|Born||in Nashville, Tennessee, USA|
|Died||in Hollywood, California, USA (heart failure)|
|Birth Name||Flournoy Eakin Miller|
Mini Bio (1)
Tony Award-nominee F.E. Miller, one of the seminal figures in the development of African American musical theater on Broadway, was a writer/lyricist who also was a Broadway actor and vaudeville performer as part of a duo with Aubrey Lyles. Born Flournoy Earkin Miller on April 14, 1887 in Nashville, Tennessee, he met Lyles when both were attending Fisk University. They were hired on by the first African American legitimate theatrical company, Chicago's Pekin Theater Stock Company, from 1906 to 1909.
The duo's Broadway debut came in August 1907 at the Harlem Music Hall, when the Pekin Theater Company brought the musical comedy "The Husband" to New York. Miller and Lyles wrote the book and lyrics. Independent of the Pekin Theater, they had a second Broadway show in 1907, "The Oyster Man".
Miller made his Broadway debut as a performer in the 1912 musical "The Charity Girl", playing the character "Mumbo" (his partner Lyles played "Mumbo"). They did not contribute any writing to the show. By this time, they were a successful vaudeville act billed as Miller and Lyles, touring the U.S. and England.
They wrote the book for the 1921 Broadway musical "Suffle Along", collaborating with Eubie Blake (who wrote the music) and lyricist Noble Sissle. Lyles and Miller also were performers in the show, which was a huge hit, playing for 484 performances. It is considered the first major African American musical success in history. Subsequently, they worked on the 1923 Broadway show, "Runnin' Wild", providing the book and performing in the production. It also was a hit, running for 228 performances.
Lyles and Miller performed in the 1926 hit musical revue "The Great Temptations", which racked up 226 performances. The following year, they not only performed in but made their directing debut in "Rang Tang", a musical revue that ran for 119 performances. In 1928, they wrote the book and performed in the musical comedy "Keep Shuffling", which featured music by Fats Waller. Their last successful Broadway show, it played for 104 performances.
In 1929, Miller and Lyles appeared in the musical comedy "Great Day". It closed after only 36 performances. That same year, Lyles split with Miller, and in 1930, he appeared in the musical revue "Lew Leslie's Blackbirds", which closed after 57 performances.
In December 1931, Miller & Lyles were back on Broadway together in the musical comedy "Sugar Hill", but their luck was running low. The show was a flop that closed in January 1932 after only 11 performances. Later that year, they started to develop a new show with Blake and Sissle, "Shuffle Along of 1933", but their partnership was terminated with finality when Lyles died of tuberculosis in July. Miller, who also performed in the show when it opened on Boxing Day 1932, was solely credited with the book. It closed after only 11 performances.
Miller and Lyles had appeared in a a movie short of their act in 1921, Miller and Lyles Sing de Ducks (1921). In the 1930s, Miller started working regularly in films. He appeared in 17 movies altogether and wrote four. He acted in an Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy short Africa Speaks -- English (1933) in 1933, but most of the films he appeared in were "race movies", low-budget movies made for an African American audience. He provided dialogue for the Herb Jeffries "Bronze Buckaroo" Western _Harlem on the Prairie (1937) and wrote the screenplay for Jeffries' _Harlem Rides the Range (1939). He also acted in three Jeffries Westerns, "Prairie" "Range", and The Bronze Buckaroo (1939).
After "Shuffle Along of 1933", Miller did not appear on Broadway for another nine years, when he performed in the musical revue "Harlem Cavalcade", which was billed as a "Vaudeville in Two Acts". It closed after 49 performances. A decade later, the 1952 revival of "Shuffle Along", which featured Miller as a performer and the talents of Blake and Sissle, fared even worse. It was a flop, closing after only four performances.
F.E. Miller died in Hollywood on June 6, 1971, seven years before the debut of the Broadway musical "Eubie!", with Miller credited as a lyricist. It was a hit, playing for 439 performances (45 less than the original "Shuffle Along" of 1921) and bringing Miller a posthumous Tony Award nomination in 1979 for Best Original Score along with Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle and others.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood