In the early ’30s when she moved to L.A., she was able to garner small roles on the radio through her brother, Sam, and sister Etta (already working in radio/film)- which turned into bit roles as extras in films. In order to get by, she took on odd jobs in domestic work while pursuing radio and film work.
In 1934, she landed her first big break on-screen role as a maid in John Ford’s Judge Priest.
Hattie has small uncredited roles as maids in films from 1932-33, but her appearance in Judge Priest in 1934 was a breakthrough role since it allowed her to demonstrate her singing talents in several numbers and perform a duet with Will Rodgers, who became a close friend. Some critics suggested that Hattie “stole” several scenes in the film from fellow comic actor Stepin Fetchit.
Hattie McDaniel as Aunt Dilsey and Stepin Fetchit as Jeff Poindexter
In the first of two films Hattie made at RKO with Ginger Rogers in 1938, VIVACIOUS LADY(right), she plays the small and rather unremarkable role of a washroom attendant. Later that year in CAREFREE(1938), Ginger’s eighth musical with Fred Astaire and a decent screwball comedy, Hattie once again makes a very minor contribution, this time as an attendant (named “Hattie”) at the country club where most of the plot takes place.
Hattie McDaniel and Paul Robeson in the musical Showboat [ 1936 In a still from Show Boat, McDaniel performed with actors Irene Dunne, Paul Robeson, and Helen Morgan.]
Ah Still Suits Me ( Show Boat) 1936
Helen Morgan, Hattie and Irene Dunne in Show Boat (1936).
Can’t help lovin’ dat man.
Irene Dunne, Helen Morgan, Paul Robeson, and Hattie McDaniel
Hattie McDaniel and Paul Robeson
Show Boat (1936) Directed by James Whale Shown from left: Hattie McDaniel, Paul Robeson
The Great Lie 1941
McDaniel acted alongside Bette Davis in the drama, The Great Lie.
A Rudy Vallee Show rehearsal turns into a conga dance. L-R: John, daughter Diana, Hattie McDaniel, Joan Davis, and Vallee, January 1942.
Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943
Hattie McDaniel and Willie Best – “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” 1943.
Hattie McDaniel & Willie Best – Ice Cold Katie | Thank Your Lucky Stars | Warner Archive
Hattie McDaniel, Rita Christina, Willie Best and Jesse Lee Brooks
ARCHIVIST, EDUCATOR, HISTORIAN, and ARTiST
Dale Shields is a professor of theatre, director, and actor (Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and Regional).
The 2017 winner of The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award®, 2017 and 2015 Tony® award nominee for the Excellence in Theatre Education Award, and the winner of the 2017 AUDELCO/"VIV" Special Achievement Award. In 2020 He was also awarded The Actors Fund / Encore Award
On the web, he is the archivist and historian of Iforcolor.org and Black Theatre/African American Voices [Facebook] (theatre, music, and art). He has taught classes and workshops at SUNY Potsdam, Susquehanna University, Denison University, Randolph-Macon College, Macalester College, The College of Wooster, Ohio University, Wayne State University, and the Joseph Papp Public Theatre (New York Shakespeare Festival).
B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Ohio University.