Louise Beavers (March 8, 1902 - October 26, 1962) was a prolific African-American film actress. Beavers appeared in dozens of films from the 1920s to the 1930s, most often in the role of a maid, servant, or slave. She was a native of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Among the many films she appeared in were Freaks (1932), She Done Him Wrong (1933), General Spanky (1936), Holiday Inn (1942), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), and The Facts of Life (1960). Beavers' most famous and noted role was her portrayal of Delilah Johnson, the housekeeper/cook whose employer transforms her into an Aunt Jemima-like celebrity in the 1934 film Imitation of Life. One of the film's main conflicts was that between Delilah and her light-skinned daughter Peola (played by Fredi Washington), who wanted to pass for white. Imitation of Life was the first time in American cinema history that a black woman's problems were given major emotional weight in a major Hollywood motion picture.
The vast majority of Beavers' other film roles, however, were not as prestigious. Along with Hattie McDaniel, she became the on-screen personification of the "mammy" stereotype: a large, matronly black woman with a quick temper, a large laugh, and a subservient manner. Beavers' employers had her overeat so that she could maintain her "mammy"-like figure. Although Beavers did not approve of how her characters were scripted, she nonetheless continued appearing in films, because, as her contemporary McDaniel once stated, "it's better to play a maid than be a maid." .
Beavers was one of four actresses (including McDaniel, Ethel Waters, and Amanda Randolph) to portray housekeeper Beulah on the Beulah television show. That show was the first television sitcom to star an African American, even though the role was a somewhat subservient one.
Louise Beavers died of a heart attack in Hollywood, California on October 26, 1962 at the age of 60.