Hattie McDaniel Oscar Plaque Missing

Hattie McDaniel Oscar Best Supporting ActressHattie McDaniel: Best Supporting Actress Oscar competition and missing Academy Award plaque

(See previous post: “Hattie McDaniel Oscar Speech.”) Besides Hattie McDaniel for Gone with the Wind, the 1939 Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominees were Geraldine Fitzgerald for Wuthering Heights, Edna May Oliver for Drums Along the Mohawk, Maria Ouspenskaya for Love Affair, and Olivia de Havilland for Gone with the Wind. It should be noted that de Havilland, who, according to some, was not at all happy at having lost the Oscar, had much more screen time than Hattie McDaniel.

In fact, de Havilland had lobbied David O. Selznick to list her as a lead actress, alongside Vivien Leigh. Selznick, however, balked, fearing that de Havilland might steal away votes from her fellow Gone with the Wind player. In the next decade, Olivia de Havilland would receive four more Academy Award nominations, all in the Best Actress category, including two wins (To Each His Own, 1946; The Heiress, 1949).

Curiously, the whereabouts of Hattie McDaniel's historic Academy Award are unknown. Decades ago, the Oscar plaque went missing from Washington's Howard University, where it had been stored in accordance with McDaniel's will. Sources differ as to when the disappearance – or misplacing – of the plaque occurred: either some time in the '60s or as late as the early '70s.

Hattie McDaniel movies

No matter how outstanding an actress, Hattie McDaniel would never be nominated for another Academy Award. Throughout the '40s, she continued working as a mostly small-time featured player at various studios, supporting (i.e., usually cleaning house for) the likes of Bette Davis and Mary Astor in The Great Lie; Merle Oberon and Dennis Morgan in Affectionately Yours; Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland in The Male Animal; Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, and Shirley Temple in Since You Went Away; Jeanne Crain in Margie; Errol Flynn and Eleanor Parker in Never Say Goodbye; and Colbert and Fred MacMurray in Family Honeymoon.

Beginning in 1947, McDaniel was reportedly making $1,000 a week for using her voice on the radio comedy The Beulah Show, thus becoming the first black performer to star on a nationally broadcast radio program. In 1951, she switched to television, replacing Ethel Waters in the title role in the TV spin-off Beulah. But after a few episodes McDaniel was forced to withdraw due to ill health, getting replaced by Louise Beavers (Imitation of Life, 1934).

Hattie McDaniel: Victim of racism after death

Hattie McDaniel died of breast cancer at age 60 at the Motion Picture House hospital facility in Woodland Hills, northwest of downtown Los Angeles, on October 26, 1952. In her will, she 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, however, had other ideas, reportedly refusing to allow McDaniel to be buried there because of her skin color. She was eventually laid to rest at Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery.

Nearly half a century later, in 1999 the now renamed Hollywood Forever Cemetery erected a large cenotaph in McDaniel's honor. The Hattie McDaniel Memorial can be found on the lawn overlooking the cemetery's lake.

The above segment from Hattie McDaniel's will is found on Wikipedia, which sources an Associated Press report.

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