Saturday, May 28, 2016

Born Today May 28: Minna Gombell


Born in Baltimore, Maryland into a prominent doctor's family; Gombell had by 1912 made her successful stage debut. The following year, she made her Broadway debut, realizing success there quickly.  She specialized in comedic roles and had a very well known and regarded run as a stage actress all the way up through the 1920's in many such role.  This garnered the attention of Hollywood and by 1930 she had signed with Fox Film Corporation.  It was not Fox Films, however that produced her filmed debut in 1929; that fell to Franklin Warner Productions.  Gombell had married playwright Myron C. Fagan sometime well before 1929 and had starred in his play The Great Power in 1928 on Broadway; the cast was approached to make a film of the play, which was released the following year.  It was a strange early talkie, and like a good number of small budget early talkies, it had and alternative silent version.  What makes this film strange is the sound mix for the talking version.  The sound mix for that was provided by Bristolphone Sound, not your ordinary Hollywood talking sequencers at all! For more on this, please click here.  After this, she did continue her stage career, mostly along side her husband,  but also made a prolific number of early talking films under her contract with Fox.  She appeared in more than fifty films, including some real blockbusters such as The Thin Man, from 1931 through 1951, when she retired.  Gombell remained married to Fagan until his death in 1972.  She followed him in death on 14 April 1973 at the age of 80, passing away in Santa Monica, CA.  She is buried in Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.


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