Louise Beavers


Actor
Louise Beavers

About

Also Known As
Louise Beaver
Birth Place
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Born
March 08, 1902
Died
October 26, 1962
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

A vivacious and prolific character player, Louise Beavers kept company with the more acclaimed Hattie McDaniel as America's foremost filmic embodiment of a "mammy," a subservient but jovial African-American maid or cook. Like McDaniel, she was heavy-set and fairly dark-skinned; her roles generally presented her as extremely cheerful, loyal (if sometimes less than bright) and distinctly a...

Biography

A vivacious and prolific character player, Louise Beavers kept company with the more acclaimed Hattie McDaniel as America's foremost filmic embodiment of a "mammy," a subservient but jovial African-American maid or cook. Like McDaniel, she was heavy-set and fairly dark-skinned; her roles generally presented her as extremely cheerful, loyal (if sometimes less than bright) and distinctly asexual. Her omnipresence in US film from the 1920s through the 50s testifies to the racist stereotypes so central to the history of an entire culture, but it would be far too facile to blame players like Beavers for their involvement in such image-making. After all, typecasting placed particular limits on the roles that blacks could play and, in some sense, Beavers' persona doubtless reflected at least some of the realities of black women's social backgrounds and careers. What is also important is how players like Beavers not only became a likable part of the cultural landscape despite the limitations of their roles, but also how their best work transcends the limitations of stereotyping. Furthermore, Beavers' characters often acted as a comical "Greek chorus" commenting on the antics of her films' white stars. Thus, even if no one intended any subversion, Beavers' presence could hint at the follies of racism within dominant society.

Beavers began her performing career as a minstrel show singer, but when she moved to Hollywood in the early 20s, it was while working as a maid to actress Leatrice Joy. Before long, though, she made her feature debut in "Gold Diggers" (1923). She acted in other silent films such as the 1927 version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" but really made her mark with the coming of sound. In nearly 100 films between 1929 and 1960, working in every genre and at every studio, Beavers played maids supporting such stars as Kay Francis ("Girls About Town" 1931), Constance Bennett ("What Price Hollywood?" 1932), Jean Harlow ("Bombshell" 1933), James Stewart and Carole Lombard ("Made for Each Other" 1939), William Powell and Myrna Loy ("Shadow of the Thin Man" 1941), Wallace Beery ("Barbary Coast Gent" 1944), Deanna Durbin ("For the Love of Mary" 1948), Betty Grable and Dan Dailey ("My Blue Heaven" 1950), Ginger Rogers ("Teenage Rebel" 1956) and, in her last film, "The Facts of Life" (1960), Bob Hope and Lucille Ball.

Beavers was a very sunshiny performer, cast less often in period roles than McDaniel and, with a voice higher pitched than McDaniel's more gravely tones, a bit less inclined to be surly. For all her servant roles, though, Beavers could dish right alongside a co-star such as Mae West ("She Done Him Wrong" 1933) or snap off a lively wisecrack quite well, sometimes by "playing dumb." And, at the end of one of her better-remembered films, "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (1948), her housekeeper saves the day for harried ad executive Cary Grant by coming up with a much needed product slogan ("If You Ain't Eatin' Wham, You Ain't Eatin' Ham"), thus highlighting the importance of black hired help in the white household. Most importantly, Beavers essayed an extremely rare second lead in support of Claudette Colbert in the first film version of the famous tearjerker "Imitation of Life" (1934), as the two play single mothers coping with both careers and daughters to raise. In Beavers' case her on-screen daughter (Fredi Washington) tries to pass for white and deny her darker mother, thus foregrounding the divisive nature of racism.

