The Help: 5 Servants In Movies
The role of an underling like a maid, butler, or servant may not seem like an exciting one, but a skilled screenwriter and actor can make that role come to life and help define what a move is all about. The actor playing the role of the servant may know just what the head of the household is thinking. A look, a nod of the head or the clearing of the throat can be a signal that only the servant understands. A good actor can use these nuances to take the role and run with it, and the five servants in movies on this list are among the most noteworthy in history.
Prissy, "Gone With the Wind."
Played memorably by Hattie McDaniel, Prissy was the House Servant in the 1939 classic. Her character was constantly offering advice and she claimed to be an expert on midwifery. However, when Melanie is about to deliver her baby, Prissy comes clean with one of the most famous quotes in movie history: "I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies."
Delilah Johnson, "Imitation of Life."
This role was played by Louise Beavers, another fine African-American actress who was almost always forced to play a maid or a house servant. However, in this 1934 movie starring Claudette Colbert, Beavers was allowed to play Delilah as a full-fledged human being with thoughts, feelings and emotions. It shocked many audiences at the time who had never seen a black actor or actress perform in anything but a servile role.
Max Von Mayerling, "Sunset Boulevard."
This 1950 film is about a silent film actress who tries to make a comeback in more modern films with a script that has been written with her in mind for the key role. The problem is that nobody believes in her, except her butler Max Von Mayerling, played expertly by Erich von Stroheim. In addition to being Norma Desmond's servant, Mayerling at one time had been her husband. He not only supports her, he protects her in every way he can.
Elvira Stitt, "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?"
The 1962 features Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as siblings who both were actors during their career. Jane, played by Davis, was a famous child star who was eclipsed by Blanche, played by Crawford, when they were both adults. They live together and Elvira is the sisters' housekeeper. Played by Maidie Norman, she sees how awful Jane behaves towards her kind sister. Elvira is sickened by Jane and she is the movie's conscience.
Tillie, "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner."
This was one of the most important and shocking movies of the time. In this 1967 movie, beautiful Joey Drayton brings home her fiance to meet her wealthy parents. She has had a whirlwind courtship and her parents are shocked that their daughter wants to get married so suddenly. They are even more shocked to learn that her fiance is a black doctor named John Prentice, played by Sidney Poitier. Tillie, played by Isabel Sanford, is the family's trusted cook. On the surface, she does not approve of the relationship and she treats Prentice with a cold shoulder because he does not "know his place." At the time, civil rights was the key domestic issue and this film helped put previously taboo subjects on the table and opened up discussion.