The extraordinary life of Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel (Mammy, right) and Vivien Leigh (Scarlett) in Gone with the Wind.
Hattie McDaniel (Mammy, right) and Vivien Leigh (Scarlett) in Gone with the Wind.

BY EDOARDO MESITI
@EdoardoMesiti

This year marks two milestones for the late actress and radio personality Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952). Firstly, were she still alive, June 10 would have been her 100th birthday. Secondly, it has been 75 years since she became the first African-American to win an Oscar. She earned the prize for her performance as Mammy, a housemaid, in the epic film Gone with the Wind (1939).

Based on the Margaret Mitchell novel of the same name, the film is set during the American Civil War and Reconstruction eras (1861-1877). This period also saw the abolition of slavery of black people in 1865 (150 years ago on December 18 this year) when the 13th amendment was passed under President Abraham Lincoln.

But inequality for African Americans was still a fact in some states of the US. Regulations known as “Jim Crow laws” prevented McDaniel and the rest of the black cast from attending the Gone with the Wind world premiere in Atlanta, Georgia. Their images were also removed from promotional material and souvenirs promoting the film.

Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick and male lead actor Clark Gable tried unsuccessfully to convince Atlanta’s city officials to make an exception. However, the full cast was allowed to attend the Hollywood, California premiere, and promotional images there featured McDaniel.

At the 1940 Oscar awards – held at a “no blacks” hotel – McDaniel (who wore white gardenias in her hair) and her escort were seated away from her co-stars and the rest of the attendees. That night McDaniel won the prize for Best Supporting Actress.

Although McDaniel’s Oscar win was deemed a victory for black people, her choice to play a servant in Gone with the Wind and her subsequent acting roles were met with criticism. These roles played on Hollywood’s negative stereotypes of black people as illiterate, childlike, stupid and accepting of slavery and lowly positions in society.

Complaints were made by groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They complained that her Gone with the Wind character spoke nostalgically about the pre-American Civil War “Old South“, and a time and place when the treatment of black people was at its worst. They were also concerned that these roles restricted black actors to playing servant parts in film and television.

McDaniel responded to this criticism saying, “Why should I complain about making $7,000 a week playing a maid? If I didn’t, I’d be making $7 a week actually being one!”

By 1947 she became the first black actress to have her own radio show with the sitcom Beulah. She played a housemaid in the title role. A spin-off television series was made in 1950 and starred Ethel Waters, who McDaniel replaced in 1952. However, she had to pull out after six episodes when she discovered that she had advanced breast cancer. She died that year aged 57.

McDaniel’s Oscar award was bequeathed to Howard University after her death. However, during protests in the 1960s, the statuette went missing and has never been found.

Hattie McDaniel was given two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – for radio and film. There have also been numerous stage shows and television specials based on her life in America, such as: Hi-Hat-Hattie and Hattie … What I Need You To Know, and the Emmy Award winning television special, Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life Of Hattie McDaniel (2001).

In 2010 another black actress, Mo’Nique, won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Precious (2009). At the ceremony she wore white gardenias in her hair as McDaniel did when she attended the event in 1940. In her speech, Mo’Nique expressed gratitude to McDaniel for her strength: “I want to thank her for enduring all that she had to, so that I would not have to.”


 

Top 10 movies for a rainy day

BY AMJAD IBRAHIM (@Charles_Cain77), MATTHEW TRIPLEY (@mt3385) and MICHAEL TAOUK (@miketaouk)

It’s a rainy day outside. You’re sick of the weather and bored with your reading material. Why not throw a movie on to kill the time?

When it comes to choosing a flick that corresponds with the weather, some come to mind more immediately than others. So here is a film guide to 10 of the top movies that tie in with a rainy day.

10. THE CROW – action and thrills in Los Angeles. Not a lot of rain, but the storm complements the action on a night of good and evil. Recommended viewing.

