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...
Returned to features in D.W. Griffith's "Abraham Lincoln" as Ann Rutledge
Cast as Gish's sister in film that was never made
Worked as Lillian Gish's stand-in
Broadway debut in "Coquette" alongside Helen Hayes
Starred in stage production "The Remarkable Mr. Pennypicker"
Appeared in 60 films during the 1930s
Returned to Broadway in "Three's a Family"
Earned Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for "Summer and Smoke"; reprised stage role
Co-starred in "Destry Rides Again"; had memorable fight scene with Marlene Dietrich
Final film, "Spinout"
Made stage debut in "Two by TYwo"
First leading role in the silent film "The Fifth Horseman"
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".<p> 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".<p> 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).