Author(s): Chris Moffitt
"I Love Mammy"
Directed by Taylor Hackford
Written by Jimmy White and Taylor Hackford
Produced by William J. Immerman, Jaime Rucker King, Stuart Benjamin and Taylor Hackford
Edited by Paul Hirsch
Hattie McDaniel- Queen Latifah
Sam McDaniel- Mario Van Peebles
Clark Gable- Josh Brolin
Howard Hickman- Delroy Lindo
Etta McDaniel- CCH Pounder
Will Rogers- Chris Cooper
Vivien Leigh- Anne Hathaway
Tagline: "In a time when racism and hate ruled America, she became loved"
Synopsis: The film begins in 1929 with Hattie McDaniel, an aspiring actress, working as a washroom attendant at Club Madrid in Milwaukee. After some prodding and hard work, she convinces the manager of the Club to allow her to sing at the lounge. She becomes a regular and a fan favorite but it left her desiring more. After two years of singing at Club Madrid, McDaniel makes the decision to move to Los Angeles and meet up with her siblings, James and Etta.
Her brother, James is a comical radio personality with a pension for creating over-the-top character. While in Los Angeles, she gets a job at her brother’s radio station playing wildly popular maid characters however she is not paid very high and has to struggle in a second job as a maid. Her radio popularity eventually leads her to get roles in films usually singing in the background of big chorus numbers. Yet these roles do not relieve the stress that working two jobs has placed on her. Her big break comes in 1934 when she lands a major role in the film, Judge Priest, where she sings and stars alongside Will Rogers. She begins a strong friendship with Rogers after the film but unfortunately their friendship comes to a tragic end when Rogers dies in 1935 after a plane crash. His death leaves Hattie very depressed and upset as he was her first major friend in Hollywood.
McDaniel keeps on the rise to superstardom playing supporting characters such as maids in many studio films. In 1935, she surpasses her brother’s radio and film career causing some friction between the siblings. Sam accuses Hattie of selling out by playing supporting characters like maids. Hattie accuses Sam of being jealous and trying to hold her back. Their relationship is strained for some time.
Later in 1935, she stars with Clark Gable in the film, Alice Adams, forming a strong friendship with Gable. The two treat each other as if they were family. However, the public pressure she feels as a rising star eventually begins to affect her personal life. She tried marriage for the second time in her life when she met and married Howard Hickman. When the two first meet it was love at first sight but soon the two begin to argue mainly over Hattie’s budding career. Their tumultuous relationship lasts only a year. The relationship leaves her with some doubts about herself and leaves her with some depression.
McDaniel is able to recover and auditions for the role of Mammy in the highly anticipated film, Gone with the Wind but she feels that she blew the audition. However, thanks to the influence of her friend Clark Gable McDaniel receives the role and stars in the film alongside Gable and Vivien Leigh. She receives the best reviews of her career for the film and finally believes that she is accepted as an actress in Hollywood. However that feeling does not last long because she is not allowed to attend the Atlanta premiere of Gone With the Wind and sit with the other white actors due to Jim Crow Laws. Clark Gable is furious and plans to protest the premiere. Despite her anger and sadness over not being allowed to go to the premiere, the humble actress insists that her friend go even if she couldn’t. Eventually, McDaniel receives an Oscar nomination and wins for her performance as Mammy. The film ends with McDaniel going up on stage, receiving her Oscar and making history as the first African American Academy Award winner. McDaniel delivers her powerful acceptance speech in front of her friends and family to a standing ovation.
What the Press would say:
“I Love Mammy”, Taylor Hackford’s look at the life of Hattie McDaniel is a beautifully inspiring take on the humble actress’ life. Queen Latifah embodies the role of Hattie McDaniel using her musical, comedic and dramatic skills in a perfect combination. Latifah mimics McDaniel’s quiet confidence and humble disposition in a way that very few other actresses could ever dream of. Queen Latifah’s performance is amazing but she is backed up by an amazing ensemble cast. Josh Brolin becomes the legendary Clark Gable, a task that few actors would ever attempt to accomplish. As Gable, Brolin embodies the sex appeal of the great actor while also presenting a sweet and nurturing side as seen in the scenes with him and Latifah’s McDaniel. Also, Mario Van Peebles transforms Sam McDaniel into a character that is equal parts jealous of and happy for Hattie’s success. His acting is superb as he throws out comedic one liners as a comical radio host while also showing quiet desperation when Latifah’s Hattie begins to eclipse his stardom.
The film also delivers beauty on a visual level. Taylor Hackford transports the audience directly to the Great Depression and the 1930s with the help of brilliant costume design, art direction and cinematography. Make-up and costume design help to complete the Queen Latifah’s transformation into the legendary actress. Just like in his other Oscar nominated film Ray Hackford is undeniably brilliant by coordinating brilliant recreations of McDaniel’s musical numbers and films while also creating emotional scenes between McDaniel and her friends and family. Overall, “I Love Mammy” is a masterpiece that should generate plenty of Oscar nominations.
Best Director- Taylor Hackford
Best Actress- Queen Latifah
Best Supporting Actor- Mario Van Peebles
Best Supporting Actor- Josh Brolin
Best Original Screenplay- Jimmy White and Taylor Hackford
Best Film Editing
Best Costume Design
Best Sound Editing