Hattie Mcdaniel


Actor
Hattie Mcdaniel

About

Also Known As
Hattie Mcdaniels
Birth Place
Wichita, Kansas, USA
Born
June 10, 1895
Died
October 26, 1952
Cause of Death
Breast Cancer

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 e...

Family & Companions

J Lloyd Crawford
Husband
Larry C Williams
Husband

Bibliography

"Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel"
Carlton Jackson, Madison Books (1990)

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.

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 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."Hattie McDaniel was born in Wichita, KS on June 10, 1893. The youngest of 13 children of Baptist minister Harry McDaniel and his wife, the former Susan Holbert - both former slaves - McDaniel grew up in Denver, CO. In 1908, she enrolled in Denver East High School, where she was active in the drama club and won a contest sponsored by the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Dropping out in her sophomore year, McDaniel joined her brother Otis' minstrel show, writing songs and touring with the troupe in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, while also singing on the radio. The company disbanded with Otis McDaniel's death in 1916. She also founded an all-female minstrel troupe with her sister, Etta Goff. In her time with the McDaniel Sisters Company, she began developing a stock character, an all-knowing, mouthy mammy. In 1920, McDaniel was hired as a vocalist for Professor George Morrison's Melody Hounds, a Denver-based jazz orchestra, and recorded a number of jazz sides for Okeh and Paramount Records, as well as the Kansas City label Merritt.After the 1929 stock market crash, McDaniel was reduced to working as a washroom attendant in a whites-only Milwaukee nightclub, though she eventually convinced its owner to let her perform. Eventually she joined her brother Sam and sisters Etta and Orlena in Hollywood, where Sam had found work in radio and films. While she looked for acting work, McDaniel became a regular on "The Optimistic Do-Nut Hour," broadcast on KNX, where she perfected the character of Hi-Hat Hattie, an uppity black maid who knew better than her affluent white employers and never tried to hide it. She made her film debut for Universal as a hospital patient in James Whale's melodrama "The Impatient Maiden" (1932), starring Lew Ayres and Mae Clark. A bit as a singer in Harry Beaumont's "Are You Listening?" (1932) at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer followed but when she was cast as a maid in Charles Brabin's political drama "The Washington Masquerade" (1932) and a cook in the Hoot Gibson Western "The Boiling Point" (1932), she found her niche as Hollywood's go-to sassy domestic. Though far from attaining co-star status with Marlene Dietrich in Josef von Sternberg's Depression era melodrama "Blonde Venus" (1932), McDaniel's onscreen business with the Berlin import put her on par with her leading lady in the eyes of moviegoers worldwide. McDaniel also worked well with Mae West, playing her opinionated manicurist in Wesley Ruggles' comedy "I'm No Angel" (1933), co-starring Cary Grant.It was not until John Ford's "Judge Priest" (1934), which put her in the frame with humorist Will Rogers and black sidekick Stepin Fetchit, that Hi-Hat Hattie truly began to assert herself, cutting through the air with her demonstrative, booming voice, and popping her eyes proactively as if to silence any potential disagreement and rebuke the coonish inclinations of Fetchit's lazy houseboy. The manifestation of McDaniel's onscreen persona, as the true whip hand in any of her domestic situations, was evident in many of her films that year, including the comedy "Lost in the Stratosphere" and "The Little Colonel," co-starring Shirley Temple. That same year, McDaniel joined the Screen Actors Guild and signed a long-term contract with The Fox Film Corporation. It was director George Stevens who received credit for revealing the true Hi-Hat Hattie in his film "Alice Adams" (1935). Starring Katherine Hepburn in an early role, the film revolved around a poor girl who aims to make a place for herself in society by pretending to be affluent, roping her parents into the charade of hiring a black maid to impress suitor Fred MacMurray. In the film's classic dinner scene, the white