The Mystery Of Hattie McDaniel’s Missing Oscar Explained

However, when reexamining the film today, Hattie McDaniel’s strong and nuanced performance is viewed by some historians as a critique of the Mammy stereotype, per South Florida Times. When criticized, the actress was known to retort, “I’d rather play a maid than be a maid” (via The Hollywood Reporter). Her biography, “Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood” reports it a little more strongly: “I can be a maid for $7 a week. Or I can play a maid for $700 a week” (via Vanity Fair).

While searching for McDaniel’s Oscar, it’s important to note that this was not the typical golden statue we’re used to seeing, which measures about 13.5 inches tall. Instead, McDaniel was given a six-inch by five-inch plaque, making the tiny award even easier to lose (via the Howard Law Journal, posted at SSRN).

In 2005, Joseph Selmon, a theater chairman at Howard University, asked the Academy to replace McDaniel’s award (via South Florida Times). But they said no — apparently, there are no replacement Oscars awarded, even under special circumstances. The Academy then sent Howard University a framed photo of McDaniel and some stamps with her image printed on them.

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