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Hattie McDaniel was an actress, singer, and radio personality of African ancestry. In 1940, she became the first African American performer to win an Academy Award for her supporting role as “Mammy” in the film “Gone with the Wind.” Early on, her singing abilities were recognized, and she began singing and performing professionally while still in school. Later in life, she became a member of her elder brother’s troupe and collaborated with George Morrison’s orchestra. Her involvement with vaudeville troupes won her a position at a Denver radio station. Even after establishing herself as a blues performer, Hattie struggled to maintain her career. Persuaded by her siblings, she relocated to Los Angeles for the glitz and glamour. Hattie obtained minor roles in films due to the difficulty African-Americans faced in obtaining good roles. However, Hattie possessed acting ability, and she quickly landed more substantial roles, eventually landing in the epic drama ‘Gone with the Wind’. Later in her career, she attracted criticism for portraying traditional African-American roles such as servants and slaves. However, Hattie defended her choice, arguing that the roles were far more than what they appeared to be, and that she used her talent as an actor and vocalist to transcend racial stereotypes rather than criticize them.

Childhood & Adolescence

Hattie McDaniel was born in Wichita, Kansas on 10 June 1895 to Henry McDaniel and Susan Holbert. Her parents were both formerly enslaved. Her father was a veteran of the American Civil War. Hattie was the family’s youngest child, with twelve siblings.

Her family relocated to Colorado in 1900, first to Fort Collins and then to Denver, where Hattie graduated from Denver East High School.
Hattie McDaniel’s brother Sam McDaniel appeared as a butler in the 1948 short film “Heavenly Daze”; actress Etta McDaniel was also a McDaniel.

Hattie McDaniel’s Career

Hattie McDaniel began her professional career while still in high school, dancing, singing, and performing skits in numerous performances. Eventually, in 1909, Hattie decided to drop out of school in order to devote her complete attention to her career while playing with her brother’s troupe.

Throughout the 1920s, Hattie collaborated with Professor George Morrison’s orchestra and toured with his troops for five years. By the middle of the decade, she had received offers to perform on Denver’s KOA radio station.
During this time period, she was highly renowned as a blues musician on the vaudeville circuit. Despite her abilities, she struggled to find work and was forced to perform odd jobs to support herself.

Hattie was invited to Hollywood by her siblings, who were already in Los Angeles and acting in minor roles. Hattie was requested to do a piece on her brother’s radio show, ‘The Optimistic Do-Nuts,’ by her brother. Hattie was a huge hit with the audience.
As an extra, she landed her first brief role in a Hollywood musical in 1931. In 1932, she starred as a housekeeper in the film ‘The Golden West’.

After a string of minor roles, Hattie McDaniel landed a prominent role in 1934’s ‘Judge Priest,’ in which she performed a duet with actor Will Rogers.
She was in high demand after landing the role of Mom Beck in ‘The Little Colonel’ alongside Lionel Barrymore and Shirley Temple.

The picture with Lionel and Shirley was a watershed moment in her career, as numerous directors began approaching her with good film offers. Among the films was ‘ShowBoat,’ in which Hattie portrayed Queenie.

Hattie’s acting career culminated with her performance as Scarlett O’Hara’s house servant ‘Mammy’ in the renowned film ‘one with the Wind’ in 1939, which earned her an Oscar in 1940. The irony is that Hattie and the other film’s colored cast members were not permitted to attend the film’s premiere.

In the 1940s, Hattie starred in roles that drew widespread condemnation from the post-Civil War African-American community, who characterized the roles as retrograde and outmoded. Additionally, they believed that catering to positions such as Mama Beck and Mammy demonstrated to the world that African-Americans were comfortable with being stereotyped as slaves and servants.

Hattie responded quickly to these claims, stating that roles such as Mammy entailed much more than being a servant. To bolster her assertion, she took on similar tasks. However, as the Civil Rights Movement progressed, Hattie was offered fewer and fewer roles and returned to radio.

Hattie began her career in 1947 with ‘The Beulah Show.’ Although the job was that of a maid, Hattie was able to overcome racial preconceptions with the assistance of the NAACP.
Hattie had barely begun the broadcast version of ‘The Beulah Show’ in 1951 when she suffered a heart attack. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a year later.

Her Significant Works

Her portrayal of Mammy in ‘Gone with the Wind’ is arguably her most renowned part. She earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her magnificent portrayal of a courageous and forthright servant in a wealthy white family in a war-torn Southern state.

Awards and Accomplishments

Hattie McDaniel was the first black actor to win an Academy Award. She was also the first black lady to perform on American radio.
In 1975, she was inducted into the “Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.”

Hattie was also posthumously honored with two stars on Hollywood’s illustrious Walk of Fame.
In 2006, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in her honor.

Personal History and Enduring Legacy

Hattie McDaniel married multiple times throughout her life. In 1922, she married George Langford. Langford died the following year.
Hattie McDaniel married Howard Hickman in 1938, but the pair split the following year.

In 1941, the actress married her third spouse, James Lloyd Crawford, a real estate broker. She divorced Crawford in 1945, following a false pregnancy and depression.

Hattie Williams married Larry Williams, an interior decorator, in 1949. However, after five months, the couple divorced.
Hattie McDaniel died on 26 October 1952, at the age of 57, of breast cancer.

Estimated Net worth

Hattie is one of the wealthiest film actresses and is ranked among the most popular film actresses. Hattie McDaniel’s net worth is estimated to be around $1.5 million, based on our review of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.

Trivia

Though Hattie expressed a desire to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in her will, her wish remained unmet. The Cemetery is located on Santa Monica Boulevard and is the final resting place for several Hollywood film stars, including Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks.

The officials of Hollywood Cemetery had refused to bury her there, citing their policy of racial segregation. She was ultimately laid to rest in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, her second choice.