Rebecca Isabelle “Carla” Laemmle (born October 20, 1909) is an American actress and the niece of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle. She was a movie actress in the 1920s and 1930s, and is one of the very few surviving actors of the silent era, of which she is also the oldest. She reached adulthood (then, age 21) after the silent film era ended, meaning that all adult silent film actors from that era are deceased.
Laemmle entered films in 1925 playing an uncredited role as a ballet dancer in the original silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and a small role in the Tod Browning, Bela Lugosi version of Dracula (1931), and is the last surviving cast member of both classic films. Laemmle continued to appear in small roles until the late 1930s, when she disappeared from the movie screen. She briefly came out of retirement to play a vampire in The Vampire Hunters Club (2001).
She shared her reminiscences of appearing in a bit part in Dracula (1931) by hosting the original documentary The Road to Dracula (1999), a supplemental piece included on the 2004 DVD release, Dracula: The Legacy Collection. In that classic film, she portrayed a bespectacled passenger riding in a bumpy horse-drawn carriage with Renfield as he is traveling to Dracula’s castle. In this documentary, Laemmle proudly states: “I had the privilege of speaking the first lines of dialogue in the first talking supernatural thriller”.
In 2009 the book Growing Up With Monsters: My Times at Universal Studios in Rhymes, co-authored by Carla Laemmle and Daniel Kinske, was released. The book details her life at Universal Studios from 1921 to 1937. On October 20, 2009, she celebrated her 100th birthday with a guest list which included Ray Bradbury, Bela Lugosi Jr., Sara Karloff and Ron Chaney.
On October 3, 2010 she appeared in the excellent BBC Four documentary A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss, sharing more memories of her early film work with the legendary Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi. As she has done so many times before on the convention circuit, and various documentaries,she recited her opening lines from Dracula. In November 2010 she made an appearance in the documentary Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood for Turner Classic Movies and in May 2011 she appeared in Paul Merton’s Birth of Hollywood on the BBC. In March 2012, Turner Classic Movies announced that Laemmle would appear at a screening of Dracula in connection with its Classic Movie Festival the following month.