Ernest "Brownie" Brown, 1916 - 2009
(Independent Television Service)
But the greatest of all knockabout comedy teams ever to grace the Apollo stage was Cook and Brown (Charles “Cookie” Cook and Ernest “Brownie” Brown), who first played the Apollo in 1935. Charles Cook was born in Chicago (February 11, 1917) and raised in Detroit ... Around 1929, at the age of twelve, Cook performed with “Garbage and His Two Cans” and toured with Sarah Venable’s “Mammy and Her Picks” with his childhood friend and future dance partner, Ernest “Brownie” Brown, who was born in Chicago (April 25, 1916). In 1930, the two formed Cook & Brown. Their act combined acrobatic stunts and grass-roots humor with eccentric dancing. The short-tempered, six-foot tall Cook, known for his Russian floor dancing, played foil to the diminutive five-foot tall Brownie who, when knocked down, slid the full length of the stage and bounced up in a reverse split, thumbing his nose and ready for more abuse. In 1931, they played the Lafayette Theatre in New York, and stayed, quickly becoming highly popular comedic performers, despite the Great Depression. In 1934 they played the Cotton Club and skyrocketed to popularity, playing the Palace, Palladium and Apollo with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lena Horne and Bill Robinson. On Broadway in Kiss Me Kate (1948), choreographed by modern dancer Hanya Holm, they stopped the show with their routines in “Too Darn Hot” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” [American Tap Dance Foundation]
The video below shows Ernest Brown and Charles Cook performing in "Chatter," a 1943 soundie.
Ernest Brown's obituary in the LA Times is here.