Monday, March 8, 2010
During the Oscars last night, Best Supporting Actress winner Mo'nique dedicated her award to Hattie McDaniel, who won the same award in 1939. She won for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. Word is Mo'nique wants to do a biopic of McDaniel's life and play the lead role.
I've always been fascinated by old Hollywood and McDaniel's story is definitely an interesting one. The daughter of slaves, she was a all-around performer who performed in minstrel shows. Although her role as Mammy brought her acclaim and notoriety, it also boxed her into a corner. Because of the limited roles for African-Americans, McDaniel was often cast as the maid or as a Mammy-type figure in movies. While she was discriminated against by the Hollywood system, she was also criticized by the NAACP and other organizations for promoting stereotypes of African-American women. While Gone with the Wind is a great movie, it's hard to imagine it would ever be made today: it trivializes slavery and race issues during the 19th century. The movie also made McDaniel a target of racism. She declined to attend the premiere in Atlanta for fear of racial violence.
She was married four times but never had any children. She died of breast cancer in 1952. She wanted to be buried in Hollywood cemetery where many celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks were married. However, the owner of the cemetery refused her because of race. She was buried in Rosedale cemetery instead.