Although her movie career consisted almost entirely of playing stereotypic maids and other servants, Hattie McDaniel was in fact the first black woman to sing on the radio and the first black performer to win an Academy Award, for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939). Before coming to Hollywood, she had been a blues singer and had toured as Queenie in Show Boat, later playing the same role in the 1936 Irene Dunne version of the film. Her considerable film credits include Blonde Venus (1932) with Marlene Dietrich, I'm No Angel (1933) with Mae West, Nothing Sacred (1937) with Carole Lombard and Fredric March, The Shopworn Angel (1938) with Margaret Sullavan, They Died with Their Boots On (1941), James Thurber's story The Male Animal (1942), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Since You Went Away (1944), and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). She starred in the Beulah series on radio and was scheduled to take over the role from Ethel Waters for the television series, which would have reunited her with Gone with the Wind co-star Butterfly McQueen, when she became ill and was replaced by Louise Beavers.
- Before she became famous, she worked as a bathroom attendant and a traveling minstrel performer.
- Portrayed Queenie in the touring production of Show Boat; reprised the role in the film version starring Irene Dunne.
- Was one of the first African-American women to be broadcast on radio.
- Was the first African-American to win an Academy Award, for her performance in Gone with the Wind (1939); won the award over her costar, Olivia de Havilland.
- When criticized for constantly portraying domestic servants, she replied, "I'd rather play the part than be one."
- Has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.