Friday, October 29, 2010

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Vampyr

For a while at least, the good folks at have made Carl Theodor Dreyer's horror classic Vampyr available for viewing. And how do you know it's a classic? Why, because it received Katie Award nominations for best foreign language picture and best director—it must be good.

Just part of our ongoing mission here at the Monkey to cram a little culture down your throat.

And now with limited commercial interruption, Vampyr.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nominees For Best Picture Of 1932-33 (Comedy/Musical)

Dinner At Eight (prod. David O. Selznick)

Duck Soup (prod. Herman J. Mankiewicz)

42nd Street (prod. Darryl F. Zanuck)

Gold Diggers Of 1933 (prod. Jack L. Warner and Robert Lord)

Trouble In Paradise (prod. Ernst Lubitsch)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Best Picture Of 1932-33 (Foreign Language): Zero For Conduct (prod. Jean Vigo)

Considering that by the end of 1933 the Nazis had all but shuttered the German film industry and that the Depression had crippled the rest of Europe's studios, the field of contenders for best foreign language picture of 1932-33 is remarkably deep:

Boudu Saved From Drowning, a comedy by Jean Renoir, is ostensibly the story of a suicidal bum fished from the waters of the Seine, but is really a biting satire about the unsatisfying nature of charity when the object of your care won't transform himself into your image.

●Also released in 1932 was Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr, which our friend Erik Beck of the Boston Becks ranks seventh on his list of the all-time greatest horror films, writing "Dreyer does far more with mood and atmosphere than with the kind of effects laden vampire crap that modern directors use."

Liebelei is an exquisite romance by the master of moody, doomed love, Max Ophüls, who would go on to direct such masterpieces as Letter From An Unknown Woman and The Earrings Of Madame de ....

●And then there's The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse, Fritz Lang's sequel to his 1922 film Dr. Mabuse The Gambler. The Nazis took Lang's story of an insane criminal mastermind who controls his victims through hypnosis as a criticism of Hitler and his henchmen—it was—and Lang fled Germany shortly after production was completed.

I'm a fan of each of these films and, depending on my mood, I could champion any of them—you might particularly want to track down Vampyr as Halloween approaches—but this week I'm going with Jean Vigo's funny, poetic and influential look at life in a boy's boarding school, Zero For Conduct.

If you put the Our Gang comedies, Animal House and The Dead Poets Society in a blender, strained out the sentimentality and added a dash of Jean-Paul Sartre, Charlie Chaplin and Luis Buñuel, you'd get either a really awesome smoothie or Zero For Conduct (Zéro de conduite). The film's French subtitle, Jeunes Diables au Collège—"Little Devils At School"—is a pretty accurate description of the story's nominal heroes, three scamps, maybe age ten, who plot to take over their rundown school during a Commemoration Day ceremony and pelt the faculty with garbage.

"War is declared! Down with teachers! Up with revolution!"

And revolution is just what this school needs. With the exception of a newly-hired instructor (Jean Dasté) who imitates Chaplin and does handstands in class, the boys' teachers—led by a wizened dwarf with a preposterous beard and a hat he keeps under glass—are a wholly unsympathetic collection of spies, toadies, dimwits, bores and martinets, as small in spirit as the dean is in body. The boys rebel at every turn, instigating food fights (the cook serves nothing but beans) and pillow fights before finally leading the full-scale insurrection that caps this brief forty-one minute film.

"Zero For Conduct," wrote Terrence Rafferty for New Yorker magazine in 1990, "was a celebration of the pure freedom of children's imaginations, a stirring expression of resistance to the forces of authority and order—to anything that would impose discipline on the diverse, unruly energy of play." Nearly eighty years after it was made, "Zero For Conduct still seems ... like one of the few truly subversive movies ever made."

But while planning for "revolution" provides a unifying theme, the narrative of Zero For Conduct is primarily episodic, as life generally is at the age of ten, with director Vigo taking time to remember moments that a kid would find important—playing a toy trumpet with your nose, smoking purloined cigars, following an absent-minded teacher through the streets, chasing him as he tries to introduce himself to a pretty woman, then somehow getting sidetracked as they mistake a priest's flapping cassock for the girl's skirt.

