DCS: hattie mcdaniel

My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you.
Hattie McDaniel is one of the most talented actresses and one of the most underrated actress ever to come out of Hollywood.

After a successful beginning as an actress, singer and songwriter with her brother’s minstrel show, she toured with the Melody Hounds, a singing group. A radio performance by The Melody Hounds led to Hattie making a number of recording for Okeh Records, a label with a predominately African-American roster. Of the many tracks she recorded, only four were issued.

After the stock market crash in 1929, Hattie could only find work as a washroom attendant and waitress at Club Madrid in Milwaukee. Despite the owner’s reluctance to let her perform, she was eventually allowed to take the stage and soon became a regular attraction. Shortly afterwards, she moved to Los Angeles with her brother Sam and her sister Etta, also aspiring actors. One of her first show biz jobs upon her arrival in Los Angeles was on a radio show performing as “Hi-Hat Hattie”, a bossy maid who often “forgets her place.” The show was a hit, but Hattie’s  salary was so low that she had to continue working as a maid.

Beginning with The Golden West in 1932, Hattie was featured in over 300 film roles, most of which were uncredited. The majority of Hattie’s film roles were portrayals of feisty and outspoken maids. She (mostly) received praise for her performances, although she was chastised by Southern audiences for upstaging star Katherine Hepburn in 1935’s Alice Adams. Through her connections in show business, she became friends with such noted actors as Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, Henry Fonda and Ronald Reagan.

Hattie’s most famous role was, undoubtedly, that of “Mammy,” the stern, but loving, maid in David O. Selznick’s 1939 epic Gone With The Wind. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to Selznick to ask that her own maid, Elizabeth McDuffie, be given the part. Clark Gable, who was cast as the rakish Rhett Butler, recommend Hattie for the role, despite her mostly comic leanings. She showed up for the audition in an authentic maid’s costume and won Selznick over. When the film’s gala premiere was planned for Atlanta, Hattie was barred from the ceremony because of strict Southern segregation rules. Clark Gable threatened to boycott the event until a tearful Hattie convinced him to attend. Later in the years, Hattie was separated from the rest of the cast at the Academy Awards, although she was joined at her table by her agent,William Meiklejohn, who was white. Hattie’s name was announced as the winner of the Best Supporting Actress Award, the first Oscar ever won by an African-American. A gracious Hattie delivered a heartfelt acceptance speech, proclaiming it “one of the happiest moments of my life” and thanking everyone who had a part in selecting her for the award and for their kindness.

Despite criticism by civil rights leaders, Hattie continued to play maids and domestics. She took over the television role of “Beulah” when Ethel Waters left the series. The show was a big hit and Hattie thrived until she became too ill to perform. The role was then taken by Louise Beavers.

Hattie was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away at the age of 57 in 1952. She requested to be buried “in a white casket, a white shroud with white gardenias in her hair.” She asked to be interred at Hollywood Cemetery, but, unfortunately, she was refused as they practiced racial segregation. Hattie was buried at Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.

In 1999, the new owners of the Hollywood Cemetery offered to have Hattie’s remains re-interred there. Her family declined the offer. Instead, Hollywood Forever Cemetery (as it was renamed) built a large cenotaph on the lawn overlooking its lake. It is one of Hollywood’s most popular tourist attractions.

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DCS: lena horne

ain't no sun up in the sky

Lena Horne joined the chorus line at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club in the fall of 1933 when she was just 16. By the spring, she was a featured performer at the club, eventually touring as a vocalist with bandleader Charlie Barnet. Not a fan of life on the road, Lena returned to her native New York as headliner in a “Cotton Club”-style revue at Cafe Society in Greenwich Village. Not too long after, she was coaxed to Hollywood where she headlined briefly at a Sunset Strip nightclub until she made her film debut.

In 1943, she appeared in Stormy Weather for MGM Pictures, a musical in which she sang the title song, the song with which she would be associated for the rest of her career. She went on to appear in a number of musicals for MGM, but was never featured in a leading role because of her race. Her films had to be re-edited for presentation in cities where theaters would not show films with black performers. Her segments were often stand alone numbers that had very little to do with the rest of the film.

By the mid-1950s, Lena was fed up with Hollywood and turned to nightclubs. Lena headlined and enjoyed success in clubs across the country, including The Sands in Las Vegas, the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. A live recording of her performance at the Waldorf became the biggest selling album to date by a female artist for RCA Records.

Lena was blacklisted in the 1950s for her close association with pro-communist groups. However, as an outspoken advocate for civil rights, she was one of 250, 000 marchers on Washington in 1963 who witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King’s inspirational “I Have Dream Speech.” She disavowed communism by the late 60s.

Lena was a staple on television during the 1960s, appearing numerous times on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Perry Como Show and The Flip Wilson Show. She was the object of Redd Foxx‘s affection and was often referenced on Sanford and Son.

One year after announcing her retirement in 1980, Lena embarked on a one-woman show that ran for more than three hundred performances on Broadway. She eventually took the show on an extensive tour. By 2000, now in her 80s, Lena disappeared from the public eye. She passed away in 2010 at the age of 92.

 

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DCS: frederick douglass

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.

Frederick Douglass was a one-time slave who, secretly, taught himself how to read a write. He eventually escaped his inhumane treatment, fleeing to the North and settling in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He became an outspoken proponent for freedom as a firm believer in equality for all people. He was an advocate for voting rights for women and African-Americans and gave many passionate public speeches on the issue. He became the first African-American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull (the first woman to run for U.S. President), on the Equal Rights Party ticket.

