Friday, May 21, 2010

Una Merkel

Una Merkel, looked alot like actress Lillian Gish, which started her acting career as a stand-in for Gish in 1920's Way Down East and in 1928's The Wind. She performed in a few films during the silent era, Love's Old Sweet Song (1923). Una, spent most of her time in New York City working on Broadway. Merkel returned to Hollywood and achieved her greatest success with "talkies".

She played Ann Rutledge in the film Abraham Lincoln (1930) directed by D. W. Griffith. During the 1930s, Merkel became a popular second lead in a number of films, usually supporting actresses such as Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Loretta Young, and Dorothy Lamour.

Merkel was an MGM contract player from 1932 to 1938, performing in twelve films in a year. She was also often cast as leading lady to a number of comedians in their starring pictures, including Jack Benny, Harold Lloyd, and Charles Butterworth.

She is best known for her performance in, Western Destry Rides Again (1939) in which her character, Lillibelle, gets into a famous "cat-fight" with Frenchie (Marlene Dietrich).

She played the elder daughter to the W. C. Fields character, Egbert Sousé in the 1940film The Bank Dick.

In the classic musical 42nd Street (1933), Merkel played a streetwise showgirl who was Ginger Rogers's best friend. In the famous "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" number, Merkel and Rogers both sing the immortal lyric, "Matrimony is baloney".

She performed in both the 1934 and the 1952 film versions of The Merry Widow, playing different roles in each.

During the 1940s she performed in much smaller rolls. In 1950 she was leading ladyin, Kill the Umpire. She made a comeback as a middle-aged woman playing mothers and maiden aunts, and in 1956 won a Tony Award for her role on Broadway in The Ponder Heart. She had a major part in the MGM 1959 film, The Mating Game as Paul Douglas's wife and Debbie Reynolds's mother, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Summer and Smoke (1961).


  1. Lol, haven't seen that scene before. Una was really funny, I wish she had more important movies. I remember her role as the best friend of Myrna Loy in "Evelyn Prentice", she has great lines there. And she was very good in "42nd street" too.
    Some time ago I told a little anecdote about her, maybe you want to read it here.

    Greetings from Chile :)

  2. Great post Dawn. I love Una in the films I have seen her in, especially Destry Rides Again and 42nd Street. She's awesome.

  3. Good write-up, Dawn. I just love Una Merkel and her quirky speech and personality. Wasn't she wonderful in Summer and Smoke as the mentally ill mother? It really gave her a chance to show depth in her acting.

  4. Clara, Welcome to Noir and Chick Flicks! I thought it was really interesting to learn Una Merkel, started her acting career as a stand-in for, Lillian Gish. I ran over to your Awesome Blog! Love the Una Merkel, picture you posted. How fun is it to communicate from some one from Chile?! Greetings from Tucson, AZ. :)

    Monty, Thank you. I agree, Una Merkel is a wonderful acterss. I'm suprised she is not more well known.

    Bec, Thank you. I do not think I have seen Una Merkel, performance in, Summer and Smoke. I will add it to my "gotta see" list of movies.

  5. Dawn Una is also very good in On Borrowed time with Lionel Barrymore Henry Travers and Cedric Hardwicke

  6. Paul, I'm adding, On Borrowed time to my "gotta see list". Thank you. :)


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