Una Merkel

Una Merkel


Birth Place
Covington, Kentucky, USA
December 10, 1903
January 02, 1986


This wry, wisecracking blonde never became a star, but brightened up scores of films in the 1930s as the heroine's pal, co-worker or rival. The Kentucky native got her start as a model, drifting into acting in the mid-20s. By 1927, she was appearing on Broadway with Helen Hayes in "Coquette" and three years later was discovered by D.W. Griffith, who cast her as the wan, tragic Ann Rutled...

Photos & Videos

The Mating Game - Scene Stills
The Mad Doctor of Market Street - Publicity Stills
The Mad Doctor of Market Street - Scene Stills


This wry, wisecracking blonde never became a star, but brightened up scores of films in the 1930s as the heroine's pal, co-worker or rival. The Kentucky native got her start as a model, drifting into acting in the mid-20s. By 1927, she was appearing on Broadway with Helen Hayes in "Coquette" and three years later was discovered by D.W. Griffith, who cast her as the wan, tragic Ann Rutledge in "Abraham Lincoln."

But Merkel's true forte was comedy, and she was almost promptly typed as the knowing but sunny-natured second lead in films like "Private Lives" (1930), "42nd Street" (1933), "On Borrowed Time" (1939) and "The Bank Dick" (1940). She held her own in a memorable brawl with Marlene Dietrich in "Destry Rides Again" (1939) and went on to grace such diverse features as "The Kentuckian" (1955) and "The Parent Trap" (1961). Merkel also supported Jean Harlow in four films, "Red Headed Woman" (1932), "Bombshell" (1933), "Riffraff" (1935) and "Saratoga" (1937). In 1961, she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her recreating her stage portrayal of the unstable mother of Alma Winemiller (Geraldine Page) in "Summer and Smoke."

Late in life, Merkel returned to the stage with great success, winning a Tony Award for "The Ponder Heart" (1956), also appearing in "Three's a Family" (1944), "The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker" (1953) and alongside Jackie Gleason and Walter Pidgeon in the musical "Take Me Along" (1959).



Cast (Feature Film)

Spinout (1966)
Violet Ranley
A Tiger Walks (1964)
Mrs. Watkins
Summer Magic (1963)
Maria Popham
Summer and Smoke (1961)
Mrs. Winemiller
The Parent Trap (1961)
The Mating Game (1959)
Ma Larkin
The Girl Most Likely (1958)
The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)
The Kettles in the Ozarks (1956)
Miss Bedelia Baines
Bundle of Joy (1956)
Mrs. Dugan
The Kentuckian (1955)
Sophie Wakefield
I Love Melvin (1953)
Mom Schneider
With a Song in My Heart (1952)
Sister Marie
The Merry Widow (1952)
Kitty Riley
Golden Girl (1951)
Mary Ann Crabtree
A Millionaire for Christy (1951)
Patsy Clifford
Rich, Young and Pretty (1951)
My Blue Heaven (1950)
Miss Irma Gilbert
Kill the Umpire (1950)
Betty Johnson
Emergency Wedding (1950)
Man from Texas (1948)
Widow Weeks
The Bride Goes Wild (1948)
Miss Doberly
It's a Joke, Son! (1947)
Magnolia Claghorn
Sweethearts of the U.S.A. (1944)
This Is the Army (1943)
Rose Dibble
The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942)
Aunt Margaret [Wentworth]
Twin Beds (1942)
Cracked Nuts (1941)
Sharon [Knight]
Double Date (1941)
[Aunt] Elsie [Kirkland]
Road to Zanzibar (1941)
Julia [Quimby]
Comin' Round the Mountain (1940)
Belinda Watters
The Bank Dick (1940)
Myrtle Sousé
Sandy Gets Her Man (1940)
Nan [Clark]
Destry Rides Again (1939)
Lily Belle Callahan
Four Girls in White (1939)
Gertie Robbins
Some Like It Hot (1939)
Flo Saunders
On Borrowed Time (1939)
Marcia Giles
Checkers (1938)
Mamie Appleby
Saratoga (1937)
Fritzi [Kiffmeyer]
Don't Tell the Wife (1937)
Nancy Dorsey
The Good Old Soak (1937)
True Confession (1937)
Daisy McClure
Speed (1936)
Josephine Sanderson
Riffraff (1936)
Born to Dance (1936)
Jenny Saks
We Went to College (1936)
Susan [Standish]
Biography of a Bachelor Girl (1935)
One New York Night (1935)
Baby Face Harrington (1935)
It's in the Air (1935)
Alice Churchill
Murder in the Fleet (1935)
Toots Timmons
The Night Is Young (1935)
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
Kitty Corbett
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934)
This Side of Heaven (1934)
Murder in the Private Car (1934)
Georgia [Latham]
The Cat's-Paw (1934)
Petunia "Pet" Pratt
Have a Heart (1934)
Evelyn Prentice (1934)
Amy Drexel
Paris Interlude (1934)
The Merry Widow (1934)
Queen [Dolores]
Reunion in Vienna (1933)
Ilse [Hinrich]
Bombshell (1933)
42nd Street (1933)
Loraine [Lolly] Fleming
Midnight Mary (1933)
The Women in His Life (1933)
Whistling in the Dark (1933)
Toby Van Buren
Her First Mate (1933)
Hattie Horner
Clear All Wires (1933)
Dolly [Winslow]
Beauty for Sale (1933)
Carol [Merrick]
Day of Reckoning (1933)
The Secret of Madame Blanche (1933)
Broadway to Hollywood (1933)
Chorus girl
Red-Headed Woman (1932)
They Call It Sin (1932)
Dixie Dare
Huddle (1932)
Man Wanted (1932)
Ruth Holman
Men Are Such Fools (1932)
She Wanted a Millionaire (1932)
Mary Taylor
The Impatient Maiden (1932)
Betty Merrick
The Bargain (1931)
Six Cylinder Love (1931)
Margaret Rogers
Don't Bet on Women (1931)
Tallulah Hope
Command Performance (1931)
Princess Katerina
The Secret Witness (1931)
Lois Martin
Wicked (1931)
Daddy Long Legs (1931)
Sally McBride
The Maltese Falcon (1931)
Private Lives (1931)
Sibyl [Chase]
Abraham Lincoln (1930)
Ann Rutledge
The Eyes of the World (1930)
The Bat Whispers (1930)
Dale Van Gorder
The Fifth Horseman (1924)

