Saturday, 15 February 2014

Black History Month: Hattie MacDaniel

Today, I decided to update a post I did a few years ago about Hattie McDaniel.
The past few days, I have really been trying to struggle my way reading through "Gone With the Wind." Yes, I know the period of time it covers and to be true to history, there are ugly truths about class different, slavery, the Civil War and the like has to be included.
Still as I read, I can't help but smile whenever I come to a scene where Mammie is included, because I can clearly see Miss McDaniel's face.
 
Miss McDaniel is what as known as a "handsome woman"
A beautiful, graceful woman, soft-spoken and classy, Miss McDaniel worked hard at her craft as an actress. She didn't just open door for black actors and actresses today; she kicked them wide open.
It is easy to be critical of the roles Hattie McDaniel played in the movie Gone With the Wind; Slave. Maid. Mammy. But during the Golden Age of Hollywood, these were the only roles to be had.
Miss Hattie, as an actress was in great demand.
On Feburay 29th, 1940, Miss McDaniel was the first black actress to win the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy, in Gone With the Wind.
I remember reading about this lovely lady in school. And whenever I took a role in a play, I always had it in the forefront of my mind, "how would Hattie McDaniel played this?"
Married four times, but never had children, she was the role model for so many of us who dreamt big dreams and encouraged us to reach for them.
For me, Hattie McDaniel was the only reason why I would even watch Gone With the Wind.
My favourite scenes when Rhett confronts Mammy, after hearing the rustling of her red petticoat under her skirt. The one he brought back as a gift for Mammy. She puts us her skirt slowly, just a bit for him to see.
My Grandmother was a Cook. This path the way for a better life for her children. My mother was a Legal Assist to some of the finest Lawyers in the Untied States. This enabled me to pursuit my dreams as a writer.
Hattie McDaniel did the same thing with the roles she portrayed. For being a maid, she path the way for another actresses to go on to pro tray teachers, lawyers, and even Bond Girls.
Sadly, we lost Miss McDaniel to Breast Cancer in 1952, at the age of 57.
G-d bless you, Miss McDaniel and thank you.
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