Friday, February 27, 2015

LOUIS ARMSTRONG AND RACISM

On October 31, 1965, Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong gave his first performance in New Orleans, his home town, in nine years. As a boy, he had busked on street corners. At twelve, he marched in parades for the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys, where he was given his first cornet. But he had publicly boycotted the city since its banning of integrated bands, in 1956. It took the Civil Rights Act, of 1964, to undo the law. Returning should have been a victory lap. At sixty-four, his popular appeal had never been broader. His recording of “Hello, Dolly!,” from the musical then in its initial run on Broadway, bumped the Beatles’ ”Can’t Buy Me Love” from its No. 1 slot on the Billboard Top 100 chart, and the song carried him to the Grammys; it won the 1964 Best Vocal Performance award. By the time the movie version came out, in 1969, he was brought in to duet with Barbra Streisand.

Armstrong was then widely known as America’s gravel-voiced, lovable grandpa of jazz. Yet it was a low point for his critical estimation. “The square’s jazzman,” the journalist Andrew Kopkind called him, while covering Armstrong’s return to New Orleans for The New Republic. Kopkind added that “Among Negroes across the country he occupies a special position as success symbol, cultural hero, and racial cop-out.” Kopkind was not entirely wrong in this, and hardly alone in saying so. Armstrong was regularly called an Uncle Tom.

Detractors wanted Armstrong on the front lines, marching, but he refused. He had already been the target of a bombing, during an integrated performance at Knoxville’s Chilhowee Park auditorium, in February, 1957. In 1965, the year Armstrong returned to New Orleans, Malcolm X was killed on February 21st, and on March 7th, known as Bloody Sunday, Alabama state troopers armed with billy clubs, tear gas, and bull whips attacked nearly six hundred marchers protesting a police shooting of a voter-registration activist near Selma. Armstrong flatly stated in interviews that he refused to march, feeling that he would be a target. “My life is my music. They would beat me on the mouth if I marched, and without my mouth I wouldn’t be able to blow my horn … they would beat Jesus if he was black and marched.”


When local kids asked Armstrong to join them in a homecoming parade, as he had done with the Colored Waif’s Home in his youth, he said no. He knew the 1964 Civil Rights Act was federal law, not local fiat. Armstrong had happily joined in the home’s parades in the past, but his refusal here can be read as a sign of the times. The Birmingham church bombings in 1963 had shown that even children were not off limits.

And yet little of what Armstrong said about the civil-rights struggle registered. The public image of him, that wide performance smile, the rumbling lilt of his “Hello, Dolly!,” obviated everything else. “As for Satchmo himself,” Kopkind wrote, “he seems untouched by all the doubts around him. He is a New Orleans trumpet player who loves to entertain. He is not very serious about art or politics, or even life.”


Armstrong grew up poor and powerless, and he never forgot it. Despite his fame, he understood the repercussions for a community after the celebrity savior jets home. “I don’t socialize with the top dogs of society after a dance or concert,” he said in a 1964 profile in Ebony. “These same society people may go around the corner and lynch a Negro.”

Armstrong chose his battles carefully. In September, 1957, seven months after the bombing attempt in Knoxville, he grew strident when President Eisenhower did not compel Arkansas to allow nine students to attend Little Rock Central High School. As Teachout recounts in “Pops,” here Armstrong had leverage, and spoke out. Armstrong was then an unofficial goodwill ambassador for the State Department. Armstrong stated publicly that Eisenhower was “two-faced” and had “no guts.” He told one reporter, “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country.”


Doing things Armstrong’s way, no one had to accept responsibility for his actions but Louis Armstrong. When Eisenhower did force the schools to integrate, Armstrong’s tone was friendlier. “Daddy,” he telegrammed the President, “You have a good heart.”

