Wednesday, March 10, 2010

African-American Actress Hattie McDaniel

African-American Actress Hattie McDaniel (June 10, 1895 - October 26, 1952) was the first African-American to win an Academy Award in any category, winning the Best Supporting Actress award for her role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939).

American gossip columnist Louella Parsons wrote about the Oscar night of 1940, "Hattie McDaniel earned that gold Oscar, by her fine performance of "Mammy" in Gone with the Wind. If you had seen her face when she walked up to the platform and took the gold trophy, you would have had the choke in your voice that all of us had when Hattie, hair trimmed with gardenias, face alight, and dress up to the queen's taste, accepted the honor in one of the finest speeches ever given on the Academy floor. She put her heart right into those words and expressed not only for herself, but for every member of her race, the gratitude she felt that she had been given recognition by the Academy. Fay Bainter, with voice trembling, introduced Hattie and spoke of the happiness she felt in bestowing upon the beaming actress Hollywood's greatest honor. Her proudest possession is the red silk petticoat that David Selznick gave her when she finished Gone with the Wind".

Hattie McDaniel in her acceptance Speech delivered on February 29, 1940 at the 12th Annual Academy Awards said, "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you."

In November 2009 the acclaimed star of the film ‘Precious’, African-American actress Mo'Nique said, "I own the rights to Hattie McDaniel's life story, and I can't wait to tell that story, because that woman was absolutely amazing. She had to stand up to the adversity of black and white society at a time when we really weren't accepted. Mr. Lee Daniels is going to direct it, of course, and I'm going to be Miss Hattie McDaniel. I really hope I can do that woman justice."

Mo'Nique went on to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar Award at the 82nd Academy awards and, in her acceptance speech for the award, Mo’Nique said, “I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she had to so that I would not have to.” Mo’Nique was dressed in a blue dress, with gardenias in her hair, as homage to McDaniel, who wore the same dress for the Oscar Award ceremony in 1939.

Hattie McDaniel’s first film appearance was in The Golden West (1932) as a maid. She made her last film appearances in Mickey (1948) and Family Honeymoon (1949). McDaniel was also a professional singer, songwriter, comedienne, stage actress, radio performer and television star. In her film career McDaniel appeared in over 300 films. In 2006 Hattie McDaniel became the first black Oscar winner to be honored with a US postage stamp.

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