The late Brandon Lee, star of The Crow.
The late Brandon Lee stars as Eric Draven in The Crow.
  1. SE7EN – an outrageous mix of action, horror and thriller. Suspenseful, with plenty of scares – set in a city that is forever cursed by the presence of rain.
Brad Pitt in the harrowing final moments of Se7en.
Brad Pitt in the harrowing final moments of Se7en.
  1. JURASSIC PARK – another action adventure for dinosaur lovers and action fans alike. Again, not a lot of rainy scenes – but some of the more memorable scenes take place in the rain.
No-one in this car, dino ... Jurassic Park.
We prefer Brad Pitt. A big, scary, wet, angry dino in Jurassic Park.
  1. THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW – an action adventure, with plenty of water crisis and carnage. Highly recommended for fans of Waterworld.
Emmy Rossum stranded in flood water in The Day After Tomorrow. (NYC looking a bit like Sydney the day before yesterday.)
Taxi! Emmy Rossum stranded in flood water in The Day After Tomorrow.
  1. WATERWORLD – set in a post-apocalyptic setting after the events of global warming, where humans cannot live on land and must survive on the water. Plenty of action as the characters endure harsh storms on the ocean.
Dennis Hopper and Kevin Costner in Waterworld.
Dennis Hopper and Kevin Costner in Waterworld.
  1. BLADE RUNNER – one of the best science-fiction films ever made, and almost entirely set in the rain over the course of one night. Plenty of wet scenes and action.
It's always raining in Blade Runner's futuristic LA.
It’s always raining in Blade Runner’s futuristic LA.
  1. DAREDEVIL – a blind hero who relies on the sense of sound. He overcomes the dangers that struck his city by using the droplets of rain to echo the actions of criminals and put a stop to them.
Daredevil in the rain.
Ssshh! Daredevil’s listening to the rain.
  1. SIN CITY – an action thriller in the vein of Quentin Tarantino films. Plenty of rain and wet scenes through the black-and-white, the film predominantly contains such scenes.
Will it ever stop? Rainy Sin City.
Will it ever stop? Rainy Sin City.
  1. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN – one of the classical musicals from 1952. As the title suggests, the movie is entirely set in the rain. A must-see for lovers of classical musicals.
Wet? Gene Kelly doesn't mind. He's singing in the rain.
Wet? Gene Kelly doesn’t mind. He’s singing in the rain.

And the number one film on our list is…

 

  1. THE PERFECT STORM – a must-see action drama set entirely on the water. Everybody dies in the end, but the plot and action are pretty awesome.
Sorry about the spoiler. The crew of the Andrea Gail in happier times.
Sorry about the spoiler. The crew of the Andrea Gail in happier times.

 

Celebs with animal names

BY EDOARDO MESITI
@EdoardoMesiti

Whether by birth or by choice, these celebs are animals.

1. Jay Z
Sean Carter’s stage name is actually a breed of bird. The “jay” is a medium sized bird part of the crow family.

 

2. Meagan Fox
She’s as foxy as her name and yes, her surname is real.

Megan Fox at the Toronto Fil Festival. Photo: Michael Vlasaty/CC/Wikimedia Commons
Megan Fox at the Toronto Fil Festival. Photo: Michael Vlasaty/CC/Wikimedia Commons

3. Havana Brown
Born as Angelique Meunier, Havana Brown is an Aussie DJ best known for her hit We Run the Night. So where does her name come from? A Havana Brown is actually a cross breed of Siamese and domestic black cats.

 

4. Tiger Woods
Unlike the previously mentioned celebs, Tiger is the actual first name of the golfing legend.

Tiger Woods.  Photo: Keith Allison/licensed under CC Attribution Share-Alike 2.0.
Tiger Woods.
Photo: Keith Allison/licensed under CC Attribution Share-Alike 2.0.

5. Birdy
This name doesn’t specify what kind of bird British singer Jasmine van den Bogaerde actually is. Just that she is a bird … PS: Her version of Skinny Love is really amazing!

 

6. Bear Grylls
While he is quite bearish in his line of work, his real name is much tamer: Edward Michael Grylls.

Grr! Adventurer and TV tough guy Bear Grylls in croc-infested waters in Arnhem Land. Photo: Luis Ascui/Lwp Kommunikacio/CC/Flickr
Grr! Adventurer and TV tough guy Bear Grylls in croc-infested waters in Arnhem Land. Photo: Luis Ascui/Lwp Kommunikacio/CC/Flickr

7. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg, (or apparently “Snoop Lion” these days) was born Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.

 

8. Owl Eyes
Brooke Addamo (aka Owl Eyes) is an Australian indie-pop singer and former Australian Idol contestant. Her name suggests she is not a complete owl (maybe a half-breed?)… Check out her awesome cover of Pumped Up Kicks here:

 

Who have we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Songs that make you go … huh?

BY EDOARDO MESITI
@EdoardoMesiti

Do you ever listen to a song and hear random lyrics that make you think … huh? Would you then continue to sing those dodgy words until someone points out what the artist is really singing? Here is a short list.