Cast (Short)

Hollywood Goes to Town (1938)
Menu (1933)

Life Events


First leading role in the silent film "The Fifth Horseman"


Made stage debut in "Two by TYwo"


Broadway debut in "Coquette" alongside Helen Hayes


Returned to features in D.W. Griffith's "Abraham Lincoln" as Ann Rutledge


Co-starred in "Destry Rides Again"; had memorable fight scene with Marlene Dietrich


Returned to Broadway in "Three's a Family"


Starred in stage production "The Remarkable Mr. Pennypicker"


Earned Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for "Summer and Smoke"; reprised stage role


Final film, "Spinout"

Photo Collections

The Mating Game - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from The Mating Game (1959), starring Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall.
The Mad Doctor of Market Street - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize Universal Pictures' The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942), starring Lionel Atwill, Una Merkel, and Nat Pendleton. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Mad Doctor of Market Street - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills taken during production of Universal Pictures' The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942), starring Lionel Atwill, Una Merkel, and Nat Pendleton.


Movie Clip

42nd Street (1933) -- (Movie Clip) Shuffle Off To Buffalo Dramatic climax, Warner Baxter as director Julian Marsh gives the seminal pep talk to understudy Peggy (Ruby Keeler), who comes back a star, with the Al Dubin/Harry Warren song and the Busby Berkeley number, in 42nd Street, 1933.
Midnight Mary (1933) -- (Movie Clip) A Girl's Gotta Live Loretta Young (title character), awaiting her sentence in a murder trial, is recalling years past via the spines of court record books, including meeting her pal Bunny (Una Merkel) and her future employer-boyfriend, hoodlum Leo (Ricardo Cortez), in Midnight Mary, directed by William A. Wellman.
Red-Headed Woman (1932) -- (Movie Clip) I'm In The Big Leagues Having successfully gotten herself caught fooling around with her boss by his wife, Red (Jean Harlow) plotting and undressing with somewhat shocked pal Sally (Una Merkel), then summoned by her boss's father (Lewis Stone) in MGM's Red-Headed Woman, 1932.
Summer And Smoke (1961) -- (Movie Clip) It's A Civic Duty After a childhood prologue and credits, Mississippi spinster Alma (Geraldine Page) with her dotty mother (Una Merkel) and minister father (Malcolm Atterbury), sings a Spanish song (“La Golondria”) at holiday festivities while her dashing neighbor Johnny (Laurence Harvey) arrives home, in Summer And Smoke, 1961, from a Tennessee Williams play.
Summer And Smoke (1961) -- (Movie Clip) Hello, Cavalier! Minding her needy mother (Una Merkel), Mississippian Alma (Academy Award-nominated Geraldine Page) finds cause to visit her dashing if reckless neighbor Johnny (Laurence Harvey), a young doctor home for the summer, finally managing an invitation, in Summer And Smoke, 1961.
Midnight Mary (1933) -- (Movie Clip) Who Might That Lovely Lady Be? We know that knockout lady gambler Mary (Loretta Young) and coat check babe Bunny (Una Merkel) both work for gangsters, so we know something’s up at the casino, as we meet sophisticate Tom (Franchot Tone) and dyspeptic buddy Sam (Andy Devine), in MGM’s Midnight Mary, 1933.
42nd Street -- (Movie Ciip) I'm Young And Healthy Billy Lawler (Dick Powell) sings "I'm Young and Healthy," another Al Dubin/Harry Warren original, from Warner Bros.' musical within the musical 42nd Street (1933) choreographed by Busby Berkeley.
