Old Movie Teams

Weren’t they also in that other movie?

Hattie McDaniel & Sam McDaniel

Teamed from birth as brother and sister and, professionally, as members of their family’s early 20th century minstrel show until the show failed financially, Sam and Hattie McDaniel remained close throughout their lives and careers. After the failure of the minstrel show, they spent the next decade sharing billing both on radio and stage as singers, song writers, and comic relief for a racially divided America. Their greatest fame, individually and in tandem, resulted, however, in the mid 20th century on the silver screen playing only the kinds of roles that that same racially divided America would accept from African-Americans, i.e. stereotyped servants of one sort or another. In large part, the enticement of steady and lucrative work in films during the Great Depression motivated their decision to pursue such roles for themselves. That they had found themselves frequently enough unable to get any work other than actual jobs as domestic servants, and for not much better than poverty wages, and that their parents had suffered much worse indignation and deprivation as slaves may have very well moved them to view their work playing the roles of servants, instead of living them, as opportunity or, at the very least, an improvement. Ms. McDaniel, who is perhaps best remembered for her Academy Award performance as Scarlet O’Hara’s house slave, then servant, Mammy, in David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind (1939), is quoted as saying: “Why should I complain about making $700 a week playing a maid? If I didn’t, I’d be making $7 a week being one.” In all, Sam and Hattie McDaniel appear together in nine movies:

Are You Listening? (1932)
The Golden West (1932)
Operator 13 (1934)
Babbitt (1934)
Everybody’s Baby (1939)
They Died with Their Boots On (1941)
The Great Lie (1941)
In This Our Life (1942)
Never Say Goodbye (1946)

Sam and Hattie McDaniel’s other sister, Etta McDaniel, also shares billing with her siblings. She appears in one movie with sister Hattie McDaniel: Stella Dallas (1937). She appears in eight movies with brother Sam.

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