Carla Laemmle (1909-2014)

Carla Laemmle, who spoke the opening line of the 1931 movie Dracula, died June 12 at the age of 104.

Dracula begins with her bespectacled character reading aloud a Transylvanian tourist brochure to the other passengers bouncing along in a horse-drawn coach taking Renfield to Dracula’s castle. “Among the rugged peaks that crown down upon the Borgo Pass are found crumbling castles of a bygone age….”

She was a niece of Carl Laemmle, who co-founded Universal, and a cousin of Carl Jr. who ran Universal during its monster movie-making heyday until financial trouble forced the Laemmle family to sell its interest in 1936.

Laemmle’s first film appearance, uncredited, was in the 1925 production of The Phantom of the Opera. She also performed small parts in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927), The Broadway Melody (1929), Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935), His Last Fling (1935), The Adventures of Frank Merriwell (1936) and as a ballet dancer in On Your Toes (1939).

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She was briefly married during WWII — a marriage annulled after three weeks because her spouse already had another wife. She also had a relationship for many years with Ray Cannon, a writer and director at Universal, who wrote the play “Her Majesty the Prince” which she starred in at the Hollywood Music Box in 1936.

John King Tarpinian covered her 100th birthday party in 2009:

In attendance were many industry people, only a few of which I had the time to meet or identify. Among them were Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Sara Karloff and Ron Chaney. At age 100 Carla was as spry as any of us. She was surrounded by friends and family, including great great grandchildren.

(Incidentally, my attempt to add information from Tarpinian’s 100th birthday post to Wikipedia’s article about Laemmle set off a row that eventually resulted File 770 being classified as a source of information that may be cited in articles.)

Ray Bradbury, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Carla Laemmle, Sara Karloff and Ron Chaney at Laemmle's 100th birthday party in 2009. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Ray Bradbury, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Carla Laemmle, Sara Karloff and Ron Chaney at Laemmle’s 100th birthday party in 2009. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Kickstarter for Monster Kids

A Kickstarter project is raising money to make That $#%! Will Rot Your Brain!, a documentary about the Monster Kids, those horror movie fans who got their start watching 1930s movies on late-night television under the tutelage of local ghoulish hosts.

Robert Tinnell is on board — an award-winning filmmaker, comic book artist, and devoted Monster Kid  — whose credits include Surf Nazis Must Die (Producer), Frankenstein and Me (Director), and most recently Flesh and Blood (Writer).

The Kickstarter page carries a long list of other supporters out of which I recognize six names, although one belongs to someone over 100 years old so I doubt she’s taking a very active role in the project –

John Zacherle, Tom Savini, Bill Bob Thornton, Fred Dekker, David Selby, Richard Atkins, Edward Bonacore, Bob Burns, David Colton, Eric Caidin, James Clatterbaugh, Marian Owens Clatterbaugh, Frank Dietz, Dukey Flyswatter, Brittany Fontaine, Mark Frank, Jerry Gergely, Kerry Gammill, Andy Hershberger, Carla Laemmle, Todd Livingston, Ben Martin, Jonathan Maeberry, James Morrow, Steve Niles, Sam F Park, Eric Red, Mark Redfield, Ron Russo, Andrew Sands, David J. Skal, Michael Sonye, Gary Svehla, George Stover, J.C. Vaughn, Neil Vokes, Steve Vertlieb, Voltaire, and Mark Whetley.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Carla Laemmle Celebrates 100

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By John King Tarpinian: Carla Laemmle, niece of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle, celebrated her 100th birthday on October 20.

The party started at around 4:30 p.m. in the forecourt of the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA. This is the same theatre where Forrest J. Ackerman’s memorial service was held, which was appropriate since this event was sponsored by Phil Kim, the new publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland.

In attendance were many industry people, only a few of which I had the time to meet or identify. Among them were Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Sara Karloff and Ron Chaney. At age 100 Carla was as spry as any of us. She was surrounded by friends and family, including great great grandchildren.

After a three hour reception everybody headed inside for the formal event.

There was an introduction by Robert Aragon, who choreographed the presentation of Swan Lake, Opus 20: Act II: No. 10 – Scene Moderato which was featured in Dracula.

A special presentation from Germany by Dr. Udo Bayer

Sharon Evans performed Cole Porter’s Night and Day.

Letters from President George H.W. Bush, Nancy Reagan, President Jimmy Carter, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa were read and presented to Carla.

A video montage of Carla’s work was shown and finally the birthday girl spoke.

Afterwards, everybody was invited to share a piece of the birthday cake. Carla held a reception line so people could wish her well one-on-one. A lovely ending to a lovely event.

Ray Bradbury ~ Bela Lugosi, Jr. ~ Sara Karloff ~ Ron Chaney

Ray Bradbury ~ Bela Lugosi, Jr. ~ Sara Karloff ~ Ron Chaney