Niece of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle
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In June, 1999, Carla Laemmle was a Guest of Honor at the Monster Bash held every summer near Pittsburgh, and this page was prepared in recognition of her film contributions as part of that event.
Her uncle Carl Laemmle was the pioneering movie mogul who founded Universal Pictures, and her own early career as an actress included appearances in two of the undisputed milestones of the Golden Age of horror movies, the silent Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Chaney, and Dracula, starring Béla Lugosi.
Carla Laemmle was delighted to hear that we were putting up a page on this Website for her, and sent us the following information to post on it!
Statistics: I was born in Chicago, Illinois, on Oct. 20, 1909 (can you believe that!). Just for info, I was christened Rebekah Isabelle Laemmle, but changed it for a brief period to Beth, then later and permanently to Carla.
I think you will find the Preface I wrote for Dracula (MagicImage Filmbooks; click for company site — editor) of considerable interest as it tells about the early days at Universal. I was 11 years old when we moved to Universal City, California, in 1921. Growing up right on the studio lot was a magic time of my life. I loved living in that fantasy world.
Having already taken dancing lessons back in Chicago, I continued studying ballet after moving to Universal and eventually became a professional dancer.
When I was 16 years old I performed as Prima Ballerina in the 1925 classic horror movie, Phantom of the Opera. It was an amazing experience working with Lon Chaney. From that time on I continued to perform in both screen and stage productions. In 1928, I was signed as Prima Ballerina and actress for the 10-week Light Opera Season at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. It so happened that my Uncle Carl came to see me after the performance of Sally, in which I had a good part. He thought I had talent, I guess, and he signed me to a contract at Universal.
I appeared in two dance sequences in the spectacular King of Jazz musical — one, "Rhapsody in Blue," in which I performed a ballet dance on the keys of an enormous piano. The other number was the Tarantella dance. There were other bits I did, such as the "angel" in Topsy and Eva, who carried Little Eva to heaven.
But in 1931, I was cast as the mousey little secretary, and spoke those first immortal lines of dialogue in the opening coach scene of Dracula, the first supernatural talking horror movie:
Among the rugged peaks that frown down upon the Borgo Pass,
are found crumbling castles of a bygone age...
Little did I dream that years into the future I would become something of a cult figure!
In 1934, I was cast in another small part in a 2-reel comedy short written and directed by Ray Cannon, also under contract to Universal at that time, although I had never met him before. That meeting proved a most fateful one, and as it turned out, was later to change the course of my life.
It was strange, Ray and I became close friends almost immediately. In a matter of weeks he wrote an utterly delightful Chinese play for me, — Her Majesty the Prince, in which I danced and played an irresistable Chinese Princess, Quan Mui Mai. It was produced and opened at the Hollywood Music Box theatre in 1936 to excellent reviews. Performing in this play was, and always will be, the most enchanting of all times in the theatre to me.
During the rest of the thirties, through the forties and early fifties I appeared in many motion picture musicals, and stage productions. While I continued performing in the fifties I began taking on some secretarial duties for Ray, who had begun to write a book on fishing. I learned to type, helped in research work and, believe it or not, drew the fish identification drawings for the book. How to Fish the Pacific Coast was published by Sunset Magazine in 1953. It was highly successful and came to be known as the "fisherman's bible."
After the book was published, Ray embarked on what turned out to be a 12-year study and exploration of Baja California's rich waters of the Sea of Cortez, and writing about it.
He gathered reams of fascinating material which I typed and helped edit, and finally, in 1965, the magnificent The Sea of Cortez was published, again by Sunset. It became an instant and highly acclaimed best seller. It is out of print now and is a collector's item.
The new book, The Unforgettable Sea of Cortez, reprises some of Ray's best writing and tells the story of his fascinating life, 42 years of which I was fortunate enough to share.
To purchase the book write to:
c/o Carla Laemmle
645 N. Serrano
Los Angeles, CA 90004
The price is $39.95 plus shipping ($5.50 for the first copy, plus $2.50 per additional book). California customers add 7.25% sales tax. No credit card or COD orders, please.
I have signed the first thousand, numbered copies, but I will be happy to also personalize.
Carla Laemmle's latest projects include acting as commentator and/or host for original documentaries about classic horror films, some of them released on DVDs by Universal Studios Home Video.
Go Back to BOOS WHO Classic Horror Players Directory List
Last revised August 22, 2005 by George "E-gor" Chastain.
Maintained by George "E-gor" Chastain (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)