Sam McDaniel: Hattie’s Older Brother

African-American character actor Sam McDaniel (1886-1962) was born on this day. The older brother of the better known Hattie McDaniel, as well as younger sister Etta McDaniel, he started performing with his sister and other siblings in minstrel shows and black vaudeville, and like them often played stereotyped domestics and similar roles in Hollywood movies for decades.

Between 1929 and 1960 McDaniel appeared in 220 films. His one starring role was in the 1929 short Brown Gravy with the Georgia Jubilee Singers. Other notable stuff includes Hallelujah (1929), Harold Lloyd’s Movie Crazy (1932), Once in a Lifetime (1932), Footlight Parade (1933), Broadway Through a Keyhole (1933), The Old Fashioned Way (1934) with W.C. Fields, Belle of the Nineties (1934) with Mae West, Kid Millions (1935) with Eddie Cantor, Gold Diggers of 1935, George White’s 1935 Scandals, The Virginia Judge (1935), Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) with Shirley Temple, Polo Joe (1936) with Joe E. Brown, The Naughty Nineties (1945) with Abbott and Costello, a couple of Joe Palooka films, a couple of Ma and Pa Kettle films, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) with Danny Kaye, Heavenly Daze (1948) with the Three Stooges, Always Leave Them Laughing (1949) with Milton Berle, Carmen Jones (1954), St. Louis Blues (1958), several episodes of Amos ‘n’ Andy, and a 1955 episode of I Love Lucy — it is said that he was the only African American to ever appear in one.

This partial list is skewed in the direction of classic comedy, musical comedy and vaudeville, our primary bailiwick, but he is in skads of other major Hollywood classics in other genres including westerns, gangster films and the like. His last film was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960).

To find out about the history of vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic film comedy, read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.