(1895 - 1980)
(Louise Nellie Feruccio, Louise Carbasse; Louise Cowen)
Actress and Film Entrepreneur
National Library of Australia
Louise was born in born 28 February 1895 at Paddington Sydney, the illegitimate daughter of Elise Lehmann, a Swiss actress and singer, who had come to Australia as a member of Sarah Bernhardt's touring group in 1891. Elise later ran a restaurant and Louise, at the age of seven, was responsible for visiting local businesses to pay her mother's accounts In 1905 Louise's birth was re-registered following her mother's marriage to an Italian musician Feruccio Alberti.
Louise's acting career started at the age of nine when she won the part of Eva in a stage version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Louise was vivacious and pretty, and proved herself able to learn her lines and stages directions quickly. Now known as Louise Carbasse, she went on to play juvenile roles in many melodramas, pantomimes and plays. At the age of 13, Louise played the part of Lady Isobel in East Lynne, in the Theatre Royal in Hobart. In 1911 and 1912, Louise starred in nine low budget film melodramas for the Australian Life Biograph Company including: A tale of the Australian bush; A ticket in Tatts; Hands across the sea; A daughter of Australia; and The ticket of leave man. In February 1912 at the age of 16, Louise married writer and actor Wilton Welch a fellow actor.
In 1914 Louise and Wilton decided to try their luck in Hollywood. Louise quickly found work with Universal Studios who gave her name Louise Lovely. Her American film debut was in Stronger than Death in 1916. She starred in 24 films before being blacklisted by Universal for refusing to renew her contract. In 1918 the Fox Film Corporation invited her to co-star with William Farnum in a series of westerns.
Louise who produced three of her herself later recalled her interest in film production:
I would go into the cutting room and I would cut film for them, and I would find out what was this, and why was that… and what do you do with this. And I was always tinkering with things like the camera … saying 'let's try taking close ups'...I was very interested in everything. (Alexander p. 135)
Her interest in film production was reflected in her next venture A Day at the Studio. This was a novelty feature about motion picture production developed by Louise and Wilton, which they toured successfully in America and Canada. The forty minute performance showed how a picture studio worked, with the cast selected from the audience participants, who then returned the next week to see their edited and processed film on the screen.
Louise and Wilton returned to Australia in August 1924 to see her mother and to continue the tour of A Day at the Studio. By the end of the year Louse had conducted screen tests for over 23 000 applicants, some 20 of whom would win parts in her next film venture.
Tasmanian author Marie Bjelke Petersen (1874-1969) approached Louise and Wilton during their Hobart performance of A Day at the Studio: She said she'd seen my act and read all about me, and she said, 'I have a story, Jewelled Nights, and I think it would suit you beautifully. Would you like to read it?' I read it, and I liked it, it was a good woman's part, a good solid part and I just visualised the whole thing, and I decided to do it. (Alexander p.136)
Louise and Wilton established Louise Lovely Productions Ltd in order to film Jewelled Nights. Wilton was to be the producer, while Louise would play the heroine Elaine Fleetwood, who disguised as a Dick, works as an osmiridium miner at Savage River. Louise is reputed to have raised the finance, written the scenario, found the cast, edited and co-produced the film, as well as playing the leading role. The film was shot in Melbourne, Waratah and Savage River. The Tasmanian Government, pleased at the possible tourism publicity, provided the princely sum of 50 pounds to assist in its production!
Jewelled Nights opened at Melbourne's Hoyts Theatre De Luxe on 24th October 1925, it was well received by the public and in seven weeks over 3000 Melburnians saw the film. The single Australian print of the film had its Tasmanian debut at the Theatre Royal on 4th January 1926. Premier Joe Lyons introduced the author Marie Bjelke Petersen to the audience. The Hobart season was a triumph with standing room only at performances and record attendances in its one week season. The print of Jewelled Nights was shown at other Tasmanian theatres throughout April 1925.
Despite breaking box office records Jewelled Nights returned less than 5000 pounds (only half its production costs). The film distributors returned very poor rates to locally produced films. Very little of the film Jewelled Nights survives - five minutes of out-takes and fragments are held by Screen Sound Australia. Alison Alexander's book Mortal Flame contains 13 stills, many of which show Louise in her roles as Elaine and Dick.
Louise provided evidence to the 1926 Australian Royal Commission into the film industry, where she advocated a number of measures to encourage local production. Louise received no more offers of work from local film producers, and returned to the stage as a comedian in 1927.
Louise divorced Wilton in November 1928, and later the same month married Andrew Bertie Cowen, a manager of several Melbourne theatres. In 1946 she and her husband moved to Hobart, where Bert became the manager of the Prince of Wales Theatre (now the site of the Hobart Business Centre at 85 Macquarie Street) and Louise ran the sweet shop next door (now part of Maloney's Hotel). Louise died at Taroona in March 1980.
The annual Australian Film Institute Awards are accorded the unofficial nickname of "the Lovelys" as a tribute to the career of Louise Lovely.
Alison Alexander A mortal fame. Marie Bjelke Petersen Australian Romance Writer 1874-1969, Blubber Head Press, Hobart 1994.
Australian Dictionary of Biography 1891-1939, Volume 10 1891 (article by Ina Bertrand)
Radi, Heather (ed), 200 Australian Women, A Redress Anthology, Broadway: Women's Redress Press Inc., n.d. (article by Andree Wright)