January 26, 2006

1st Black Oscar Winner Honored With Stamp

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to win an Academy Award, was honored Wednesday with a U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamp.

McDaniel is the 29th person honored in the Postal Service's long-running Black Heritage stamp series.

The 39-cent stamp depicts the plump-faced McDaniel in a 1941 photograph in the blue dress she wore when she received the Oscar for best supporting actress in "Gone with the Wind" in February 1940.

McDaniel played Scarlett O'Hara's maid in the 1939 movie about the Civil War.

"She was a most special lady," McDaniel's "Gone with the Wind" co-star Ann Rutherford told AP Television News.

Rutherford recalled how McDaniel thought some of her friends looked down on her for playing a maid.

"But (McDaniel) said, 'I'd rather play a maid than be a maid,'" Rutherford said.

Rutherford, who portrayed Scarlett O'Hara's sister "Carreen," was joined at the ceremony by fellow "Gone with the Wind" cast members Cammie King Conlon ("Bonnie Blue Butler") and Mickey Kuhn ("Beau Wilkes").

McDaniel was born in 1895 in Kansas and arrived in Hollywood in 1931 after starting her career in vaudeville and on radio. She died in 1952.

The ceremony took place at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where the Hattie McDaniel collection includes photographs of McDaniel and other family members, as well as scripts and other documents.

The collection also contains a large number of recordings from her radio program, "Beulah," which was broadcast on national radio and the first to feature a black star.

The new stamp was made available Wednesday in Beverly Hills and will be sold nationwide Thursday.

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