Anniversary of Mammy Two Shoes
With all the BLM protests a wonderful event was left aside. Not long so long ago the actress who made it possible for black people to make a brave step into the cinema.
She starred in more than 300 movies and in half of them wasn’t even mentioned in the titles. Millions of children worldwide know her legs and the face is recognized by most grown ups. She wasn’t buried where she wanted in her last will, only because of her skin color. Later, after 50 years her remains were moved where she wanted. The actress was not even allowed to the premiere of her most famous film, and now they plan to shoot a film about her.
This article is about Hattie McDaniel, today it’s 125 years since her birth. Despite 300 works in the cinema and many recordings of vocal performances on the radio, she was remembered only for her role as Mammy in the movie Gone With the Wind – the nanny and maid of the main character Scarlett O’Hara.
The actress was born in the large family of a former slave, the 13th and last child. From early years she performed on stage with Negro spiritualists. In the 1920s, even several records with her recordings were released. During the Great Depression, she had to change her profession and become a toilet cleaner at the Madrid nightclub in Milwaukee.
Once, the club owner heard her (Hattie hummed, while waving the mop) and complimented her singing. However, she had to beg the owner for a long time to let her perform on the club stage. She sang, and sang well. Then the US economy recovered, and Hattie moved to the estate of the American showbiz – Los Angeles and again began to speak on the radio and act in films.
Most of the roles were initially without words, and the roles were mostly servants. And they paid so little for them that she really had to earn extra money as a maid and cook in wealthy families. In the credits, her name naturally was not, although the count of paintings already went to dozens. For the first time her name was mentioned in the 1934 film “Judge Priest.”
The finest hour for McDaniel was casting for the role of Mom in the film adaptation of Gone With the Wind.
Margaret Mitchell’s novel about the war of the North and South and the first years of America after the abolition of slavery immediately became a bestseller, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and immediately became the basis for the script for a two-part color film. The picture was released 2 years after the publication of the novel, and the search for the actress for the role of Scarlett was the longest. Filming had already begun, and the painful selection of actresses continued. It got to the point that they started shooting scenes with the participation of Scarlett (an episode of the escape from the burning Atlanta), but the backup actress was shot from the back and from afar. As you know, the role went to the Englishwoman Vivien Leigh and became the most significant in her career. The role of Mummy for Hattie McDaniel was also most important.
However, with her role there was a reverse situation – the candidacy for the role of nanny Scarlett was hardly discussed, only McDaniel. But, when the word about the start of filming spread, thousands of black applicants besieged the studio, trying to get to the casting. Rumor has it that the first lady of America, Eleanor Roosevelt, could not resist the temptation to take advantage of the situation and tried to attach her black maid Elizabeth MacDuffy to this role. However, Hattie was tested by Clark Gable himself, who worked with the actress on the set of the films “Saratoga” and “Chinese Seas”, where she, as usual, acted in the “comic maid” and, as usual, became the soul of the crew due to her light character and sparkling humor.
McDaniel never made it to the premiere of the film in Atlanta. For the release of the film on the big screen, they were preparing with fanfare. The Governor of Georgia even declared Friday December 15, 1939 a day off! All three days until Monday there were parties, costume balls and receptions with the participation of actors and the crew. However, dark-skinned spectators could not get on display, even if they bought tickets from speculators for $ 200 (the official price at the box office is $ 10). All of them wanted to see a black woman not only in one of the title roles “with words,” but also on stage during the presentation of the film by its creators to the first viewers. The participation of black actors was initially assumed. But on the eve of the invitees they were deleted. Starring Rhett Butler Clark Gable threatened not to attend the premiere in protest. Hattie saw her work only after 2 weeks on December 28 at the premiere in Hollywood.
Reviews of acting in Gone With the Wind were so enthusiastic that film producer David Selznik nominated McDaniel for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film wins 10 Oscars from 13 nominations. The presentation ceremony takes place at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The hotel also operated the strictest segregation. And Selznik has to personally ask the hotel owners to make an exception for McDaniel. The actress was settled at the hotel, but at a banquet they put a small table against the far wall, although it was planned to seat Mummy at the common table with Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and David Selznik.
At the ceremony, Hattie also sat not with all the actors and the crew, but in a separate sector “for color”. She walked onto the stage through the whole hall (in the report, even had to do a gluing of frames so as not to drag out the scene). Then, in the press, her outfit was discussed for a long time: a turquoise-blue dress with white gardenias in her hair and on the bodice. In her gratitude speech, the actress called her success a victory for the entire black race.
The Oscar figurine Hattie McDaniel was kept after her death at Howard University in Washington, but disappeared to this day during the riots in the late 1960s.
Hattie McDaniel after a triumph in “Gone with the wind” continued to act in films and perform in the theater, go to concerts, record on the radio. However, to repeat the success of Gone With the Wind, other films featuring Hattie have failed. McDaniel’s last notable role is in the 1948 film Family Honeymoon. In the story, a professor of botany marries a widow with three uncontrollable children and travels with this company on a honeymoon. McDaniel takes part in comedy scenes.
Mammy Two Shoes
The role of Mom was so vivid that this image later appeared in the animated series “Tom and Jerry.” Mommy Two Slippers (Mammy Two Shoes) is first a maid / cook in the house where Tom lives, and then the owner of the cat. She speaks with a black accent and most often only her legs are shown in the frame. The character first appeared in 1940 in the Broken hope series.
After the audience threw letters over the studio for almost 10 years, in January 1950 the series “Saturday Evening Puss” appeared, where Mommy is at her full height.
However, after 4 years, Tom was replaced by a mistress. Mommy-Two-Slipper became Irish, and her bare heels and hands falling into the frame, repainted in white. After 12 years, the hostess got rid of the character.
Her dying wish was to be buried in a white coffin under a white veil, with red roses on her pillow, in the cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard Hollywood Forever, where the Hollywood actors found their last refuge. But the owner of the cemetery Jules Roth refused the relatives of the actress. Hattie was buried in the Rosdale Cemetery, where she is still buried. About three thousand people came to the farewell ceremony. Only after almost 50 years, the owners of the cemetery turned to the actress’s relatives with a proposal to rebury her remains on Hollywood Forever. Relatives refused. Therefore, in that cemetery you can see only the cenotaph (symbolic burial).
And this is Hattie’s real grave 5 kilometers from the place where she wanted to be buried:
The life of Hattie McDaniel is a magnificent example of a human’s will to be the best version of oneself, despite everything and everybody! Enormous gratefulness and joy give us such people. Let’s make sure we are human enough to be worthy of such people!