Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Today’s entry is the third in a trilogy of posts in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Gone With The Wind (1939), which premiered in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. It is among my favorite films of all time — if not my VERY favorite film — and one of my first Wildcard posts was dedicated to the casting of Scarlett O’Hara. And since both Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable have had special tributes on past Film Friday blog series, I want to take these three posts to share great (little known) performances from three of the film’s most important supporting players: Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, and Hattie McDaniel. Each post will feature a forgotten artifact from these talented performers’ pre (or post) GWTW careers. This week…
Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952)
The 13th child of a pair of former slaves, Hattie began performing at a young age. After graduating high school in Colorado, Hattie and her siblings went on tour in a minstrel show, for which she also wrote songs. From 1920-1925, she toured with a popular group known as the Melody Hounds, which sparked a brief stint as a recording artist and a long career on the radio. Hattie joined several of her siblings in Los Angeles in 1931, where she became a regular on a radio program called The Optimistic Do-Nut Hour, in which she played the bossy maid “Hi-Hat Hattie.” During this time, Hattie regularly took side work as a cook or a maid — a role she would soon perfect (because she was typecast as domestic help) in dozens of films beginning in 1932. Some of her best known work from this time includes I’m No Angel (1933), Alice Adams (1935), Show Boat (1936), Saratoga (1937), and The Shopworn Angel (1939). In 1939, she took on the role of a lifetime — Scarlett O’Hara’s Mammy in Gone With The Wind (1939). Her performance received universal accolades, earning McDaniel an Academy Award — the first win ever for an African American. (Although she hadn’t been allowed to attend the 1939 Atlanta premiere.) She continued to work in films as one of the highest regarded black actresses of the ’40s. In 1947, she played the titular maid Beulah in the CBS radio sitcom The Beulah Show. Although she initially turned down the role when it made the jump to television on ABC in 1950, McDaniel eventually reclaimed the role for six episodes that aired in the summer of 1952. Unfortunately, she was forced to withdraw from both series due to illness. She passed away from breast cancer in October of 1952. McDaniel remains one of the most treasured performers of the 20th century — and rightfully so.
Here is one of the six aforementioned TV episodes of The Beulah Show (1950-1952, ABC) that starred Hattie McDaniel in the role she played on radio. This episode, entitled “Beulah Goes Gardening,” originally aired on August 12, 1952.
Come back next Wednesday for a new Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow for more Xena!