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Butterfly McQueen Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (13) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 7 January 1911Tampa, Florida, USA
Date of Death 22 December 1995Augusta, Georgia, USA  (burns)
Birth NameThelma McQueen
Height 5' 1" (1.55 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Thelma McQueen attended public school in Augusta, Georgia and graduated from high school in Long Island, New York. She studied dance with Katherine Dunham, Geoffrey Holder, and Janet Collins. She danced with the Venezuela Jones Negro Youth Group. The "Butterfly" stage name, which does describe her constantly moving arms, actually derives from dancing the "Butterfly Ballet" in a 1935 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Her stage debut was in "Brown Sugar," directed by George Abbott for whom she did several other stage shows. In 1939 she appeared as the shop girls' assistant Lulu in The Women (1939) and in her most famous role, the irresponsible, whiny Prissy of Gone with the Wind (1939) ("Oh, Miss Scarlett, I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' babies").

Two other notable appearances among her string of silly maid parts were in Flame of Barbary Coast (1945) and Mildred Pierce (1945). From 1947 to 1951, she was a regular on the radio show "Beulah" and then in the TV version 1950-52.

In 1980, a Greyhound Bus Lines guard mistook her for a pickpocket and handled her roughly, throwing her against a bench and cracking several of her ribs. She sued for assault, and after several years of litigation, she was awarded $60,000. She chose to live very frugally on the money and retired to a small town outside Augusta, Georgia, where she lived in anonymity in a modest one-bedroom cottage.

On the night of Dec. 22, 1995, a fire broke out in her home, and she was found by firefighters lying on the sidewalk outside with severe burns over 70 percent of her body. She said her clothes caught fire while she was trying to light a kerosene heater in her cottage, which was destroyed by the fire. She was taken to Augusta Regional Medical Center, where she died at age 84.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Trivia (13)

At the time of her passing, she was living in a modest one-bedroom cottage just outside Augusta, GA. Her neighbors told the media that they knew her as "Thelma" McQueen because she did not want the public to know who she was. On the night of Dec. 22, 1995, a fire broke out in her cottage, and she was found lying on the sidewalk outside with second- and third-degree burns over 70 percent of her body. She told firefighters her clothes caught fire while she was trying to light one of two kerosene heaters in her cottage, which was destroyed by the fire. She was taken to Augusta Regional Medical Center, where she died at age 84.
Received a bachelor's degree in political science from New York City College in 1975 (she was 64).
Frustrated with racial type-casting, she quit acting in films in 1947, but appeared in the TV series Beulah (1950), where she played a maid. When not appearing on Broadway, she worked as a taxi dispatcher, a real-life maid, a companion to an elderly white woman, a seamstress, and a department store salesperson.
A lifelong atheist, she was honored with a "Freethought Heroine" award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1989. She was a life member of the organization, and left the contents of her personal bank account to the group when she died.
Father was a stevedore and mother was a maid.
Hated her real name of "Thelma" and actually had her name legalized to "Butterfly McQueen."
In the 1975 stage musical "The Wiz," Butterfly was initially cast to play the Queen of the Field Mice until her scene was cut. She ended up understudying the role of Addapearle, the Good Witch of the North.
The pressbook for the late 1960s release of Gone with the Wind (1939) listed her name as "Butterfield McQueen."
Her body was donated to medical science.
In 1980, she sued Greyhound Bus Lines when she was assaulted in a bus station by a guard who thought she was a pickpocket. Thrown roughly onto a bench, the 69 year-old actress had several of her ribs damaged. After several years of litigation, she was awarded $60,000.
Biography in "Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties" by Axel Nissen.
Lines from her obituary indicate that she wished to have all of her many cats put to sleep, as she could not be sure they could be guaranteed good homes after she was gone.
At one point, lived at the Thomas W. Phillips Residence at 2215 South Harvard Boulevard in Los Angeles, which was the filming location for the house in the majority of The People Under the Stairs (1991).

Personal Quotes (2)

As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.
Now I am happy I did Gone with the Wind (1939). 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.

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