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Hattie McDaniel, the 1st African American actress to receive an Oscar for the best supporting actress

Hattie McDaniel, the 1st African American actress to receive an Oscar, might not be a familiar name. Still, the actress was definitely one of the most struggled actresses of that time or probably all times. Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress’s story was filled with struggles and discrimination, a widespread practice among the early 20th-century white colonies. Yet, despite all these limitations, Hattie McDaniel, Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress, became a successful actress and even received the highest acting recognition.

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1st African American actress to receive an Oscar

1st African American actress to receive an Oscar
1st African American actress to receive an Oscar

Early life of Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel was the youngest of 13 children, she was born in the year 1893 to formerly enslaved parents. Her mother was a singer of gospel music while her father fought in the Civil War with US coloured troops. Later the family moved to Colorado where Hattie did her schooling and also polished her reciting, acting and singing skills. One of her brothers and sisters were also popular actors. McDaniel was a singer along with her brother Otis, and after Otis’ death, the band faced a financial crisis and they had to break the band.

Later she embarked on a radio career and continued her singing profession, but nothing went well. After the stock market crash of 1929, she lost all her job and worked as a washroom attendant, housemaid and cook. She got her breakthrough in the 1933 Mae West film I’m No Angel, where she played the role of a housemaid. Eventually, after a lot of struggle, she became popular and made her recognition in the Hollywood motion picture Industry.

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Hattie McDaniel was a friend of many of Hollywood’s most popular stars, including Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, Henry Fonda, Ronald Reagan, Olivia de Havilland, and Clark Gable. This might have eventually helped her to be the iconic Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress.

The Iconic Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress

The competition for the role of Mammy was fierce as Franklin Roosevelt’s wife; the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to film producer David O. Selznick to cast her own maid, Elizabeth McDuffie, for the part of Mammy. Hattie McDaniel was known for her comic roles and wasn’t a choice for the producers. However, Clark Gable recommended that the role be given to McDaniel, and after a strenuous audition, she won the role.

1st African American actress to receive an Oscar
Vivien Leigh and the 1st African American actress to receive an Oscar Hattie McDaniel

The Civil War epic had already become a cultural sensation soon after its release, and all kinds of critics exceptionally praised Hattie McDaniel’s performance. The white and black equally commended her performance. The Los Angeles Times praised Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress performance, Hattie McDaniel and stated that she is worthy of Academy Supporting Actress, and Selznick submitted a nomination for the best-supporting actress category. This contributed to the film’s then record-setting 13 nominations.

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1st African American actress to receive an Oscar

1st African American actress to receive an Oscar
1st African American actress to receive an Oscar

The 12th Academy Awards were held at the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub in The Ambassador Hotel. The Hotel had some policies against African American people, however, had to compromise for the Academic Awards. Hattie McDaniel who arrived at the hotel was escorted not to the Gone with the Wind Table where Selznick sat, but to a small table against a far wall where she took a seat separated from all the white crowd. It is said that Selznick had to call in a special favour to allow Hattie McDaniel an entry into the hotel.

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The Oscar results were already leaked and therefore Hattie’s win wasn’t a surprise but still was a victory against class discrimination, the Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress, a Black (African American) actress had finally received a recognition she always deserved. This was a breakthrough in the entire motion picture industry, and the recognition was highly appreciated by people. It was not only about the Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress but about an entire race.

1st African American actress to receive an Oscar

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science[s], fellow members of the motion picture industry and honoured 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 the awards for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything 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.

Hattie Daniel, Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress
1st African American actress to receive an Oscar

Mo’Nique, during her speech, while receiving the Oscars paid tribute to this genius actress, Gone With the Wind Supporting Actress, Hattie McDaniel, the 1st African American actress to receive an Oscar.

Amal Varghesehttp://moonjis.com
Lecturer by profession, a philologist by qualification and a scribbler by passion. Like John Lennon says, "I believe in everything until it is disapproved, so I believe in fairies, myths and dragons", everything around me is an illusion and a reality. I am basically you, but I am a confined me.
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