Remembering Una Merkel on Her 114th Birthday…

In Herman Raucher‘s coming-of-age novel Summer of ’42, his teen-aged protagonist has a big crush not on Lana Turner, Betty Grable, or Rita Hayworth, but on Penny Singleton, best known for portraying Blondie, wife to Arthur Lake‘s Dagwood in a long series of comic B-pictures.

We have a similar little thing for Una Merkel, whose 114th birthday it is today. Una came to specialize in playing second bananas, but she was certainly not without her own charms, not the least of which was her Southern drawl.

Here are 10 things you should know about Una Merkel

Happy 126th Birthday, Ronald Coleman!

The suave and sophisticated Ronald Colman was born 126 years ago today in Richmond, Surrey, England. Here are 10 RC Did-You-Knows:

  • Colman was the youngest of four children. He attended boarding school in Littlehampton, where he was first exposed to acting, but he intended to study engineering at Cambridge until the family’s financial fortunes declined with the premature death of his father in 1907.
  • As a member of the London Scottish Regiment, Colman served in World War I. At the Battle of Messines, he was wounded by shrapnel in his ankle, which gave him a limp he tried to hide for the rest of his life. He was discharged from service within weeks.
  • By 1916, Colman was a busy actor, appearing in a variety of stage productions in London’s West End. In 1920, he toured the United States in a play called The Dauntless Three, which led to success on Broadway.
  • Though he had appeared in a handful of British films, it was Colman’s work in his first American film, The White Sister (1923) opposite Lillian Gish, that proved to be his breakout role. He became very popular with the public in both romance and adventure pictures.
  • For all his success in silent pictures, Colman’s star ascended even higher in talkies, which allowed him to use to his advantage one of his greater assets as an actor, what the Encyclopædia Britannica described as his “resonant, mellifluous speaking voice with a unique, pleasing timbre.”
  • In 1930, Colman was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his work in two different pictures—Condemned and Bulldog Drummond. In total, he would be nominated as Best Actor for four films, winning once for A Double Life (1947).
  • Christopher Walken, whose given name is Ronald, was named for Colman.
  • Colman’s speaking voice was so widely admired that it became something of a cultural touchstone, mentioned in a number of motion pictures and novels, including Ralph Ellison‘s Invisible Man.
  • Colman was also active in radio in the 1940s and ’50s, making frequent guests appearances on The Jack Benny Show, hosting a program called Favorite Story in the and starring on The Halls of Ivy, which later became a television program.
  • Colman was contracted to star in the MGM picture Village of the Damned (1960), but following his death in 1958 from acute emphysema, George Sanders took over the role.

Happy birthday, Ronald Colman, wherever you may be!

Ronald Colman

Times Square Tintypes: The Broadwayite

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles a character he dubs The Broadwayite.

FOUR OUT OF FIVE

OUT of the mess of broken hearts, out of the string of speakeasies, out of the stage door, out of the glare of the White Lights, there has taken form a strange being. He is the soul of Broadway. He speaks its lingo. He symbolizes its credo. One little block, east or west of Broadway, and he is in another universe. Step up and shake hands with THE BROADWAYITE.
Caricature of The BroadwayiteHe considers it quite an honor if Madame Guinan bounces him over the head with a bottle.
After a two-minute acquaintanceship with anybody he calls the party by his first name.
His philosophy of life is merely a protective covering for his shortcomings. When he dies he still will be waiting for “the breaks.”
He reads Variety from cover to cover. Can tell you where they got that inside story. Also, if it’s true. Is certain his statement is the last word in the matter.
His manners are atrocious. He always keeps his hat on. Thinks it makes him look like a newspaper man.
He is a gag carrier.
Is a sidewalk critic. Stands on the curb during intermissions and gives lectures on the entertainment. Calls all the critics by their first names. He looks familiar to them.
When dining with anyone he orders filet mignon. And can outfumble anyone for the check. When eating alone he orders beans.
Remembers George White when he was only a hoofer. Recalls vividly how George followed his advice. Knows who really picks the girls for Ziegfeld. He informs everyone that Lillian Gish and George Jean Nathan really hold hands.
He talks loudly. Even when he whispers.
He has a repertoire of stories. Uses them again and again. Even employing the same gestures. He gets to be quite boring.
He is unfeeling. His proudest moment was when a chorine jumped from the ninth floor of a hotel because he jilted her. The newspapers spoiled it all by saying she fell.
Looks for his name in Ward Morehouse‘s recording of the celebrities present. Believes the list to be incomplete if his name is not included.
He thinks that dramatic criticism in this man’s town is a matter of personal prejudice and that the Paramount Building is actually at the “crossroads of the world.”
Had a sandwich named after him in a well-known delicatessen.
If given his choice to be anyone in all history he would select himself.
He has never been in the Metropolitan Opera House. Tried to crash it once. It was the Lambs’ Gambol. He couldn’t get by a ticket taker. He went in like a Lamb and came out like a lion.
Nothing has ever been known to embarrass him.
Will often reprimand a waiter in this manner: “How about a little service? Do you know who I am? I’m practically God.”
Let him cough once. Then he believes that the night life has got him at last. That he has tuberculosis. A lozenge clears the throat and he is off again.
His ambition in life is to have his nameplate on a seat in the Chanin theaters.
He has written for almost every magazine in America. Has the rejection slips to prove it.
His favorite expression is “I told you so.”
He is greatly admired by folks who don’t know him.
It is utterly impossible for him to keep a secret.

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