|If I Had a Million (1932)||$75 /week|
|The Mysterious Rider (1933)||$75 per week|
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 clothing design, she became (as Gail Patrick Jackson) the 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 her fourth husband John Velde Jr., at the time of her death in 1980 of leukemia. She was 69.