Well, I was going to delve into the life and career of the excellent Louise Beavers, but I see that there is already a thorough and well-written article by Cliff Aliperti on his site, immortalephemera.com, which I heartily recommend you visit. Why reinvent the wheel?
But I will mention that this talented character actress started out in vaudeville, then found a steady place (albeit a constricted one) in films, first as an extra, then in more scene-stealing parts. By the time she landed her most famous role as Delilah Johnson in Imitiation of Life (1934), Louise Beavers had appeared in some 85 pictures, playing mostly maids, servants, washroom attendants, and the odd convict -- mostly uncredited. Such were the limits of the popular imagination at the time.
I understand that it has gotten moderately better since then.
She made a healthy transition from movies to television, starring in the maid-centric series, Beulah (a part also played by Hattie McDaniel and Ethel Waters and which I've never seen), and a number of other maid-like parts.
I don't really have a favorite five for Ms. Beavers, because the kinds of parts she had to play still make me cringe. But I do like these three pictures:
...and would very much like to get my hands onWomen Without Names (1940), a Paramount prison picture (tagline: "Public Enemies in Skirts!"), because you can't been a women's prison movie for equal opportunity stereotyping.
Louise Beavers died on October 26, 1962 of a heart attack at the age of 60. She was a fine actress with a long career and a lot of personal strength.
Read Cliff's post.