1. Ariana Grande: “Break Free”

What it sounds like: “Fart on your body I came alive, it was lethal, it was fatal.” Fast forward to 2:40:

What she is actually singing: Well, it turns out the lyric is not “fart”, it is “thought.” I am still going to sing “fart” though.

 

2. Simply Red: “Fairground”

What it sounds like: “I just love the thought of coming home to you…” but then the next line sounds like “…even if I know that you’re an idiot.” Fast forward to 1:15:

What he is actually singing: It turns out they don’t think “you’re an idiot”. The actual line is “Even if I know we can’t make it.” Oh well … again, still singing the line I thought it was.

 

3. MKTO: “Classic”

What it sounds like: If you fast forward to the bridge (30 seconds), the duo seem to want to “do you like Michael.”

What they’re actually singing: “I wanna THRILL you like Michael.” Oh, gotcha. (Reference to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” for those who were wondering).

 

4. Taylor Swift: “Blank Space”

What it sounds like: Fast forward to 55 seconds. We all remember the “Starbucks lovers” line:

What she is actually singing: “Got a long list of ex-lovers.” Did you meet them at Starbucks?

 

5. Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland: “Dilemma”

What it sounds like: In the chorus it sounds like Kelly Rowland is singing “even when I lick my boob” or “even when I’m with my boob” (fast forward to 45 seconds):

What she is actually singing: “Even when I’m with my boo.” In Australia at that time no one used the term “boo” outside of scaring people. We used the word “boyfriend” to refer to a male significant other. So you can understand the misunderstanding.

 

6. Jennifer Lopez: “If You Had My Love”

What it sounds like: “If you had my love and I gave you all my thrush” (fast forward to 30 seconds):

What she is actually singing: “If you had my love and I gave you all my TRUST.” Imagine being an innocent 12 year old when this came out and getting into trouble for running around the house singing about giving people thrush? Not that it might have been yours truly …

Know any songs with wtf lyrics? Post in the comments below.

 

WA to close ‘unviable’ communities

rusty_stewart
“… sacred land that has been home to our people for tens of thousands of years.” – David Eggington. Photo: Rusty Stewart/flickr/CC

 

BY TAMSIN DOCHERTY
@tamsinjayde

Last year the Federal government announced it would stop funding essential services in remote Indigenous communities, transferring responsibility to the states.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said his state would have to close between 100 – 150 Indigenous communities as a result of lack of funding.

Previously, the Federal government provided two-thirds of WA’s funding to Aboriginal communities and without that support, Barnett claimed, the state cannot afford to maintain funding on its own.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott suggested that Australian taxpayers should not subsidise the “lifestyle choices” made by Aborigines living in remote communities. His comments sparked a backlash from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

The Prime Minister’s own regular advisor on Aboriginal Affairs, Warren Mundine, told Fairfax Media that Abbott was wrong. “That is complete misconception of what it is and he is wrong in that regard,” Mr Mundine said. “It’s not about a lifestyle choice, it is not like retiring and moving for a sea change. It is about thousands of years’ connection, their religious beliefs and the essence of who they are.”

The forcible removal of Indigenous people from their homes is not a foreign concept in Australia. There can be social and economic repercussions of people’s displacement. Services such as housing are strained in towns where populations are re-settled.

Labor’s Indigenous Affairs spokesperson Ben Wyatt said there were serious concerns about where people will go if communities are shut down. “They will move to places like Broome, Kununurra and Fitzroy – places that are not equipped with adequate investment in housing and services to cope,” Mr Wyatt said.

In2010 WA closed the Oombulgurri community in the Kimberley. Tammy Solonec, is Amnesty International’s Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Manager, wrote about the gradual demolition of Oombulgurri in The Guardian:

First, the government closed the services. It closed the shop, so people could not buy food and essentials. It closed the clinic, so the sick and the elderly had to move, and the school, so families with children had to leave, or face having their children taken away from them. The police station was the last service to close, then eventually the electricity and water were turned off.

The remaining 10 people who remained in Oombulgurri were forcibly evicted and accommodated in temporary housing in Wyndham, costing the WA government $1.6 million.

The Closing the Gap Report suggests more funding needs to be allocated to remote communities, not less. Another of its suggestions is to uncover new policy solutions through proper engagement with Indigenous people, to involve them in the policy decisions that will directly affect them. Some Indigenous elders are recommending a program of cultural rejuvenation, returning indigenous peoples to their traditional lands in order to reconnect them with stolen heritage that has led to somewhat of an identity crisis.

