Fern Andra

1893 – 1974

Fern Andra was an American actress, film director, script writer and producer. Next to Henny Porten and Asta Nielsen she was one of the most popular and best-known actresses in German silent films of the 1910s

Born as Vernal Edna Andrews in Watseka, Illinois in 1893, the daughter of a circus performer and an opera singer, Andra was already appearing in public in a tightrope act by the age of four. She later trained in song and dance. As early as 1899, in New York, she made her first film, a version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

She remained however with the circus, with which she embarked on an extensive tour across the United States, Canada and Europe. For a time, she was a member of Bird Millman’s acclaimed troupe of wire artists. In Berlin she met Max Reinhardt, who gave her acting lessons. In 1913, aged 19, she appeared in her first German film, Das Ave Maria. Still only moderately well-known, she made her only Austrian film in 1915: Zwei Freunde. From 1916-18 she appeared almost exclusively on camera with Alfred Abel. In 1920 she starred in Robert Wiene’s expressionist horror film Genuine. In the mid-1920s she lost her public appeal in Germany.

On July 4, 1922, she was involved in the Hamburg-Berlin mail plane accident. The pilot, World War I flying ace Lothar von Richthofen, was killed. Andra was initially misreported as dead but survived. Her companion, director Georg Bluen, also survived and continued working with her until 1925.

From 1928 she worked in the UK and the US, later expanding her range to include radio and television. She posed several times for photographer Alex Binder