characters leapfrog from one faux pas to another while McDaniel's huffy hireling, Malena Burns, grunts, rolls her eyes, chews gum, and mutters withering asides that deflate the white characters' pretension with the acuity of a Greek chorus. Critics singled out McDaniel's brilliant comic timing and her characters grew in prominence. At MGM, she played Jean Harlow's servant in both Tay Garnett's "China Seas" (1935) and Jack Conway's "Saratoga" (1937) and was capricious society girl Barbara Stanwyck's surrogate mother in "The Mad Miss Manton" (1938). In all of these roles, McDaniel was only nominally subservient to her white employers, to whom she served as life coach, Devil's advocate, and mother confessor.But it was producer David O. Selznick's "Gone with the Wind" (1939), based on the historical novel by Margaret Mitchell and set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, that provided McDaniel with the role of her lifetime. As Mammy, house servant to spoiled Georgia peach Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), McDaniel brought her usual stock-in-trade bossiness to bear, but the film's scope and rich Technicolor palette seemed to push the actress through the imagined fourth wall and into the laps of moviegoers. Etched by the actress - and Selznick, who ordered script changes to complement the actress' style - as both a foster mother to the orphaned Scarlett and the film's only true defender of family values, Mammy was at once an expressly comical character and the film's true heart and soul. Though the color of her skin precluded her from attending the film's star-studded but segregated Atlanta premiere, McDaniel was singled out for praise by The New York Times and became the first black actor to win an Academy Award. In fact, it was a credit to the woman's great dignity that she was able to make such a touching, teary speech after being seated at the far rear of the ceremony's venue, while her non-nominated white co-stars sat up front.Despite the segregation in the world at large, she became a close friend to many of her Hollywood co-stars, among them Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, Joan Crawford, Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple, living and working among them as something like a peer. Unfortunately she drew fire from some blacks for choosing to play second class Americans - prompting the quick-witted actress to quip "I'd rather play a maid than be one." She would play domestics throughout World War II, taking care of Errol Flynn's doomed General Custer in "They Died with Their Boots On" (1941), picking up after displaced New Yorkers Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan in the rural farce "George Washington Slept Here" (1942), wronged by employer Bette Davis in "In This Our Life" (1942), and mentoring scatterbrained teen Joyce Reynolds in Michael Curtiz' featherweight "Janie" (1944) and Vincent Sherman's sequel "Janie Gets Married" (1946). As Aunt Tempy in Disney's "Song of the South" (1946), McDaniel was nursemaid to child star Bobby Driscoll, but the spark of her earlier performances was conspicuous in its absence. In her final feature film role, as a maid in the racetrack drama "The Big Wheel" (1949) starring Mickey Rooney, she barely registered.Starting in 1947, McDaniel made $1,000 per week as the star of the CBS radio comedy "The Beulah Show." The character originated in 1944 as a supporting player on "Fibber McGee and Molly" and was voiced by white actor Marlin Hurt. When McDaniel assumed the role, she became the first black woman to star in a network radio program. A TV spin-off, "Beulah" was launched by ABC in 1950, with Ethel Waters in the title role. When Waters left the sitcom in 1951, McDaniel took on the role for television as well, but appeared in only six episodes. Diagnosed with breast cancer, she ceded the radio series to Lillian Randolph and the TV show to Louise Beavers. Hattie McDaniel died on Oct. 26, 1952. Though it had been her wish to be buried at the segregated Hollywood Cemetery, her remains were interred instead at Los Angeles' Rosedale Cemetery. Two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame were awarded posthumously. In 1999, a monument was placed in her honor at the renamed Hollywood Forever Cemetery, her preferred resting place. By Richard Harland Smith

