Three Leading Ladies: The African-American Maid In Film


Hattie McDaniels is best known for winning a supporting Oscar for “Gone With the Wind.” She was Mammy to Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara. She also played a maid in many films that were not set in the south. McDaniels played in sophisticated dramas and comedies alongside prominent  actresses such as Mae West, Katherine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, and Carole Lombard. She starred for one season (1952-1953) in the sitcom Beulah, the only television show to feature a black woman as a leading character.


Juanita Moore is most noted for her role as “Annie” in a remake of Imitation of Life (1959).She played Lana Turner’s long-time faithful maid and companion. She received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for the part. Moore went to continue her movie career well  into the 1960s and 1970s. She played the mother in the black exploitation film, “The Mack” (1973).

louise beavers 1

Louise Beavers played maids in many movies. She replaced Hattie McDaniel in the television show “Beulah” (1952-1953). She is most known for her role as “Delilah” in the 1934 version of “Imitation of Life” with Claudette Colbert. In the film, it was she who produced the special pancake mix that made Colbert’s fortune.  It was her face that adorned the pancake mix box. Although Delilah became financially comfortable, ever the devoted servant,  she insisted on staying with Colbert until the end of her life.

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