Jump to Navigation

Hattie McDaniel - Newspaper articles

Photograph of Hattie McDanielThis material was taken from the Verticle File microfilm reel MF 272. It consists of newspaper articles that have been collected regarding Hattie McDaniel. The articles have been reproduced as closely to the original as possible, no corrections have been made. Not all the photographs have been reproduced. The microfilm is available through interlibrary loan.


Native Wichitan Has Important Role In 'Gone With the Wind'

When "Gone with the Wind" opens Saturday at the Orpheum theater, Wichitans will see a Wichita born actress in one of the principal characters supporting Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. She is Hattie McDaniel, who has elicited the highest praise that could be offered by drama critics in every city where "Gone with the Wind" has played.

Hattie was born in Wichita on June 10, 1898, and Hattie McDaniel is her real name. She is the daughter of Susan Holbert and Henry McDaniel, and she was the thirteenth child in the family. Her father was a Baptist preacher whose services were enlivened by the songs offered by Hattie's mother.

Hattie inherited her mother's fine voice, and received her first taste of fame when she sang over the radio in Denver with Prof. George Morrison's orchestra. She was the first colored girl to croon over the air waves, and her contralto voice has remained one of her most valuable assets. She sang "I Still Suits Me" in the picture "Showboat" with Paul Robeson, and another number with Irene Dunne, but most of her screen work has been confined to acting.

After a long and successful career on the stage, Hattie transferred her talent to motion pictures, and has for years been familiar to theater-goers who have seen her beaming countenance in many a "mammy" role. As for Hattie, she believes "Gone with the Wind" is the best break she's had yet, and the big-wigs of the picture business, together with the dramatic critics on key city newspapers, seem to agree.

Wichita Eagle, February 13, 1940


McDaniel, Hattie, June 10, 1895?-Oct. 26, 1952

Actress, singer

by Joseph T. Skerrett.

A large woman with an expressive face and imposing voice, Hattie McDaniel won fame in the 1930s for her film portrayals of brash, worldly-wise maids, including Mammy in Gone With the Wind, the role which earned her an Academy Award. Like other great black performers before her, she realized and accepted the limitations of the roles in which she was cast--but within those limits she reached for power, asserting the strength and humanity of the characters she interpreted.

She was born in Wichita, Kans., the thirteenth child of Henry and Susan (Holbert) McDaniel. A Baptist minister, Henry McDaniel was a former slave, Civil War soldier, and minstrel man who raised a gifted family; Hattie's sister Etta and brother Sam also appeared later in Hollywood films. Hattie began her performing life singing in church choirs as a child. In 1913 her family moved west, to Denver, where Hattie completed two years at East Denver High School. In 1915 she was heard over radio singing with Professor George Morrison's Orchestra and the following year won a gold medal from the Woman's Christian Temperance Union for a dramatic recitation of "Convict Joe." Not long afterward her brother Otis persuaded their parents to allow her to go on tour with his tent show. Thus McDaniel continued her show business apprenticeship, performing minstrel material on the Shrine and Elks circuits. By 1925 she was a headliner on the Pantages vaudeville circuit, later playing a part in a traveling production of Show Boat. Idled in Milwaukee in the late 1920s, McDaniel took a job as a maid at Sam Pick's Suburban Inn. When her chance came for an audition, she sang "St. Louis Blues" and won a starring spot in the club's show, one she held for the next two years.

In 1931 Hattie McDaniel moved to Hollywood, seeking work in the movies. She made her debut in The Golden West in 1932 and appeared in over sixty films in the next seventeen years, becoming one of the most successful black movie performers. Yet she was never able to rely entirely upon her film career for support, complementing her screen roles with radio work. He first broadcasts were in Los Angeles, as Hi-Hat Hattie on "The Optimistic Donuts Show" (1931-32). She was later heard as Mammy in the "Show Boat" variety program during the early 1930s, and on major network programs with Amos 'N' Andy and Eddie Cantor. McDaniel's background as a singer and vaudeville comedian served her well in this medium. Even when her film career faded in the late 1940s, she continued to entertain a large radio audience in the role of Beulah, a wise and comic maid.

