October 26, 2007

October 26 | Hattie McDaniel

June 10, 1895 - October 26, 1952: Age 57

Hattie McDaniel is best know for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, but between 1932 and 1950 she performed in nearly 100 films. Even though she was well respected by influential people in Hollywood, and her performance in Gone with the Wind would win her an Oscar, she did not attend the premier of that film in Atlanta because the laws of Georgia at the time would have required her to sit in a separate section for blacks, and she would have had to stay at a special hotel for blacks rather than with her fellow actors. Clark Gable threatened to boycott the premier for this reason, but McDaniel persuaded him to attend anyway.

Like many successful members of oppressed groups, she found herself dealing with prejudice from the white community on one side while being criticized by "progressive" blacks on the other for taking roles as maids and other black stereotypes. Her comment was, "I'd rather play a maid for $700 a week than be one for $7 a week."

She died of breast cancer in 1957. She wanted to be buried at Hollywood Memorial Park with her peers, but was denied by the owner, who maintained a whites-only policy. She was buried elsewhere. Years later a more progressive owner offered to have her remains moved to what is now called the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, but her family declined. Instead a large memorial was build at Hollywood Forever Cemetery commemorating her achievements.

Sources: Wikipedia, Noteable Biographies, Internet Movie Database

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