February 4, 2015

Spotlight: Hattie McDaniel

For today’s installment of #28in28, we highlight Hattie McDaniel, the first African American¬†to win an Academy Award.

Hattie McDaniel won the award for her role in the 1939 film, Gone with the Wind. Gone with the Wind is a 1939 adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer winning novel on the same name. The film tells us the story of Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner set against the backdrop of the American Civil War and is told from the point of view of white Southerners.¬†Hattie plays Mammy, a house slave.

Hattie not only made history as the first African American person to win an Academy Award, she was the first to ever be nominated for acting and the as of today, the oldest African American actress to win, at age 44.

Here is video of her acceptance speech:

Though Gone with the Wind is where Hattie McDaniel arguable gained notoriety, prior to that she was the first black woman to sing on the radio in the U.S. She was a professional songwriter and comedian. It is said that during her career, she appeared in over 300 or so films, however, she only received screen credits for about 80.

I was able to find a clip with Scarlett and Mammy here, take a look if you are unfamiliar:

I watched the film a couple years ago in a college film class but I haven’t read the book. In light of this spotlight, I think I will order the book and revisit this classic film. I would suggest you do the same!

 

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Natalya