Trailblazing actress Hattie McDaniel won an Academy Award for her portrayal of “Mammy” in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind, the first Black actor to do so. But her career was far from easy after that. She endured Hollywood racism as well as backlash from the Black community for taking on maid and slave roles. According to some film scholars, she also had to deal with the closet. Married four times, she was nevertheless associated with the “Sewing Circle,” a group of famous Hollywood women, all lesbian or bisexual, who gathered regularly to socialize, and she has been long rumored to have been involved with Tallulah Bankhead.
Now a biopic about McDaniel, Behind The Smile, is in the works, and Raven Goodwin (The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel) has signed on to play the legendary actress. We’ll have to wait and see the film to know if McDaniel’s sexuality is addressed in the film – Golden Age Hollywood was notorious for keeping those closet doors locked tightly – but now that Queen Latifah has played her for Ryan Murphy on Netflix in Hollywood (a nod in that direction if ever there was one), we can hope.