Louise Lovely

Louise Lovely (1895-1980), film and vaudeville star, was born at Paddington, Sydney, on 28 February 1895, the illegitimate daughter of Swiss born Elise Lehmann, who had toured Australia with Sara Bernhardt in 1891 before making Sydney her home. In 1905 Louise's birth was re- registered after her mother married Italian musician, Feruccio Alberti.

Aged eight, as Louise Carbasse, she began her professional career by playing Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin at the Lyceum. An accomplished stage favourite, she appeared in many productions and toured Australia and New Zealand with Nellie Stewart (q.v.) in Zaza and Sweet Nell of Old Drury. By 1909 she was playing leads for the George Marlowe Dramatic Company and between 1911-12 she starred in nine low budget film melodramas. Louise married Wilton Welch in February 1912 and worked with him in vaudeville both in Australia and America. Her rise to fame in Hollywood proved meteoric after Universal Studios cast her as heroine in Stronger than Death (1915). Renamed Louise Lovely and with her hair dyed blonde, she starred in at least 24 of their films, including three which she produced herself in 1918, before turning her back on the studio after a salary dispute. Despite attempts to blackball her, Louise became a star once again for Fox Studios, making nearly a dozen westerns opposite temperamental screen idol Bill Farnum. By 1922 Louise had made approximately 50 American films. On a personal appearance tour through-out America and Canada during 1922, Louise received top billing with Eddie Cantor at the Palace Theatre, New York. In conjunction with her husband she had devised A Day at the Studio, a novelty act which demonstrated film production procedures. Aware that Hollywood was regarded by the public as sin city, Louise began each performance with a friendly defence of its stars. Louise told audiences that she had never smoked opium, injected morphine, or sniffed cocaine and, when she finished work at midnight, was far too tired to think of jazz and cocktail parties. Louise described herself as one of many who worked at achieving the high artistic standards demanded by an increasingly competitive industry and critics praised her as a good looking, hardworking, level headed and talented young woman who could talk intelligently on many subjects.

In an effort to save a failing marriage, Louise refused an invitation to become a member of the Board of Directors at Columbia Studios in 1924, accepting instead an offer by Union Theatres to bring her act home to Australia. Hoping to establish a second Hollywood, Louise and her husband filmed Marie Bjelke-Petersen's (q.v.) Jewelled Nights (1925). Louise played the lead but also found scope for her talents as scenario writer, film editor, publicist, co-director and co-producer. Extravagant Hollywood style production techniques, however, meant that the film failed to recoup the 8000 pounds which it cost to make.

Unable to finance further films, the next few years were difficult ones for Louise. During 1927 she returned to the stage in the Last Warning at Melbourne's Athenaeum Theatre. Louise also gave evidence to the royal commission into the motion picture industry on the urgent need for government support for Australia's embryo film industry. When her divorce became final, she married picture theatres manager Bert Cowan in November 1928, subsequently moving with him to Hobart about 1947 where she ran the sweet shop adjoining the Prince of Wales Theatre prior to her death on 19 March 1980. 'Customers used to come from all over the place', Louise once recalled, but then 'they always lined up for me - whether it was for my fruit slices or films'.

Andree Wright Andree Wright 'Brilliant Careers' 1986.