In Uncategorized on May 2, 2010 at 5:18 pm

the 24th annual Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans, ruled by Yousuf Karsh’s beautifully moody portrait of the playwright, accompanied by ever-present cigarette and drink

Wes Hart, BROADWAY BEAUTY PAGEANT contestant (photo by Michael Portantiere)

Charlie Williams, BROADWAY BEAUTY PAGEANT contestant (photo by Michael Portantiere)

Leslie Uggams, who returned to the New York cabaret stage after 18 years at the Cafe Carlyle, and thoroughlyn deserved the appellation “divine”

Allan Carr (seen here with GREASE 2 star Maxwell Caulfield), the gay, wild and crazy Hollywood impresario who probably did more coke than anyone in Tinseltown – and that’s sayin’ something! Also responsible for that infamous Rob Lowe-Snow White disastrous Oscar telecast

Minna Gombel, treasurable Hollywood character actress, whose ability to get totally pissed off in a matter of seconds was only rivalled by her feisty contemporaries Wynne Gibson and Dorothy Burgess

Read all about ’em, and my more, in my column IN THE NOH in GAY CITY NEWS here


Whether accusing everyone and sundry of the murder of her unloved spouse and nervously trying to maintain a clutch on her kept man Cesar Romero in THE THIN MAN, completely henpecking Oliver Hardy in BLOCKHEADS, or being rudely shoved aside by carny man boyfriend Preston Sturges in HOOPLA so he can present a clean image for his innocent son, Richard Cromwell, Minna Gombel (1892-1973) often seemed to get the short end of the deal and that was often her own fault. What was most striking about her is that, like her feisty contemporaries, the hard-bitten Wynne Gibson and Dorothy Burgess, she was no shrinking violet willing to go quietly into that good night. No, Minna kicked up a fuss, letting you know all about it, with her eyes popping with fury and mouth a grim tight line of pure discontent. And, when it came to playing a more warmhearted goodtime gal, as in Ernst Lubitsch’s THE MERRY WIDOW, as the head cocotte of a deliriously fin-de-siecle Maxim’s, beautifully dressed by Adrian and brunette for a change, or as a burlesque hoofer comforting Kay Francis over her eternal maternal woes in COMET OVER BROADWAY, Gombell proved that Mae West and Joan Blondell had nothing on her for sheer, bawdy empathy.

She received her early training at the Bard of Avon School of Expression in Baltimore, and made her professional debut in stock, playing in Rupert Hughes farce EXCUSE ME in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1912. She used the name Winifred Lee, as her father objected to her career and use of the family name. Shortly thereafter, however, he caught her in stock in Yonkers and changed his mind, insisting she revert to her original, if rather homely name. This name nearly lost her a job and she would have changed it back had an advisor Marc Klaw not told her to keep it.

She made her Broadway debut in 1913 in Charles Frohman’s MADAME PRESIDENT. She was in some 14 Broadway shows after that before coming to Hollywood in 1931 for a contract with Fox, in which she was to coach younger players as well as act. She made a big impression in Frank Borzage’s BAD GIRL and signed a new contract as a fulltime actress.

Minna liked her men. For years, she starred in stock with the Knickerbocker players, part-owned by Howard Rumsey, whom she married, divorced, and then married theatrical promoter Ferdinand Eggens, theatrical promoter. That marriage also ended divorce and her name was linked with J. W. Sefton, vice president of the San Diego Trust and Savings Bank. Sefton denied their reported engagement in a 1932 New York tabloid, saying “The engagement is untrue. I have known Miss Gombel for a number of years, and she is a very fine girl but there is no truth to the report that we are engaged. I suppose someone has seen us together quite a bit in Hollywood and started the report.”

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