James Wall

Stage Manager / Performer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-and-a-half hour Archive interview, James Wall (1917-2010) candidly discusses his experiences as an African-American actor and stage manager on Broadway and in early television. He recalls working on entertainment programs, sports, news programs including stage managing 60 Minutes and CBS News with Walter Cronkite. Wall also speaks of his work on Captain Kangaroo, first as stage manager, and later as "Mr. Baxter," a teacher on the program, for whom he lobbied and created. He details what it takes to be a sucessful stage manager for television, and the special relationship that person must share with the director. Michael Rosen conducted the interview on October 21, 1999 in New York, NY.

"There are a lot of things that I've done where I was the first black face to be out there and I was able to destroy the myth that a Black person is incapable of doing this. That, to me, is a biggie. I made a lot of stage managers, and taught them, bridged them, so that they've gotten in."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
James Wall on trying out for the role of "Kingfish" on Amos 'N' Andy
James Wall on being at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago with Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather
James Wall on performing on The Goldbergs
James Wall on teaching concepts to children on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on the feedback to his character, "Mr. Baxter," on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on the technical elements of Captain Kangaroo
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on moving to New York in 1929
On what traits he inherited from his parents, and on his early interest in the arts; on his decision to become a dancer

Chapter 2

On working for his father; on his service during World War II
On going overseas to serve during World War II; on dancing to boost the morale of the troops during World War II

Chapter 3

On segregation in the Army during World War II; on the dance team of Phillips & Wall; on getting into radio
On acting on the radio show "Stella Dallas" and various other radio shows; on performing on The Goldbergs
On the first time he saw television; on performing live on The Goldbergs; on performing on WEVD radio

Chapter 4

On performing a dance on Sing it Again; on performing on The Jack Carter Show; on acting on Robert Montgomery Presents and other anthology series
On the challenges of appearing on live television; on working for director Norman Felton; on trying out for the role of "Kingfish" on Amos 'N' Andy
On appearing on NBC Opera Theatre; on stage managing "Shuffle Along" on Broadway

Chapter 5

On being the first African-American stage manager on Broadway; on initially being turned down by CBS when he applied for a stage manager position at the network; on doing voice-over narration
On becoming stage manager on Captain Kangaroo, and on being hired to play a character on the show; on playing "Mr. Baxter" on Captain Kangaroo; on Bob Keeshan, who played "Captain Kangaroo"
On his character, "Mr. Baxter," on Captain Kangaroo; on his Captain Kangaroo schedule; on working with Captain Kangaroo director Peter Birch

Chapter 6

On the feedback to his character, "Mr. Baxter," on Captain Kangaroo; on teaching concepts to children on Captain Kangaroo; on the technical elements of the show
On the basic role of a stage manager for television; on the importance of collaborating with the director as a television stage manager

Chapter 7

On how television stage managers are assigned jobs; on how a stage manager is different from an assistant director in television; on stage managing various Broadway shows
On being a stage manager for CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite; on how he heard about the shooting of President Kennedy, while working as a stage manager on Captain Kangaroo

Chapter 8

On stage-managing CBS's coverage of President Kennedy's assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral, and the space race; on traveling with Walter Cronkite, while he was covering various presidents; on being on-hand for Walter Cronkite's final broadcast of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
On being at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago with Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather; on stage-managing some 60 Minutes telecasts, and on working with Dan Rather; on stage-managing many years of the U.S. Tennis Open

Chapter 9

On his greatest professional achievements, and on his medical challenges; on advice to an young television stage manager; on how Vaudeville, nightclubs, and the Army prepared him to be a television stage manager
On the then-current state of news on television; on his lifetime achievement award from the DGA; on various mentors in his career and continuing to work after his official retirement
On b-roll pictures from his career- dancing; at CBS radio in New York; on the set of Studio One with Maureen Stapleton; with Curt Browning on the set of NBC Opera; on the set of The Defender with Ralph Bellamy; with the cast of Captain Kangaroo; on the set of Captain Kangaroo; stage managing Captain Kangaroo; as "Mr. Baxter" on the set of Captain Kangaroo; Captain Kangaroo treasure house set; with Lena Horne; with the other dancers from Jamaica; with Sidney Poitier
Shows

60 Minutes

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James Wall on stage-managing some 60 Minutes telecasts

Amos 'N' Andy

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James Wall on trying out for the role of "Kingfish" on Amos 'N' Andy

CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

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James Wall on working for Dan Rather on CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite

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James Wall on stage-managing CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
James Wall on being on-hand for Walter Cronkite's final broadcast of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite

Captain Kangaroo

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James Wall on becoming stage manager on Captain Kangaroo, and on being hired to play a character on the show
James Wall on playing "Mr. Baxter" on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on Bob Keeshan, who played "Captain Kangaroo"
James Wall on his character, "Mr. Baxter," on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on his Captain Kangaroo schedule
James Wall on working with Captain Kangaroo director Peter Birch
James Wall on the feedback to his character, "Mr. Baxter," on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on teaching concepts to children on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on the technical elements of Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on how he heard about the shooting of President Kennedy, while working as a stage manager on Captain Kangaroo

Goldbergs, The

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James Wall on performing on The Goldbergs
James Wall on performing live on The Goldbergs

Jack Carter Show, The

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James Wall on performing on The Jack Carter Show

NBC Opera Theatre

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James Wall on appearing on NBC Opera Theatre

