Laya Raki (born Brunhilde Marie Alma Herta Jörns; July 27, 1927 – December 21, 2018) was a dancer and film actress popular in Germany in the 1950s and early 1960s. She also became an international star for her roles in British films and TV productions.
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.
She attracted attention for the first time in 1947–1950 as a dancer in Frankfurt and other German cities. When she performed in Berlin, her star began to rise: her 38-23-36 figure figure (5.35 ft, 110 lbs) and erotic radiance became the talk of the town.
The film company DEFA engaged her for a small role as a dancer in the film The Council of the Gods, which went on to win 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 dance film, the highlight of which was a scene in which scantily clad dancer Laya Raki (with only two white stars covering her nipples) exposes herself to 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 after seeing her dance. In Roter Mohn ("Red Poppy") she plays the gypsy girl Ilonka, who acts opposite Viennese comic actor Hans Moser.
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 soon opened up opportunities. The J. Arthur Rank Film Company, which needed an exotic type for a film in New Zealand, received her with open arms. She was played 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 made headline news.
After taking 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. 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 both film and in photographs, capturing men's attention like no other German showgirl of 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". He placed photos of her in the first issue of "Earl Wilson's Album of Showgirls (1956)".
In 1962 she sang and recorded "Faire l`amour" and "Oh Johnny hier nicht parken", which were available as singles and on CD-ROMs. Her latter song was banned by a Nuremberg court who declared her ecstatic moaning was simulating sex.
At the age of 30, Laya Raki married Australian actor Ron Randell in London. "He is the best and most beautiful man of the world", she said. They remained married until his death in Los Angeles on June 11, 2005.
Laya Raki died peacefully on December 21, 2018 at age 91.
- Third from the Right (1950)
1953 Ehe für eine Nacht (a.k.a. Marriage for One Night)
- The Rose of Stamboul (1953)
1954 Up to His Neck
1954 Am Anfang war es Sünde (a.k.a. The Beginning Was Sin a.k.a. V zacetku je bil greh (Yugoslavia: Slovenian title) )
1954 The Seekers (a.k.a. Land of Fury, a.k.a. Dämonen der Südsee)
1955 Die Frau des Botschafters (a.k.a. The Ambassdor'S Wife)
- Closed Exit (1955)
1955 The Adventures of Quentin Durward (a.k.a. Liebe, Tod und Teufel)
1956 Küss mich noch einmal
1956 Roter Mohn
1957 TV Episode O.S.S. – Operation Sweet Talk (#1.10)
1957 Song of Naples (a.k.a. Ascoltami, a.k.a. Das Lied von Neapel, ...und vergib mir meine Schuld)
1960 TV Episode Hawaiian Eye – Kim Quixote (#1.26)
1960 TV Episode Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond – House of the Dead (#2.37)
1962 TV Episode The Beachcomber – Long Live the Sultan (#1.30)
1962 TV Episode The Beachcomber – Pat Hand (#1.3)
1962 TV Episode The Beachcomber
1962 TV Episode Tales of Wells Fargo – The Gold Witch (#6.31)
1963–1965 TV Series Crane, as "Halima" in 39 episodes
1963 Die Nylonschlinge (a.k.a. The Nylon Noose)
1963 Das Rätsel der rotten Quaste (a.k.a.: Das Geheimmnis der rotten Quaste)
1964 The Gallant One
1964 Das Haus auf dem Hügel (a.k.a. Le Hibou chasse la nuit)
1965 TV Episode I Spy – Dragon's Teeth (#1.5)
1966 Poppies are Also Flowers (a.k.a. Danger Grows Wild (UK), Mohn ist auch eine Blume (AU, GER), a.k.a. Opération opium (Fr), a.k.a. The Opium Connection (USA: video title))
1966 Savage Pampas