Mo’nique Hattie McDaniel Biopic

February 1, 2012 by staff 

Mo’nique Hattie McDaniel Biopic, Hattie McDaniel was one of the greatest and most iconic entertainers that America ever produced. Like her contemporaries Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Robeson, Will Rogers, Shirley Temple, Mae West and other greats like Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers and Gary Cooper (many of whom she worked with), she defined America. Unfortunately for this great talent, the America in which she lived was one rent by racism.

She toiled in Hollywood at a time when African Americans could only play socially prescribed racist stereotypes. McDaniel was limited to playing maids and nannies and the wives of “shiftless” (i.e., discriminated against and disenfranchised) black men, the most memorable of whom was the Joe of Show Boat played by that “peculiar” American genius Robeson.

Miss McDaniel became the first African American to win an Academy Award when she was honored in 1940 with the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939). In her triumph were the seeds of her tragedy that tarnished her reputation for a generation and is only now being reclaimed.

Hollywood loved her performance, but still required her and her escort to sit at the back of the auditorium during the awards ceremony at the Pantages Theatre on the night of February 29, 1940, despite the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences knew who the winners were.

The press also knew, as they had every year since the Oscars were first awarded. Gone With the Wind was so popular and such an national sensation that the Los Angeles Times broke the traditional embargo over releasing the information before the Oscar ceremony was broadcast on the radio. This led to the now standard blackout on the final vote tallies, with only the representatives from the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCooper in the know until the envelopes are opened.

Hattie McDaniel’s acceptance speech became famous and for many years was seen as a signpost towards racial progress in America: “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.”

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