As the pieces come together, a consistency of thought in Armstrong once obscured to us has finally become clear: “You name the country and we’ve just about been there,” he said of his travels with his wife Lucille. “We’ve been wined and dined by all kinds of royalty. We’ve had an audience with the Pope. We’ve even slept in Hitler’s bed. But regardless of all that kind of stuff, I’ve got sense enough to know that I’m still Louis Armstrong—colored.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

THE NICHOLAS BROTHERS: DANCE STEPS IN TIME

Many people regard Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire as the greatest dancers the movies have even seen and rightfully so. However, one of the most amazing dancers that film ever captured were The Nicholas Brothers The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African American team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914–2006) and Harold (1921–2000). With their highly acrobatic technique ("flash dancing"), high level of artistry and daring innovations, they were considered by many the greatest tap dancers of their day. Growing up surrounded by Vaudeville acts as children, they became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance and went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.

Because of the racial prejudice of the 1930s and 1940s, many of the dance scenes that The Nicholas Brothers filmed were not part of the plots of the films, so they could be cut out depending on where the movie was being shown. It is such a shame, because like other African-American entertainers at time (i.e.-Lena Horne and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson) they deserved to be superstars. I remember seeing them as young teenagers in the Eddie Cantor movie Kid Millions (1934). Reportedly they did not want Eddie to dance on screen with them, but Cantor (a major star at the time) threatened to walk from the film. All three talents introduced the Irving Berlin song “Mandy” in the film.
The Nicholas Brothers grew up in Philadelphia, the sons of musicians who played in their own band at the old Standard Theater, their mother at the piano and father on drums. At the age of three, Fayard was always seated in the front row while his parents worked, and by the time he was ten, he had seen most of the great African American Vaudeville acts, particularly the dancers, including such notables of the time as Alice Whitman, Willie Bryant and Bill Robinson. They were fascinated by the combination of tap dancing and acrobatics. Fayard often imitated their acrobatics and clowning for the kids in his neighborhood.
Neither Fayard nor Harold had any formal dance training. Fayard taught himself how to dance, sing, and perform by watching and imitating the professional entertainers on stage. He then taught his younger siblings, first performing with Dorothy as the Nicholas Kids; they were later joined by Harold. Harold idolized his older brother and learned by copying his moves and distinct style. Dorothy later opted out of the act, and the Nicholas Kids became known as the Nicholas Brothers.



The Brothers moved to Philadelphia in 1926 and gave their first performance at the Standard a few years later. By 1932 they became the featured act at Harlem's Cotton Club, when Harold was 11 and Fayard was 18. They astonished their mainly white audiences dancing to the Jazz tempos of "Bugle Call Rag" and they were the only entertainers in the African American cast allowed to mingle with white patrons. They performed at the Cotton Club for two years, working with the orchestras of Lucky Millinder, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Jimmy Lunceford. During this time they filmed their first movie short, "Pie Pie Blackbird" in 1932, with Eubie Blake and his orchestra.
In that exhilarating hybrid of tap dance, ballet and acrobatics, sometimes called acrobatic dancing or "flash dancing," no individual or group surpassed the effect that the Nicholas Brothers had on audiences and on other dancers. The brothers attribute their enormous success to this unique style of dancing that was greatly in demand during this time.
The brothers made their Broadway debut in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and also appeared in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's legendary musical Babes in Arms in 1937. They made a huge impression on their choreographer, Balanchine. The impression was so great that he was the one who invited them to appear in Babes in Arms. With Balanchine's training they learned many new stunts and because of how talented they were, many people assumed they were trained ballet dancers.



It was their tour of England with a production of "Blackbirds" that gave the Nicholas Brothers an opportunity to see and appreciate several of the great European Ballet companies.  In 1948, they gave a royal command performance for the King of England at the London Palladium. Later, they danced for nine different presidents of the United States. Also in 1948 they filmed a classic number in the MGM musical The Pirate. The movie was a forgettable bomb, but their performance of “Be A Clown” with Gene Kelly is among the best remembered they captured on film.
With the decline of the movie musical, the Brothers left Hollywood.  They later taught master classes in tap dance as teachers-in-residence at Harvard University and Radcliffe as Ruth Page Visiting Artists. Among their known students are Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, and Michael Jackson. Several of today's master tap dancers have performed with or been taught by the brothers.
Fayard was married three times, and two of his granddaughters are now performing as dancers. Harold was married 4 times. He was first married to singer and actress Dorothy Dandridge from 1942 to 1951. The couple had one child, Harolyn Nicholas, who was born severely mentally handicapped. In Paris, he had a son, Melih Nicholas, by his second wife.



