Posted by Faye Bell on March 17, 2012 at 16:38:07:
‘HATTIE MCDANIEL: DEFINED BY GRACE’
What: An exhibit about the life and career of Oscar-winning actress Hattie McDaniel, who was born in Wichita. The exhibit, from the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita, will run through May 30.
Where: Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center, 3700 Blue Parkway
Note: This article is a little late being posted on our Daily Information Board, but I am sure you will enjoy reading it. Please take the time to do so.
EXHIBIT GIVES IN-DEPTH LOOK AT ACTRESS HATTIE McDANIEL
BRUCE R. WATKINS CULTURAL HERITAGE CENTER PUTS WICHITA'S NATIVE'S ACHIEVEMENTS ON DISPLAY.
By LISA GUTIERREZ
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The evening of the Academy Awards in 1940, the Los Angeles Times broke an embargo and published the names of the winners.
Before the ceremony began, the secret was out: Hattie McDaniel, who portrayed Mammy in “Gone With the Wind,” would receive best supporting actress, the first African-American to win an Oscar.
McDaniel donned a royal blue evening gown to attend the awards at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel, with her signature magnolias pinned into her hair.
The audience of almost 1,700 Hollywood elites applauded when she walked in the room.
Then Hattie and her handsome escort were shown to their seats for the evening — at a segregated table.
So it went for Wichita-born Hattie McDaniel, a black woman in white Hollywood. She entered soundstages through the back door and took her meals at separate tables, and when reviewers deigned to give her ink, they wrote about her “great mahogany shining face” rather than her acting ability.
Jesse Barnes wants visitors to the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center to know that. So he brought an exhibit from the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita, where his sister, Prisca Barnes, is the executive director.
Kansas City is the first place the exhibit has been shown outside of Wichita.
With people like Oscar-winning Mo’Nique wanting to make movies about her, McDaniel has “really become a rediscovered figure in recent years,” says Barnes, executive director of the cultural center since February 2011.
As well-known as McDaniel is, “there is no exhibit solely created about Hattie,” Prisca Barnes says. “When we started looking at doing an exhibit on her, we thought ‘everyone knows her for her Mammy role.’
“But we wanted to get a more in-depth look at who Hattie was. She was not just a talented actress. She was talented in music, she was a dancer, a singer.
“When you look at her life story, she faced many struggles. She was both revered and hated by the African-American community. But she was not defined by her race. … She was defined by who she was.”
Her story is laid out in the exhibit, which includes a replica of the gown McDaniel wore to the 1940 Oscars. Prisca Barnes said they tried to track down the real dress but couldn’t find it.
“I didn’t really want to re-create a mammy (costume),” she said. “I wanted to create Hattie McDaniel, defined by grace.”
McDaniel was born in Wichita in 1893, the last child of Susan and Henry McDaniel, who fought in the Civil War. The family lived three blocks from the church that is now the home of the Kansas African American Museum.
McDaniel described the first few years of her life in Wichita as hard and hungry; she told people she weighed only 3.5 pounds when she was born. When she was 5, her family moved to Denver, where she spent the rest of her childhood.
Her mother taught her how to cook and clean and do laundry so she could take care of herself. But McDaniel had a different plan in mind. “I knew that I could sing and dance. I was doing it so much that my mother would give me a nickel sometimes to stop,” she once said.
She left high school to perform and became a sought-after entertainer in Denver and on the vaudeville circuit.
In 1931, when she was 38, she made the big move to Los Angeles. She appeared in hundreds of films as an extra, playing maids and mammies, roles she had lampooned on the vaudeville stage. “I can be a maid for seven dollars a week, or I can play a maid for 700 dollars a week,” she once said.
She wanted the higher-paying speaking parts that eluded black actors, and when she began to land them, critics took notice, in a way.
One reviewer in a 1934 Esquire article described McDaniel as “that superb, almost anonymous Negress whose great mahogany shining face and divine smile are among the major pleasures of dozens of films through which she passes.”
For the premiere of “Gone With the Wind,” producer David O. Selznick chose Atlanta, partly because it was author Margaret Mitchell’s hometown. He wanted the entire cast there, but city officials made it clear that in the Jim Crow South, black cast members were not welcome.
Atlanta’s mayor insisted that McDaniel’s picture be removed from the souvenir program.
An elaborate re-creation of Tara was built on the theater stage for the evening. On the steps of the fake plantation, a youth choir from a local black church sang.
One of the teenagers performing that night was Martin Luther King Jr.
To reach Lisa Gutierrez, call 816-234-4987
NOTE: Thanks to our GWTW fan who notified us of this great article on our beloved Mammy.
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Bonus: A preview of an upcoming exhibit showcasing costumes worn by Mary Wilson and her fellow Supremes, including Diana Ross. Gowns are displayed in the lobby.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/03/13/3485792/exhibit-gives-in-depth-look-at.html?story_link=email_msg#storylink=cpy