Hattie McDaniel made Hollywood history when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "Gone with the Wind" (1939), but the hard-working African-American actress appeared in many other classic films, as well. Her performances were often uncredited before her Oscar win, and she usually played domestics, but McDaniel still captured viewers' attention every time she turned up on screen. Born in Kansas in 1892, McDaniel was part of a group of black actors in classic Hollywood who played maids, servants, slaves, and other subordinate characters because those were the only roles available to them, but their very presence in the industry helped to pave the way for later performers. Hattie McDaniel died in 1952, at the age of 60, but she left behind many memorable performances. Here are ten classic movies where you can see her in action.
1) "Judge Priest" (1934) - Director John Ford gave McDaniel one of her first credited roles in this Southern comedy starring Will Rogers. McDaniel, credited as Hattie McDaniels, plays Aunt Dilsey, while Stepin Fetchit, another African-American actor, also has a supporting role.
2) "The Little Colonel" (1935) - McDaniel appears with Shirley Temple in another Southern story, this one set after the Civil War. Bill Robinson also has an important supporting role, while Lionel Barrymore takes top billing after Temple.
3) "Show Boat" (1936) - McDaniel has a fairly large role as Queenie in James Whale's acclaimed adaptation of the Broadway musical. Also set in the South, this story takes on the issue of race much more openly than most films of its era, with Helen Morgan playing the biracial singer, Julie. Paul Robeson also has a memorable role as Joe, who delivers the musical's signature song, "Ol' Man River." (Read a full review of "Show Boat.")
4) "Saratoga" (1937) - McDaniel had appeared with stars Jean Harlow and Clark Gable in the earlier "China Seas" (1935), but she has an especially memorable part in this picture as Rosetta, and she even gets to sing. Sadly, the movie would be Harlow's last; she died before the picture could completed. (Read a full review of "Saratoga.")
5) "Carefree" (1938) - McDaniel made one of her last uncredited appearances in this musical comedy starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but she still manages to steal the audience's attention with her scenes.
6) "Gone with the Wind" (1939) - As Mammy, McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar, but she also drew criticism from progressives who saw her roles as reinforcing racial stereotypes. The Oscar didn't change the kinds of roles McDaniel got to play, but it did ensure that she was credited for them, which represented some progress at a time when black actors often played large parts without getting any credit at all.
7) "The Great Lie" (1941) - McDaniel plays a supporting role in this drama starring Bette Davis and Mary Astor, but you can also see her real-life brother, Sam McDaniel, in this film. In a career that lasted 30 years, Sam played mostly uncredited roles, but he appeared in more than 200 films.
8) "George Washington Slept Here" (1942) - Once again cast as a maid, McDaniel plays against Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan in this domestic comedy about a couple's attempts to fix up an old farmhouse.
9) "Since You Went Away" (1944) - McDaniel plays a supporting role in this wartime drama with an all-star cast, including Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, and Lionel Barrymore.
10) "Song of the South" (1946) - Seldom seen today, this Disney film combined live action and animation to tell the Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris. McDaniel plays Aunt Tempy in the live action sequences, while James Baskett appears as Uncle Remus.
Learn more about Hattie McDaniel by watching the video at the top of this article. For even more films featuring Hattie McDaniel, try "Alice Adams" (1935), "The Bride Walks Out" (1936), and "The Shopworn Angel" (1938).