Both brothers continued to dance until the mid-1990s.  Harold died July 3, 2000 of a heart attack following minor surgery. Fayard died January 24, 2006 of pneumonia after having a stroke. Upon his death his memorial service was standing room only. Presided over by Mary Jean Valente of A Ceremony of the Heart, the service was a moving collection of personal tributes, music and dance and as appropriate, one last standing ovation.

A signature move of theirs was to leapfrog down a long, broad flight of stairs, while completing each step with a split. Its most famous performance formed the finale of the movie, Stormy Weather.  Fred Astaire once told the brothers that the "Jumpin' Jive" dance number in Stormy Weather was the greatest movie musical sequence he had ever seen. In that famous routine, the Nicholas Brothers leapt exuberantly across the orchestra's music stands and danced on the top of a grand piano in a call and response act with the pianist. Another signature move was to arise from a split without using the hands.  Gregory Hines declared that if their biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one now could emulate them. Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life. Looking back at their performances 70 years later, it is amazing the dancing ability they had. It is unfortunate that due to their race, they did not receive the fame that they deserved. However, audiences now can marvel at their abilities regardless or who they were or where they came from. Forever the Nicholas Brothers will be dancing in our memories…



Monday, February 23, 2015

HATTIE MCDANIEL: THE LATER YEARS

You would think that after winning the Academy Award for her role in Gone With The Wind, that it would open doors for actresses like Hattie McDaniel in better movie roles. Unfortunately it did not, and McDaniel fell back to more roles as just sassy maids. In the 1942 Warner Bros. film In This Our Life, starring Bette Davis and directed by John Huston, McDaniel once again played a domestic, but one who confronts racial issues, as her law student son is wrongly accused of manslaughter.

The following year, McDaniel was in Warner Bros' Thank Your Lucky Stars with Eddie Cantor, Humphrey Bogart, and Bette Davis. In its review of the film, Time wrote that McDaniel was comic relief in an otherwise "grim study," writing, "...Hattie McDaniel, whose bubbling, blaring good humor more than redeems the roaring bad taste of a Harlem number called Ice Cold Katie."

Hattie McDaniel continued to play maids during the war years in Warner Bros' The Male Animal (1942) and United Artists' Since You Went Away (1944), but her feistiness was toned down to reflect the era's somber news.

She made her last film appearances in Mickey (1948) and Family Honeymoon (1949). She remained active on radio and television in her final years, becoming the first black American to star in her own radio show with the comedy series Beulah. She also starred in the ABC television version of the show, replacing Ethel Waters after the first season. (Waters had apparently expressed concerns over stereotypes in the role.) Beulah was a hit, however, and earned McDaniel $2,000 a week. But the show was controversial. In 1951, the United States Army ceased broadcasting The Beulah Show in Asia because troops complained that the show perpetuated negative stereotypes of black men as shiftless and lazy and interfered with the ability of black troops to perform their mission. After filming a handful of episodes, however, McDaniel learned she had breast cancer. By the spring of 1952, she was too ill to work and was replaced by Louise Beavers.


McDaniel died at age 57 on October 26, 1952, of breast cancer in the hospital on the grounds of the Motion Picture House in Woodland Hills. McDaniel was survived by her brother, Sam McDaniel. Thousands of mourners turned out to celebrate her life and achievements. In her will, McDaniel wrote: "I desire a white casket and a white shroud; white gardenias in my hair and in my hands, together with a white gardenia blanket and a pillow of red roses. I also wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery." The Hollywood Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood is the resting place of movie stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, and others. Hollywood Cemetery refused to allow her to be buried there, because it, too, practiced racial segregation and would not accept for burial the bodies of black people. Her second choice was Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, where she lies today.


In 1999, Tyler Cassidy, the new owner of the Hollywood Cemetery that had renamed it Hollywood Forever Cemetery, offered to have McDaniel re-interred at his cemetery. Her family did not wish to disturb her remains and declined the offer. Instead, Hollywood Forever Cemetery built a large cenotaph on the lawn overlooking its lake. It is one of Hollywood's most popular tourist attractions.