McDaniel was to have taken over for Ethel Waters in the title role of the early family comedy "Beulah" (CBS, 1950-53) but illness forced her to withdraw after only a few episodes, and so Beavers made her TV series debut as yet another family housekeeper saving the white family from sitcom peril. Despite good ratings, Beavers quit the series after a year (1952-53), only to return in a smaller but similar role for one season in "The Danny Thomas Show" (ABC, 1953-54). Work declined as the decade wore on before Beavers' death from a heart attack, but her talent and genuine contribution to the history of the black image in US film were noted by her induction into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1976.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960)
Rose Jones
The Facts of Life (1960)
Gussie, the Gilberts' maid
The Goddess (1958)
The Cook
Tammy and the Bachelor (1957)
Osia
Teenage Rebel (1956)
Willamay
You Can't Run Away From It (1956)
Maid
Good-Bye, My Lady (1956)
Bonnie Dew
Never Wave at a WAC (1953)
Artamosa
Colorado Sundown (1952)
Mattie
I Dream of Jeanie (with the Light Brown Hair) (1952)
Hekubah
My Blue Heaven (1950)
Selma
Girls' School (1950)
Hattie
The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
Jackie's mother
Tell It to the Judge (1949)
Cleo
Good Sam (1948)
Chloe
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
Gussie
For the Love of Mary (1948)
Bertha
Banjo (1947)
Lindy
Lover Come Back (1946)
Martha
Delightfully Dangerous (1945)
Hannah
South of Dixie (1944)
Chloe [Magnolia Brown]
Dixie Jamboree (1944)
Opal
Barbary Coast Gent (1944)
Bedelia
Follow the Boys (1944)
There's Something About a Soldier (1943)
Birdie
Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
Niagara
Jack London (1943)
Mammy Jenny
Top Man (1943)
Cleo
All by Myself (1943)
Willie
Good Morning, Judge (1943)
Cleo
The Big Street (1942)
Ruby
The Vanishing Virginian (1942)
Aunt Emmeline [Preston]
Young America (1942)
Pansy
Reap the Wild Wind (1942)
Maum Maria
Holiday Inn (1942)
Mamie
Tennessee Johnson (1942)
Addie
Seven Sweethearts (1942)
Petunia
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
Stella
Kisses for Breakfast (1941)
Chlotilda
Virginia (1941)
Ophelia
Belle Starr (1941)
Mammy Lou
Sign of the Wolf (1941)
Beulah
I Want a Divorce (1940)
Celestine
Parole Fixer (1940)
Aunt Lindy
Women Without Names (1940)
Ivory
No Time for Comedy (1940)
Clementine <I>"Rudy Vallee`s Protege</I>"
The Lady's from Kentucky (1939)
Aunt Tiny
Reform School (1939)
Mother Barton
Made for Each Other (1939)
Lily
The Headleys at Home (1938)
Hyacinth
Life Goes On (1938)
Sally Weston
Brother Rat (1938)
Jenny
Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus (1938)
Cassey
Scandal Street (1938)
Clarice
Wings over Honolulu (1937)
Mammy
The Last Gangster (1937)
Gloria
Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
Mamie
Love in a Bungalow (1937)
Millie
General Spanky (1936)
Cornelia
Rainbow on the River (1936)
Toinette
Wives Never Know (1936)
Florabelle
Bullets or Ballots (1936)
Nellie
The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)
Aunt Sukey
Annapolis Farewell (1935)
Miranda
West of the Pecos (1935)
Mauree
Palooka (1934)
Crystal
The Merry Frinks (1934)
Camille
The Woman Condemned (1934)
Sally
Cheaters (1934)
Lily
Hat, Coat, and Glove (1934)
Imogene
I've Got Your Number (1934)
Crystal
Imitation of Life (1934)
Delilah [Johnson]
Bedside (1934)
Pansy
Glamour (1934)
Millie
Registered Nurse (1934)
Flo
A Modern Hero (1934)
Maid
Million Dollar Baby (1934)
Mother
Merry Wives of Reno (1934)
I Give My Love (1934)
I Believed in You (1934)
Prisoner
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Maid
Pick-Up (1933)
Magnolia
Girl Missing (1933)
Julie
Jimmy and Sally (1933)
Maid
Bombshell (1933)
Loretta
Her Bodyguard (1933)
Margot's maid
Her Splendid Folly (1933)
Anastasia
In the Money (1933)
Lily
What Price Innocence? (1933)
Hannah
She Done Him Wrong (1933)
Pearl
Hold Your Man (1933)
Restroom attendant
The Story of Temple Drake (1933)
Minnie
Notorious but Nice (1933)
Ophelia
42nd Street (1933)
Pansy, maid
Central Airport (1933)
Maid
Only Yesterday (1933)
A Shriek in the Night (1933)
Maid
It's Tough to Be Famous (1932)
Ada
Divorce in the Family (1932)
Rosetta
The Expert (1932)
Lulu
Young America (1932)
Maid
Street of Women (1932)
Maid
Too Busy to Work (1932)
Mammy
What Price Hollywood? (1932)
[Cassie] The maid
Wild Girl (1932)
Mammy Lou
Night World (1932)
Maid
The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932)
Unashamed (1932)
Amanda
Girls About Town (1931)
Hattie
Ladies of the Big House (1931)
Ivory
Sundown Trail (1931)
Jenny
Up for Murder (1931)
Maid
Don't Bet on Women (1931)
Servant
Good Sport (1931)
September
Annabelle's Affairs (1931)
Ruby
Heaven on Earth (1931)
Voo Doo Sue
Back Pay (1930)
Hester's maid
Safety in Numbers (1930)
Messaline
Wide Open (1930)
Easter
She Couldn't Say No (1930)
Cora
Coquette (1929)
Julia
The Glad Rag Doll (1929)
Hannah
Nix on Dames (1929)
Magnolia
Wall Street (1929)
Magnolia

