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Hattie McDaniel

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Also Known As: Hattie Mcdaniels Died: October 26, 1952
Born: June 10, 1895 Cause of Death: breast cancer
Birth Place: Wichita, Kansas, USA Profession: actor, singer, dancer, songwriter, washerwoman, bakery clerk, cook, ladies' room attendant, domestic

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

She was the first black actor to win an Academy Award, but Hattie McDaniel paid a price to cross Hollywood's color line. Schooled in minstrelsy in the years leading up to the Depression, during which time she developed the stock character of a sassy black housemaid who refused to kowtow to her white employers, McDaniel arrived in Hollywood after the 1929 stock market crash and was soon earning more money playing servants than most stockbrokers were seeing from their investments. Billed low in the credits, McDaniel more than measured up to the likes of Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow and Barbara Stanwyck, often stealing one or two scenes in such films as John Ford's "Judge Priest" (1934), Tay Garnett's "China Seas" (1935), and George Stevens' "Alice Adams" (1935) from their A-list players. Gable recommended McDaniel to producer David O. Selznick for the role of Scarlett O'Hara's nursemaid Mammy in "Gone with the Wind" (1939); Selznick was so impressed with the actress that he had the screenplay rewritten to accommodate her. Though segregation precluded McDaniel from attending the film's Atlanta premiere, vindication came with an Oscar win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. If her films...

She was the first black actor to win an Academy Award, but Hattie McDaniel paid a price to cross Hollywood's color line. Schooled in minstrelsy in the years leading up to the Depression, during which time she developed the stock character of a sassy black housemaid who refused to kowtow to her white employers, McDaniel arrived in Hollywood after the 1929 stock market crash and was soon earning more money playing servants than most stockbrokers were seeing from their investments. Billed low in the credits, McDaniel more than measured up to the likes of Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow and Barbara Stanwyck, often stealing one or two scenes in such films as John Ford's "Judge Priest" (1934), Tay Garnett's "China Seas" (1935), and George Stevens' "Alice Adams" (1935) from their A-list players. Gable recommended McDaniel to producer David O. Selznick for the role of Scarlett O'Hara's nursemaid Mammy in "Gone with the Wind" (1939); Selznick was so impressed with the actress that he had the screenplay rewritten to accommodate her. Though segregation precluded McDaniel from attending the film's Atlanta premiere, vindication came with an Oscar win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. If her films declined in quality in the years before her death in 1952, Hattie McDaniel had long since proved her point that being one of the first successful African-American actresses was a groundbreaking achievement and that no matter the criticism, she always lived by her credo, "I'd rather play a maid than be one."

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Wisecracks (1991) Herself (Archival Footage)
2.
 The Big Wheel (1949) Minnie
3.
 Family Honeymoon (1949) Phyllis
4.
 Mickey (1948) Bertha
5.
 The Flame (1947) Celia
6.
 Janie Gets Married (1946) April
7.
 Song of the South (1946) Aunt Tempy
8.
 Never Say Goodbye (1946) Cozy
9.
 Margie (1946) Cynthia
10.
 Since You Went Away (1944) Fidelia
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1901:
Family moved to Denver, Colorado from Kansas
1908:
Joined a local black minstrel show in Denver (date approximate)
1910:
Won gold medal at an elocution contest sponsored by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union for reciting poem "Convict Joe" (date approximate); dropped out of school and toured with minstrel shows, including one featuring members of her family (date approximate)
1920:
Joined the Melody Hounds, a musical ensemble led by George Morrison; toured USA appearing in vaudeville houses operated by the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA)
1924:
Made radio debut singing with Morrison's group in Denver
1929:
After TOBA went bankrupt, left stranded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
:
Worked as a ladies' room attendent at Sam Pick's Suburban Inn in Milwaukee; when owner heard her sing, gave her headliner spot
1931:
Moved to L.A. to pursue acting career in films; worked as a dishwasher to support herself
:
Appeared on radio as 'Hi-Hat Hattie', a bossy maid who often "forgets her place"
1932:
First film appearance, "The Golden West"
1932:
Appeared alongside Marlene Dietrich in "Blonde Venus"
1933:
Played the maid to Mae West in "I'm No Angel"
1934:
Had small role in "Imitation of Life"
1934:
First garnered attention as the washerwoman Aunt Dilsey in "Judge Priest", directed by John Ford; performed duet with Will Rogers in film
1935:
Appeared in "Alice Adams" and "The Littlest Colonel"
1936:
Reprised her stage part of Queenie in film version of "Show Boat"
1937:
Had featured role in "Nothing Sacred", starring Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray
1939:
Was briefly glimpsed as a maid in "The Women"
1939:
Cast in most famous role of Mammy in "Gone With the Wind"; barred from attending the film's premiere in Atlanta because of racial segregation in the South; became first black performer to win an Academy Award
:
During 1940s, criticized by NAACP for perpetuating the stereotype of a subservient domestic
1941:
Appeared in the Western "They Died with Their Boots on"
:
During WWII, organized entertainments for black soldiers and sailors serving in the military
1942:
Once again played a domestic in "In This Our Life", starring Bette Davis and directed by John Huston; character confronts racial issues as her law student son is wrongly accused of manslaughter
1944:
Acted in "Since You Went Away"
1946:
Co-starred in the Disney film "Song of the South"
:
Cast in title role of the radio comedy "Beulah"
1948:
Last film appearances, "Mickey" and "Family Honeymoon"
1952:
Starred in the CBS sitcom version of "Beulah"; only appeared in a handful of episodes before suffering a heart attack that caused her to withdraw
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

When McDaniel was criticized in the 1940s by the NAACP for her penchant for playing servants in films, she reportedly replied: "I'd rather play a maid on film than be force to work as one in real life." (Another version of her response: "I'd rather play a maid and make $700 a week than be a maid and make $7.")

At the time of her death in 1952, McDaniel could not be buried in the cemetary of her choice -- Hollywood Memorial Park -- because of racial segregation. Her second choice, Rosedale Cemetary also had a similar policy, but it was waived and the actress became the first African-American buried there. In October 1999, the new owners of the burial grounds, now renamed Hollywood Memorial Park, unveiled a granite monument in her honor.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
J Lloyd Crawford.
husband:
Larry C Williams.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Henry McDaniel. Banjo player, Baptist preacher. Former slave; headlined his own minstrel show in the early 1900s; retired from performing in 1916.
mother:
Susan McDaniel. Singer.
sister:
Etta McDaniel. Actor.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel" Madison Books

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