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Wisecracks (1991)
Herself
Family Honeymoon (1949)
Phyllis
The Big Wheel (1949)
Minnie
Mickey (1948)
Bertha
The Flame (1947)
Celia
Janie Gets Married (1946)
April
Margie (1946)
Cynthia
Never Say Goodbye (1946)
Cozy
Song of the South (1946)
Aunt Tempy
Since You Went Away (1944)
Fidelia
Janie (1944)
April
3 Is a Family (1944)
Unnamed maid
Hi, Beautiful (1944)
Millie
Johnny Come Lately (1943)
Aida
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
Gossip in "Ice Cold Katie" number
They Died with Their Boots On (1942)
Callie
In This Our Life (1942)
Minerva Clay
The Male Animal (1942)
Cleota
George Washington Slept Here (1942)
Hester
Affectionately Yours (1941)
Cynthia
The Great Lie (1941)
Violet
Maryland (1940)
Aunt Clara
Everybody's Baby (1939)
Hattie
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Mammy
Zenobia (1939)
Dehlia
Battle of Broadway (1938)
Agatha
Carefree (1938)
Hattie
The Shining Hour (1938)
Belvedere
The Shopworn Angel (1938)
Martha
Vivacious Lady (1938)
Maid
The Mad Miss Manton (1938)
Hilda
Over the Goal (1937)
Hannah
45 Fathers (1937)
Beulah
The Crime Nobody Saw (1937)
Ambrosia
Can This Be Dixie? (1937)
Lizzie
The Wildcatter (1937)
Maid
Racing Lady (1937)
Abby
Sky Racket (1937)
Don't Tell the Wife (1937)
Mamie
True Confession (1937)
Ella
Quick Money (1937)
Hattie
Merry-Go-Round of 1938 (1937)
Maid
Stella Dallas (1937)
Maid
Nothing Sacred (1937)
Mrs. Walker
Saratoga (1937)
Rosetta
Postal Inspector (1936)
Deborah
Show Boat (1936)
Queenie
Gentle Julia (1936)
Kitty Silvers
High Tension (1936)
Hattie
The First Baby (1936)
Dora
Hearts Divided (1936)
Mammy
Star for a Night (1936)
Hattie
Next Time We Love (1936)
Hanna
Libeled Lady (1936)
Maid in hall
Reunion (1936)
Sadie
The Singing Kid (1936)
Maid
Valiant Is the Word for Carrie (1936)
Ellen Belle
The Bride Walks Out (1936)
Maime
We're Only Human (1935)
Molly
The Little Colonel (1935)
Mom Beck
Music Is Magic (1935)
Amanda [Hattie]
Another Face (1935)
Nellie
Murder by Television (1935)
Isabella
China Seas (1935)
Isabel McCarthy
Harmony Lane (1935)
Liza
Traveling Saleslady (1935)
Alice Adams (1935)
Malena Burns
Imitation of Life (1934)
Person at funeral
Merry Wives of Reno (1934)
Maid
Operator 13 (1934)
Annie
Babbitt (1934)
Rosalie
Little Men (1934)
Asia
Judge Priest (1934)
Aunt Dilsey
Lost in the Stratosphere (1934)
Ida Johnson
The Story of Temple Drake (1933)
Minnie
The Golden West (1932)
Mammy Lou
Are You Listening? (1932)
Singer
The Washington Masquerade (1932)
Maid
Blonde Venus (1932)
Cora, Helen's maid
Hypnotized (1932)
Ladies' room attendant
Crooner (1932)

