Thursday, January 28, 2016

Born Today January 28 (Not So Silent Edition): Sam McDaniel


Born Samuel Rufus McDaniel in Wichita, Kansas; he was the older brother of actresses Hattie McDaniel and Etta McDaniel--in addition, he had 10 other siblings (13 children in all).  The family was born to former slaves; his (their) father, Henry, had fought in the Civil War on behalf of the U.S. (i.e.:  "The North"); and his (their) mother, Susan, was a very accomplished gospel singer.  In 1900, the family moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, but didn't stay there long; they then relocated to Denver.  While there, Sam attended and graduated from Denver East High School; and was an active participant in the family's traveling minstrel show--the brain child of an older brother Otis.  After Otis' death in 1916, the troupe began to lose money and cohesiveness; they disbanded.  Sam went on to found his own jazz group, with his long time girlfriend Roberta Hyson as lead vocalist and him on piano.  The toured toured heavily, and mostly exclusively, on the vaudeville circuit during most of the 1920's.  Though many sources list his entry into movie as being 1931, the year he moved to Hollywood; he was actually in two films, one of which he had name recognition in: this was in the year 1929.  Both films, however, were early forms of talkies and musicals.  The first film he was in turned out to be rather a doozy; King Vidor's dramatic musical Hallelujah, which was filmed entirely on location in various places in Arkansas and Memphis, Tenn.  McDaniel's role of Adam went uncredited (as did half the of the cast!), but he was in a film, non-the-less that would go on to be nominated for an Oscar.  His sister Hattie, is very, very famous for being the first African-American not only to be nominated individually for an Oscar, but to also go on and win it.  It was for her 1939 role in Gone With The Wind; she won for the best actress in a supporting role category.  Sam's first film credit also came in 1929, in the musical short Brown Gravy; it was produced by the Christie Film Company.  McDaniel went on to have a prolific acting career and also found work and some celebrity on the radio in the 1930's, where he was able to get one of his sister's a spot as well.  He acted in over 210 films and later on in television episodes combined,;although, sadly, because of his race, he was relegated in most cases to bit parts in stereo-type roles, such as:  doorman, servant, butler, porter, dining car waiter, etc.  Even more sadly, many of his roles simply went uncredited.  For example his last role, which came in 1960, in Michael Curtiz's epic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he played a servant, and the role went uncredited.  He lost his life to a battle with throat cancer on the 24th of September in 1962.  He is buried in Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood.  

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