Lona Andre: A Starlet Who Got Stuck

Gorgeous, vivacious Lona Andre (Launa Anderson, 1915-1992) had a career that was all over the map, in parts big and small,in major and minor films. She is striking and memorable almost every time she appears onscreen, and many of her films were either classic comedies or otherwise show biz related, hence our tribute today.

That she had a movie career at all was a bit of a fluke. In 1932 Paramount held a nationwide contest to cast the role of the Panther Girl in the horror movie Island of Lost Souls. Nashville teenager Andre sent in her photo and was a runner up. Paramount signed her to a contract. That year she was voted one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars before she’d even made a picture. She got in just under the wire; 1932 was the penultimate year for the annual promotion.

Paramount gave her good roles coming out of the gate. Her first film was the western The Mysterious Rider (1933), in which she played the female lead. In College Humor (1933) she held her own in an ensemble that included Bing Crosby, Jack Oakie, Burns and Allen, Mary Carlisle, Mary Kornman, Jimmy Conlin and Grady Sutton. But most of her roles were bit parts. The studio seems to have rapidly lost interest and her contract was not renewed. (My theory? Andre had potential as a sexpot. The Production Code began to be strictly enforced in 1934, putting a damper on the kind of role that would have been her specialty). But she continued to work in films for over a dozen years as an independent.

Though she had never been an actual chorus girl, she often played one onscreen, in such films as Murder at the Vanities (1934), Broadway Melody of 1936, A Night at Earl Carroll’s (1940), and Taxi, Mister (1943). And there are those classic comedies I mentioned: with W.C. Fields, she is in International House (1933) and The Old Fashioned Way (1934); with Buster Keaton, One Run Elmer (1935), The Timid Young Man (both 1935) and Three on a Limb (1936); with Monte Collins and Tom Kennedy, Gobs of Trouble (1935); with Laurel and Hardy, Our Relations (1936); with Leon Errol, Ring Madness (1939) and Scrappily Married (1940); with Abbott and Costello, Pardon My Sarong (1942).

In 1935 she married actor Edward Norris, whose career was roughly at the same level as hers. The marriage was annulled four days later; one wonders which one learned something unsavory about the other!

Taking the leads in a a couple of low-budget exploitation films, Slaves in Bondage (1937) and Race Suicide (1938) did nothing for her career. Meanwhile, in 1938 she set a women’s golf record — things weren’t all bad! IMDB lists her last film as The Case of the Baby Sitter (1947). After this, she became a successful real estate agent. I’d say “What a waste of those eyes and dimples” — but for the fact that those would be major assets in a sales career as well.

For more on classic comedy, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,