Amnesty International believes those displaced from homes suffer significant trauma. The primary issue that the displacement undermines is the central value of Indigenous culture and their connection to their land.

CEO Aboriginal Legal Services WA David Eggington told protesters in Melbourne that the world was watching Australia. “I want you to stop and think about this sacred land that has been home to our people for tens of thousands of years – our land that is central to our culture.”

ISIL in Yarmouk, Damascus

”To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water, heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood” – Anas, Yarmouk resident. Photo: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)
”To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water, heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood” – Anas, Yarmouk resident. Photo: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)

BY MICHAEL TAOUK
@miketaouk

The Islamic state of Iraq and Levant group (ISIL) has taken over the west side of Yarmouk in southern Damascus, an area that harbours large numbers of Palestinian refugees.

Director of Political Affairs Anwar Abdel Hadi said in an interview that fighters from ISIL launched an assault this morning on Yarmouk and took over the majority of the refugee camp.

An activist from Yarmouk told al-Jazeera that ISIL fighters from neighbouring town Hajr al-Aswad also captured areas from the Palestinian group Bait al Maqdis, and that the fighting has been continuous. He denied reports that ISIL had taken over the whole area of Yarmouk .

A Yarmouk resident said the main reason for the attack was because of recent arrests of ISIL fighters accused of assassinating the leader of Bait al Maqdis.

The southern city of Yarmouk was an area that accommodated 160,000 Syrian and Palestinian refugees, but due to the recent terror it has refused 18,000 more, while many have fled to nearby towns.

The terror has left nothing for the residents to eat or drink.

On Wednesday the Jordan government ordered the main border crossing to be closed due the crisis in Syria.

LINKS:
UNRWA: Voices From Yarmouk

What’s behind China’s ‘great wall of sand’?

BY IMJAD IBRAHIM
@Charles_Cain77

China is attempting another grand feat, reclaiming land to create a great wall of sand in the South China Sea and stirring serious concerns about its territorial intentions, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet Admiral Harry Harris Jr said.

Admiral Harris told a naval conference at the Australian War Memorial yesterday that rival territorial claims by several nations in the South China Sea are “increasing regional tensions and the potential for miscalculation”.

Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows Chinese activity in Gaven Reefs in the Spratly Islands. China built an artificial island between March and August 2014. (CNES 2014, Distribution Astrium Services / Spot Image S.A / IHS)
Airbus Defence and Space imagery shows Chinese activity in Gaven Reefs in the Spratly Islands. China built an artificial island between March and August 2014. (CNES 2014, Distribution Astrium Services / Spot Image S.A / IHS)

“China is building artificial land by pumping sand onto live coral reefs — some of which have turned a number of previously submerged reefs into artificial islands with buildings, runways and wharves paving over them with concrete,” he said. “China has now created over four square kilometres of artificial landmass.”

Admiral Harris said the region is known for its beautiful natural islands, however “in sharp contrast, China is creating a great wall of sand with dredgers and bulldozers over the course of months.”

China claims as its territory most of the South China Sea. The Philippines and other countries that have territorial disputes with China in the region have been particularly concerned by the land reclamation projects. They say the islands could be used for military and other facilities to bolster China’s territorial claims.

 

 

Saving the bees

Street art by Louis Masai Michel, who is raising awareness of the plight of the bee. Photo: Facebook
Street art by Louis Masai Michel, who is raising awareness of the plight of the bee. Photo: Facebook

BY SEGOLENE MISSELYN
@SMisselyn

Louis Masai Michel is a street artist with a penchant for animal rights. In his case, he’s raising awareness of the plight of probably the most important animal on earth: the bee.

Joni Mitchell stable after collapse

Joni Mitchell in concert, 1974. By Paul C. Babin [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Joni Mitchell in concert, 1974. By Paul C. Babin [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
BY CURREN RAJAN
@currenrajan

Joni Mitchell is in “good spirits” after she was rushed to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Los Angeles yesterday.

The 71-year-old musician was found unconscious at her home in Bel Air. She regained consciousness during the ambulance ride to the hospital. The singer-songwriter’s official website released a statement declaring that Mitchell was awake and undergoing tests.

Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue came 30th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. She has received eight Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The musician announced in 2007 that she was retiring because of a rare skin condition.