Actress Carla Laemmle, a link to Hollywood’s past, dies at 104

Carla Laemmle
Carla Laemmle at her home in Los Angeles in 2012; above her is a photograph of longtime boyfriend and director Ray Cannon.
(Christina House / For The Times)

Carla Laemmle, a dancer and actress whose uncle, Carl Laemmle, founded Universal Studios, where she grew up, died Thursday night at her home in Los Angeles. One of the last links to Hollywood’s silent film era, Laemmle was 104.

“Her heart just stopped,” Laemmle’s great niece, Rosemary Hilb, said Friday morning, noting that she had been in good health.

Born in Chicago on Oct. 20, 1909, Laemmle moved to Los Angeles in the early 1920s when her uncle invited his brother Joseph and his family to live in a bungalow on the movie lot.

She became a ballet dancer and actress and appeared in “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925) and “Dracula.” For that 1931 classic she spoke the film’s first lines: “Among the rugged peaks that frown down upon the Borgo Pass are found crumbling castles of a bygone age ... . “


In a 2012 interview with The Times, film historian Scott Essman called Laemmle nearly “the last tie to an era that is pretty much gone. When you talk about these great Universal films of that period — we are at a point now that it is all memory.”

At the time, Laemmle was looking forward to her 103rd birthday party.

“I never thought about age,” she told The Times. “I always had a feeling that I was in my 20s.”

More on Carla Laemmle will appear at


Twitter: @clairenoland

Must-read stories from the L.A. Times

Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.