Una Merkel—Picture Saver

This interview with Una Merkel originally appeared in the May 1935 edition of Movie Classic magazine.

Talent, combined with a marvelous
disposition, keeps this charming
young player the busiest actress
in Hollywood


Una MerkelTHERE’S a girl in Hollywood known to directors and writers as “the pulmotor girl.” Does that mean anything to you? It didn’t to me, either, until I started thinking of those things used by firemen, lifeguards and physicians known as pulmotors. They’re the emergency machines employed to bring nearly dead people back to life.

Just so, when writers have a nearly dead story on their hands, they write in a part for this girl. And when directors see their pictures expiring dead away, they broadcast a frantic call for this very same girl. She’ll save it if it can be saved, they cry. Get her. And get her right now!

The “her” in this case, as anyone in Hollywood will tell you, is a charming little person with blonde ringlets in her hair, a twinkle in her eyes and a great heart tucked away inside her. Her name is Una Merkel. And she’s perhaps the most universally loved girl in town. Certainly she’s the busiest.

If you saw Una in a Hollywood crowd (say at a preview), you couldn’t pick her out if your life depended upon it. But ten to one she would be the young lady on your left who, on very tip-toe was jockeying for a better position to see the movie stars pass by. For Una is the most confirmed and ardent movie fan in town. She is, to my knowledge, the only one who saves all the programs of all the shows she attends—yes, and makes tiny penciled notes on the margins about players she likes best and why.

Una is so necessary to directors and ailing pictures, I suppose, because she is the only one of her kind in town. She is no more “movie actress” than you. Her unaffected laugh, tinkly and delightful to hear, differs from the average star’s studied “abandon” as a child’s laughter differs from the wearied old man’s croak. She is youth itself, mighty good for the soul, and she’ll continue to be young no matter how many years pile up on her.

“There’s so much,” she told me in her tiny feminine dressing room at M-G-M, “to be happy for. There’s so much to laugh about. Do you see that big building next door? Well, next week I’m going to have a grand big new dressing room.”

“Moving you over there, Una?”

Una laughed. “Oh, Heavens no,” she cried. “That’s going to be for the big stars. But they’ll leave their dressing rooms here and they’re going to give me a bigger one in this building. And they’re going to let me furnish it. Just as I like!” she finished, evidently carried away in high glee.

“Don’t you want to be a big star, Una?”

Una burst out laughing. “Me a star? Do you know any more funny ones?” Then she wrinkled her cute little brow and indulged in some thinking. “But,” she began, “but—even if I could, I don’t think I would. The other night I was trying to think what I’d rather be than myself and I couldn’t think of anything. Not,” she hurried, “that I think I’m pretty good but simply that I’m—I’m so darned happy!

“I love my husband, Ronnie Burla, and he loves me. I get more pleasure out of my work than anyone in Hollywood. There’s just one thing that worries me and that is that there are so many people who don’t share my good luck. I feel so sorry for people who don’t seem to have anything. I wish there was some better way of distributing money and happiness.

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The Dorseys do it up right

If you’re a regular listener to Cladrite Radio (and if you’re not, don’t you think you ought to be?), you’ve no doubt heard the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra‘s 1935 bouncy recording of “Lullaby of Broadway” as part of our current playlist. But we like it so much, we decided to feature it here, as well.

It’s a song that’s been recorded by many orchestras and artists over the years, but this rendition, with Bob Crosby on vocals (Bing‘s brother, don’t you know, which must have felt in those days like being Babe Ruth‘s singles-hitting sibling), is a particular favorite of ours. When the backing vocalists slide in to sing counterpoint at the 1:28 mark, we’re left feeling downright gleeful. And when, after that, the orchestra takes over to bring the recording to a rousing finish — well, it’s as toe-tapping a 2 minutes and 44 seconds as one could hope for.

But don’t take our word for it — give it a listen.

The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra — “Lullaby of Broadway” (1935)

The Karen Files, pt. 1

As we told you yesterday, we’re going to be sharing with you some photos and documents we discovered in dusty boxes and crates last week following the passing of our mother.

