For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Octavus Roy Cohen.

Octavus Roy Cohen

This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Octavus Roy Cohen" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (January 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Octavus Roy Cohen
Cohen at the East Lake Golf Club, 1925
Cohen at the East Lake Golf Club, 1925
Born(1891-06-26)June 26, 1891
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedJanuary 6, 1959(1959-01-06) (aged 67)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, U.S.
  • Writer
  • actor
Alma materClemson College
Inez Lopez
(m. 1914; died 1953)

Octavus Roy Cohen (1891–1959) was an early 20th century American writer specializing in ethnic comedies. His dialect comedy stories about African Americans gained popularity after being published in the Saturday Evening Post and were adapted into a series of short films by Al Christie featuring actors Charles Olden, Spencer Williams Jr., Evelyn Preer, and Edward Thompson.


Early life

Cohen was born on June 26, 1891 in Charleston, South Carolina, to Octavus and Rebecca Cohen (née Ottolengui).[1] He pronounced his first name oc-tav'us, a as in have.[2] Through his mother, he was the cousin of Rodrigues Ottolengui, who also wrote crime fiction.[3]

He received his secondary education at the Porter Military Academy, now the Porter-Gaud School, and graduated in 1908. He went on to Clemson College (later renamed Clemson University) and graduated in 1911 with a degree in engineering.[1][4]


Between 1910 and 1912, he worked in the editorial departments of the Birmingham Ledger, the Charleston News and Courier, the Bayonne Times, and the Newark Morning Star.[1]

He became popular as a result of his stories printed in The Saturday Evening Post which were about African-Americans.[5] In 1913, he was admitted to the South Carolina bar and practiced law in Charleston for two years.[1] Between 1917 and his death, he published 56 books, works that included humorous and detective novels, plays, and collections of short stories.[citation needed] He also composed successful Broadway plays and radio, film, and television scripts.

As a mark of his success, on March 20, 1923, Cohen bought the "Redin-Cohen" house, a Tudor Revival-style home in Birmingham, Alabama.[6][7][citation needed] He was known to host local writers and journalists to discuss fiction writing while in Birmingham.[4] The Redin-Cohen house was built circa 1918 by Mrs. Viola Roden Redin, one of five daughters of the leading saloon operator in Birmingham on the northern half of lots 1 and 2 in block 864 based on the City of Birmingham plan and survey by Elyton Land Company. The Cohens occupied the house from 1923 until May 7, 1937, a time period covering some of Cohen's major work.[citation needed]

He moved from Birmingham to Harlem, New York, in the late 1930s and then to Los Angeles to pursue a film career.

Personal life and death

He married Inez Lopez in October 1914 in Bessemer, Alabama.[4] They had one son, Octavus Roy Cohen, Jr.

His wife died in 1953. He died of a stroke on January 6, 1959, in Los Angeles and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[4]


His most notable creation was "Florian Slappey", a fictional black detective who appeared both in print (in the Saturday Evening Post) and in a series of short films in the 1920s,[8] These were "ethnic comedies" following the bumbling investigations of Slappey and his travels from Birmingham, Alabama, to Harlem, New York. They were later assembled into a stage play, "Come Seven", with Slappey played by Earle Foxe, which ran for 72 performances.[9] A second detective stage play, "The Crimson Alibi" , featured a white detective, David Carroll.[10]

He wrote:

  • Polished Ebony (1919)
  • Gray Dusk (1920)
  • Come Seven (1920)
  • Highly Colored (1921)
  • Midnight (1922)
Installment of the short-lived comic strip Tempus Todd, the first comic strip in a mainstream newspaper to portray black characters as real people. Here, Tempus and a bakery owner talk about advertising.
Installment of the short-lived comic strip Tempus Todd, the first comic strip in a mainstream newspaper to portray black characters as real people. Here, Tempus and a bakery owner talk about advertising.

Cohen wrote several novels about detective David Carroll. One of these novels, The Crimson Alibi, was adapted for the stage by George Broadhurst.[11] Cohen's character of Jim Hanvey, "a sort of backwoods Nero Wolfe", "one of the earliest private eyes",[12] appeared in two films; Curtain at Eight (1933), based on his novel The Backstage Mystery, and Jim Hanvey, Detective (1937), based on his original story. "Hanvey made most of his appearances in short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, where much of... Cohen's other work was also published... Cohen created a few other detectives... one of the first black eyes, Florian Slappey, although they're more famous now for their unflattering portrayal of blacks than their historical significance."[12]

Jim Hanvey books by Cohen:[13]

  • Jim Hanvey, Detective (1923, short stories)
  • Detours (1927, short stories, one featuring Hanvey)
  • The May Day Mystery (1929)
  • The Backstage Mystery (also published as Curtain at Eight) (1930)
  • Star of Earth (1932)
  • Scrambled Yeggs (1934, short stories)


Cohen was scriptwriter (or co-scriptwriter with Alfred A. Cohen) for six known films:[10]


  1. ^ a b c d Marquis, Albert Nelson; Leonard, John William, eds. (1920). Who's who in America. Vol. 11. p. 582.
  2. ^ Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936
  3. ^ "DR. OTTOLENGUI, 76, DENTIST 50 YEARS; Specialist in Orthodontia and Root Canal Therapy DeadPioneer in X-Ray Field". The New York Times. July 13, 1937. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d Wright, A.J. "Octavus Roy Cohen". Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  5. ^ Honey, Maureen. “Images of Women in the Saturday Evening Post, 1931–1936,”.Journal of Popular Culture; Bowling Green, Ohio Vol. 10, Iss. 2, (Fall 1976): (p.352)
  6. ^ "Markers". Jefferson County Historical Commission. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  7. ^ Jefferson County Historical Commission (Vol.1237, p.104)
  8. ^ Blacks in Films, Jim Pines ISBN 0 289 70326 3
  9. ^ Lachman, Marvin (2014). The villainous stage : crime plays on Broadway and in the West End. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-9534-4. OCLC 903807427.
  10. ^ a b "Florian Slappey". The Thrilling Detective Web Site. April 25, 2019. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  11. ^ Bordman Gerald, American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama 1914-1930.Oxford University Press USA, 1995 ISBN 0195090780 (p.106).
  12. ^ a b "Jim Hanvey". March 28, 2021.
  13. ^ Crime Fiction, 1749-1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography by Allen J. Hubin, Garland, 1984, ISBN 0-8240-9219-8
  14. ^ "Exhibitors Herald World". Quigley Publishing Company. April 5, 1930 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ Peterson, Bernard L.; Peterson, Bernard J. (1990). Early Black American Playwrights and Dramatic Writers: A Biographical Directory and Catalog of Plays, Films, and Broadcasting Scripts. ISBN 9780313266218.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Octavus Roy Cohen
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Wikiwand 2.0 is here 🎉! We've made some exciting updates - No worries, you can always revert later on