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Gail Patrick Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trivia (9) | Personal Quotes (5) | Salary (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 20 June 1911Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Date of Death 6 July 1980Los Angeles, California, USA  (leukemia)
Birth NameMargaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Cold, calculating and hard-as-nails is probably the best definition of Gail Patrick's femmes on the 30s and 40s silver screen, and the actress herself was no softie in real life. The tall, slender, patrician beauty was born with the equally stately-sounding name Margaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick in Birmingham, Alabama, on June 20, 1911. She received a B.A. and was a dean of women at her alma mater, Howard College, for a time. She was studying pre-law at the University of Alabama at the time she, by happenstance, became a finalist in a nationwide contest for a Paramount film role (which she did not get). This led her to going to Hollywood and, despite her loss, the studio wound up offering her a studio contract at $50 a week (she managed to finagle her way to $75).

After the usual grooming in bit parts, Gail moved stealthily up the ladder to featured roles in a wide assortment of genres including the fantasy Death Takes a Holiday (1934), the melodramatic thriller The Crime of Helen Stanley (1934), the musical Mississippi (1935) and the easy comedy Early to Bed (1936). Just as quickly she began essaying the occasional co-star or leading lady -- that of a woman lawyer in Disbarred (1939) and a romantic diversion in the Zane Grey western adaptations of Wagon Wheels (1934) and Wanderer of the Wasteland (1935). She was most identified, however, in manipulative second leads while usually tangling with the star femme as the "other woman," haughty socialite or scheming villainess.

Gail participated grandly in three well-known film classics. In the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey (1936), she was at odds with Carole Lombard as a spoiled, treacherous sister; in Stage Door (1937), she engaged in some marvelous cat fights with Ginger Rogers as a cynical wannabe actress, and in My Favorite Wife (1940) she played Cary Grant's exacting second wife who must contend with the reappearance of his first, supposedly dead wife Irene Dunne. Gail exuded wit, confidence, assertiveness and elegance in all her characters, nothing less, and her male co-stars were the sturdiest assortment Hollywood could offer -- Bing Crosby, Randolph Scott, Richard Dix, John Howard, Preston Foster, Dean Jagger and George Sanders.

In 1947, she did an abrupt about-face and left her highly respectable career following her third marriage. After involving herself successfully in clothes design, she became (as Gail Patrick Jackson) executive producer of the Perry Mason (1957) TV series (1957-1966), alongside producer and husband (Thomas) Cornwell Jackson, who was a literary agent to author/creator Erle Stanley Gardner. The courtroom "whodunnit" was a long and highly successful run. She and Jackson divorced in 1969, and one of her few failures in life was in her attempt to revive the series with The New Perry Mason (1973) in 1973, but Monte Markham was a mighty pale comparison to Raymond Burr in the title role and the show quickly tanked. Divorced three times, she and Mr. Jackson had two adopted children. She was married to fourth husband John Velde Jr., at the time of her death in 1980 of leukemia. She was 69.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (4)

John E. Velde Jr. (28 September 1974 - 6 July 1980) (her death)
Cornwell Jackson (25 July 1947 - 24 April 1969) (divorced) (2 children)
Arnold Dean White (11 July 1944 - 25 March 1946) (divorced) (2 children)
Robert Howard Cobb (16 December 1936 - 14 November 1940) (divorced)

Trivia (9)

During the 1940s and 1950s she ran a children's clothing store and playground from her home, catering to other Hollywood celebrities. All clothes sold were made from her own designs.
Her first husband, Robert Howard Cobb, was the owner of the famous Brown Derby Restaurant. She performed on stage with the Lux Radio Theater at the Music Box Theater (now the Henry Fonda Music Box Theater), which was just around the corner on Hollywood Blvd. After 1938 she only had to walk across the street when the show moved to the CBS Radio Theater (now the Ricardo Montalban Theater) on Vine Street. Mr. Cobb is immortalized as the inventor of the Cobb Salad.
Joined a college sorority, Delta Zeta. In her will, she bequeathed $1 million to her sisterhood. It is the largest amount they have been awarded.
Was a diabetic.
She gave birth prematurely to a set of twins during her second marriage - they died shortly after birth.
She was afraid of the camera and never watched herself on screen.
She got into movies when she became involved with Paramount's talent search to find an actress to play the Panther Woman in Island of Lost Souls (1932), a part that went to Kathleen Burke, a young--and inexperienced--fashion model. Studio executives were suitably impressed with her screen test opposite Gary Cooper that they offered her a standard contract. The independent Patrick renegotiated Burke's weekly salary from $50 to $75 and stipulated that she not have to pose for cheesecake publicity photos.
Got her first screen role in MGM's No More Ladies (1935), in part with the help of Joan Crawford. Crawford lent her her hairdresser and dressed her in one of Adrian's gowns, borrowed by Crawford for the test. Patrick got the part.
In 1957 formed, with Erle Stanley Gardner and Cornwell Jackson, Paisano Productions, which produced the Perry Mason (1957) TV series.

Personal Quotes (5)

I always felt self-conscious as an actress because I'm tall. I see that it came over as haughtiness. I just don't have an actress' soul. I think mine has a dollar sign on it.
We were a typical Southern family. There always seemed to be guests staying with us. I was the only girl--I had two brothers, one older than me, one younger--so I learned to compete at a very early age. I was always tall with lots of freckles. Acting never interested me, but law did.
[about rumors of tension on the set of Stage Door (1937)] Kate [Katharine Hepburn] . . . just hated Ginger Rogers. It was pure green envy. Ginge was everything Great Kate wasn't. The crews loved her [Ginger] and hated Kate for the airs she put on. And Ginge at the time was a bigger box-office star than Kate. And can I add a better "natural" actress? I mean she had no training but she was so wonderful. Greg [director Gregory La Cava] had asked for me again and RKO had to pay Paramount quite a lot for the loan-out. I'd do a scene with Ginge--in the picture we hated one another, as my character was Adolphe Menjou's mistress--and then we'd try it another way. With Great Kate every take was the same. She never took direction and she walked around with that haughty air. Or maybe she was just a Method actress, that's the way her character was supposed to be. The wisecracks flew like crazy with Lucy [Lucille Ball], Eve Arden and Ann Miller as co-stars. Eve kept complaining that not only did she have to zing out wisecracks, but with a cat perched around her shoulders. But at the end of the day there was only one Oscar acting nomination--to Andrea Leeds, and boy was Great Kate ticked off!
[about We Were Dancing (1942)] Norma Shearer wasn't the First Lady of Hollywood as books suggest. She was Empress of MGM. In the morning she appeared with a retinue of servants. She went behind the flats and gave [Robert Z. Leonard] our dear director his notes for the day. She chose me because I was so tall and she was teeny weenie. It was a bit of a mess. Who cared about a false Russian countess? Pearl Harbor had just happened. Our little story never had a chance. Many years later I met Norma at a party. She came over and hugged me. She'd never talked to me once back then. She was very sweet and very sad, and I included her in my dinners, and she seemed very glad just to get out of the house for a change.
[on Women in Bondage (1943)] It was a huge hit--the censors let us get away with murder! I'm a girl coming back to Germany and getting involved with all the Nazi customs from sterilization to paganism to mercy killings. The trailer had this line: "Blueprint For Shame!". It was a huge hit but Nancy Kelly was in tears over some of the awful dialogue. A lot of actors were in it for the pay--H.B. Warner, Gertrude Michael, Mary Forbes.

Salary (2)

If I Had a Million (1932) $75 /week
The Mysterious Rider (1933) $75 per week

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