This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986
Louise Nellie Lovely (1895-1980), actress, was born on 28 February 1895 at Paddington, Sydney, daughter of Ferruccio Carlo Alberti, Italian musician, and Elise Louise Jeanne de Gruningen Lehmann, a Swiss. Louise spoke French better than English in her early years; this helped her to win her first stage role at the age of 9 as Little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin as the producers wanted a young actress whose speech they could mould. After several juvenile parts, some in amateur productions, she joined Nellie Stewart's company for a New Zealand tour. Small roles there were her apprenticeship for the lead with the George Marlow Company, which she joined in her early teens.
Her first films were made for Gaston Mervale and his Australian Life Biograph Company. In 1911 she starred in A Tale of the Australian Bush, One Hundred Years Ago, A Ticket in Tatts, and Colleen Bawn, and, in 1912, Hands Across the Sea, A Daughter of Australia, Conn, the Shaughraun, and The Ticket of Leave Man. When the company collapsed in May 1912 and its assets were taken over by Universal Films (an Australian company) Louise made The Wreck of the Dunbar. On 20 February 1912 in Sydney she married writer and actor William Harrie (Wilton) Welch, and in 1914 they left for the United States of America.
Their goal was Hollywood where Louise was noticed by Carl Laemmle, and after a successful screen test was engaged for Universal Pictures, under the 'Blue Bird' label. Louise had been known as Louise Carbasse, but Laemmle provided the stage name 'Louise Lovely'. She had a very French, demure, petite appearance and a halo of soft, bleached blonde hair. Her 'Blue Bird' pictures were very successful but she refused to renew her contract when Universal neither raised her salary nor allowed her to accept an invitation from Pathé Frères to work in France. For a year she was blacklisted by the studio but made a few films for independent producers. The ban was broken when Fox Film Corporation Ltd invited her to co-star with William Farnum. She worked for Fox in 1918-22, making with Farnum films such as The Last of the Duanes and The Wings of the Morning, and occasional films with other leading men. In 1922 Louise returned to vaudeville with her 'studio act' in which she showed her own last film and followed it with a live performance involving the audience.
In 1924 she returned to Australia, and toured several States with her 'studio act'. In Hobart Marie Bjelke-Petersen approached her with a request to produce a film of her book, Jewelled Nights. Louise read it and set about raising the finance. Wilton Welch wrote the script and produced the film while Louise directed and starred as a Melbourne society girl who ran away from an arranged marriage and became a miner on the Tasmanian osmium fields. Outdoor scenes were shot on location in the Savage River area in Tasmania, and interiors in studios set up inside the Glaciarium and Wirth's Circus building in Melbourne. The film opened at Hoyts De Luxe, Melbourne, on 24 October 1925, and was well received by the public, though not by the critics. By the time of the 1927 royal commission into the moving picture industry Louise could see that the film would not recoup its cost of £8000. Her evidence to the commission stressed the need for a fully equipped Australian studio to enable Australian productions to compete in quality with imported films. Nothing came of her idea, or of the commission, and she retired from films disillusioned.
She divorced her husband in November 1928 and on 26 November married theatre manager Andrew Bertie Cowen in Melbourne. In 1949 they set up home permanently in Hobart where Cowen became manager of the Prince of Wales Theatre. Louise Cowen died on 17 March 1980 at Taroona and was cremated. She was one of the most successful of a long line of Australian actors and actresses who entered the competitive world of Hollywood, and one of the many unable to achieve their film ambitions within Australia.
Ina Bertrand, 'Lovely, Louise Nellie (1895–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lovely-louise-nellie-7248/text12555, accessed 22 May 2013.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986