McDaniel's last will and testament of December 1951 awarded her Oscar to Howard University, where she had been honored by the students with a luncheon after she had won her Oscar. At the time of her death, McDaniel would have had few options. Very few white institutions in that day preserved black history. Historically, black colleges had been where such artifacts were placed. Despite evidence McDaniel had earned an excellent income as an actor, her final estate was less than $10,000. The IRS claimed the estate owed more than $11,000 in taxes. In the end, the probate court ordered all of her property, including her Oscar, sold to pay off creditors. Years later, the Oscar turned up where McDaniel wanted it to be: Howard University, where, according to reports, it was displayed in a glass case in the University's drama department. Hattie McDaniel never got the roles she deserved, but she helped to pave a way for African American actresses even now some 75 years after her monumental Oscar win...


Friday, February 20, 2015

BORN ON THIS DAY: SYDNEY POITIER

It is hard to believe that someone like Sydney Poitier is 88 years ago. The images he displayed on the film made him seem so timeless. Sir Sidney Poitier was born February 20, 1927. In 1964, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor,  for his role in Lilies of the Field. The significance of this achievement was later bolstered in 1967 when he starred in three successful films, all of which dealt with issues involving race: To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, making him the top box-office star of that year. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Poitier among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking 22nd on the list of 25.

Sidney Poitier's parents were Evelyn (née Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, Bahamian farmers who owned a farm on Cat Island and traveled to Miami in the U.S.A. to sell tomatoes and other produce. Reginald worked as a cab driver in Nassau, Bahamas.  Poitier was born in Miami while his parents were visiting. His birth was two months premature and he was not expected to survive, but his parents remained three months in Miami to nurse him to health. Poitier grew up in the Bahamas (then a British colony) but because of his birth in the U.S., he automatically gained U.S. citizenship. Poitier's uncle has claimed that the Poitier ancestors on his father's side had migrated from Haiti and were probably a part of the runaway slaves which had established maroon communities throughout the Bahamas, including Cat Island. He mentions that the surname Poitier is a French name, and there were no white Poitiers from the Bahamas.

At the age of 15 he was sent to Miami to live with his brother. At the age of 17, he moved to New York City and held a string of jobs as a dishwasher. A Jewish waiter sat with him every night for several weeks helping him learn to read the newspaper. He then decided to join the United States Army after which he worked as a dishwasher until a successful audition landed him a spot with the American Negro Theatre.


Poitier joined the American Negro Theater, but was rejected by audiences. Contrary to what was expected of African American actors at the time, Poitier's tone deafness made him unable to sing. Determined to refine his acting skills and rid himself of his noticeable Bahamian accent, he spent the next six months dedicating himself to achieving theatrical success. On his second attempt at the theater, he was noticed and given a leading role in the Broadway production Lysistrata, for which he received good reviews. By the end of 1949, he had to choose between leading roles on stage and an offer to work for Darryl F. Zanuck in the film No Way Out (1950). His performance in No Way Out, as a doctor treating a Caucasian bigot (played by Richard Widmark), was noticed and led to more roles, each considerably more interesting and more prominent than those most African American actors of the time were offered. Poitier's breakout role was as a member of an incorrigible high school class in Blackboard Jungle (1955).

Poitier began to be criticized for being typecast as over-idealized African American characters who were not permitted to have any sexuality or personality faults, such as his character in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967). Poitier was aware of this pattern himself, but was conflicted on the matter: he wanted more varied roles, but also felt obliged to set a good example with his characters to defy previous stereotypes, as he was the only major actor of African descent in the American film industry at the time. For instance, in 1966 he turned down an opportunity to play the lead in an NBC production of Othello with that spirit in mind. In 2001, Poitier received an Honorary Academy Award for his overall contribution to American cinema. With the death of Ernest Borgnine in 2012, Poitier became the oldest living man to have won the Academy Award for Best Actor. On March 2, 2014, Poitier appeared with Angelina Jolie at the 86th Academy Awards, to present the Best Director award. He was given a standing ovation, as Jolie thanked him for all his Hollywood contributions, stating "we are in your debt". Poitier gave a small speech telling his peers to "keep up the wonderful work" to emotional applause...


