Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gail Patrick: Deco Dame

Gail Patrick (1911-1980) was best known for her numerous roles in the 1930s and 1940s as the bitchy, cold-as-ice, "other woman." The stauesque (5'7"), strikingly beautiful actress possessed a wonderfully distinct speaking voice (Oh, why don't women speak like that today??? ). Gail Patrick is a quintessentially Thirties dame. She is best known for her work in My Man Godfrey (1936), where she played Carole Lombard’s conniving sister Cornelia who, after being dumped into an ash pile by William Powell’s title character, plans to ruin the “Forgotten Man”-turned family butler by framing him for the theft of her jewel necklace. Patrick has many deliciously bitchy exchanges with both Powell and Lombard, but it is Patrick’s vulnerability that makes her Cornelia Bullock so memorable, adding a level of pathos to her spoiled rich girl facade. After seeing Patrick among one of the best ensemble casts in movie history, you’ll want to seek out her other memorable roles. Unfortunately, Gail Patrick’s more obscure movies do not make the rounds at Turner Classic Movies and are unavailable on DVD. There must be a dozen or so of her movies that I'm just dying to see, including Tales of Manhattan (1942) , and the original Brewster's Millions (1945) . Luckily, her best-known films are available for your infinite enjoyment.

Stage Door (1937) Patrick’s role as Linda Shaw was a nice follow up to My Man Godfrey, and she gets to lock horns with an at-her-best Ginger Rogers, who, to be honest, destroys Patrick in this one. Gail does get off some fine salvos, though. Stage Door features not to be missed ensemble work by the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, and a teenaged Ann Miller.

My Favorite Wife (1940) Patrick in perhaps her ultimate “other woman” role, she is Cary Grant’s new wife after Grant has his first wife (Irene Dunne) declared dead after she goes missing in the Pacific Ocean for seven years. Patrick is actually quite sympathetic here, as her character, Bianca, is completely unaware of and therefore befuddled by Grant’s suddenly bizarre behavior after he sees Dunne at the hotel where he and Patrick will spend their honeymoon.

Love Crazy (1941) This William Powell-Myrna Loy confection finds Gail as Powell’s ex-girlfriend. Patrick plays her Other Woman role with a great deal of humor and charm. She’s also at her most flirtatious, with the nasty characteristics that mark most of her roles notably absent. This is my favorite Gail Patrick role. She's surpisingly good in a lighter role and it came as a pleasant surprise after having seen her in her typical performances.

After her acting career ended in the late 1940s, Gail Patrick started her own children's clothing business designing her own line and having many Hollywood stars as clients. An accomplished woman in every aspect of her professional life and a memorable presence onscreen.


  1. Oh, I'm not familiar with Gail Patrick...

    Interesting stuff. :)


    I've seen STAGE DOOR, but I don't remember her.


    TALES OF MANHATTAN often airs on the Fox Movie Channel. I saw it listed just the other day...I do weekly searches for Henry Fonda. ;)

  2. In STAGE DOOR, Gail Patrick was the very tall brunette who fought with Ginger Rogers all the time and Ginger forcibly removed the stockings from Gail's legs that she claimed Gail stole. She's also Mr. Powell's (Adolphe Menjou) mistress until he dumps her for Ginger.

    Unfortunately, I don't get FMC anymore, as digital cable just got too expensive.

  3. Okay, I totally remember the stockings part! :)


    Sorry you don't get FMC. I'll watch it for you and do a review. ;)

  4. The last time I checked, FMC started sacrificing the real classics with newer, lesser movies, especially during prime time.

    As for Gail Patrick, don't be surprised if there are more posts dedicated to her loveliness and acting brilliance. ;) She really is one of my favorites.

  5. Gail Patrick also produced the "Perry Mason" TV series (in the '50s, she was married to a literary agent who represented Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner. About nine months ago, I wrote an entry on Patrick at my community, "Carole & Co.":

  6. VP81955: Thanks for your comments. I love the work and dedication you bring to your carole blog. It's a joy to read. (even though I missed your Gail article!)

    Thanks again.

  7. Gosh, I have seen her in all these movies listed here but I have never actually paid attention to her or her name. I remember her in Love Crazy the most. She was a tall and beautiful specimen. She is so gorgeous in these photos, especially the first one. Very classy lady.

  8. This is great. I've tried for years to warm up to her, but the impression first created in My Favorite Wife has stuck. I recently watched Mad About Music and think she fared a bit better in that. I'm sad to say I didn't like her much in Wives Under Suspicion with Warren William, which is too bad because, WW and Gail Patrick at full tilt would have been amazing. I've added your blog to my roll. If you get a chance, check out mine.

  9. They Had Faces Then--immeasurable talent and incredible appeal: Arthur, Dietrich, Garbo, Lombard, Loy, Shearer, Stanwyck, Sullavan, and on and on--and then we were so blessed to have been given Gail Patrick. Oh my! Such untapped greatness; what her dazzling outer and radiant inner beauty would have revealed had she been given more plum roles that she so rightly deserved. We're so lucky to be able to see her shine so in "Love Crazy."
    But, in that, "what if?" category: In all the books and interviews written over the years,-in all the documentaries and dvd special features there are out there,-why is there no mention--(with every other Hollywood actress at the time, clamouring for and being considered for that coveted part which took years to cast) of Ms. Patrick having auditioned for the role of Scarlett O'Hara?!
    Oh, what a Katie Scarlett she would have been! So right for her; already a Southern belle of Irish descent. Oh! Casting no dispersions on Vivien Leigh's characterization, but it sends shivers and brings tears to imagine Ms. Patrick standing toe to toe and staring eye to eye with Clark Gable.
    Never have I found a reference to Gail and Scarlett being mentioned in the same sentence.
    THEN again--what a Cathy she would have made to Olivier's Heathcliff; a Brigid to Bogie's Sam Spade; even a Hildy for Cary Grant's Walter Burns; come to think of it, how about--well y'know...
    Jonathan McMillan


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