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Laura La Plante; Silent Screen Star Had Girl-Next-Door Image

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Laura La Plante, a silent screen star considered the Doris Day of her era because of her girl-next-door persona in an age of glamour queens, has died. She was 91.

La Plante, who retired from films in the early 1930s after her marriage to producer Irving Asher, died Monday in Los Angeles.

She appeared in more than 75 films and serials but was best remembered for her starring role in “The Cat and the Canary” in 1927. Injecting touches of humor into the spooky Gothic classic, she played an heiress spending the night in a haunted house.

La Plante also memorably donned a brunet wig to play Magnolia in the first film version of “Show Boat,” a partial talkie, in 1929.

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The actress’ personal favorite was the comedy “Finders Keepers” in 1928.

Born in St. Louis, La Plante entered films at 15, playing small roles in Christie Comedies. In 1920 she was cast as the daughter in the series “Bringing Up Father.”

She soon became Universal’s top female star, appearing frequently in Westerns opposite Hoot Gibson. La Plante also was much in demand for comedies and melodramas.

She made as many as six pictures a year, as in 1926, when she starred in “The Beautiful Cheat,” “The Midnight Sun,” “Skinner’s Dress Suit,” “Poker Faces,” “Her Big Night” and “Butterflies in the Rain.”

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That year she married director William Seiter, but later complained that because of their film industry schedules, she rarely saw him.

By the early 1930s, she decided to quit, asking out of her contract and leaving for Europe. There she divorced Seiter and in 1934 married Asher, who died in 1985.

During Asher’s years working in London, La Plante performed in a few plays and the 1935 film “The Church Mouse.” But on their return to the United States, she decided to become a homemaker. She emerged for character roles only three times--in the movies “Little Mister Jim” in 1946 and “Spring Reunion” in 1956, and in one television program, “She Also Ran.”

Late in her life, La Plante told an interviewer: “Had I continued making picture after picture, I’d never have had the time to really live and enjoy my family. My career was wonderful, but then, so were the years that followed. . . . I consider myself to be a very lucky person.”

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La Plante is survived by a son, Tony, and a daughter, Jill.


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