Beverly Andrews’s play about Hattie McDaniel (1893-1952), black Hollywood actress of the Golden Age and supporting actress Oscar winner for Gone With The Wind, first premiered in the Light On Showcase by Lights On Productions.
Perfotmed by Denise Orito and directed by Andrews on Zoom, Hattie is a powerful 20 minute monologue about the resilience of women and minority voices.
McDaniel’s story, with his resigned quote about making much more money playing a maid on screen than being a maid, is one about survival and pride, and it is hard to compute now that she was treated as second-class at the Oscars due to her race.
Andrews brings this woman into sharp life and might make you seek out the work she made when she was famous. “It was 1910, the dawn of a new era – there was nothing we could not do.”
Family, music, the love of God, and the pursuit of fame thread through Hattie’s story. She was actress, singer-songwriter, comedian, and more, rising from the big bands to the silver screen.
With a life of personal hardship – born to former slaves in poverty, four marriages, black rights campaigning against attempts to drive her out of a primarily white neighbourhood – Hattie McDaniel is depicted as a tower of strength.
Her spirited defence of the ageing Mae West, who caused ructions in conservative Hollywood and musing on the Crawford-Davis feud, is funny and shines light on sisterhood in Tinseltown.
Catnip for film fans, Hattie is an enjoyable piece of theatre. You can watch it on Thornhill Theatre Space’s YouTube or on Scenesaver (with free registration).