Hattie McDaniel by Jill Watts
Black Ambition, White Hollywood

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Hattie McDaniel is perhaps bestknown for her performance as Mammy, the sassyfoil to Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, one of Hollywood's most revered -- and controversial -- films. McDaniel's Oscar win raised hopes that theentertainment industry was finally ready to createmore respectful, multidimensional roles for blacks.But under the aegis of studio heads eager to pleaseSoutherners, screenwriters kept churning out rolesthat denigrated the African-American experience.

Where McDaniel's stature and popularity shouldhave increased after Selznick's masterpiece cameout, as was the case for her white counterparts, hersdeclined, as an increasingly politicized black audienceturned against her. "I'd rather play a maid than be amaid," is how McDaniel answered her critics. Yet herflippant response belied a woman whose hardscrabblebackground rendered her emotionally conflictedabout the roles she accepted. Here, at last, in a finelytuned biography by Jill Watts, is her story.

Watts, a highly praised researcher and writer,shares little-known aspects of McDaniel's life, fromher dealings with Hollywood's power brokers andblack political organizations to her successful civilrights battle to integrate a Los Angeles neighborhood,revealing a woman hailed by Ebony as anachiever of "more firsts in Hollywood" than anyother black entertainer of her time.


About Jill Watts

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A professor of history at California State University and the coordinator of the film studies program at California State University, San Marcos, Jill Watts has written two previous books, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story and Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. She lives in San Marcos, California.
Published September 27, 2005 by Amistad. 368 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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In her imperfect yet fascinating biography, Watts (Mae West ) unveils the largely tragic tale of Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award.

Aug 22 2005 | Read Full Review of Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambit...


Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood examines her 45-year career, during which McDaniel was often at odds with other African Americans because she took roles that some considered derogatory.

Sep 28 2014 | Read Full Review of Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambit...

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