Sunday, September 23, 2012

Una, Oh Una, Where Have Una Gone? A Quick Look at the Once Remarkable, Now Sadly Forgotten Wonder That Was Una Merkel

The following, rather Proustian-esque paragraph-cum-prose poem and adjoining classic Hollywood photographs, is my humble contribution to the What a Character Blogathon being co-hosted by the lovely folks over at Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula's Cinema Club

Once upon a time lived a girl named Una.  Born at the beginning of a new century, in the wilds of Kentucky, under the free spirited sign of Sagittarius, and in the year of the rambunctious rabbit, young Una (and yes, that is her god-given name), after a time as star Lillian Gish's look-a-like (that's our intrepid little Una blowing around in Sjöström's Wind), would grow into the prattling, sassy, kewpie-dolled second banana of the pre-code age of motion pictures - a girl who took no gruff and gave nothing but - and after turns as Honest Abe's high school sweetheart, Sam Spade's cheeky secretary (no, not that Sam Spade, the first one, the one played by one Mr. Cortez), a spook-scared victim of a whispering bat in a movie that would go on to inspire Bob Kane in his creation of a certain caped crusader, and the smart-mouthed BFF of Jean Harlow in about three dozen films (slight exaggeration), our lovely little Una would costar in the musical 42nd Street, in a role that epitomized what it meant to be Una, in an Una world - the fast-talking dame that hung out with Ginger, before Ginger became Fred and Ginger - before moving onto another two and a half dozen films as Harlow's bewildered bestie (again, a slight exaggeration), as well as doin' some singin' and doin' some dancin', acting the eldest daughter to bank dick W.C. Fields, and getting into a wild west saloon cat fight with Marlene over a pair of her hubby's pants, and surviving a mother's suicide (our Una was in the house but survived when the gas was turned on - her mother did not), before eventually, like bud Blondell, taking on the roles of wild and crazy elder citizens, big-mouthed maids, and even mother to both Debbie Reynolds and Geraldine Page - the latter of which would even get her nominated for one of those oh so coveted golden statuettes - before ending her screen career alongside the King of Rock & Roll (racecar comedy-musical Spinout to be Elvis-specific), and even more eventually falling between those wicked multitudes of cracks in forgotten film history, and becoming what is known today as, well...as nothing, because no one except a faithful few even know who little Una is today, let alone how wonderful she was in so many thankless roles.  Once upon a time lived a girl named Una.




For more info on a girl named Una: Wikipedia and IMDb.

10 comments:

VP81955 said...

Here's more on Una: http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/236935.html

said...

Great! Una is unforgettable in many roles, specially in 42nd Street. An outstanding supporting actress!
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
Greetings!

Irish Jayhawk said...

Kevyn~ what a great write-up on a delightful character actor, Una Merkel. She was so adorably cute and quirky in many of those early films I love. I recall her in THE BANK DICK but her role in 42nd STREET stands out most for me. Thanks agian for participating in our lil blogathon!...Kellee/ @IrishJayhawk66 / Outspoken & Freckled

Paula said...

Loved her in THE BANK DICK. She had the sass we really don't see anymore. Thanks Kevyn! --Paula @Paula_Guthat/Paula's Cinema Club

Kevyn Knox said...

As soon as I read of this blogathon, my first thought went like a shot to Una. Great cheeky monkey she was - and gorgeous too.

Thanx for letting me play along in this blogathon. I have not read everything involved yet (lotsa stuff) but what I have read is pretty good.

Joel Williams said...

Love her in 42nd Street. She's gorgeous and gets to sing Shuffle Off to Buffalo with Ginger ('Anytime Annie') Rogers!

Thanks for the write-up!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Covington, Kentucky has a roadside historic marker announcing to one and all that this was Una's hometown. A bit about her career fills up two sides of the big signpost. It's sweet. They remember, all right.

Kevyn Knox said...

Well, I am glad to see her hometown remembers.

silverscreenings said...

She did "fall between those wicked multitudes of cracks in forgotten film history", as you so eloquently put it. Thanks for a lovely tribute to Una. You've chosen some great photos of her!

Caftan Woman said...

Una was a dame, a dish, a doll for the ages.