Sugar Hill" with James P. Johnson.

After Aubrey Lyles' death in 1932, Miller teamed with comedian Mantan Moreland and they toured the vaudeville circuits. In 1936 they appeared in the motion picture "Harlem on the Prairie," the first all-black western. In the 1950s Miller wrote for the television show "Amos 'n' Andy." Miller died in a California hospital in 1971.

From the description of Flournoy Miller collection, 1928-1971 1941-1951. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122408202

Flournoy Miller, actor, comedian, playwright, lyricist and producer was born in Columbia, Tennessee. He began his entertainment career while attending Fisk University where he was reacquainted with his childhood friend and soon to be long time partner, Aubrey Lyles. During their matriculation, they formed a comedy act which produced amateur shows that ultimately helped to fund a science building on campus. Miller was not the only member of his family to pursue a career in the entertainment business. His brothers Irvin and Quintard, also spent their lives in the entertainment business as playwrights and comedians. His wife Bessie (1888-1974), whom he met while they were both performing in Charity Girl, was a chorus girl; and their daughter Olivette was a renowned jazz harpist.

In 1907, Miller and Lyles were offered their first professional positions as playwrights for the Pekin Stock Company in Chicago. They were hired by company owner Robert Mott and remained with the company for four years, 1905-1909. The first play they wrote was The Mayor of Dixie . Some years later portions of this play were rewritten and produced as the Broadway sensation Shuffle Along (1921). Another Pekin Stock Company production written by Miller, Lyles and Irvin Miller, in which they also appeared, was The Colored Aristocrats (1909). The play featured two characters, Steven Jenkins (Flournoy Miller) and Sam Peck (Aubrey Lyles) who would later reappear in Shuffle Along . The comedic duo utilized the Jenkins and Peck characters as the core for many of their vaudeville skits. Prior to the staging of The Colored Aristocrats in April 1908, Miller joined with Marion A. Brooks to form the Bijou Stock Company in Montgomery, Alabama, which produced Queen of the Jungle and Ephraham Johnson from Norfolk . After the company closed in May 1908, Miller reunited with Lyles and began touring the vaudeville circuits.

In 1915, Miller and Lyles found success while starring in Darkydom, the first major black musical comedy. That same year they toured the Keith vaudeville circuit increasing their popularity. Their biggest success came in 1921. Miller and Lyles joined with Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle to write and produce Shuffle Along which had a successful three-year run on Broadway. Shuffle Along was the first Broadway musical produced entirely by African Americans. The next year Miller and Lyles produced a three-act drama, The Flat Below, and Miller's production of Going White which premiered at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. Both shows also received great reviews. Following the closing of Shuffle Along in 1924, the team's popularity continued to grow and they produced a variety of Broadway musical comedies which included Runnin' Wild (1924), Backbiters (1925), Honey (1925), Rang Tang (1927) and Keep Shufflin' (1928). After the unsuccessful run of Keep Shufflin', Miller and Lyles broke up ending a twenty-five year partnership. Lyles traveled to Africa and stayed for a year. Upon his return he produced Runnin' De Town, which also closed without success. During this time Miller wrote and appeared in Lew Leslie's Blackbirds (1930). One year later, the team reunited for one last time and produced Sugar Hill in conjunction with James P. Johnson. A year later, Aubrey Lyles died in New York leaving the entertainment world to suffer a great loss.

After Lyles' death, Miller teamed up with comedian Mantan Moreland and they toured the vaudeville circuits. In 1936 they appeared in the motion picture "Harlem on the Prairie," the first all-black western. During the 1940s and 1950s they were featured in other black cast pictures, and in the 1950s Miller wrote for the television show "Amos and Andy." In the 1930s, Miller and Lyles had appeared on the radio version of "Amos and Andy." Flournoy Miller died in a California hospital in 1971.

From the guide to the Flournoy Miller collection, 1928-1971, 1941-1951, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Miller, Flournoy E., 1886-1971. Flournoy Miller papers, [ca. 1920-1979]. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
creatorOf Miller, Flournoy E., 1886-1971. Flournoy Miller collection, 1928-1971 1941-1951. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Glenn and Jenkins scrapbook, 1922-1962, 1920-1930 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Glenn, Willam H. Glenn and Jenkins scrapbook, 1922-1962 (bulk 1920-1930) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf OAC Review Index (University of Guelph). Words of Remembrance : address delivered at Alumni Jubilee Service / Prof. Caesar, OAC Review, v.46, no.8, Summer 1934, p. 502-5024, con't on p.516. University of Guelph
creatorOf Flournoy Miller collection, 1928-1971, 1941-1951 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Amos 'n' Andy corporateBody
associatedWith Amos 'n' Andy. corporateBody
associatedWith Blake, Eubie, 1883-1983. person
associatedWith Blake, Eubie, 1887-1983. person
associatedWith Glenn, Willam H. person
associatedWith Helen Armstead-Johnson Collection corporateBody
associatedWith Helen Armstead-Johnson Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Lyles, Aubrey L., d1932. person
associatedWith Miller, Bessie Oliver, 1888-1974. person
associatedWith Miller, Olivette. person
associatedWith OAC Review Index (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Shuffle along corporateBody
associatedWith Shuffle along. corporateBody
associatedWith Sissle, Noble, 1889-1975. person
associatedWith Sugar hill corporateBody
associatedWith Sugar hill. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
African American actors
African American women musicians
African American musicians
African American entertainers
African Americans in the performing arts
Television comedy writers
African American dramatists
African American comedians
Musicals
African Americans--Songs and music
African Americans--Music
Occupation
Actors
Function

Person

Birth 1885-04-14

Death 1971-06-06

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