A Great Danish American Birthday - Gwili Andre

  • February 04, 2022
  • February 04, 2025
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  • February 04, 2022 (CST)
  • February 04, 2023 (CST)
  • February 04, 2024 (CST)
  • February 04, 2025 (CST)

A GREAT DANISH AMERICAN BIRTHDAY - GWILI ANDRE

Gwili Andre (born Gurli Ingeborg Elna Andresen, 4 February 1907 – 5 February 1959) was a Danish model and actress who had a brief career in Hollywood films.  Born in Frederiksberg, Denmark, Andre had two sisters. Her parents were Carl Axel Andresen b. 1880 and Emma Marie Ellen Sørensen Bruun b. 1884, they married in 1904. Her parents divorced, and her father remarried in 1917.  Andre came to Hollywood in the early 1930s with the intention of establishing herself as a film star after working as model in Europe. In 1930, she moved to New York City with her first husband where she was reportedly spotted by David O. Selznick at the premiere of a Broadway show. Selznick was taken by her beauty and arranged for a screen test.  She was signed to RKO Studio and, in 1932 appeared in Roar of the Dragon and Secrets of the French Police While her striking looks were likened to that of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, her acting garnered poor reviews. One newspaper columnist called her "stiff, colorless and completely talentless performer." Despite the poor reviews of her acting, RKO began using her glamorous looks to promote her career.  A widespread publicity campaign ensured that her name and face became well known to the American public, but her next role in No Other Woman (1933), opposite Irene Dunne, was not the success the studio expected. Over the next few years she was relegated to supporting roles which included a role in the Joan Crawford picture A Woman's Face (1941).

Andre was married twice. She was married to realtor Stanisław Mlotkowski in 1929. They separated in 1930, and divorced in 1935.  Andre then married engineer William Dallas Cross, Jr. in 1943.  They had a son, Peter Lance Cross, in February 1944. They divorced in 1948.

By the early 1940s, Andre's film career had come to a standstill. Her final role was a minor part in one of the popular Falcon series, The Falcon's Brother in 1942. She did not return to the screen, although she spent the rest of her life trying to orchestrate a comeback. Andre returned to her native Denmark with her son after her divorce from William Cross, Jr. but returned to New York City in 1954. She eventually moved back to California.

On 5 February 1959, Andre died in a fire that started in her Venice, California apartment where she lived alone. The cause of the fire was never determined. Upon her death, she was cremated at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, and her ashes sent for burial at Søndermark Cemetery in Copenhagen, Denmark. - Wikipedia

The Story of Gwili Andre by Amber Grey - 

When actress Gwili Andre arrived in Hollywoodland, her blonde hair, blue-eyes, and sharp square-faced complexion captured the same mystique and likeness of the Great Greta Garbo. The whole town seemed to agree to this. At once, columnist Louella Parsons questioned, “Will she become a second Garbo or will she merely become another movie actress?” Due to unfortunate circumstances, Gwili would be remembered more for her tragic death as another cautionary Hollywood tale than for her career.

Born as Guri Anderson on February 4, 1908 in Copenhagen, Denmark, little is known about Gwili’s life before she came to America. What is known is that she found success as a model and changed her name to Gwili Andre. As she worked in America, Gwili’s European beauty soon earned her the title of “America’s Most Beautiful Model” and caught the attention of film producer David O. Selznick. He brought Gwili to RKO Studios and signed her to a studio contract to see how Gwili would fare with acting in a few films.

Gwili’s debut role was as “Natascha” starring Richard Dix in the pre-code film “Roar of the Dragon” (1932). Although she was captivating to look at, film critics referred to her performance as “lifeless.” Despite the critics, RKO Studios co-starred her opposite against Irene Dunne in “No Other Woman” (1933). The film was not a commercial success. During this period, Gwili had a brief relationship with the tycoon Howard Hughes which set a large publicity campaign for both of them, but it did little else for Gwili’s career. The papers reported Gwili as starring opposite John Gilbert in “The Captain Hates The Sea” (1934), but Gwili would be dropped from the film. Perhaps one of the first strikes of rejection for Gwili?

After “No Other Woman,” Gwili took a four-year hiatus from Hollywoodland and returned to modeling. In 1937, Gwili returned to try acting again but after four unsuccessful films, Gwili left again. She married millionaire Bill Cross but they subsequently divorced when their son was still a toddler. Later, Gwili developed alcoholism and although she was determined to make a “comeback,” Gwili became reclusive to the outside world.

One day after her 52nd birthday, Gwili scattered her publicity photos, magazines and other career memorabilia allover her apartment. After, she set her apartment aflame but Gwili did not die right away. She was rescued from the fire and was taken to a nearby hospital. Due to the severity of her burns, Gwili Andre passed away a few days later.

In her short acting career, Andre accomplished seven credits to her name. Most are forgotten except for one of her final films, “A Woman’s Face” (1941). The film starred Joan Crawford and is the only performance of Gwili’s that is preserved on DVD in the “The Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2.” 

At the time of Gwili’s career, there were several short-term actresses who laid claim to “Garbo Look-a-likes,” but a 1978 article titled “The Studio’s Garbo Images” of “Hollywood Studio” Magazine featured a photo of Gwili that brought to mind the publicity photos Garbo had taken for her film “A Woman’s Affair” (1928).


National Foundation for Danish America
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