It’s our way of celebrating her life, and we are confident she’d be pleased at our (and, we hope, your) interest.

View the high-res version

Our first offering depicts both Karen as a young girl and her folks in their salad days, which we found exciting. We had somehow reached a ripe old age (well, not that old) without ever having seen a picture of our mother’s folks as young marrieds, and that situation has now been rectified.

Karen is the little tot in the front of the line, and the young gentleman just behind her is her brother Cecil, Jr. Behind him stand our grandparents, Cecil Sr. and Frances. We love Granddad’s suit, and were pleased to see Grandmother looking lovelier than we might ever have imagined.

Who the other four people are, we don’t know, but we’ll look into it and get back to you.

This shot was taken in on April 21, 1935. The setting is very likely somewhere in Oklahoma—Okemah, perhaps, or Norman. Karen was two years old.

As with most images at Cladrite Radio, you can click the photo to see a larger version of it or select the hi-res link below the photo to do some real scouring for detail.

Watch this space in days to come for more from the Karen Files.

Catching up on our reading…

From the February 1935 issue of Men’s Wear magazine:

You Can NOT Sell Clothes!
If You Are Poorly Dressed

by Sidney J. White

The well-known story of the bus driver who took a ride on his day off contains a pointed moral for retail clothing salesmen, for that legendary gentleman was not afraid to use his own wares.

One of the most futile figures imaginable is that of the men’s clothing salesmen who fails to practice what he preaches. How any man can hope to convince others of the desirability of dressing smartly, while he is neglectful of his own appearance, is difficult to understand. The most pervasive arguments, the soundest sales-talks, must fail in their effect unless the salesman is a living example of the wisdom of wearing good clothing.

The really successful salesman knows that his appearance is his most important asset. His smart suit, his attractive shirt and tie, the general neatness of his whole turn-out, mark him as a man who believes in the power of clothing to help him. He has confidence in himself, for he knows there are no flaws in his appearance. It is an undeniable fact that people have more confidence in a man who looks successful, and the wise clothing salesman makes use of this by dressing the part. It is not an accident that the men who have achieved the greatest success in the selling of men’s apparel are likewise the best dressed.

There are several reasons why you–a clothing salesman–should be your own best customer. First, because a fresh, new garment will give you an actual “lift.” You’ll feel better if you look better. Put on a new tie, or a new shirt–you’ll be better able to face your customers.

Secondly, your sales talk will sound more convincing and sincere if your appearance shows that you practice your own gospel of dressing well. The customer will believe your statements because he can see that you “take your own medicine before prescribing for others.”

Thirdly, the imitative instinct is strong in everyone. “Give me a suit like the one you’re wearing” is not an uncommon request in some stores whose sales force is well-groomed. High-style clothing is frequently easily sold by the man who wears it himself.

Fourthly, you provide a living display window for your own merchandise. Wherever you go, the public can see what attractive clothing you sell. Your new suit often provides an opening in casual conversation whereby you can interest a man in your wares. Many a new customer has been won by the salesman whose appearance caused favorable comment among chance acquaintances.

If you want to be an outstanding success in your store, dress as though you had already reached the topmost heights. Always have a smart suit, neatly pressed, to start the day. Choose your accessories carefully. Your shirt and tie should complement your suit and not look as though they were added to your ensemble as an afterthought. A wide variety of neckwear will enable you to give a little tone to your appearance each day.

Follow the new style trends, for it is by selling style merchandise that you make your living. If men bought clothing merely to fill the physical need of covering their bodies, your sales would be few and far between. Don’t wait for a new style to become a fad before adopting it yourself. Be one of the leaders–your occupation demands it.

It isn’t vanity or extravagance that causes the successful salesman to devote time and money to the problem of his appearance. It’s sound common sense. Every penny you put into new clothing for yourself is an investment which yields rich dividends in increased sales and earnings. Don’t let your appearance “send you to bat wtih two strikes on you.” Make your clothing help you make more sales. You’ll find that all the roads to successfull selling will be wide open to you if you always remember to dress up — dress up — DRESS UP!