Lassie Lou Ahern, one of 14 known survivors of the Silent Era, died Thursday, February 15, of flu complications, Extra reports. She was 97.
Ahern, born June 25, 1920, appeared in the silent classics The Call of the Wild (1923), Little Mickey Grogan (1927) and the $2M epic Uncle Tom's Cabin (1927) before popping up in some Our Gang shorts in the '30s.
In Cabin, she played Little Harry, a boy. Her father had tried to pass her off as male, but the film's producer and director, Harry A. Pollard (1879-1934), caught on during her outstanding audition, during which she cried on cue.
Ahern recalled Pollard said, "You aren't a boy, are you?":
I was scared to death because my father was sitting in the corner of the room. I looked at my father and saw that he had a slight smile on his face, so I looked at Mr. Pollard and shook my head. "No," said … Suddenly he got up out of his chair and set me down. He then walked to the door, stuck his head out where there was still a long line of boys and said, "Thank you all for coming, we have found our Little Harry."
Ahern's career took a nosedive with the advent of sound, but her skill as a dancer led her to appearances in Mister Big (1943), Top Man (1943) and Patrick the Great (1945), plus she had a part in the classic Gaslight (1944).
She later became a dance instructor, counting Renée Zellweger (b. 1969) and Faye Dunaway (b. 1941) among her pupils.
Ahern is survived by three children.