Thursday, January 12, 2023

The Life and Movie Career of Nell O'Day

Merrill T. McCord has assembled a book that documents the life and career of Nell O’Day, It was literally a ballerina on a horse, but such incongruity was nothing unusual for her. They are overlooked by stage of motion picture historians today, She was one of the most multi talented performers in the history of entertainment and displayed many contradictory personas, being called both a dainty girl and a tomboy. She was an actress in for venues, stage, theatrical films, industrial films, and television, a ballet in an acrobatic dancer, a singer of Broadway and western songs, wrote screenplays and stage place, and served as a magazine writer and editor. Her career has basically gone unforgotten but if you watch a lot of movies from the 1930s, there’s a good chance you’ve seen her in some films.

After reading this book, I was surprised to discover this is an actress that I have seen many times in Johnny Mac Brown westerns from Universal Studios, the 1930 musical King of Jazz, Fay Wray 1934 classic Woman in the Dark, Tim Holt westerns, PRC Texas Rangers westerns, Maria Montez Universal adventures, cliffhanger serials like PERILS OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED, and more. From old dark house murder mysteries to monogram studios horror films, Nell played supporting roles in tons of movies. 

Regrettably, actresses like her tend to fall by the wayside and become forgotten. Never receiving top billing, she went under noticed and overlooked over the last few decades until Merrill went to the trouble of digging through archives, her personal scrapbooks and papers, and documented her career in a wonderful 210 page book. There is a certain status quo for how information is presented in Hollywood biographies that has been excepted as the norm and what he did in his book is more of a variation on a theme which, I have to admit, is better in the way he presented her career chronologically. More so, if anyone is ever going to write a biography on a Hollywood actor or actress, this is a perfect template for how such books should be done.  

Lovingly illustrated and fascinating to read, This book is worth seeking out and purchasing if you love the damsels in distress, cowboy heroines, and vintage Hollywood in general.

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