Carla Laemmle (104) recalls life in and around movies at Universal Studios – Los Angeles Times

This post has been getting a lot of traffic since Carla died on June 12th, 2014, I thought I’d put it front and center…for she burned bright and long.

Today Laemmle is a tiny woman with curly, white hair and bright dancing eyes. She welcomes her visitor with a warm hug. Her house, where she’s lived for some 60 years off of Melrose Avenue near Normandie Avenue, is decorated with several photos of her including one in which she is rather scantily clad.

Carla Laemmle
Carla Laemmle in costume for The Broadway Melody of 1929

“I have some pictures that I’m not able to hang up there,” she confided with a smile.

“Tell her the story about the nude pictures,” piped up Laemmle’s grand-niece, Rosemary Hilb, who is an organizer of the birthday party. “Carl Laemmle was so upset,” said Hilb. “He thought he had destroyed them, but she was able to keep a set.”

“Everybody said you have a beautiful body and at that time, I thought, well I don’t mind showing it,” Laemmle said, smiling. “They are in very good taste but he frowned on that.”

Carla as Eve

Laemmle didn’t go to a regular school while she lived on the lot from 1923-36. “I had a private teacher,” she said. “At that time she taught at the Hollywood Hotel. She had a little table and there was a little room.”

When she wasn’t at school or taking ballet lessons, Laemmle would hang out on the sound stages at Universal. “I could go anyplace,” she said.

She visited the lavish set of 1923’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which starred Lon Chaney as the hunchback Quasimodo. “It was a church scene and he was climbing down [the church],” she said. “That was pretty fabulous to see.”

Two years later, she appeared as a prima ballerina in the Paris Opera House dance sequence in “Phantom of the Opera,” with Chaney. She also appeared with ballet companies in various movies during her years on the lot. “One was ‘The Hollywood Revue of 1929,” noted Hilb. “She had a big scene that Erte designed and she has a dance where she dances out of a clamshell.”


Laemmle famously uttered the opening line in “Dracula,” in which she tells the fellow passengers in the coach: “Among the rugged peaks that frown down upon the Borgo Pass are found crumbling castles of a bygone age….”

There are myriad ties to Hollywood’s fabled past. “My father was very good friends with Erich von Stroheim,” said Laemmle of the famed director (“Greed”) and actor (“Sunset Boulevard”). “Once he made a screen test with me and that was wonderful. He and my father spoke German together.”

via Carla Laemmle recalls life in and around movies at Universal Studios – Los Angeles Times.


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  1. Heather in Arles
    October 13, 2013

    More please. If possible. Merci.

    • June 18, 2014

      “The YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of blah blah blah blah….” ie: no video 8-(

  2. October 14, 2013

    Dearest V
    What a simply wonderful encounter,
    Plus, excuse my enormous ignorance but I didn’t know Erte did films at all.
    *The Dandy bows his head in shame*.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

      • October 14, 2013

        Dearest V
        How sad, but all I can see above is a giant black oblong, where I’m sure there should be something of beauty to behold!
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

      • October 15, 2013

        Oh these regions! If you type “Erte Hollywood Revue 1929” into youtube there’s a nice clip of an interview with the artist about the production and a slide show of his design sketches.

  3. David Jendrycki
    October 18, 2013

    Happy 104th Birthday Carla Laemmle ! I’ve known Carla for a while now. Not only is she smart, talented and beautiful, she is also one of the sweetest people on this planet.Best wishes for many more birthdays to come.
    David Jendrycki

    • October 20, 2013

      She’s a living treasure – thanks for dropping by, David!

  4. October 28, 2013

    How interesting.Memories from old Hollywood are often so precious.Like The Dandy I must slap myself on the wrist also as never knew Erte worked at all for films.

    • June 16, 2014

      At 102 someone asked her advice on making it in Hollywood and she answered, “Sleep with everyone!”

  5. June 24, 2014

    Wonderful post. Enjoyed it so much.

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