Cast (Short)

You're Telling Me (1932)

Life Events

1923

Film debut in "Gold Diggers"

1934

Played rare second lead in the first film version of Fannie Hurst's best-selling novel, "Imitation of Life"

1952

Played the title role in the early TV sitcom, "Beulah", for its final season; succeeded Ethel Waters and Hattie McDaniel in the role

1960

Last film, "The Facts of Life"

1976

Posthumously inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame

Videos

Movie Clip

Hold Your Man (1933) - The Cutest Suburbs Jean Harlow as party girl Ruby brings Stuart Erwin as her devoted semi-sugar daddy beau to a night club, where she has subterfuge in mind, and we find out she’s been visiting in hopes of meeting con-man Clark Gable, who’s a regular, and who finally turns up, in MGM”s Hold Your Man, 1933, Louise Beavers the washroom lady.
Wide Open (1930) - Stop Deluding Yourself! Opening with star Edward Everett Horton embarrassed on his front step, and Louise Beavers as his sensible servant Easter, in the pre-code talkie from Warner Bros. and director Archie Mayo, co-starring Patsy Ruth Miller, Wide Open, 1930.
Imitation Of Life (1934) - I Didn't Advertise Joining the intimate opening scene in which widow Bea (Claudette Colbert) bathes her child (Juanita Quigley, billed as “Baby Jane”), and the introduction of disoriented Louise Beavers as Delilah, in the first screen adaptation of the Fannie Hurst novel, Imitation Of Life, 1934.
Imitation Of Life (1934) - I Wanna Be White First scene for Fredi Washington as the mature Peola, with candor from the original Fannie Hurst novel, extraordinary for Hollywood, expressing anxiety about her race to her mother, Louise Beavers, at a party celebrating the pancake-mix business she co-founded (with Claudette Colbert, the hostess), in Imitation Of Life, 1934.
Imitation Of Life (1934) - We're Going Into Business Claudette Colbert as syrup seller Bea presses a boardwalk landlord (Clarence Hummel Wilson) for a lease then announces her hare-brained scheme to her un-salaried housekeeper Delilah (Louise Beavers), bringing their fatherless daughters and meeting the painter (Henry Armetta), in the original Imitation Of Life, 1934.
Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941) - More Like Your Mother Every Day Opening the fourth feature in the series, including the first scene featuring Nick Jr. (Dickie Hall), who only appeared in two movies, in the park with his dad (William Powell) and observed by Nora (Myrna Loy) and Stella (Louise Beavers) from above, in Shadow Of The Thin Man, 1941.
Good-Bye, My Lady (1956) - Hearing Anything Funny? Skeeter (Brandon De Wilde) visits Mississippi swamp neighbor Bonnie (Louise Beavers), and her hired man Gates (Sidney Poitier), wondering if they know about the odd dog he's found in the woods, in Good-Bye, My Lady, 1956, directed by William A. Wellman.
Big Street, The - Your Highness Gloria (Lucille Ball, singing dubbed) backstage with helper Ruby (Louise Beavers) and fired waiter Pinks (Henry Fonda) whom she owes a favor, delivered by her head waiter (Hans Conreid), early in Damon Runyon's The Big Street, 1942.
