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Louise Beavers

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Louise Beavers
Louise Beavers Rainbow on the River (cropped).jpg
Beavers in Rainbow on the River (1936)
Born(1902-03-08)March 8, 1902
DiedOctober 26, 1962(1962-10-26) (aged 60)
Resting placeEvergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles, California
Other namesLouise Beaver
Years active1927–1960
Robert Clark
(m. 1936, divorced)
Leroy Moore
(m. 1952)

Louise Beavers (March 8, 1902 – October 26, 1962)[1] was an American film and television actress who appeared in dozens of films and two hit television shows from the 1920s to 1960. She played a prominent role in advancing the lives of African Americans through her work and worked with fellow advocates to improve the plight and image of blacks.

Early life

Beavers was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to school teacher Ernestine (Monroe) Beavers and William M. Beavers, who was originally from Georgia. Her mother's illness caused the family to move to Pasadena, California.[2]

In Pasadena, she attended school and engaged in several after-school activities, such as basketball and church choir. Her mother also worked as a voice teacher and taught her how to sing.[3] In 1920, Beavers graduated from Pasadena High School. She then worked as a dressing-room attendant for a photographer and served as a personal maid to film star Leatrice Joy.[2]


Beavers' acting career began as a member of the Lady Minstrels, a group of young women who staged amateur productions and appeared on stage at the Loews State Theatre. Charles Butler, an agent for African American actors, saw one of her early performances and recommended that she audition for a film role.[2]

Beavers was initially hesitant to audition for film roles because of the negative portrayal of blacks in film. She once said, "In all the pictures I had seen… they never used colored people for anything except savages."[2] However, she won a role in the film Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927) and went on to play traditional black roles such as those of a slave, a mother figure, a maid or domestic servant.[2]

After playing the role of Julia, the maid and mother figure to a young white woman, in Coquette (1929),[2] Beavers gained more attention for her work and was able to transition to less stereotypical roles. Beavers played Delilah in Imitation of Life (1934), again in the role of a housekeeper, but instead of the usual stereotypical comedic or purely functional role, Delilah's storyline constitutes a secondary parallel plot in which her problems are given considerable emotional gravity. Some in the media recognized the unfairness of Hollywood's double standard regarding race. A contributor to California Graphic Magazine wrote: "the Academy could not recognize Miss Beavers. She is black!"[2]

Beavers played the lead role in the film Reform School (1939), once thought to be a lost film, as a forward-thinking probation officer who becomes the superintendent of a reform school and implements major changes.[4]

In the film Holiday Inn (1942), Beavers performed a song during a minstrel show number celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Because the number features Bing Crosby and others in blackface, some consider it racially offensive and it is often excised from television screenings of the film.[5]

Lobby card for the Million Dollar Productions film Life Goes On with "Harry M. Popkin Presents Louise Beavers" logo inset
Lobby card for the Million Dollar Productions film Life Goes On with "Harry M. Popkin Presents Louise Beavers" logo inset

Beavers was one of three actresses (including Hattie McDaniel and Ethel Waters) to portray housekeeper Beulah on the Beulah television show, the first television sitcom to star a black person. She also played a maid for the first two seasons of The Danny Thomas Show (1953–1955).[6]

In addition to her film work, Beavers conducted theater tours as long as 20 weeks each year.[2]

As Beavers' career grew, some criticized her for the roles that she accepted, alleging that such roles institutionalized the view that blacks were subservient to whites. Beavers dismissed the criticism, acknowledging the limited opportunities available but saying: "I am only playing the parts. I don't live them." As she became more widely known, Beavers began to speak against Hollywood's portrayal and treatment of African Americans, both during production and after promoting the films. Beavers became active in public life, seeking to help support African Americans. She endorsed Robert S. Abbott, the editor of The Chicago Defender, who fought for African Americans' civil rights. She supported Richard Nixon, whom she believed would help black Americans in the struggle for civil rights.[2]

Personal life

Beavers' cousin George Beavers, Jr. was a cofounder of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company.

She became a prominent and active member of the African American community in Los Angeles. She was involved in community functions, including those at the People’s Independent Church, where she helped develop the theater program of the Young People’s Lyceum. She was also involved in the 1939 public ceremonies celebrating development of the all-black resort Val Verde County Park.

In 1936, Beavers married Robert Clark, who later became her manager. Beavers and Clark later divorced and remarried.

In 1952, Beavers married Leroy Moore, with whom she remained until her death in 1962.[2] She had no children.

In later life, Beavers was plagued by health issues, including diabetes. She died on October 26, 1962 at the age of 60, following a heart attack, at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles.


Beavers was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1976.[7]

She was an honorary member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, one of the four African American sororities.[8]


Short subjects



  1. ^ She was listed with her parents on the 1900 Federal Census as having been born in March 1900
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Regester, Charlene (2010). "Louise Beavers: Negotiating Racial Difference". African American Actresses: The Struggle for Visibility, 1900-1960. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 72–106. ISBN 978-0253004314. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  3. ^ "Louise Beavers (1902-1962)". Blackface!. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  4. ^ Mafotsing, Line Sidonie Talla (October 21, 2022). "How 20 Seconds of Film Changed Movie History". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  5. ^ Mueller, John (1986). Astaire Dancing. The Musical Films. London: Hamish Hamilton. pg. 205
  6. ^ "Louise Beavers | American actress | Britannica". Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  7. ^ Anderson, Susan (January 21, 2007). "Louise Beavers (1902-1962) •".
  8. ^ "Louise Beavers Honored by Sorority". The Pittsburgh Courier. May 27, 1939. p. 22 – via
  9. ^ Petty, Miriam J. (2016). Stealing the show: African American performers and audiences in 1930s Hollywood. Univ of California Press. ISBN 9780520964143.[page needed]

Further reading

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Louise Beavers". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 33–35. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.
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Louise Beavers
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