Celebrating Etta McDaniel

Some brief words of tribute for African American character actress Etta McDaniel (1890-1946), younger sister of Sam McDaniel, and older sister of Oscar winning Hattie McDaniel.

Etta started out performing with her siblings in minstrel shows and black vaudeville, with an act called H. M. Johnson’s Mighty Modern Minstrels. Like Hattie, she followed Sam to Hollywood in the early 1930s. Her first credit was in King Kong (1933) as the native woman who rescues her baby from Kong at the last second in a crowd scene. Like her sister, she was often stereotypically cast as maids and menials, and indeed, can easily be mixed up with her similar looking sister. In fact, Etta played no less than seven screen characters named “Mammy”, the name of Hattie’s famous character from Gone with the Wind. Etta appeared in no fewer than 60 films in a dozen years of working in Hollywood, among them The Virginia Judge (1935), The Arizonian (1935), The Invisible Ray (1936), The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936), The Green Pastures (1936), Stella Dallas (1937), Tom Sawyer Detective (1938), The Farmer’s Daughter (1940), Son of Dracula (1943), and Incendiary Blonde (1945), Her last film the Vera Vague short Calling All Fibbers (1945). Etta died in early 1946. She was only 55 years old. Hattie followed six years later.

To learn more about vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous