Louise Lovely

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Louise Lovely
Louise Lovely Who's Who on the Screen.jpg
Born Nellie Louise Alberti
(1895-02-28)28 February 1895
Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died 18 March 1980(1980-03-18) (aged 85)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Other names Louise Carbasse
Louise Welch
Years active 1904–1925
Spouse(s) Wilton Welch
Bert Cowan

Louise Lovely (born Nellie Louise Alberti, 28 February 1895 – 18 March 1980) was the first Australian motion picture actress to find success in America. As such, she can be considered a forerunner to successful contemporary Australian actresses such as Nicole Kidman, Toni Collette, Naomi Watts, and Cate Blanchett.

Early life

Louise Lovely was born in Paddington, Sydney to an Italian musician father, Ferruccio Carlo Alberti, and a Swiss mother, Elise Louise Jeanne de Gruningen Lehmann. She made her professional debut at age nine as Eva in the classic Uncle Tom's Cabin, using the stage name of Louise Carbasse. She soon became a successful child actress, appearing in many roles made popular by the woman with whom she would later become a competitor in Hollywood - Mary Pickford.

Lovely was acting with George Marlow's theatre company in Western Australia when she received a telegram from Gaston Mervale to appear in a series of movies for Australian Life Biograph Company.1

Marriage and Hollywood

Louise was married to fellow actor Wilton Welch in February 1912, when she was only sixteen years old. After Australian Life Biograph wound up, the two of them acted together in vaudeville.

In 1914, she moved to America with her husband, hoping to replicate her Australian success. As legend has it, it was Universal Studios head Carl Laemmle who both gave her a contract with his studio and re-christened her Louise Lovely, much to her horror. She made her American debut alongside the legendary Lon Chaney in Father and the Boys in 1915, receiving strong reviews.2 She starred with Chaney again in several other films including her next release US film Stronger Than Death (1915) and The Gilded Spider and Tangled Hearts (both 1916).

Lovely became one of Universal's major early stars and a challenger to Mary Pickford's status as the golden girl of early silent cinema, but was dropped by the studio in 1918 following a contract dispute. Though she was subsequently picked up by Fox, where she starred in a series of Westerns with William Farnum, her career never reached its earlier heights.

Return to Australia

In 1924, Louise and her husband returned to Australia in pursuit of a new interest - film production. Lovely had maintained a long-time interest in the behind-the-scenes aspects of film, and had collaborated with Welch on a successful short documentary feature, A Day At The Studio, but her plans for her return to Australia were far more ambitious. Lovely and Welch undertook a nationwide talent search to encourage budding new movie actresses. Over 23,000 actors and actresses attended Lovely's auditions, which included demonstrations of movie equipment and acting technique, and which took place at prestigious locations such as Melbourne's Princess Theatre. Twenty were selected to appear in Lovely's next film venture Jewelled Nights (1925), which was written and directed by herself and her husband.

Based on the novel by Marie Bjelke Petersen, Jewelled Nights told the story of a young woman who escaped from an unhappy marriage, instead posing as a young man and finding refuge in a tough mining community, where she finds love with a fellow miner (played by Gordon Collingridge). Though it was an outstanding success, it did not recoup its high costs. The Australian film industry, once one of the most productive in the world, was about to fall into a slump that was to last for fifty years. Lovely was offered no more roles and could not afford any further independent productions, and thus, Jewelled Nights was her last film. Today, very little of the film survives other than out-takes and stills.

Later life

Lovely testified at the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia, suggesting a number of measures that might stimulate the struggling local film industry. Soon afterwards, she made a return to the stage. It was at around this time that Lovely's marriage to Wilton Welch disintegrated. He was bisexual and their marriage remained unconsummated for the first four years.3 She was re-married in 1930 to theatre manager Bert Cowan, a marriage that lasted for the rest of her life.

The couple moved to Hobart, Tasmania in 1946, where Cowan became the manager of the Prince of Wales Theatre. Lovely managed the theatre's sweet shop, where she worked until her death in 1980.

Selected filmography

Bobbie of the Ballet (1916).
With Hale Hamilton in Johnny on the Spot (1919).

References

  1. ^ "SUNBURN FRECKLES AND TAN.". Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954) (Perth, WA: National Library of Australia). 10 March 1912. p. 26. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  2. ^ "LOUISE LOVELY.". The Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1914 - 1918) (Vic.: National Library of Australia). 6 January 1917. p. 8. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Lee makes the right choice as Louise, Phillip O'Brien, Panorama, p. 20, Canberra Times, 17 April 1999

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