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

BLACKFACE IN MODERN ENTERTAINMENT

Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used by performers to represent a black person.In 1848, blackface minstrel shows were an American national art of the time, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience. Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. What was once the norm of American entertainment is quite offensive today, because often blackface would make perpetuate a negative stereotype of the African American race.

Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor brought blackface to the cinema with their popular musicals of the 1930s. Each of their films would usually include one number in blackface. For the Al Jolson musical Big Boy in 1930, Jolson was in blackface the entire movie. However, by the late 1930s Hollywood were using blackface less and less in their films. Bing Crosby, who strived for race equality throughout his career appeared in blackface in three of his movies: Holiday Inn (1942), Dixie (1943), and Here Comes The Waves (1945). Eddie Cantor appeared in blackface in his last movie If You Knew Susie (1948), and Betty Hutton appeared in blackface in the musical Somebody Loves Me as late as 1952.

Is it ever okay for a white to perform in blackface? In 1936 when the lead in touring company of Orson Welles' Voodoo Macbeth (Maurice Ellis) fell ill, Welles stepped temporarily into the part and played the role in blackface.

An example of the fascination in American culture with racial boundaries and the color line is demonstrated in the popular duo Amos 'n' Andy, characters played by two white men who performed the show in blackface. They gradually stripped off the blackface makeup during live 1929 performances while continuing to talk in dialect. This fascination with color boundaries had been well-established since the beginning of the century, as it also had been before the Civil War.

Bing Crosby
The wearing of blackface was once a traditional part of the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. Growing dissent from civil rights groups and the offense of the black community led to a 1964 official city policy ruling out blackface. Also in 1964, bowing to pressure from the interracial group Concern, teenagers in Norfolk, Connecticut, reluctantly agreed to discontinue using blackface in their traditional minstrel show that was a fund-raiser for the March of Dimes.

In 1980, an underground film, Forbidden Zone, was released, directed by Richard Elfman and starring the band Oingo Boingo, which received controversy for blackface sequences.

In 1993, white actor Ted Danson ignited a firestorm of controversy when he appeared at a New York Friars' Club roast in blackface, delivering a risqué shtick written by his then love interest, African-American comedian Whoopi Goldberg. Recently, gay white performer Chuck Knipp has used drag, blackface, and broad racial caricature while portraying a character named "Shirley Q. Liquor" in his cabaret act, generally performed for all-white audiences. Knipp's outrageously stereotypical character has drawn criticism and prompted demonstrations from black, gay and transgender activists.

Blackface and minstrels also serve as the theme of Spike Lee's film Bamboozled (2000). It tells of a disgruntled black television executive who reintroduces the old blackface style in a series concept in an attempt to get himself fired, and is instead horrified by its success.

Robert Downey Jr

In 2008, the film Tropic Thunder had Robert Downey Jr. in an Oscar-nominated performance where he plays a Caucasian Australian actor who is so committed to method acting an African-American character that he has his skin surgically darkened and clumsily lecturing to his bemused African-American co-players about racial politics. Aware of the racial connotations that could be misconstrued, Director Ben Stiller had the film screened for a group of African American journalists and representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. They in turn responded positively and reassured Stiller that they understood the artistic intent of the character.

While I am against banning classic Hollywood films that have blackface, I do believe it is an outdated "form of entertainment" that is almost embarrassing to sit through in 2015. It is a shame that stars like Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor used it so often in their movies, because they were quite talented. I guess when blackface is used in a "tasteful" way to tell the story and not to show a racial stereotype like in Tropic Thunder then it is okay. It is a fine line though and not matter how you look at it in 2015, blackface might not of meant to be a form of racism when it was popular in movies in the 1930s, but it is highly racial by today's standards and should be...

Eddie Cantor

Monday, February 16, 2015

RIP: LESLEY GORE

One of the most popular singers of the early rock era of the 1960s has died. Lesley Gore was one of the most popular female vocalists of the 1960s.
A singer-songwriter who topped the charts in 1963 with her epic song of teenage angst "It's My Party" and followed it up with the hits "Judy's Turn to Cry" and "You Don't Own Me" has died. Lesley Gore was 68.