Hattie McDaniel's screen career was built upon the image of the verbally flip, clever maid whose knowledge of human nature is wider and wiser than that of the bourgeois sorts who employ her. Hattie McDaniel filled these roles with an ironic energy, using her massive figure,enormously mobile face, and rich voice to transform the meek servant into a knowing critic of the ways of the masters. When asked why she played only these stereotypical domestics, McDaniel replied: "It's Better to get $7,000 a week for playing a servant than $7.00 a week for being one." That was her practical response; her artistic response was equally direct. She created a series of memorable characters whose inescapable humanity could be enjoyed by both white and black audiences. In Alice Adams (1935), Show Boat (1936), Saratoga (1937, and The Mad Miss Manton (1938), she managed to embody the conventional virtues of the faithful servant, while preserving a sense of pride and autonomy in her characters. McDaniel's control over her own artistic vision built toward her portrayal of Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939). Named best supporting actress for this performance, she became the first black American to win an Academy Award.

Hattie McDaniel was married three times. Nothing is known about her first husband, except that he died young. In 1941 she married James Lloyd Crawford, a Los Angeles real estate agent whom she later divorced. Then in 1949 McDaniel married Larry C. Williams, an interior decorator; a year later, this marriage also ended in divorce.

During World War II, McDaniel appeared in several films a year; she also chaired the black section of the Hollywood Victory Committee, organizing entertainments for segregated black troops. Her social activism later extended beyond the war effort when she promoted fund-raising benefits for the education of black youth; she also engaged in a successful anti-discrimination suit involving the purchase of her California home. After the war, roles for blacks in films moved away from comic women, and McDaniel's career faltered. She introduced Beulah to television, but the role had little of the strength of her earlier characterizations. Suffering from cancer in her last two years, Hattie McDaniel died in October 1952 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital in Los Angeles.

[Photographs and documents of Hattie McDaniel and other members of her family are in the Margaret Herrick Library, Acad. of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills, Calif. McDaniel's career is fully assessed in Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mammies, Mulattoes and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (1973). See also Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Films, 1900-1942 (1977), and Roland Flamini, Scarlett, Rhett, and a Cast of Thousands: The Filming of Gone With the Wind (1975). There is a description of McDaniel in Lena Horne, Lena (1965). Accounts of her life and career can be found in Current Biog., 1940; Dict. Am. Biog.,Supp. Five; and Mabel Smythe, ed., The Black American Reference Book (1976). Obituaries appeared in N.Y. Times, Oct. 27, 1952; Variety, Oct. 29, 1952; N.Y. Amsterdam News, Nov. 1, 1952, Printed sources list McDaniel's birth date as 1898. The 1895 birth year was given by her brother Samuel on McDaniel's death certificate, supplied by Calif. Dept. of Health Services.]


Artist

by A. Rea

With the passing of Wichita-born Hattie McDaniel the nation's entertainment world has lost one of its real comediennes. Born here 57 years ago, Miss McDaniel went forth to tickle the country's funny-bone in films, the legitimate theatre, radio and television. Her Characterization of Scarlet O'Hara's mammy in the movie version of "Gone with the Wind" won her an Academy Award and established her as Hollywood's leading Negro actress.

Besides appearing in some 300 films in a long and fruitful career, Miss McDaniel was known to millions of Americans as "Beulah," one of radio's more enduring personalities. Until her retirement about a year ago she also brought her interpretation of the wise, witty and resourceful maid-of-all-work to the TV screen.

Simultaneously with Miss McDaniel's death it was reported that Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, better known by their make-believe roles of Amos and Andy, are considering retirement after 25 years of broadcasting. For those who cherish genuine comedy, performed by sincere artists, these two items of news are almost too much to bear. Miss McDaniel is irretrievably lost, of course, but it is hoped that Amos and Andy will change their minds.

Wichita Eagle, October 28, 1952


Her "Oscar" To A School.

Howard U. Given Hattie McDaniel's Film Award

Los Angles, Nov. 4. (AP)--Hattie McDaniel's "Oscar," emblematic of the academy award for her performance in "Gone With the Wind," is to find a permanent niche at Howard university, Washington.

Her will, filed today for probate, also divides her modest estate, valued at less than $10,000, among several friends and relatives. She left $1 to her former husband, Larry C. Williams.

The actress died October 26 at the age of 54.

Kansas City Star, November 4, 1952

Entry: McDaniel, Hattie - Newspaper articles

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2010

Date Modified: February 2011

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.