At a recent White House breakfast to kick off Black History Month, a vague and confused reference by the current president brought Douglass’s name to the headlines, prompting Robert Benz a co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, to issue this statement:

As Co-Founder of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, I’m able to publish, exclusively, the following statement from the direct descendants of Frederick Douglass:

The President’s comments from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, about Frederick Douglass, were noted and appreciated by us, the Douglass family. In fact, we believe, if he had more time to elaborate, the President would have mentioned the following:

“Frederick Douglass has done an amazing job …

  • Enduring the inhumanity of slavery after being born heir to anguish and exploitation but still managing to become a force for solace and liberty when America needed it most,
  • Recognizing that knowledge was his pathway to freedom at such a tender age,
  • Teaching himself to read and write and becoming one of the country’s most eloquent spokespersons,
  • Standing up to his overseer to say that ‘I am a man!’
  • Risking life and limb by escaping the abhorrent institution,
  • Composing the Narrative of his life and helping to expose slavery for the crime against humankind that it is,
  • Persuading the American public and Abraham Lincoln that we are all equal and deserving of the right to live free,
  • Establishing the North Star newspaper when there was very little in the way of navigation or hope for the millions of enslaved persons,
  • Supporting the rights of women when few men of such importance endeavored to do so,
  • Arguing against unfair U.S. immigration restrictions,
  • Understanding that racism in America is part of our “diseased imagination,”
  • Recruiting his sons—who were born free—to fight in the war to end the enslavement of other African Americans,
  • Being appointed the first black U.S. Marshal by President Rutherford B. Hayes,
  • Being appointed U.S. Minister to Haiti by President Benjamin Harrison,
  • Serving as a compelling role model for all Americans for nearly two centuries.”

Like the President, we use the present tense when referencing Douglass’s accomplishments because his spirit and legacy are still very much alive, not just during Black History Month, but every month. Leading up to the Bicentennial of Douglass’s birth, in February 2018, here are some of the initiatives that we, the Frederick Douglass family, will be implementing as well as some of those we hope to implement with the support of this administration, the institutions it leads and the American people (black, brown and white alike):

  • Publishing the Bicentennial Edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,
  • Giving this hard cover book to one million young people in schools, churches, clubs and detention centers as part of our “One Million Abolitionists” project,
  • Collaborating to develop the PROTECT human trafficking prevention education program in the State of California,
  • Creating a national Frederick Douglass curriculum for elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges,
  • Renaming the original bill that governs the nation’s anti-human trafficking work both domestically and abroad: “The Trafficking Victims Prevention & Protection Act,”
  • Further renaming the bill to honor him during his Bicentennial: “The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention & Protection Act.”

These are just a few examples of how Frederick Douglass has impacted and will continue to impact this country. We look forward to helping re-animate Douglass’s passion for equality and justice over the coming year leading up to his Bicentennial in 2018. We encourage the President to join in that effort.

In Freedom!

The Frederick Douglass family

All of the Dead Celebrity Spotlight posts for the month of February will be in honor of Black History Month. – JPiC

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DCS: henry heimlich

but it's the abdominal thrusts that really drive you insa-a-a-ane

Henry Heimlich, a thoracic surgeon and medical researcher, wrote a piece for the trade publication Emergency Medicine, extolling the virtues of his abdominal thrust method of rescuing victims of choking. The procedure, used to success by a Bellevue, Washington restaurant owner on a choking patron, was embraced and promoted by both the American Heart Association and The American Red Cross. They referred to the action as “The Heimlich Maneuver,” named for its inventor.

In 2006, the American Red Cross “downgraded” the use of the Heimlich Maneuver. Instead, the organization recommended five sharp blows to the back be applied first to clear the airways. If that fails, then the Heimlich Maneuver should be employed.

In 2003, Henry’s colleague Edward Patrick claimed that he should receive credit for co-developing the maneuver. Henry’s own son, Peter, maintains a website that accuses his father of manipulation and fraud.

Henry Heimlich, who passed away in December 2016, used his own life-saving maneuver on a fellow resident of his senior living community, just eight months prior to his own death at 96 years old. Henry was married to Jane Murray, daughter of the famed dance instructor, Arthur Murray. He was the uncle of actor Anson Williams, best known as “Potsie” on the TV sitcom Happy Days.

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Monday Artday: glow

four boys and a guitar

The Mills Brothers began singing in their church choir, branching out to street performances outside their father’s barbershop. A win on a local talent show got them a gig at May’s Opera House in their hometown of Piqua, Ohio. They sang in between showings of Rin Tin Tin. Famed pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington saw the group while on tour in nearby Cincinnati. He was so impressed, he called a representative at Okeh Records and signed the young quartet to a recording contract. They were brought to New York where stardom awaited.

In 1930, CBS Radio exec William Paley was urged to listen to the young men rehearse. He was elated and immediately signed the band to a three-year contract, making them the first African-Americans to have a network radio show. Each program began with the announcement that the only musical instrument or mechanical devices used was a single guitar. The Mills Brothers were adept at imitating trumpets, saxophones and trombones. A similar statement was printed on their record labels. They enjoyed wild success for decades with chart-topping records, radio and film performances and lucrative sponsorships.

In the 1950s, trying to combat the popularity of rock and roll, the Mills Brothers recorded a reworking of a song called “Das Glühwürmchen”from a 1902 German operetta called Lysistrata. American lyricist Johnny Mercer penned new lyrics and re-titled the tune “Glow Worm.” The song, released by the Mills Brothers in 1952, was their last Number 1 hit.

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