Reap The Wild Wind - You'll Blow Away Following C.B. DeMille's opening shiwpreck in the Florida Keys, salvage business-girl Loxie (Paulette Goddard) is introduced with an on-camera wardrobe change, cousin Drusilla (Susan Hayward), mother (Elisabeth Risdon) and maid (Louise Beavers) in her wake, in Reap The Wild Wind, 1942.
Reap The Wild Wind - No More Bilge Talk Stuart (John Wayne), injured captain of a wrecked freighter, with salvage profiteer Cutler (Raymond Massey), friend Philpott (Lynne Overman), and rescuer Loxie (Paulette Goddard), the maid (Louise Beavers) with a stowaway monkey, in C.B. DeMille's Reap The Wild Wind, 1942.
Bombshell (1933) - Space Hanlon Lola (Jean Harlow) is hustled onto the studio lot where she's confronted by everybody, especially P-R man "Space" Hanlon (Lee Tracy) who seems to run her life in Victor Fleming's Bombshell, 1933.
Bombshell (1933) - Open, Lola Burns Opening sequence from Victor Fleming's Bombshell, 1933, introduces movie star Lola (Jean Harlow) and aide Loretta (Louise Beavers), from the play by Caroline Francke and Mack Crane.

Trailer

Last Gangster, The - (Original Trailer) When a notorious gangster (Edward G. Robinson) gets out of prison, he vows revenge on the wife who left him. Also starring James Stewart.
Facts of Life, The - (Original Trailer) Suburban marrieds (Bob Hope, Lucille Ball) are tempted to dabble in adultery.
Expert, The - (Original Trailer) An elderly man (Chic Sale) complicates his married son's life when he moves in in The Expert (1932).
Brother Rat - (Original Trailer) Ronald Reagan, Eddie Albert and Wayne Morris are cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in Brother Rat (1938).
Big Street, The - (Re-issue Trailer) Lucille Ball plays a selfish showgirl who ignores Henry Fonda's lovestruck waiter until she is injured in The Big Street, 1942, produced by Damon Runyon from his short story.
Bedside - (Original Trailer) Warren William, this time, is a fake doctor who sets up a lucrative high-society practice where the manner is certainly Bedside (1934).
Barbary Coast Gent - (Original Trailer) Wallace Beery plays a bandit from the gold fields who moves to San Francisco and tries to go straight in Barbary Coast Gent (1944).
Vanishing Virginian, The - (Original Trailer) A conservative southern patriarch tries to cope with changing times in Frank Borzage's The Vanishing Virginian (1942).
Holiday Inn - (Re-issue Trailer) "White Christmas" was written for this movie where Bing Crosby sings and Fred Astaire dances at the Holiday Inn (1942).
Shadow of the Thin Man -- (Original Trailer) Nick and Nora Charles find murder at the race track in Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941), the fourth of the "Thin Man" comedy mysteries.
Gold Diggers of 1933 - (Original Trailer) Three chorus girls fight to keep their show going in order to rich bachelors in Gold Diggers of 1933 starring Joan Blondell.
Street of Women - (Original Trailer) Kay Francis stars in the pre-code drama Street Of Women (1932) about a property developer who is torn between his wife and his mistress.

Bibliography