According to her partner of 33 years, Gore died Monday of cancer at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

Brooklyn-born and New Jersey-raised, Gore was discovered by Quincy Jones as a teenager and signed to Mercury Records.

Gore's other hits include "She's A Fool," "That's the Way Boys Are" and "Maybe I Know." She co-wrote with her brother, Michael, the Academy Award-nominated "Out Here On My Own" from the film "Fame."

She also played Catwoman's sidekick in the cult TV comedy "Batman."

HATTIE MCDANIEL AND GONE WITH THE WIND

The competition to play Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939) had been almost as stiff as that for Scarlett O'Hara. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to film producer David O. Selznick to ask that her own maid, Elizabeth McDuffie, be given the part. McDaniel did not think she would be chosen because she had earned her reputation as a comic actress. One source claims that Clark Gable recommended the role go to McDaniel; in any case when she went to her audition dressed in an authentic maid's uniform, she won the part.

Upon hearing of the planned film adaptation, the NAACP fought hard to require the film's producer and director to delete racial epithets from it (in particular the offensive "n-word") and to alter scenes that might be incendiary and that, in their view, were historically inaccurate. Of particular concern was a scene from the novel in which black men attack Scarlett O'Hara, after which the Ku Klux Klan, with its long history of provoking terror on black communities, is presented as a savior. Throughout the South, black men were being lynched based upon false allegations they had harmed white women. That attack scene was altered, and some offensive language was modified. But another epithet, "darkie", remained in the film, and the film's message with respect to slavery remained essentially the same. Consistent with the book, the film's screenplay also referred to poor whites as "white trash," and it ascribed these words equally to characters black and white.


The Loew's Grand Theater on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, was selected by the studio as the site for the premiere of Gone with the Wind, Friday, December 15, 1939. As the date of the premiere approached, all the black actors were advised they were barred from attending, excluded from being in the souvenir program, and banned from appearing in advertisements for the film in the South. Studio head David Selznick asked that Hattie McDaniel be permitted to attend, but MGM advised him not to because of Georgia's segregation laws. Clark Gable threatened to boycott the Atlanta premiere unless McDaniel was allowed to attend, but McDaniel convinced him to attend anyway.

Most of Atlanta's 300,000 citizens crowded the route of the seven-mile motorcade that carried the film's other stars and executives from the airport to the Georgian Terrace Hotel, where they stayed. While Jim Crow laws kept McDaniel from the Atlanta premiere, she did attend the film's Hollywood debut on December 28, 1939. Upon Selznick's insistence, her picture was also featured prominently in the program.

It was McDaniel's role as the house slave who repeatedly scolds her owner's daughter, Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), and scoffs at Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), that won McDaniel the 1939 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first black American to win an Oscar.

 
She had also been the first black American to be nominated. "I loved Mammy," McDaniel said when speaking to the white press about the character. "I think I understood her because my own grandmother worked on a plantation not unlike Tara." Her role in Gone with the Wind had alarmed some whites in the Southern audience; there were complaints that in the film she had been too "familiar" with her white owners. But at least one author pointed out that McDaniel's character does not significantly depart from Mammy's persona in Margaret Mitchell's book, and that in both the film and the book the much younger Scarlett speaks to Mammy in ways that would be deemed inappropriate for a Southern teen of that era to speak to a much older white person, and that neither the book nor the film hint of the existence of Mammy's own children (dead or alive), her own family (dead or alive), or her desires to have anything other than a life at Tara, serving on a slave plantation.

The Twelfth Academy Awards took place at the Cocoanut Grove Restaurant of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It was preceded by a banquet in the same room. Louella Parsons, an American gossip columnist, wrote about Oscar night, February 29, 1940:

"Hattie McDaniel earned that gold Oscar by her fine performance of 'Mammy' in Gone with the Wind. If you had seen her face when she walked up to the platform and took the gold trophy, you would have had the choke in your voice that all of us had when Hattie, hair trimmed with gardenias, face alight, and dress up to the queen's taste, accepted the honor in one of the finest speeches ever given on the Academy floor"...


Hattie McDaniel's acceptance speech:
"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."