Princess Aura

Graduated from Shortridge H.S. in Indpls. Her grandfather was Abram C.  Shortridge, for whom the school was named. Worked for a short time at Charles Mayer and Company and L.S. Ayres in Indianapolis. In 1935 her mother took her to Florida on vacation where she entered a beauty contest at the last minute and won. Her transformation from model and beauty queen to actress occurred with little career planning when she was given a contract with Universal Studios, which led to her role in Flash Gordon. She appeared in 20 movies, mostly "B", from 1935 to 1939. Many of her appearances were uncredited. HOWEVER she did play "Princess Aura" in the Flash Gordon series in 1936. Unfortunately she was under MGM contract during "Conquers The Universe" in 1940.

From Classic Images

by Roy Kinnard

Greta Garbo may have been publicized as a "mystery woman" by Hollywood, but to fans of classic movies -- and especially to fans of classic serials -- few actresses have been more mysterious, and elusive, than Priscilla Lawson. Although she is widely known and fondly remembered by film buffs for her portrayal of Princess Aura, daughter of Ming the Merciless, in the classic 13-chapter serial Flash Gordon (Universal, 1936), little factual information has been available on her, until now.

A statuesque brunette, Priscilla Lawson was born Priscilla Shortridge in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 8, 1914. She was the daughter of Elmer Shortridge and Minnie Hess Shortridge, both also Indiana natives. According to one 1930s Hollywood film industry source, Priscilla was a professional model by her early twenties, and was crowned Miss Miami Beach in 1935. A Universal Pictures movie contract followed, and she appeared in His Night Out (1935) and the aforementioned Flash Gordon at that studio.

Moving on to Paramount, Priscilla had supporting roles in Rose Bowl (1936) in which Flash Gordon co-star Buster Crabbe also appeared, The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936), and College Holiday (1936). She was then signed by MGM and had small parts in Double Wedding (1937), The Girl of the Golden West (1938), and Test Pilot (1938). She capped her brief film career with a role in the Republic Pictures oater Heroes of the Hills in 1938. She made several unbilled appearances in other films.

Priscilla married "B" movie actor Alan Curtis (1909-1953), whose real name was Harry Ueberroth, and joined the armed forces under her married name in World War II. Although there is no factual verification, Priscilla's Flash Gordon co-star, the late Jean Rogers, stated in a series of 1980s interviews with this writer that she believed Priscilla had lost a leg in a war accident -- possibly a jeep wreck -- and upon leaving the military had managed a stationary shop in Los Angeles after the war.

Alan Curtis (1909-1953)

What is known for sure is that after the war Priscilla divorced Alan Curtis, and lived for a while in her own home on Loma Avenue in Monrovia, California. She died an untimely death in the Veterans' Administration hospital at Wilshire and Sawtelle Blvd.s, in West Los Angeles, on August 27, 1958, at the age of 44. Her cause of death was listed as upper gastro-intestinal bleeding due to a duodenal ulcer. She  was also afflicted with Laennec's Cirrhosis, although this was not related to the cause of death. Burial was in Live Oak Memorial Park in Monrovia.

Aside from her memorable work in Flash Gordon, Priscilla Lawson's film career was unremarkable, and for reasons unknown, all too brief. But in that one film, Flash Gordon (recently added to the National Film Registry), she immortalized and endeared herself to generations of movie fans, who, after seeing her, have wanted to know more about her. Although there are still a few questions, now, at least, we have a few more answers than we had before.

Sincerest thanks are given to Tom H. Sand and Tony Crnkovich for their invaluable contributions to this article.

Roy Kinnard is the author of the recent book "Science Fiction Serials," published by McFarland & Co.

Priscilla Lawson Photo Page

Filmography from

  1. Spaceship to the Unknown (1966) (TV) .... Princess Aura

  2. Billy the Kid (1941) (uncredited) .... Bessie

  3. Women, The (1939) (uncredited) .... Hairdresser

  4. Three Loves Has Nancy (1938) (uncredited) .... Gertie, at the Party

  5. First Hundred Years, The (1938) .... Mary Brown

  6. Heroes of the Hills (1938) .... Madeline Reynolds

  7. Arsène Lupin Returns (1938) (uncredited) .... Switchboard Operator

  8. Toy Wife, The (1938) (uncredited) .... Dark Woman
    ... aka Frou Frou (1938) (UK)

  9. Three Comrades (1938) (uncredited) .... Frau Brunner

  10. Test Pilot (1938) .... Mable

  11. Girl of the Golden West, The (1938) .... Nina Martinez

  12. Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) (uncredited) .... Princess Aura (flashback)
    ... aka Deadly Ray From Mars (1938) (USA: recut version)
    ... aka Flash Gordon: Mars Attacks the World (1938) (USA: video title)
    ... aka Space Soldiers' Trip to Mars (1938)

  13. King of Gamblers (1937) .... Grace
    ... aka Czar of the Slot Machines (1937)

  14. Internes Can't Take Money (1937) (uncredited) .... Nurse
    ... aka You Can't Take Money (1937) (UK)

  15. Last Gangster, The (1937) (uncredited) .... Girl in Dive

  16. Double Wedding (1937) .... Felice

  17. Don't Get Personal (1936) .... Bridesmaid

  18. Flash Gordon (1936/I) .... Princess Aura
    ... aka Flash Gordon: Rocketship (1936) (USA: recut version)
    ... aka Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (1936) (USA: video title)
    ... aka Space Soldiers (1936) (USA: TV title)
    ... aka Spaceship to the Unknown (1936) (USA: recut version)

  19. Flash Gordon (1936/II) .... Princess Aura
    ... aka Atomic Rocketship (1936)
    ... aka Rocketship (1936)

  20. Rose Bowl (1936) .... Florence Taylor
    ... aka O'Riley's Luck (1936) (UK)

  21. College Holiday (1936) (uncredited) .... Student

  22. Accusing Finger, The (1936) (uncredited) .... Hat Check Girl

  23. Phantom Rider, The (1936) .... Saloon Girl

  24. Sutter's Gold (1936) .... Woman

  25. Dangerous Waters (1936) (uncredited)

  26. Great Impersonation, The (1935) .... A maid

  27. His Night Out (1935) (uncredited) .... Hatcheck Girl


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