Vanities: Hattie McDaniel at her dressing table

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via Los Angeles Times Photo Collection, UCLA

The London Cosmetics Museum just posted this photograph of actress Hattie McDaniel (1893-1952) in their Instagram feed, to commemorate McDaniel’s birthday.

I’ve never seen this image before, and I love it — especially now that I’ve read the original caption assigned to it by the Los Angeles Times: “‘God first, my work next — and a man last!’ That’s Hattie McDaniel, who’s free, forty, and famous.”

And what’s that perfume on her dressing table?

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I can’t make out the one in the back, but the circular one behind the lamb figurine is definitely Corday’s Toujours Moi (1924).

Here’s a vintage advertisement featuring Toujours Moi (Always Me)…

toujours moi 1961 advert vintage perfume

The bottle, with its motif of cascading vines or flowers, was designed by the jeweler Lucien Gaillard for Corday. This must be the parfum version, with a stopper. Ms. McDaniel owned a slightly different version with a narrower, rectilinear top.

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This is a promotion in the Dayton Herald (Ohio) from 1940, run by Gallaher’s drugstores. Toujours Moi, according to Gallagher’s, is a “conquering perfume for ‘big’ moments.”

I’m guessing that winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress might be one of those moments.

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And here’s just part of an ad for the department store ZCMI that ran in Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune (also 1940). It’s enough to make any classic perfume lover weep.

This photo of McDaniel wasn’t used for the profile (written by Don Ryan) that ran in the L.A. Times on February 11, 1940, but the article does feature other photos and some good quotes from the actress. Recalling her early days in Los Angeles, when she was a freelance actor struggling to get steady work and her friends and neighbors advised her to give up her ambitions, she said,

“I didn’t care what anybody said. I was going to make it if I died in my tracks. And I says to myself, ‘You people talking about me now — you’re agoing to read about me!'”

By 1940, everyone was reading about Hattie McDaniel.

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John Kobal Foundation / Getty Images

If you’re curious about Toujours Moi: Gaia reviewed its vintage formulation on her blog The Non-Blonde a while back; you can read her words here.

Here’s a recent piece on Hattie McDaniel in Harper’s Bazaar.

And Snopes has compiled a thorough discussion of the racism surrounding McDaniel’s night at the Oscars and the overall publicity for Gone with the Wind, including videos with footage of her award acceptance.

4 comments

  1. Great article, Jessica. I will plan to read more about HattieMcDaniels.

    Also, I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your talk on perfume bottles last night. It completely slipped my mind this week. Next time, though!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed this feature of Ms. McDaniel. I grew up in Atlanta, and our 11th grade history class, about equally white and black, with a black teacher, went to see this movie as a field trip circa 1975. I remember we had some good discussions. I think that generally the kids thought Ms. McDaniel’s character was very powerful and above disrespect, though a “Mammy” was a “stereotype.” Anyhow, for me, that character is like many Southern Grandmas of my childhood; no matter black or white – they were in your business, and you probably would not be far from success if you did do what they said! Thanks for finding a perfume link; I will read Ms. Gaia’s review. I miss her so – she was the one who sent me down the rabbit hole back in 2012!!!!

    Like

    • I miss Gaia so much, too!

      I hadn’t seen GWTW in years and years, but a local theater screened it a few years back so I had the chance to watch it again. Ms. McDaniel’s performance is really something — like you said, very powerful, and it ran the gamut from funny to fierce to heartbreaking. She really did something incredible with that part.

      Like

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