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). (A link is provided below)