At times Zero For Conduct reminded me of Yasujiro Ozu's I Was Born, But ..., the 1932 Japanese silent film about two school age brothers who play hooky, fake test scores and bribe a delivery boy to beat up the local bully. Of that movie I wrote "It's not that nothing happens, it's that nothing feels as if it's made to happen simply to satisfy the mechanics of plot."

Think of how the quest for the Red Ryder BB gun in A Christmas Story pulls together what are otherwise unrelated episodes in the life of little Ralphie Parker, and you'll get an idea of how Vigo uses talk of revolution to weave the various threads of Zero For Conduct into a single tapestry.

Visually, Zero For Conduct almost plays as a documentary, with most of the movie shot on location. Vigo comments on the action and the players with the placement of his camera, often photographing the students from below, emphasizing their oversize sense of their own maturity, while shooting their instructors from high-angle positions which tends to diminish them in our eyes. Vigo was a key figure in a loosely-defined movement called "Poetic Realism," which focused on marginalized characters, told stories tinged with nostalgia and fatalism, and relied on "heightened aestheticism" to emphasize the "representational aspects" of the film. No, I don't know what that means either, but I do recognize that there is a look and feel in the films of Jean Vigo that reminds me of Jean Renoir, Julien Duviver and Marcel Carné—like Vigo, members of the Poetic Realism movement—whose films were highly naturalistic in their look yet which featured action that clearly was scripted and staged.

As the film continues, though, Vigo also plays around with surrealism, which was still a hot ticket item in Europe. In addition to the films of Luis Buñuel, several directors working in France had taken stabs at the form including René Clair, Germaine Dulac, Jean Epstein, Man Ray and Jean Cocteau, and Jean Vigo underscores his theme of rebellion against convention with several surreal scenes—a teacher's drawing comes to life, sheepishly transforming itself, as the lone sympathetic teacher is rebuked by a colleague, from a man in swim trunks into the cloaked visage of Napoleon; a student does a slow-motion backflip into a chair; and a professor is tied to his bed and suspended from the wall while he sleeps. There's also one brief, surprising shot of full-frontal male nudity, not in the least sexual, more in the tradition of "I wave my private parts at your auntie," which I suspect was Vigo's way of giving French authorities the finger.

The spirit of rebellion that infuses Zero For Conduct was not lost on French authorities—after the film's premiere on April 7, 1933, it was banned and was not shown again in France until February 1946, nearly twelve years after Vigo's untimely death.

I confess it took more than one viewing for me to appreciate Zero For Conduct—I carried into my first viewing certain Hollywood-bred expectations of what should/would happen and I kept waiting for the predictable plot-twists and the ending wrapped up with a bow. It wasn't until the second time through that I allowed myself to enter into the spirit of the thing and remember what it was really like to be a kid. Sometimes as adults we forget how momentous little episodes are to children and to their development, and while you know that in one sense nothing will change after the boys have taken over the school, in more important ways, everything will change as their perceptions of themselves will forever be altered—there's a big difference between being someone who "could" do a thing and being someone who "has done" that thing.

Zero For Conduct was a flop at the box office, won no awards and was barely seen outside of Paris until after World War II, yet it directly influenced Francois Truffaut's greatest film, The 400 Blows, and the French New Wave generally. That's pedigree enough for me.

Born in Paris in 1905, Jean Vigo was the son of the French anarchist Eugeni Bonaventura de Vigo i Sallés, better known as Miguel Almereyda. When Vigo was twelve, his father was arrested and later murdered in his prison cell, presumably by his jailers. Hustled out of Paris, Vigo was educated under an assumed name in the south of France, yet despite the outrage he felt for French authorities, Vigo found things to love—his fellow students, later his wife and friends—and he found ways to translate that tenderness into film. Suffering from the tuberculosis he had contracted at the age of twenty-one, Vigo literally worked himself to death, directing his follow-up film, L'atalante from a stretcher and dying a few months after its completion in 1934.

Postscript: To my knowledge, Zero For Conduct is not readily available in the U.S. There are better copies floating around the internet, but at least I can show this battered, murky print legally.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apropos Of Nothing #4: The Beatles In Bournemouth

My post on the best foreign language picture of 1932-33 is well in hand—1300 words and a public domain copy of the film so far with more to come. Mostly it's a question of filling in the blanks at this point, verbs and whatnot. I don't know how you write, but I start by putting down the things I know then filling in later the things I don't know.

