Born on June 17, 1895, Louise Fazenda was from a middle-class family in Lafayette, Indiana. Her mother was a native of Chicago, and her father Joseph was born in Mexico (his nationalities, however, were Portuguese, French, and Italian). A merchandise broker, he moved the family to Los Angeles when Fazenda was a child and opened a grocery store. She attended the Los Angeles High School and St. Mary’s Convent, and kept busy with a number of after-school jobs, one of which was delivering groceries for the family business via a horse-drawn wagon.
Fazenda had no serious aspirations for an acting career, but at age 18 she reportedly decided to find work in films in order to earn extra money for Christmas presents. She became an extra in short films at Universal’s Joker Comedies in 1913. Finding herself enjoying film work, she continued acting and in 1915 was recruited by Sennett for his Keystone Comedies. Gifted with a strong sense of humor and an unpretentious personality, Fazenda soon impressed Sennett with her willingness to do anything for a laugh. Her most frequent character was a country bumpkin, complete with unfashionable clothes, braids, and spit curls. She appeared in dozens of Keystones, some of the more notable being Fatty’s Tintype Tangle (1915) and the 1915 “Ambrose” comedy series, starring Mack Swain as the title character. She was the top comedienne at Keystone after Mabel Normand, who was often busy working on the popular “Fatty and Mabel” series.
Fazenda’s popularity grew until Sennett was no longer willing the match the salary that she was worth. From 1921-22 she took a break from films to act in vaudeville. Upon returning to film, she starred in numerous shorts and features for Warner Brothers and other companies, including the well-known The Red Mill (1927) and a remake of Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1928). In 1927 she married Hal B. Wallis, a Warner Brothers producer. Their marriage would last until her death and produce one son, Brent.
Fazenda stayed successful during the transition to sound and throughout the ‘30s starred in comedies and musicals. Her specialty, as in the Keystone days, was character roles. Her last film before she retired from acting was The Old Maid (1939). A highly cultured and intelligent person, she enjoyed collecting art. She was well known for the considerable amount of charity work she did throughout her life, included paying expenses for people–sometimes complete strangers–who fell into hard times, and helping to care for sick children in hospitals.
In 1962 Fazenda died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. She was buried in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California and has been commemorated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Blue Book of the Screen, 1923.