Laya Raki was born in 1927 in Hamburg, Germany. Her parents were circus performers. Her first film in her native country was “Council of the Gods”. In 1954 she was given a contact in Britain by J. Arthur Rank and made “The Seekers” with Jack Hawkins and Glynis Johns in New Zealand. She starred in the television series “Crane ” opposite Patrick Allen in the title role. She was long married to the Australian actor Ron Randall. “Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen” page is here.
Laya Raki was born in Hamburg, Germany, to acrobat Maria Althoff, and her partner, acrobat and clown Wilhelm Jörns. As she was an admirer of the famous dancer La Jana and liked to drink raki, she assumed the stage name Laya Raki.
The film company DEFA engaged her for a small role as a dancer in the film The Council of the Gods, which won two awards. One newspaper, the Berliner Morgenpost, wrote that she was a great dancer with an expressive face rich in nuances. In the same year the press department of Realfilm presented her as a new discovery in Die Dritte von rechts (“The Third from the Right”), a rather boring dance film, the highlight of which was the scene in which the scantily clad dancer Laya Raki (with only two white stars on her nipples) exposes herself to the lustful gazes of the male cinema audience. In 1953, she danced in the film Ehe für eine Nacht (“Marriage for One Night”). Her next film was Die Rose von Stambul (“The Rose of Stamboul”), in which the Austrian actor Paul Hörbiger wants to marry her upon seeing her dancing. In Roter Mohn (“Red Poppy”) she played the gypsy girl Ilonka who also conducted refreshing dialogues with the famous Viennese comic actor Hans Moser.he attracted attention for the first time in 1947–1950 as a dancer in Frankfurt and other German cities.
In 1954, she was lured to London by empty promises of film roles in the United Kingdom and in Hollywood. There she found herself unemployed, but her situation made headlines that opened opportunities. The J. Arthur Rank Film Company, which needed a slightly exotic type for a film in New Zealand, received her with open arms. She was given the role of the Māori chieftain’s seductive wife in “The Seekers” and created a worldwide stir by baring her breasts, 10 years before Rudi Gernreich‘s topless swimsuit. After having taken acting lessons in Hollywood, she appeared in several UK TV productions, including 39 episodes of the popular series Crane (1962–1965), which made her a well known actress. In it Laya Raki starred as Halima, a Moroccan dancer and bartender, who is the partner of the title character, the bar owner and smuggler Richard Crane, played by Patrick Allen.
She appeared in revealing outfits in film and photographs, and captured men’s attention like no other German showgirl in the 1950s. She modeled for postcards, pin-up photographs and magazines all over the world. The Broadway columnist Earl Wilson noted her preference for scanty clothing: “You should have seen Laya Raki. Even if she is dressed, she looks like, as if she only wears the zipper and has forgotten the material”. Of course he placed some photos of her in “Earl Wilson’s Album of Showgirls (1st Issue! 1956)”.
The above “Wikipedia” entry can also be accessed online here.
Laya Raki Randell-Wood passed away peacefully in the evening of December 21, 2018, in Hollywood, California.
She was born Brunhilde Marie Jorns in Hamburg, Germany on July 27, 1927. Her mother left when Laya was only five years old. Her father remarried soon thereafter. He worked with the circus, where Laya learned acrobatics at a very young age, and performed in several circus acts. In her late teens, she partnered with fellow acrobat, Ricardo U. Partnerin, performing a 2-person dance/acrobatic act.
From there, she learned ballet and other forms of dance. She developed a passion for dance, and was best known for her exotic dances. She performed throughout NW Europe and Italy in the 1940’s to 1950. She adopted the screen name, ‘Laya Raki’, at the suggestion of her manager. In 1954, she got a major part in the movie, ‘The Seekers’, (released in the U.S. as, ‘Land of Fury’), as the exotic Moari dancer, longside actor Jack Hawkins. It was shot in New Zealand, and was a big hit, bringing Laya into the spotlight.
In 1955 Laya went to London to continue her acting career. Her roles in British films and TV productions made her an international star. She gained fame and recognition for her role in the popular British TV series, ‘Crane’. In order to appear more exotic to her viewing public, she invented a story that her mother was of Indonesian/French descent. While working in London, she met a handsome Australian actor, Ron Randell. It was love at first sight. They married in September, 1957 in London. Ron was doing films in both Australia and the United States. They decided to move to the U.S. in the 1960’s, working between New York City and Los Angeles. Laya appeared in the popular TV series, ‘I Spy’, and other shows over the years in Los Angeles.
Ron, died from Alzheimer’s related problems in June of 2005. In April of 2009, Laya married Duane Wood, retired Vice President of Lockheed Aircraft International. Laya is preceded in death by her father, Wilhelm Jorns in 1963, and her brother Alvin, her first husband, Ron Randell, and second husband Duane Wood in July of 2018. She is survived by her step-daughter, Cathy, and her step-grandchildren, Tyler and Shannon.
She will be laid to rest beside her first husband, Ronald Randell, at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park.