For example, this—

... episodic ... as life generally is at the age of ten ... centers around a plot to take over the school during a Commemoration Day ceremony featuring the town's mayor ... but ... playing a toy trumpet with your nose, smoking purloined cigars, mistaking a sleeping drunk for a corpse ...

—will eventually become ... well, something.

In the meantime, apropos of nothing, here is a bit from Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul, one of those British sketch-comedy shows of the sort I used to watch when Katie-Bar-The-Door and I lived overseas. I first saw this on Hey Dullblog, a blog by and for "people who think about the Beatles maybe a little too much" (as if there is such a thing). It answers the age-old question, what if the Beatles had never taken drugs, remained loveable 1964-era moptops and stayed together forever.

You might also check out these as well, one dealing with sex and "Cassius Clay," another with Bono's prostate, and finally one about John Lennon's infamous "We're bigger than you-know-who" assertion.

Okay, so I'm easily amused. Sue me.

I'll be back to the daily rigors of blogging in a day or two.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chaplin's Leading Leading Lady, Edna Purviance

KC over at Classic Movies tells me that today is Edna Purviance's birthday. Well, so it is! Edna would have been 115 today if she hadn't—well, you know.

Edna Purviance (pronounced Purr-VYE-ance) is remembered primarily as Charlie Chaplin's leading lady in all those shorts he made as the Essanay and Mutual studios during the silent era. She was working as a stenographer in San Francisco when she caught Chaplin's roving eye; he hired her on for his first film as Essanay Studios—1915's A Night Out—and she became his leading lady in three dozen features and shorts, more than any other actress.

"Mr. Chaplin asked me if I would like to act in pictures with him," she said later. "I laughed at the idea, but agreed to try it. I guess he took me because I had nothing to unlearn and he could teach me in his own way. I want to tell you that I suffered untold agonies. Eyes seemed to be everywhere. I was simply frightened to death. But he had unlimited patience in directing me and teaching me."

The two were romantically involved for a brief time until Chaplin's marriage in 1918 to seventeen year old Mildred Harris. Nevertheless, Purviance continued to star in Chaplin's movies, including such classics as The Kid, The Immigrant and A Dog's Life.

In 1923, Chaplin attempted to launch Purviance on an independent career, directing her in the drama A Woman Of Paris. Although highly regarded today, the picture was a flop at the box office and Purviance all but retired from acting.

Despite the end of their professional and romantic relationships, Chaplin kept Purviance on the studio payroll for the rest of her life and cast her in bit parts in Monsieur Verdoux and Limelight. She was married once, to Pan-Am pilot John Squire, and the two remained married until his death did them part in 1945. Purviance herself died of throat cancer in 1958.

But as always, the best way to get to know a film figure is to watch the movie. Here are two, The Cure and The Adventurer. Purviance plays "The Girl" in both. You can also click here to watch perhaps her greatest film, The Immigrant, which is preserved in the National Film Registry.

The Cure

The Adventurer

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Solve For X

1933 + 3x = 2010 + x

... where x equals the number of years, at my current pace of covering three movie years every calendar year, to reach what I call "convergence"—that is to say, when I'll be reviewing movies in the theaters rather than writing history.

Math is not my strong suit (why do you think I went to law school), but it works out to 38.5.


Here's another equation:

my current age + 38.5 years = really old!

Better pick up the pace, huh.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nominees For Best Picture Of 1932-33 (Foreign Language)

Boudu Saved From Drowning (prod. Michel Simon)

Liebelei (prod. Herman Millakowsky)

The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (prod. Fritz Lang and Seymour Nebenzal)

Vampyr (prod. Carl Theodor Dreyer and Julian West)

Zero For Conduct (prod. Jean Vigo)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Poll Results: Your Favorite Carole Lombard

No blogging yesterday. I was watching movies, nineteen of them to be exact, although to be fair, sixteen of them were made between 1888 and 1905 and consisted mostly of a single shot of passing traffic in places like Leeds Bridge and Jamaica Street, Glasgow. The briefest of these movies was two seconds—Roundhay Garden Scene. Filmed in 1888 by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince, it's the earliest surviving film, shot on a strip of paper shown at 10 frames per second.