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Wisecracks (1991)
Other

Cast (Short)

Cavalcade of the Academy Awards (1940)
Herself
The Four Star Boarder (1935)
Okay Toots! (1935)
Fate's Fathead (1934)
CHASES OF PIMPLE STREET (1934)

Life Events

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

1931

Moved to L.A. to pursue acting career in films; worked as a dishwasher to support herself

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

1941

Appeared in the Western "They Died with Their Boots on"

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"

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

Photo Collections

Gone With the Wind - Wardrobe Stills
Here are several rare wardrobe stills taken for David O. Selznick's Gone With the Wind (1939). Such test stills were taken prior to principal photography to approve the look and design of costumes. (Images courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
Family Honeymoon - Scene Stills
Family Honeymoon - Scene Stills

Videos

Movie Clip

Little Colonel, The (1935) - I Ought To Kill You After a mild opening scene establishing Kentucky “in the 70’s,” just about the whole premise, Elizabeth (Evelyn Venable) aided by Hattie McDaniel wants to elope with yankee Jack (John Lodge) who seems decent but her grandfather the colonel (Lionel Barrymore) doesn’t care, in Shirley Temple’s first film with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, The Little Colonel, 1935.
Little Colonel, The (1935) - My Dream Of Life (a.k.a Love's Young Dream) Shirley Temple as young Lloyd has conspired with servants Hattie McDaniel and Bill Robinson to assume a dress and bonnet that belonged to her mother, and advances her scheme to soften up her grouchy ex-Confederate grandfather the colonel (Lionel Barrymore), in The Little Colonel, 1935.
Great Lie, The (1941) - News About Your Friends Aviator Pete (George Brent) swoops into the Maryland home of long-time girlfriend Maggie (Bette Davis), intercepted by maid Violet (Hattie McDaniel), he alone knowing that his much-publicized hasty marriage to a famous pianist is not legal after all, early in The Great Lie, 1941.
Bride Walks Out, The (1936) - I Married Them Quick scene setter opening, Barbara Stanwyck, Gene Raymond as girl and boyfriend with differing financial circumstances, Hattie McDaniel wisecracking, Leigh Jason directing, in the modest RKO rom-com The Bride Walks Out, 1936.
Janie Gets Married (1946) - I'll Have The Screaming Meanies! Mayhem on wedding day at the Conway household, mom (Ann Harding) greets bridesmaids (Anne Gillis, Ruth Tobey), meets Dad (Edward Arnold) and preoccupied Joan Leslie (title character) tangles with her sly little sister (Clare Foley), Hattie McDaniel the exasperated maid, early in Janie Gets Married, 1946.
Show Boat (1936) - Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man Hard to pick the best part as Helen Morgan ("Julie"), brings first Irene Dunne ("Magnolia") then Hattie McDaniel ("Queenie") and Paul Robeson ("Joe") into her performance of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man"by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, in Show Boat, 1936.
George Washington Slept Here (1942) - Trapped Like A Rat A missing phone, panicked maid Hester (Hattie McDaniel), sister Madge (Joyce Reynolds), boyfriend Steve (William Tracy), and disgruntled husband Bill (Jack Benny), creating problems for Connie (Ann Sheridan) in her Pennsylvania farmhouse, in George Washington Slept Here, 1942.
George Washington Slept Here (1942) - Roomy Drawers Jack Benny (as "Bill Fuller") arrives home not knowing wife Connie (Ann Sheridan) has, sort of on purpose, gotten them evicted from their Manhattan apartment by landlord Gibney (Franklin Pangborn), early in George Washington Slept Here, 1942, from the Kaufman and Hart play.
Gone With The Wind (1939) - Savannah Would Be Better Blinding narrative speed covers the entire marriage of Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) to Charles (Rand Brooks), her plan to further pursue Ashley (Leslie Howard) and upbraiding by Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) to boot, in Gone With The Wind, 1939.
Gone With The Wind (1939) - Never Be Hungry Again! If ever a scene called for an intermission, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) hears bad news from slaves (Butterfly McQueen, Hattie McDaniel), flees the house, and makes a vow, ending the first half of Gone With The Wind, 1939.
Shopworn Angel, The (1938) - The War's In France From director H.C. Potter's WWI mobilization-and-Broadway montage, to the introduction of musical star Daisy (Margaret Sullavan) and maid Martha (Hattie McDaniel), in MGM's 1938 remake of The Shopworn Angel.
They Died With Their Boots On (1942) - Fat Little Pipsqueak Libby (Olivia De Havilland), with servant Callie (Hattie McDaniel) is entertaining amorous on-leave cadet Custer (Errol Flynn), pretending to share his love of onions when her Michigan merchant father (Gene Lockhart), whom he earlier insulted, arrives, in They Died With Their Boots On, 1942.

Trailer

Janie - (Original Trailer) A small-town girl (Joyce Reynolds) defies her father by falling for a soldier (Robert Hutton).
Crooner - (Original Trailer) David Manners has all the girls at his feet for he is the Crooner (1932).
Babbitt - (Original Trailer) Guy Kibbee is prefectly cast as Sinclair Lewis' small-town businessman, Babbitt (1934).
Gone With the Wind (1939) -- (1961 Re-Issue Trailer) Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) fights to save her beloved plantation and find love during the Civil War in Gone With the Wind (1939).
Affectionately Yours - (Original Trailer) A foreign correspondent hurries home to stop his wife from getting a divorce in the romantic comedy, Affectionately Yours (1941) starring Merle Oberon, Dennis Morgan and Rita Hayworth.
Traveling Saleslady, The - (Original Trailer) Joan Blondell beats the Depression blues by marketing a "cocktail toothpaste" in the comedy The Traveling Saleslady (1935).
They Died With Their Boots On -- (Original Trailer) Errol Flynn stars in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), a romanticized biography of General George Armstrong Custer.
Libeled Lady - (Original Trailer) When an heiress sues a newspaper, the editor hires a gigolo to compromise her in Libeled Lady, 1936, starring Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy and William Powell.
Shopworn Angel, The - (Original Trailer) A showgirl (Margaret Sullavan) gives up life in the fast line for a young soldier (James Stewart) on his way to fight World War I in The Shopworn Angel (1938).
Nothing Sacred - (Original Trailer) When a small-town girl is diagnosed with a rare, deadly disease, an ambitious newspaper man turns her into a national heroine in Nothing Sacred (1937).
George Washington Slept Here - (Original Trailer) Jack Benny says goodbye to city life when he buys a Connecticut farmhouse in the movie version of the Kaufman and Hart play George Washington Slept Here (1942).
Great Lie, The -- (Original Trailer) Bette Davis, believing her husband to be dead, bargains with his former love to adopt the woman's baby in The Great Lie (1941).

Family

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

Companions

J Lloyd Crawford
Husband
Larry C Williams
Husband

Bibliography

"Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel"
Carlton Jackson, Madison Books (1990)

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.