Butterfly McQueen Remembered

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Scarecrow Press, 2008 - 142 pages
Butterfly McQueen will always be remembered for her first screen role as Scarlett O'Hara's hysterical servant girl, Prissy, in Gone With the Wind (1939) and for her most famous line in the Civil War epic: "I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' babies " Though many criticized her for playing an offensive caricature of black womanhood, film scholar Donald Bogle claims her performance is "a unique combination of the comic and the pathetic." Tired of playing what she called "stupid maids," however, Butterfly turned her back on Hollywood in the 1940s and spent the next fifty years in obscurity. On several occasions she tried to revive her theatrical career, but her identification with Prissy made it difficult for her to be taken seriously by producers and casting agents. Mostly she supported herself by taking menial jobs. In the 1970s she was active in social work projects in Harlem, and was awarded a degree by the City College of New York. In 1989, as one of the last surviving members of the cast of Gone With the Wind, Butterfly happily participated in the film's 50th anniversary celebrations. At the time of the celebrations she said: "Now I am happy I did Gone With the Wind. I wasn't when I was 28, but it's part of black history. You have no idea how hard it is for black actors, but things change, things blossom in time." In Butterfly McQueen Remembered, author Stephen Bourne, who corresponded with Butterfly for many years, draws upon two decades of research to document her life and career. From her memorable role in one of Hollywood's greatest films to her last big screen appearance opposite Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast, the details of McQueen's life are captured in this intimate portrait. Bourne chronicles the ups and downs of this talented and generous woman's life, both in front of the camera and far from its glaring spotlight."

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Butterfly McQueen remembered

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McQueen (1911-95) is best known for playing a young slave named Prissy in the Civil War epic Gone with the Wind, a role much criticized as an offensive caricature of black women. In this book, Bourne ... Read full review


Before Butterfly Became Prissy
Gone With the Wind
Black Resistance to Gone With the Wind

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About the author (2008)

Stephen Bourne is a regular contributor to Black Filmmaker magazine and has been interviewed in several documentaries, including Black Divas (1996) and Paul Robeson: Here I Stand (1999). He is the author of Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television (2001), Elisabeth Welch: Soft Lights and Sweet Music (Scarecrow, 2005), and Ethel Waters: Stormy Weather (Scarecrow, 2007).

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