Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Black History Month
Butterfly McQueen (January 8, 1911 – December 22, 1995) was an American film and television actress.
Born Thelma McQueen in Tampa, Florida, she trained as a dancer and took her stage name from the "Butterfly Dance" after performing it in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
McQueen made her first film in 1939 in what would become her most identifiable role—as Prissy, the young maid in Gone with the Wind, uttering the famous words: "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!" She also played an uncredited bit part as a sales assistant in The Women, filmed after Gone With the Wind but released before it. Around this time she also modeled for the Mrs. Butterworth bottle. She continued to play maids and small parts in various films including Cabin In The Sky (1943), Since You Went Away (1944), Mildred Pierce (1945) and Duel in the Sun (1946). She also played Butterfly, Mary Livingstone's maid in the Jack Benny radio program, for a time during World War II. But by 1947 had grown tired of the ethnic stereotypes she was required to play and ended her film career.
By 1950 she had played another racially-stereotyped role for two years on the television series Beulah, which reunited her with her Gone with the Wind co-star Hattie McDaniel.
Her acting roles after this were very few, and she devoted herself to other pursuits including study, and received a bachelor's degree in political science in 1975. She had one more role of some substance in the 1986 film The Mosquito Coast.
McQueen lived in Aiken, South Carolina and died in Augusta, Georgia as a result of burns received when a kerosene heater she was attempting to light exploded and burst into flames. A lifelong atheist, she donated her body to medical science and remembered the Freedom From Religion Foundation in her will.