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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sweet Louise Beavers (1902-1962); what a neat lady she was. She was almost universally cast as a domestic but made the most of it in such films as "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (1947) where her part had a big influence on the work of advertising man Cary Grant. However, in most cases her talents were wasted because of stereotyping and most of the roles she had in 130 film appearances were small and typical. Her one big opportunity for a breakthrough occurred in 1934 when she was cast as Claudette Colbert’s maid "Delilah" in "Imitation of Life". It was a large and important part and if the Academy was handing out supporting Oscars at that time she would have had an excellent chance to get one. However, they weren’t and it was left to Hattie McDaniel to earn the first African-American Oscar in 1939.
In spite of Louise’s fine performance in "Imitation of Life", she still only received fifth billing and after that film it was back into the domestic roles. She worked in movies and television throughout the 1950's and died at age 60 in 1962, another fine actress who missed opportunities because of the times.
Hattie McDaniel, Lena Horne, and Louise Beavers: Three great ladies of film when the word "diversity" was unknown. I’m sure that Halle Berry, Queen Latifah, and others know these ladies and appreciate their groundbreaking work.

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