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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

THE REEL REALS: Gail Patrick

Gail Patrick

Gail Patrick is known for her performances as the snide, straight gal in classic films like My Favorite Wife. As a result, her roles throughout the Golden Studio Era pretty much label her as 'My Favorite Bitch.' Gail was kind of fantastic. She was the catty female on the outside that all girl secretly were on the inside-- the villainous Yang to the Yin of the more sterling leading ladies of the time, like Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers, and Irene Dunne. While Gail did play the good girl sometimes, in films like the cult classic Murders at the Zoo for example, she hit her stride by playing the dame who's trying to elbow her way to the prize-- generally the man. Gail was an atypical star. Not just because her height, intelligence, and countenance communicated an intimidating inner strength, but because she, as a general rule, wasn't an overly emotive actress. Much more cerebral and business savvy than many of her contemporaries, acting for Gail seemed more like a calculated investment that paid off. She was serious about it, but didn't take it seriously. The glamour was nothing, the fame was nothing, and her integrity and character reacted to these things irreverently. She considered them mere tools of the business and not the self-obsessive realities that too many celebrities get caught up in.

Gail lived a fascinating and multi-faceted life, one in which she attacked her many ambitions-- studying law, starting a children's clothing line, becoming an executive producer for "Perry Mason," (WHAT?!)-- and refused to settle for anything less than everything of which she was capable. Ambitious, beautiful, and well-educated, Gail was a force to be reckoned with, a feminist before her time, and her independent nature is probably partially responsible for her multiple marriages and divorces. I mean, who was really man enough to go toe-to-toe with this diva? While in cinema she remains the girl you hate, in reality she is the girl you love to hate. In the end, at least her characters were honest. They weren't sugar-coated goody-two-shoes with saccharine personalities and fairy tale endings. Gail was the real thing-- a tough broad holding it together and determined to survive this maelstrom of life no matter what it took. What would My Man Godfrey or Stage Door have been without her? Every good story needs a good, bad girl.

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