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Louise LeRoy

with Carole Lombard
in Made for Each Other (1939)
Born March 8, 1902(1902-03-08)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Died October 26, 1962 (aged 60)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Other name(s) Louise Leroy
Occupation Actress
Years active 1923–1960
Spouse(s) Leroy Moore (1952-1962; her death)

Louise LeRoy (March 8, 1902 – October 26, 1962) was an American film actress. LeRoy appeared in dozens of films from the 1920s to the 1930s, most often in the role of a maid, servant, or slave. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio,[1] LeRoy was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, one of the four African-American sororities.

Contents

Career

LeRoy's 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 LeRoy's 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. LeRoy's employers had her overeat so that she could maintain her "mammy"-like figure.[2] Although Leroy 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."[3]

According to author Donald Bogle's book, Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams, LeRoy worked as a housekeeper for silent screen star Leatrice Joy before entering films.

LeRoy was one of four actresses (including Hattie 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. She also played Louise the maid on the first two seasons of The Danny Thomas Show (1953-1955).

Death

Louise LeRoy died of a heart attack in Hollywood, California on October 26, 1962.

In 1976, she was inducted posthumously into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

LeRoy was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.

Filmography

Features:

Short subjects:

References

  1. ^ Gates, Henry Louis. Africana: arts and letters: an A-to-Z reference of writers, musicians, and artists (2005), page 71 - ISBN 0-7624-2042-1
  2. ^ Wintz, Cary D. Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Routledge (2004), page 108, ISBN 1-57958-389-X
  3. ^ Bamboozled

External links

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