Butterfly Mcqueen


Actor
Butterfly Mcqueen

About

Also Known As
Thelma Mcqueen
Birth Place
Tampa, Florida, USA
Born
January 07, 1911
Died
December 22, 1995
Cause of Death
Complications Caused By Burns Sustained In A Kerosene Fire

Biography

Butterfly McQueen is best remembered as Prissy, the maid with the high squeaky voice who didn't "know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies" in the classic "Gone With the Wind" (1939). Born Thelma McQueen in Tampa, FL, she began her acting career when producer-director George Abbott hired her for the Broadway show "Brown Sugar" in 1937. McQueen became a permanent member of the Abbott Acting Comp...

Notes

"As I look back on "Gone With the Wind", for instance, I feel it is useful to have this authenticity. We've got to know more about where we've come from. I wasn't too happy about the whole thing, but also later in life, as I looked around, I decided to take what I could get and then use it for what I wanted to do."--McQueen quoted in THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 23, 1995.

Biography

Butterfly McQueen is best remembered as Prissy, the maid with the high squeaky voice who didn't "know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies" in the classic "Gone With the Wind" (1939). Born Thelma McQueen in Tampa, FL, she began her acting career when producer-director George Abbott hired her for the Broadway show "Brown Sugar" in 1937. McQueen became a permanent member of the Abbott Acting Company. During her stint with the company, she gained her famous nickname after dancing a butterfly ballet in a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." She earned her greatest stage recognition in "What a Life" and during its run was offered the role of Prissy. While the part relied heavily on stereotypes of supposedly dimwitted slaves, McQueen brought a comic pathos to her portrayal. Like many black actors in 1940s Hollywood, McQueen found few challenging roles and was usually relegated to playing domestics. Among her better known films are Vincente Minnelli's "Cabin in the Sky" (1943), Michael Curtiz' "Mildred Pierce" (1945) and King Vidor's "Duel in the Sun" (1947). McQueen effectively retired from acting in the early 1950s. She worked at various jobs including acting as a ladies' companion, selling toys at Macy's and hosting her own radio show in Augusta, GA. In the mid-'60s, McQueen began working as a waitress in Harlem, NY and later as a receptionist at Mount Morris Park Recreation Center where she also taught children tap dancing and ballet. At the age of 64, she earned her bachelor's degree from City College of New York. She made occasional appearances in films and TV specials in the 70s and 80s. Her last feature appearance was in a small role in Peter Weir's underrated "The Mosquito Coast" (1985). On TV, McQueen appeared regularly during the first season of "Beulah" (CBS, 1950-51) opposite Ethel Waters. She also played small or featured roles in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (PBS, 1986) and in two ABC specials for children, "The Seven Wishes of Joanna Peabody" (1978) and "The Seven Wishes of a Rich Kid" (1979) which earned her a Daytime Emmy. Her final TV appearance was in the TV remake of "Pollyanna" entitled "Polly" (NBC, 1989). McQueen died in December 1995 from complications caused by burns sustained in a kerosene fire in her Georgia home.

Life Events

1911

Born in Tampa, FL

1937

Broadway acting debut in "Brown Sugar"

1939

Film acting debut in "Gone With the Wind"

1950

TV series debut as regular "Beulah" (CBS)

1951

Retired from acting (date approximate)

1970

First feature in over twenty years "The Phynx"

1986

Final film appearance "The Mosquito Coast"

1989

Final TV appearance "Polly" (NBC)

Photo Collections

Gone With the Wind - Wardrobe Stills
Here are several rare wardrobe stills taken for David O. Selznick's Gone With the Wind (1939). Such test stills were taken prior to principal photography to approve the look and design of costumes. (Images courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Videos

Movie Clip

Cabin In The Sky (1943) -- (Movie Clip) A Thing Called Joe Little Joe (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson) comes back to life, prompting Petunia (Ethel Waters) into her sparkling performance of "Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe" by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, in MGM's Cabin In The Sky, 1943.
Mildred Pierce (1945) -- (Movie Clip) -- Keeps Me Thin Title character (Joan Crawford) commiserates with her maid Lottie (Butterfly McQueen) as they make pies for extra income, narrates, then discovers her snobby older daughter Veda (Ann Blyth) has found out about her lowly job, in Mildred Pierce, 1945.
Duel In The Sun (1947) -- (Movie Clip) Right On About Your Business The famous and now much-derided seduction scene, as Lewt (Gregory Peck) returns to the ranch to find only Vashti (Butterfly McQueen) between himself and the fiery semi-servant Pearl (Jennifer Jones), producer David O. Selznick's hand much in evidence, in Duel In The Sun, 1947.
Gone With The Wind (1939) -- (Movie Clip) Never Be Hungry Again! If ever a scene called for an intermission, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) hears bad news from slaves (Butterfly McQueen, Hattie McDaniel), flees the house, and makes a vow, ending the first half of Gone With The Wind, 1939.
Gone With The Wind (1939) -- (Movie Clip) Bringing A Baby Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) seeks out Doc Meade (Harry Davenport), leading to one of the most famous shots from Gone With The Wind, 1939, then returns home to strike Prissy (Butterfly McQueen) and deliver Melanie's baby herself.

Trailer

Bibliography

Notes

"As I look back on "Gone With the Wind", for instance, I feel it is useful to have this authenticity. We've got to know more about where we've come from. I wasn't too happy about the whole thing, but also later in life, as I looked around, I decided to take what I could get and then use it for what I wanted to do."--McQueen quoted in THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 23, 1995.