You want to see it?

You want to see it again?

Just 27 years later, the same amount of time that has passed since Motorola introduced the first mobile phone, D.W. Griffith would be making three-hour epics for millions of paying customers.

But more about that in November.

Poll results are in. Last week I asked you to choose your favorite Carole Lombard performance from between four movies. The winner, no surprise, was My Man Godfrey, one of the great screwball comedies of the 1930s.

Is it my favorite? Well, that's the question. Because while I can guarantee you Carole Lombard will win a Katie-Bar-The-Door award as the best actress of some given year, I'm not promising it will be for My Man Godfrey. But it could be—you don't know. Stay tuned to see how this plays out.

The final tallies: My Man Godfrey 18; To Be Or Not To Be 7; Twentieth Century 4; and Nothing Sacred 0.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best Actor Of 1932-33 (Drama): Paul Muni (I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang)

I have to confess that a movie like I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, a bitter condemnation of, among other things, prison chain gangs, is not typically my sort of thing. To me, message pictures often have the taste of medicine that's supposed to be good for me but sticks halfway down—not because I necessarily disagree with what the film is saying but because the message is often delivered with all the subtlety of an ad for a personal injury lawyer.

I seem to remember Ernest Hemingway once saying something to the effect that if you tell your story about the way people really behave and if you get the details right, all the politics you'll ever need are already in it; the rest is just gilding the lily. But while art works best in the gray area that characterizes human existence, that sort of ambiguity doesn't lend itself to a clarion call to action, and unless a director is the caliber of John Ford, Sergei Eisenstein or Vittorio de Sica, he runs a real risk of burying his point if he allows his story to go where it wants to go.

Which is what makes I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang such a remark- able movie in my book. Because despite clearly having an axe to grind, the film steers clear of preaching, focusing instead on the man at the center of the story and in the process delivering one of the most gripping tales to emerge from the pre-Code era.

Based on the autobiography of Robert Elliott Burns, who twice escaped from a brutal Georgia chain gang, I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang tells the story of James Allen (Paul Muni), a returning soldier who wants to better himself after the war, finds opportunities wanting and then is sentenced to a decade of hard labor for a robbery he didn't commit. A prison blacksmith welds manacles to his ankles and shackles them together with a chain exactly thirteen links long.

Thus begins a life of merciless suffering at the hands of a state-sanctioned sadism that at the time passed for justice in many parts of this country. Like Marley's Ghost, wearing the chain he forged in life, Allen will remain fettered every moment of every day for the entire ten years of his sentence.

I won't spoil the ending for you except to say it has justly become one of the most famous in film history.

Given that the name of the movie is I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that after enduring the unendurable, Allen escapes to lead the life of model citizen, only to be betrayed to the law by a gold-digging wife (Glenda Farrell). Allen agrees to return to prison on the promise that he will receive a full pardon within ninety days. What happens then I leave to you to discover, but let's say that he finds himself once again betrayed, as frankly he was betrayed when he (and millions of men) returned home from the war.

"The state's promise didn't mean anything," he says in a moment of clarity. "It was all lies ... Why, their crimes are worse than mine, worse than anybody's here. They're the ones that should be in chains, not we!"

He's speaking of the actions of the parole board, yes, but he could just as easily be speaking of a government that had turned its back on the veterans who had served their country only to find themselves unemployed and homeless as the Depression dragged on. The film's production began just a month after President Herbert Hoover had ordered an attack on 8,000 veterans marching in favor a "bonus" bill then pending in Congress—two police officers and two veterans were killed—and the full meaning of Allen's words would not have been lost on an audience of the time.

Such a story could easily have become either shrill and histrionic or unbearably grim if the director or actors had strayed too far in one direction or the other. That it is instead enthralling from beginning to end is a testament to both Mervyn LeRoy's expert direction and to Paul Muni's pitch-perfect performance.