Merry Widow, The (1952) -- (Movie Clip) Villa Count Danilo (Fernando Lamas), with his welcoming crew in lowly Marshovia caught unawares as the rich widow Radek (Lana Turner) arrives from America, Sujata his Gypsy partner, with Paul Francis Webster’s lyric to a tune (“Vilja”) from the original Franz Lehar operetta, staged by Jack Cole, produced by Joe Pasternak for MGM, in The Merry Widow, 1952.
Merry Widow, The (1952) -- (Movie Clip) Night Not quite able to see Lana Turner (title character, the visiting American widow Radek) in the dark, Count Danilo (Fernando Lamas), enlisted by his king to seduce her and her millions home to tiny Marshovia, offers the song from the Franz Lehar operetta, English lyric by Paul Francis Webster, in MGM’s The Merry Widow, 1952.
Merry Widow, The (1952) -- (Movie Clip) You Were Lovely By Moonlight Count Danilo (Fernando Lamas), under royal orders to woo the visiting American widow Radek (Lana Turner) and her funds, fails to realize that Kitty (Una Merkel) is only her secretary, then is further undermined when she finds the note detailing his instructions, in The Merry Widow, 1952.
Merry Widow, The (1952) -- (Movie Clip) What Charity Do You Represent? 1900, New York, diplomats from impoverished Marshovia (John Abbott, Dave Willock) have been turned away (by secretary Una Merkel) at the home of Crystal Radek (Lana Turner), new widow of the late emigrant industrialist, who arrives in time for their pitch, in MGM’s The Merry Widow, 1952.
Speed (1936) -- (Movie Clip) Modernized Confusion Test driver Terry (James Stewart, in his first top-billed role) is showing the new PR gal Jane (Wendy Barrie) around the plant, joined by his buddy, inventor-mechanic Gadget (Ted Healy) then getting big-footed by the bigger-shot engineer Frank (Weldon Heyburn), early in MGM’s Speed, 1936.


Man Wanted - (Original Trailer) A female executive (Kay Francis) falls in love with her male secretary (David Manners) in Man Wanted (1932).
With A Song In My Heart - (Original Trailer) Singer Jane Froman (Susan Hayward) comes back after a plane crash in the biopic With A Song In My Heart (1952).
Midnight Mary - (Original Trailer) Loretta Young is an abused orphan who sinks into a life of crime in the pre-code drama Midnight Mary (1933).
Bride Goes Wild, The -- (Re-issue Trailer) A womanizing author of children's books (Van Johnson) borrows a son to woo his illustrator in The Bride Goes Wild (1948).
Baby Face Harrington - (Original Trailer) A milquetoast has to fight off cops and gangsters when he's mistaken for the notorious Baby Face Harrington (1935).
Evelyn Prentice - (Original Trailer) MGM playing up The Thin Man angle with Myrna Loy and William Powell, in the original trailer for the melodrama Evelyn Prentice, 1934, co-starring Rosalind Russell.
Bundle of Joy - (Original Trailer) A shop girl is mistaken for the mother of a foundling in the musical remake of Bachelor Mother, Bundle of Joy (1956), starring Eddie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds.
Merry Widow, The (1952) - (Original Trailer) A prince (Fernando Lamas) from a small kingdom courts a wealthy widow (Lana Turner) to keep her money in the country in The Merry Widow (1952).
On Borrowed Time - (Original Trailer) Old Gramps (Lionel Barrymore) traps Death (Cedric Hardwicke) in a tree in MGM's fantasy On Borrowed Time (1939).
This Side of Heaven - (Original Trailer) An eccentric family tries to work together when the father is accused of embezzlement in This Side Of Heaven (1934) starring Lionel Barrymore.
Broadway Melody of 1936 - (Original Trailer) A Broadway columnist tries to use an innocent dancer to frame a producer in Broadway Melody of 1936 starring Jack Benny & Eleanor Powell.
Murder in the Fleet - (Original Trailer) Robert Taylor got his first starring role solving a Murder In The Fleet (1935) when he becomes a suspect.