Carla Laemmle, the film actress who spoke the first ever words in a horror film, died on June 12 2014 . She was one of the few remaining living actresses from the silent era.
The historical moment occurred in Dracula (1931), where as a coach passenger, she spoke the opening lines, reading directly from the Transylvania tourist brochure her character was holding.
”Among the rugged peaks that frown down upon the Borgo Pass are found crumbling castles of a bygone age ”
Like many silent film stars of her time, she disappeared from the screen (in her case for 60 years) , before returning to voice in a vampire-related video game in the 90s. From 2000, she appeared in numerous documentaries on Dracula, the history of cinema, and of Universal Pictures – which her uncle Carl Laemmle founded.
From the age of 11, Carla (with her father), moved into a bungalow on the Universal film lot.
Having studied dancing from the age of 6, she was chosen for a minor role in the Lon Chaney silent film The Phantom of the Opera (1925), where she appeared, uncredited, as the prima ballerina.
”I think the thing about the Phantom of the Opera is the romantic quality it has. It’s so intriguing and mysterious. It fascinated people” she told interviewer David Skal in 2003.
As for Dracula, there were two versions filmed in 1931. The aforementioned English version, and a Spanish-language version, filmed on the same set, with the same props, during the night. A star of the Spanish-language version, Lupita Tovar, is still alive at the time of this obituary. She is 103.
Although unsure how she came to be cast in Dracula, Carla recalls having to visit the casting office, to pick out her costume for her character. She chose ”a crazy little hat and glasses”, she told historian Leonard Maltin 80 years later.
Right up until her passing, Carla still participated in interviews for film festivals and documentaries. She was amazed that her brief appearance in Dracula, garnered so much fan mail over the subsequent decades from around the world.
She died at the age of 104. She was the last surviving cast member of Dracula.