Louise Beavers

Active - 1923 - 1960  |   Born - Mar 8, 1902 in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States  |   Died - Oct 26, 1962   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Musical

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Biography by Hal Erickson

African American actress Louise Beavers was born in Cincinnati and raised in California, where she attended Pasadena High School. Louise's entree into Hollywood was as maid to silent film star Leatrice Joy. With Ms. Joy's encouragement, Louise began accepting small film parts in 1923, and three years later became a full-time performer when she joined the Ladies Minstrel Troupe. After co-starring in the 1927 Universal remake of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Ms. Beavers worked steadily in films, usually playing maids, housekeepers and "mammies." Her most famous role was as troubled pancake entrepreneur Aunt Delilah in the 1934 filmization of Fannie Hurst's Imitation of Life. Another breakaway from stereotype was as the title character's strong-willed mother in The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), On television, Louise Beavers starred on the weekly sitcom Beulah from 1952 through 1953, and played Louise the maid on the 1953 pilot episode of Make Room for Daddy.

Movie Highlights

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  • Was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, which was 1 of only 4 African-American sororities at the time.
  • Starred in 1934's Imitation of Life, the first Hollywood film wherein a black woman's maternal problems were given equal importance to those of the leading white character.
  • Made her professional stage debut in San Francisco in 1957 playing a caregiver who extols the Bible through song in the play Praise House.
  • Late in her career she spoke out against the portrayal of African Americans in media and endorsed Chicago Defender editor Robert S. Abbott, who fought for black Americans' civil rights.
  • Was posthumously inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1976, with Josephine Baker and Canada Lee.