Hattie McDaniel

Actor, Singer, Dancer
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 ... Read more »
Born: 06/10/1895 in Wichita, Kansas, USA

Filmography

Actor (47)

Margie 1946 (Movie)

Cynthia (Actor)

Janie 1944 (Movie)

April - Conway's Maid (Actor)

Johnny Come Lately 1942 (Movie)

Aida (Actor)

Thank Your Lucky Stars 1942 (Movie)

(Actor)

They Died With Their Boots On 1940 (Movie)

(Actor)

Gone With the Wind 1939 (Movie)

Mammy (Actor)

Nothing Sacred 1936 (Movie)

Mrs Walker (Actor)

Show Boat 1936 (Movie)

(Actor)

Valiant Is the Word For Carrie 1935 (Movie)

(Actor)

Alice Adams 1934 (Movie)

Malena (Actor)

Imitation of Life 1933 (Movie)

(Actor)

Blonde Venus 1932 (Movie)

Maid (Actor)

I'm No Angel 1932 (Movie)

(Actor)

Affectionately Yours (Movie)

Cynthia (Actor)

Babbitt (Movie)

(Actor)

Beulah (TV Show)

Actor

Can This Be Dixie? (Movie)

Lizzie (Actor)

Everybody's Baby (Movie)

Hattie (Actor)

Family Honeymoon (Movie)

Phyllis (Actor)

George Washington Slept Here (Movie)

Hester (Actor)

Harmony Lane (Movie)

Cook (Actor)

Hearts Divided (Movie)

Mammy (Actor)

Hypnotized (Movie)

(Actor)

In This Our Life (Movie)

Minerva Clay (Actor)

Janie Gets Married (Movie)

April (Actor)

Judge Priest (Movie)

Aunt Dilsey (Actor)

Lost in the Stratosphere (Movie)

(Actor)

Maryland (Movie)

Hattie (Actor)

Merry-Go-Round of 1938 (Movie)

(Actor)

Murder by Television (Movie)

(Actor)

Operator 13 (Movie)

Cook (Actor)

Over the Goal (Movie)

Hannah (Actor)

Saratoga (Movie)

Rosetta (Actor)

Since You Went Away (Movie)

Fidelia (Actor)

Song of the South (Movie)

Aunt Tempy (Actor)

The Big Wheel (Movie)

Minnie (Actor)

The Bride Walks Out (Movie)

Maime (Actor)

The Great Lie (Movie)

Violet (Actor)

The Little Colonel (Movie)

Mom Beck (Actor)

The Mad Miss Manton (Movie)

Hilda (Actor)

The Male Animal (Movie)

Cleota (Actor)

The Shining Hour (Movie)

Belvedere (Actor)

The Shopworn Angel (Movie)

Martha the Maid (Actor)

The Story of Temple Drake (Movie)

Minnie (Actor)

The Traveling Saleslady (Movie)

Black Woman (Actor)

True Confession (Movie)

Ella (Actor)

Zenobia (Movie)

Dehlia (Actor)

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."

Relationships

James Crawford

Husband

Henry McDaniel

Father
former slave headlined his own minstrel show in the early 1900s retired from performing in 1916

Susan McDaniel

Mother

Etta McDaniel

Sister

Larry Williams

Husband

EDUCATION

dropped out of school at age 15

Milestones

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

1948

Last film appearances, "Mickey" and "Family Honeymoon"

1946

Co-starred in the Disney film "Song of the South"

1943

Acted in "Since You Went Away"

1941

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

1940

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

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

1939

Was briefly glimpsed as a maid in "The Women"

1937

Had featured role in "Nothing Sacred", starring Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray

1936

Reprised her stage part of Queenie in film version of "Show Boat"

1935

Appeared in "Alice Adams" and "The Littlest Colonel"

1934

First garnered attention as the washerwoman Aunt Dilsey in "Judge Priest", directed by John Ford; performed duet with Will Rogers in film

1934

Had small role in "Imitation of Life"

1933

Played the maid to Mae West in "I'm No Angel"

1932

First film appearance, "The Golden West"

1932

Appeared alongside Marlene Dietrich in "Blonde Venus"

1931

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

1929

After TOBA went bankrupt, left stranded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1924

Made radio debut singing with Morrison's group in Denver

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)

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 approx

1908

Joined a local black minstrel show in Denver (date approximate)

1901

Family moved to Denver, Colorado from Kansas

Appeared on radio as 'Hi-Hat Hattie', a bossy maid who often "forgets her place"

During WWII, organized entertainments for black soldiers and sailors serving in the military

Cast in title role of the radio comedy "Beulah"

During 1940s, criticized by NAACP for perpetuating the stereotype of a subservient domestic

Worked as a ladies' room attendent at Sam Pick's Suburban Inn in Milwaukee; when owner heard her sing, gave her headliner spot

Bonus Trivia

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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.")

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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.

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