Inspirational Facts About Hollywood Icon Hattie McDaniel

From her impoverished background to her trailblazing film career, Hattie McDaniel had a rags-to-riches story unlike any other. While the actress navigated a series of tragedies throughout her life, she showed the perseverance needed to rise to the very top of the film industry. Here are some of the most inspirational facts about Hollywood icon Hattie McDaniel.

The Family Business

McDaniel loved to sing so much as a little girl that sometimes, her mother would give her a nickel to stop. By saving up her money, McDaniel founded The McDaniel Sisters Company minstrel show with her sister Etta when she was 20 years old. While she gained money and recognition, it was in her show that McDaniel developed the persona for her character “Mammy” who she would later portray in the iconic film Gone With the Wind.


After losing her husband and brother while her career took a nosedive, McDaniel became a bathroom attendant at a nightclub. One night, when the club’s singers went home early, she stepped in to perform in their place. Her co-workers and boss were enamored by her performance, leading to her recognition.

Clinching the Role of a Lifetime

When auditions for Gone With the Wind got underway, everyone in Hollywood appeared to be raring for a role. In fact, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had written to producer David O. Selznick to have her maid, Elizabeth McDuffie, cast as Mammy. Still, McDaniel had a trick up her sleeve. It’s believed that she had Clark Gable and Bing Cosby put in a good word for her. Working as a real-life maid, McDaniel walked into her audition in her maid’s uniform, earning the part.

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