Robert Montgomery Presents

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James Wall on acting on Robert Montgomery Presents and other anthology series

Sing It Again

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James Wall on performing a dance on Sing it Again
Topics

Advice

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James Wall on advice to a young television stage manager

Anthology Drama

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James wall on the challenges of appearing on live television

Characters & Catchphrases

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James Wall on his character, "Mr. Baxter," on Captain Kangaroo

Civil Rights Movement

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James Wall on stage-managing CBS's coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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James Wall on various mentors in his career

Diversity in Television

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James Wall on initially being turned down by CBS when he applied for a stage manager position at the network
James Wall on advocating for Black representation on Captain Kangaroo when he was working as a stage manager on the show, and how that led to him being hired as "Mr. Baxter" (after an audition)

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
James Wall on his service during World War II
James Wall on going overseas to serve during World War II
James Wall on dancing to boost the morale of the troops during World War II
James Wall on segregation in the Army during World War II
James Wall on initially being turned down by CBS when he applied for a stage manager position at the network
James Wall on advocating for Black representation on Captain Kangaroo when he was working as a stage manager on the show, and how that led to him being hired as "Mr. Baxter" (after an audition)
James Wall on how he heard about the shooting of President Kennedy, while working as a stage manager on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on stage-managing CBS's coverage of President Kennedy's assassination
James Wall on stage-managing CBS's coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral
James Wall on stage-managing CBS's coverage John Glenn orbiting the earth, and other NASA missions
James Wall on being at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago with Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather

JFK Assassination and Funeral

View Topic
James Wall on how he heard about the shooting of President Kennedy, while working as a stage manager on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on stage-managing CBS's coverage of President Kennedy's assassination

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
James Wall on stage-managing CBS's coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral

Moon Landing

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James Wall on stage-managing CBS's coverage John Glenn orbiting the earth, and other NASA missions

Pivotal Career Moments

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James Wall on various mentors in his career

Pop Culture

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James Wall on his character, "Mr. Baxter," on Captain Kangaroo

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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James wall on the challenges of appearing on live television

Television Industry

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James Wall on the then-current state of news on television
James Wall on advice to a young television stage manager

Underrepresented Voices

View Topic
James Wall on initially being turned down by CBS when he applied for a stage manager position at the network
James Wall on advocating for Black representation on Captain Kangaroo when he was working as a stage manager on the show, and how that led to him being hired as "Mr. Baxter" (after an audition)

War

View Topic
James Wall on his service during World War II
James Wall on going overseas to serve during World War II
James Wall on dancing to boost the morale of the troops during World War II
James Wall on segregation in the Army during World War II

We Cried

View Topic
James Wall on stage-managing CBS's coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral

World War II

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James Wall on his service during World War II
James Wall on going overseas to serve during World War II
James Wall on dancing to boost the morale of the troops during World War II
James Wall on segregation in the Army during World War II
Professions

Production Professionals

View Profession
James Wall on being the first African-American stage manager on Broadway
James Wall on the basic role of a stage manager for television
James Wall on the importance of collaborating with the director as a television stage manager
James Wall on how television stage managers are assigned jobs
James Wall on how a stage manager is different from an assistant director in television
James Wall on advice to a young television stage manager
James Wall on how Vaudeville, nightclubs, and the Army prepared him to be a television stage manager

Stage Manager

View Profession
James Wall on being the first African-American stage manager on Broadway
James Wall on the basic role of a stage manager for television
James Wall on the importance of collaborating with the director as a television stage manager
James Wall on how television stage managers are assigned jobs
James Wall on how a stage manager is different from an assistant director in television
James Wall on advice to a young television stage manager
James Wall on how Vaudeville, nightclubs, and the Army prepared him to be a television stage manager
Genres

Children's Programming

View Genre
James Wall on stage managing and playing "Mr. Baxter" on Captain Kangaroo
James Wall on stage managing Captain Kangaroo, and on playing Mr. "Baxter" on the show

Classic Anthology Series

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James Wall on acting on Robert Montgomery Presents and other anthology series

Comedy Series

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James Wall on performing on The Goldbergs
James Wall on trying out for the role of "Kingfish" on Amos 'N' Andy

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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James Wall on performing a dance on Sing it Again

News and Documentary

View Genre
James Wall on stage-managing CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
James Wall on working on both CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
James Wall on stage-managing some 60 Minutes telecasts

Sports

View Genre
James Wall on stage-managing many years of the U.S. Tennis Open 
People

Walter Cronkite

View Interview Page
James Wall on stage-managing CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
James Wall on traveling with Walter Cronkite while he was covering various presidents
James Wall on being on-hand for Walter Cronkite's final broadcast of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite
James Wall on being at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago with Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather

Ossie Davis

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James Wall on stage managing "Jamacia" on Broadway starring Lena Horne, and on being stand by for Ossie Davis

Norman Felton

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James Wall on working for director Norman Felton

Lena Horne

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James Wall on stage managing "Jamacia" on Broadway starring Lena Horne, and on being stand by for Ossie Davis

Bob Keeshan

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James Wall on Bob Keeshan, who played "Captain Kangaroo"
James Wall on the feedback to his character, "Mr. Baxter," on Captain Kangaroo with Bob Keeshan
James Wall on teaching concepts to children on Captain Kangaroo with Bob Keeshan

Dan Rather

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James Wall on being at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago with Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather

All Interviews

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