LeRoy, who is best known now as the guy who green-lighted The Wizard Of Oz, chose both by design and by circumstance to let sound and images tell much of his story. The sound of clanking chains are more eloquent than a page of dialogue, and when you see that even the mules are chained together, you know you're bearing witness to a justice system founded on the most inhuman sort of cruelty. That censorship forced the studio to remove some of the more incendiary dialogue explicitly condemning chain gangs actually improved the movie—without unctuous, oily speeches to get in the way, the images speak for themselves, and speak powerfully.

But primarily, I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang works because we come to care about the man underneath the story, the man played by Paul Muni.

Muni was born Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund of Polish-Jewish decent in what is now Lviv, Ukraine. In 1902, at the age of seven, he immigrated to the United States with his parents and came of age in New York. Muni learned the craft of acting in what was then known as "the Yiddish theater," and because he was so skilled at the art of makeup, he was dubbed "the New Lon Chaney."

Despite being nominated for an Oscar, Muni's first screen performance, 1929's The Valiant, was a box office failure. When his second film was also a flop, Muni returned to the Broadway stage and didn't make another movie until writer Ben Hecht recommended him for the lead in Howard Hawks's gangster classic, 1932's Scarface. When he followed that box office smash with an Oscar-nominated performance in I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, his Hollywood career was set. In the course of a career that ran until his retirement in 1959, he was nominated for four more Oscars, winning in 1936 for The Story Of Louis Pasteur.

Today, opinions about Muni's abilities are split, with many critics echoing British film historian David Thomson who calls Muni "awful" and "a crucial negative illustration in any argument as to what constitutes screen acting." Me, I'd call him "theatrical"—he worked like a Method actor, immersing himself in a role, but he learned his technique on the Broadway stage and despite years in Hollywood, never strayed far from his origins.

But does that make him, as Thomson and others contend, a bad movie actor?

Well, Muni's acting reminds me of something that Katie-Bar-The-Door was reading about wine in the Washington Post Magazine a couple of weekends ago, that a wine that tastes good when you're sipping it on the back porch won't necessarily taste good when you're drinking it with a meal. Turns out the flavors in the wine when combined with, say, red meat create a different sensation on your taste buds than they do when combined with peanuts at a cocktail party. Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the wine. Just means that there's no simple one-size-fits-all way to rate a bottle of wine.

In the same way, there's no one-size-fits-all way to rate acting either. And to insist that the only good acting is realistic, underplayed Method acting is like saying the only good wine is a Bordeaux, whether you're drinking it with beef, fish or a blonde in the backseat of a Thunderbird. I wouldn't want to see Paul Muni in Schindler's List—but then neither would I want to see Robert De Niro in Duck Soup, Marlon Brando in It's A Wonderful Life or Dustin Hoffman in High Noon. Context is everything, or nearly so, and I can't imagine any of Muni's contemporaries in the role of James Allen—Cagney was too gleeful, Robinson too menacing, despair wasn't in Cooper's make-up and I don't believe Gable could have been pushed around by anybody.

So Muni it was, and he was perfect in the role. He tailored his acting to the needs of the moment; when the scene needed energy, he was animated; when the scene spoke for itself, he was absolutely still. And when it was time for him to explode, it was the explosion of a man who had swallowed his rage at an unjust system until he was choked with near madness.

That he was perfect in other roles, too (Howard Hawks's Scarface comes immediately to mind), is enough to establish him in my mind as a real actor worthy of our attention.

I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang was a sensation upon its release, winning the National Board of Review's prize as best picture of the year, as well as three Oscar nominations (picture, actor and sound recording).

More important to Warner Brothers, the studio that had gambled on such risky material, the film was a big hit at the box office. Despite pioneering sound movies, Warner Brothers was considered a second-tier studio in 1932, with their fast, hard gangster pictures and sensational Code-skirting movies confined largely to working-class urban venues where patrons had little disposable income. To break into the high-rent districts where the nicer independent theaters were located, Warners needed a "prestige" project and I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang fit the bill perfectly—a case of art serving the ends of commerce.

In 1991, the Library of Congress added I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang to the National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tag, You're It

Faithful reader hanner_da_nanner of Hanner's Blog Mmkay has tagged me with the latest internet meme called "Tag You're It." The rules are simple: I answer eight questions she asks, come up with eight questions of my own, and tag eight more people. I was going to leave it until after I posted my essay about Paul Muni, but then I started thinking about it, which, of course, is always a mistake.

