Birthday: June 10, 1895
African American Actress
Died At Age: 57
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Hi-Hat Hattie, Mamie, The Colored Sophie Tucker, Hattie McDaniels
Born in: Wichita
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: George Langford, Howard Hickman, James Lloyd Crawford, Larry Williams, Nym Lankfard
father: Henry McDaniel
mother: Susan Holbert
siblings: Etta McDaniel, Orlena McDaniel, Otis McDaniel, Sam McDaniel
Died on: October 26, 1952
place of death: Woodland Hills
U.S. State: Kansas, African-American From Kansas
City: Wichita, Kansas
education: East High School
Hattie McDaniel was an African American actress, singer and radio performer. She had the distinction of becoming the first African American actor to receive an Oscar for her supporting character as “Mammy” in the movie “Gone with the Wind” in 1940. Her singing talents were discovered early, and she started to sing and perform professionally while she was in school. Later she joined her elder brother’s troupe and worked with George Morrison’s orchestra. Her work with the vaudeville troupes earned her a position to work with the radio station in Denver. Even after establishing herself as a blues artist, it was difficult for Hattie to sustain herself. Persuaded by her siblings she moved to Los Angles in the lure of the tinsel town. Hattie landed with minor roles in movies, as it was difficult for African-Americans to get good roles in movies. But, Hattie had the acting prowess and soon she started getting meatier roles, eventually landing in the epic saga ‘Gone with the Wind’. In her later career, she faced criticism about featuring in stereotypical roles meant for the colored people like servants and slaves. But, Hattie defended her choice stating that the roles were much more than what meets the eye, and used her talent as an actor and singer to break the racial stereotypes rather than criticizing them.
Childhood & Early Life
Hattie McDaniel was born on 10 June 1895, in Wichita, Kansas to Henry McDaniel and Susan Holbert. Both her parents were former slaves. Her father was a soldier and had fought in the Americal Civil War. Hattie was the youngest child in the family and had 12 siblings.
Her family moved to Colorado in 1900, first staying in Fort Collins and thereafter in Denver and Hattie completed her graduation from a school called Denver East High School.
Hattie McDaniel’s brother Sam McDaniel acted as a butler in a short film titled “Heavenly Daze” that was released in 1948; actor Etta McDaniel was Hattie’s sibling too.
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Hattie McDaniel commenced her career in professional dancing, singing and performing skits in various shows while she was still in school. Eventually, in 1909, Hattie made up her mind to drop out of her school so that she could have her entire focus on career while performing with her brother’s own troupe.
During the 1920s, Hattie collaborated with the orchestra of Professor George Morrison and toured with his troops for five years from thereon. Eventually, by the middle of the same decade, invitations were sent to her for performing on KOA radio station of Denver.
During this time, she was quite popular in the vaudeville circuit as a blues artist. Despite her talent, she found it difficult to find work and had to take up odd jobs to support herself.
Hattie’s siblings who were already in Los Angeles and were working in minor roles asked her to come to Hollywood. Her brother who was part of the radio show called ‘The Optimistic Do-Nuts’ asked Hattie to do a segment in his program. Hattie was quite a hit among the listeners.
She got her first brief role in a Hollywood musical in 1931 as an extra. She featured as a housekeeper in 1932 in a movie titled ‘The Golden West’.
After many small and insignificant roles, Hattie McDaniel managed to get an important role in a movie called ‘Judge Priest’ in 1934 where she sang a duet with the actor Will Rogers.
She was in much demand as she bagged the role of Mom Beck and acted opposite Lionel Barrymore and Shirley Temple in ‘The Little Colonel’.
The film with Lionel and Shirley was a turning point in her career, as many directors started giving her good offers in movies. One of the movies was ‘ShowBoat’, in which Hattie played the part of Queenie.
The highlight of Hattie’s acting career was her role in the famous film “’one with the Wind’ in 1939 where she played the role of Scarlett O’ Hara’s house servant ‘Mammy’ that eventually got her an Oscar in 1940. The irony was Hattie and other colored actors of the film were not allowed to attend the premier of the movie.
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In the 1940s Hattie appeared in roles that were quite criticized by the post-Civil War African-American community who termed the roles as regressive and old-fashioned. Plus they also thought that catering to roles like Mama Beck and Mammy only established the fact to the world that African-Americans were content with being typecast as slaves and servants.
Hattie was quick to respond to these accusations and stated that roles like Mammy was much more than being a servant. In defense of her statement, she took up similar roles. But with the progress of Civil Rights Movement, Hattie was offered less and less roles and she returned to radio.
In 1947, Hattie took up the show ‘The Beulah Show’. The role was that of a maid, but Hattie was able to move out of the racial stereotypes with the help of NAACP.
In 1951, Hattie has just initiated the televised version of ‘The Beulah Show’ when she had a heart attack. A year later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Her role as Mammy in ‘Gone with the Wind’ is probably the most celebrated work of her career. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her stupendous portrayal of a brave and upfront servant in a rich white household in a war-torn Southern state.
Awards & Achievements
Hattie McDaniel was the first African American actor to receive an Oscar Award. She was also the first black woman to sing on the radio in the United States of America.
She was inducted into the ‘Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame” in the year 1975.
Hattie has also been posthumously given two stars in the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2006, a U.S postage stamp was published in her honour.
Personal Life and Legacy
Hattie McDaniel married several times. Her first marriage was with George Langford in 1922. Langford died in the same year.
In 1938, Hattie McDaniel got married to Howard Hickman but the couple divorced in the same year.
The actress married her third husband James Lloyd Crawford who was a real estate salesman in the year 1941. She divorced Crawford in 1945 after she suffered a false pregnancy and fell into a depression.
In 1949, Hattie married Larry Williams, an interior decorator. However, the couple had a divorced after five months.
Hattie McDaniel died of breast cancer on 26 October 1952, at the age of 57.
Though Hattie had mentioned in her will that she wished to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery, but it remained unfulfilled. The said Cemetery is situated in Santa Monica Boulevard and is the resting place for any of the Hollywood movie actors like Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks among others. The officials of Hollywood Cemetery had refused for her burial there as they would not allow the black people to burry there as a practice of racial segregation. She was eventually buried in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery which was her second choice.