Fern Andra

Fern Andra, Dowager Baroness von Weichs (born Vernal Edna Andrews, November 24, 1893[1] – February 8, 1974) 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 well known actresses in German silent film.

Baroness Fern Andra von Weichs
Vernal Edna Andrews

(1893-11-24)November 24, 1893
DiedFebruary 8, 1974(1974-02-08) (aged 80)
OccupationActress, writer, film director/producer
Years active1913–1930
Spouse(s)Baron Friedrich von Weichs
(m. 19??; died 1917)
Kurt Prenzel
(m. 1924; div. 19??)
Ian Keith
(m. 1932; div. 1934)

General Samuel Edge Dockrell
(m. 1938; died 1973)


Vernal Edna Andrews was born in Watseka, Illinois on November 24, 1893, the daughter of William P. Andrews and Sarah Emily Evett, also known as Sadie. Vernal was of English and Scottish descent on her father's side whilst she was of English and German on her mother's.

When William died in 1898, Sadie remarried Frank St. Clair, a vaudeville actor, circus performer and tight-rope walker. 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.

However, she remained 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.[2] 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, Lothar von Richthofen, younger brother of World War I flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (the "Red Baron"), was killed. Andra was initially misreported as dead,[3] but survived. Her companion, director Georg Bluen, also survived and continued working with her until 1925.[4]

From 1928 she worked in the UK and the US, later expanding her range to include radio and television.


Fern Andra was married four times; all of the unions were childless:

  • Baron Friedrich von und zu Weichs (died in 1917)
  • Kurt Prenzel (married 1923 or 1924; divorced)
  • Ian Keith (married 1932; they wed again in 1934, when the legality of the first ceremony was questioned; divorced)
  • Gen. Samuel Edge Dockrell (1938–1973; his death)


Fern Andra died in Aiken, South Carolina, on February 8, 1974, aged 80.

Selected filmography


  1. Born in 1893 per the 1900 United States Census, June 1, 1900, which gives her age as of her last birthday as six years old
  2. "Marriages: Millman-[O’Day]; Fern Andra," Billboard, May 10, 1924, p. 114
  3. New York Times/Chicago Tribune (July 5, 1922) Fern Andrea, Formerly of Illinois, Killed [sic] by Fall-Richtoff, Airman, Also Killed Hamburg-Berlin mail plane accident for original article
  4. Stars and Stripes Forever: "Von Richthofen's mother, actress Fern Andra meet November 14, 1954; Retrieved November 17, 2016
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