As the man said, "Don't think, you'll only hurt the ballclub."

Her questions and my answers:

1-Who was your mentor growing up? What about now?
I can't say I've ever had an Obi-Wan-Kenobi style mentor, but I've learned an awful lot from people with names like Katie-Bar-The-Door, Mister Muleboy, Bellotoot, Susan, my brothers Tom and Steve, but first and foremost Robert Osborne.

2-If you had a shopping spree at one store, which store would it be?
My very favorite store,

3-If you could own any pet, what would you have, and what would you name it?
Why, this little doggie right here ...

4-If you could start any business, what would you start?
Monkey Business, of course.

5-Dream vacation spot?
Anywhere Katie-Bar-The-Door is.

6-If you started a charity, what would it be for?
I'd like to give essays about movies to all the little children of the world. Or food. Food would also be good.

7-What's on your Christmas list this year?
After eight straight Christmases on the road, spending Christmas at home. Everything else is icing on the sugar cookies.

8-What are/would you be for Halloween?

And my eight questions:
1) You're walking down the street when a talking penguin asks you for a movie recommendation. Assuming you're wearing your favorite shoes, which pair are you wearing?

2) If you had to live one day from your life over and over again, which musical instrument would you learn how to play?

3) This one courtesy of Eddie Izzard: Cake or death? [see it below]

4) Which is your favorite railroad in a game of Monopoly?

5) Tapas in Barcelona or moules et frites in Paris?

6) If you were nougat, would you want to be covered in milk-, dark- or white-chocolate?

7) If you could be any character from a movie, who would be your co-star?

8) You're coming to bat in a major league game for the first time—what's your theme song?

I don't think I'm allowed to tag hanner back again, so I'm picking the last eight bloggers not named hanner_da_nanner who left comments on my blog. That'll teach you.

Mister Muleboy of The Mouth O' The Mule
Who of Who Am Us Anyway
Thingy of Pondering Life
Erik Beck of News From The Boston Becks
Yvette of in so many words ...
VP81955 of Carole & Co.
Ginger Ingenue of Asleep In New York
Beveridge D. Spencer of Cool Beveridge

But I encourage everyone to respond in the comments section below. We here at the Monkey want to know what you think!

P.S. Eddie Izzard's "Cake or Death" bit:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gail Patrick For Who Am Us

This is what makes blogging all worthwhile: our good friend Who Am Us of the blog Who Am Us Anyway (check it out here) wrote in the comment section of "Carole Lombard In The Public Domain" that "Believe or no, this was my first-ever viewing of My Man Godfrey." To introduce someone to a classic movie—well, for a blogger, it doesn't get any better than that.

That he also had the same reaction to My Man Godfrey that I did, that's just icing on the cake:

And ahh, Gail Patrick as Cornelia—have you written about her before? Must check ... dang! The search button produces results in the amount of zero! Well, I'm a Gail fan starting tonight ...

That's the phenomenon known as "the hotter younger sister," which the fine, fine folks at Bright Lights After Dark wrote about at some length last year. As they so eloquently put it, "damn is she hot!"

Amen, brother.

Born Margaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick in Birmingham, Alabama, Patrick was the dean of women at Howard College and was studying law at the University of Alabama when she entered a nationwide contest for a part in a Paramount film. She didn't win, but she was offered a film contract and moved to Hollywood.

Appropriate to a blog currently covering 1932-33, Patrick made her film debut in the 1932 film If I Had A Million, starring Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton and George Raft. She typically played arrogant socialites and femme fatales and is best known for three comedic roles—Carole Lombard's scheming sister in My Man Godfrey, a haughty wannabe actress who clashes with Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn in Stage Door and Cary Grant's not-so-favored bride in My Favorite Wife.

Patrick appeared in sixty-two movies between 1932 and 1948.

She abandoned acting when she married her third husband, literary agent Cornwell Jackson. One of Jackson's clients was mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner who created the fictional defense lawyer Perry Mason. Patrick (credited now as Gail Patrick Jackson) obtained the rights to Perry Mason and for nine seasons produced one of the most successful television series in American history.

Patrick died of leukemia in 1980 at the age of sixty-nine.