A Covington native and noted motion picture and stage actress. Una Merkel was born on December 10, 1903 in Covington. Her parents were Arno E. Merkel Jr. and Elizabeth Phares Merkel. The couple was married in Covington on December 31, 1902. Una attended Covington’s First and Sixth District Schools. The family home was located at the corner of Fourth and Greenup Streets (demolished in 1976). Una lived in Covington until her early teens. She attended dramatic school in New York City.
Merkel began her acting career in 1920 in silent films. She worked consistently throughout the 1930s in both leading and supporting roles. During the 1940s, her motion picture career took a downtown. At this time, she turned her attention to the stage. In 1956, she received a Tony Award for her work on the play, The Ponder Heart. Merkel returned to motion pictures in the late 1950s. She received an Oscar nomination (best supporting actress) for her work in Summer and Smoke.
During the Second World War, Merkel toured with the USO. One of her partners on these tours was Gary Cooper. They traveled 23,000 miles in six weeks throughout the South Pacific entertaining the troops. Una married Donald Burla, an aircraft executive, in 1932. They were divorced in 1945.
Una Merkel performed in the following motion pictures: Way Down East (1920), White Rose (1923), Fifth Horseman (1924), Abraham Lincoln (1930), The Bat Whisperers (1930), The Eyes of the World (1930), The Maltese Falcon (1931), Command Performance (1931), Don’t Bet on Women (1931), Six Cylinder Love (1931), Daddy Long Legs (1931), The Bargain (1931), wicked (1931), Private Lives (1931), Secret Witness (1931), She Wanted a Millionaire (1932), Impatient Maiden (1932), Man Wanted (1932), Huddle (1932), Red-Headed Woman (1932), They Call it Sin (1932), Whistling in the Dark (1933), 42nd Street (1933), Reunion in Vienna (1933), Bombshell (1933), The Secret of Madame Blanche (1933), Clear All Wires (1933), Men are Such Fools (1933), Midnight Mary (1933), Her First Mate (1933), Beauty for Sale (1933), Broadway to Hollywood (1933), Day of Reckoning (1933), Women in His Life (1933), Bulldog Drummond Fights Back (1934), The Cat’s Paw (1934), The Merry Widow (1934), Evelyn Prentice (1934), This Side of Heaven (1934), Murder in the Private Car (1934), Paris Interlude (1934), Have a Heart (1934), Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Baby Face Harrington (1935), It’s in the Air (1935), Biography of a Bachelor Girl (1935), The Night is Young (1935), One New York Night (1935), Murder in the Fleet (1935), Riff Raff (1936), Born to Dance (1936), Speed (1936), We Went to College (1936), Don’t Tell the Wife (1937), Saratoga (1937), True Confession (1937), Good Old Soak (1937), Checkers (1938), Some Like it Hot (1939), On Borrowed Time (1939), Destry Rides Again (1939), Four Girls in White (1939), The Bank Dick (1940), Comin’ Round the Mountain (1940), Sandy Gets Her Man (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Cracked Nuts (1941), Double Date (1941), The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942), Twin Beds (1942), This is the Army (1943), To Heir is Human (1944), Sweethearts of the USA (1944), It’s A Joke Son (1947), The Bride Goes Wild (1948), The Man From Texas (1948), Kill the Umpire (1950), My Blue Heaven (1950), Emergency Wedding (1950), Rich Young and Pretty (1951), Golden Girl (1951), A Millionaire for Christy (1951), The Merry Widow (1952), With a Song in My Heart (1952), I Love Melvin (1953), Kentuckian (1955), Bundle of Joy (1956), The Kettles in the Ozarks (1956), The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957), The Girl Most Likely (1958), The Mating Game (1959), Summer and Smoke (1961), The Parent Trap (1961), Summer Magic (19563), A Tiger Walks (1964), and Spinout (1966).
Una Merkel died in Los Angeles on January 2, 1986 at the age of 82. She left no survivors. Burial was in Highland Cemetery, Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.
Kentucky Post, January 7, 1986, p. 7k; Maltin, Leonard, ed, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. (New York: Dutton) 1994, pp. 600-601; Kentucky Explorer, November 1996, pp. 68-69; http://www.reelclassics.com/Actresses/Merkel/merkel.htm.