Una Merkel — Perky Merkel (1932) 🇺🇸

Una Merkel — Perky Merkel (1932) | www.vintoz.com

May 24, 2023

We were lauding the superb talents of Barbara Stanwyck and Helen Hayes — we being Una Merkel and I.

by Madeline Glass

"It encourages me to think how successful those two girls are," said Una. "You see, I can't compare with the beauties of the screen, but I feel comforted when I think of Barbara and Helen, for they're not beautiful, either. They're such fine actresses that they don't need beauty. "When I came to the screen two years ago I thought that one picture would be all I'd get to make. I felt sure that when the fans had seen me once, they'd not want to see me again. And now I find that during those two years I worked in fifteen pictures. That thrills me more than anything else — fifteen pictures!"

What's this, a full-grown inferiority complex? No indeedy, my friends. Una is merely modest to a degree that is equaled only by her popularity. She doesn't think she's wonderful, and doesn't try to kid herself into believing that she is. Accepting what one believes to be one's natural limitations prevents unnecessary disappointments and often results in delightful surprises, as in the case of Una and her unexpected success.

While such adjectives as glamorous, seductive, exotic, and mysterious must be saved for the actresses with futuristic eyebrows, Una can be aptly described with such words as pretty, gracious, and lovable. Those widely spaced, twinkling blue eyes, that mass of blond hair, that softly smiling mouth — all these things you admire, to say nothing of her lithe figure and graceful swinging walk.

We had better stick in some personal and biographical data here before we jump to Una's interesting present.

  • Birthplace: Covington, Kentucky.
  • Date: twenty-odd years ago.
  • Height: about five feet, six inches, in size-four oxfords.
  • Weight: just about right.
  • Disposition: sunny and affectionate.
  • Education: high school.
  • Mentality: far above the average.
  • Morals: excellent.

When I say that Una reads widely, I don't want to hear any Bronx cheers from the balcony. I realize that you have been fooled before, but this is on the level. When literature is mentioned, Una is apt to say, "Have you read Understanding India, by Gertrude Marvin Williams?" or whatever the book is that has come to her attention. If you have not read it, she will explain wherein it is worth while. Once I saw her listen intently while a student expounded a complicated philosophy and its practical results. When he had finished, Una hesitated a moment, then offered an objection to his line of reasoning which was so keen and discerning as to confuse her teacher.

"I lived in Covington until I was eight years old," said Una, when I asked about her life story. "Then father, who was a patent broker, began traveling all over the South and in Europe. I am an only child, and mother

and I went with him. Years later we got to New York, and the dramatic fever, which all along had showed signs of becoming chronic, began to rise perceptibly and I enrolled in a dramatic school.

"My teacher heard that a production of Hamlet was to be put on, and suggested that I try to get Ophelia. It looked like a wonderful opportunity, but I didn't know where to apply for the part. My father and Earl Carroll had offices in the same building, so I persuaded father to ask Mr. Carroll about the part, as I thought he would know. After a bit father came back and said, 'I think you'd better go home and forget about this, Una. John Barrymore is to play Hamlet in that production." But if Una missed playing Ophelia, she was successful in getting other engagements. During her five years on the New York stage she appeared in Pigs, Two by Two, Salt Water, The Gossipy Sex, and, with Helen Hayes, in Coquette.

Coming to the studios, Una was particularly fortunate in being cast to play Ann Rutledge in "Abraham Lincoln." Although her debut was made in a tragic rôle, which she played exquisitely, Una has since appeared in so many perky, amusing parts that to-day she is generally classed as a comedienne.

At present Una's life is just one thing after another. Not long ago she surprised all her friends by being the first California bride of 1932. On last New Year's Eve, Una, her parents, and her fiancé, Ronold L. Burla, were at Coronado, California.

"Ronnie and I had planned to be married soon," said Una, "but not as soon as we did marry. My parents and I have always been so close that I dreaded telling them that I planned to leave them. New Year's Day was mother's and father's wedding anniversary, however, and when we were talking about it that night, Ronnie and I told them that we were going to be married.

"Dad himself suggested that we marry on New Year's Day, as he and mother had done. As we couldn't marry in California without waiting three days after getting the license, we decided to go to Mexico for the ceremony. We didn't like that Tiajuana touch, but it couldn't be avoided, if we were to be married on January 1st. So the next day we motored across the border, and mother and dad were our witnesses at the ceremony.

"Since coming back, Ronnie and I have been living at my home, and will continue to do so for the present. While I am working so steadily, I haven't time to choose a house, furnishings, and everything, and take care of a home as well."

While Una talked of her marriage, I recalled two previous romances in her life — sad romances of which she almost never speaks. The first ended unhappily, the second tragically when the young man died on Christmas Day of 1930.

Una's sudden marriage caused me to wonder about her friendship with John Arledge, who I had thought was her favored beau.

"Johnny?" said she. "Oh, we're still good friends. My husband isn't jealous. Shortly after we came home from Mexico, Johnny and another boy I used to go about with came over to spend the evening. Ronnie was so tired that he went to sleep, and the other boy read a book while Johnny and I played Salvo, a pencil and paper game."

Una speaks with pride of her husband's work and ambitions. Although he is an aviation instructor, Una has never been up in a plane. Mr. Burla, senior, was for ten years United States senator from Montana. The two families are the best of friends, the newlyweds are radiant, and it looks as if Una's third romance will be as successful and happy as the other two were sad. I, with a million other Merkel fans, hope so.

Una was born in Covington, Kentucky, which explains how she comes by that Southern drawl which sets her apart from every other actress.

Brought to the screen from the stage to play a tragic rôle, Una Merkel has surprised everybody by becoming a sparkling comedienne with on infectious Southern accent and a droll sense of humor. Her delightful story is opposite.

Photo by: George Hurrell (1904–1992)

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, May 1932