There is not much information about Gale Ronn on the internet, and not much will be said about her. So why did I choose to profile her? Because learning about Gale and her career will brings us closer to understanding what it meant to be a Hollywood extra during the golden years and it can perhaps answer the question how did he whole extra system function and could you actually live by working as an extra? Let’s learn more!
Lillie Gale Randel was born on December 5, 1907, in Iola, Kansas, to Robert Elmer Randel and Nellie Clyde Capsey. Her older sister Violet was born on September 16, 1903, and her younger brother James was born on December 9, 1917. Her was father was a builder by trade. He was born at Corning, Kansas, moving to Manhattan; Kansas as a young man. Then he came to Allen, Kansas and worked in construction in the area.
The Randels were solid middle class, and Gale and her siblings grew up in the typical small-town America of yesteryear. Gale attended high school in Iola Kansas, and was often featured in the society section of the local newspaper. After graduation in 1924 she moved to Kansas City to become a fashion model.
Gale was successful enough as a Kansas city mannequin for a few years, but sound movies ushered a new era in movie making, and ton of young girls poured into Hollywood to make it and earn better wages. The lure of film also brought Gale out to Tinsel town in about 1932. Despite he fact hat she had no previous acting experience, she was successful at nabbing a contract right away. So started her career.
Gale was a movie extra and based on the stuff I read about her, it seems she appeared in a whole lot more movies than the ones mentioned on her IMDB page. Sadly, this can actually be the case with most of the girls I profile here. But, let’s see what IMDB has to offer.
Gale’s first movie, in 1932, was Sinners in the Sun. It’s a mid of the road melodrama, with a tried and baked story, as one reviewer wrote on IMDB: “standard story of a couple poor people who think money is the answer and they have to learn that it isn’t more important than love”. However, there is an ample number of very good performers in it – Carole Lombard, Chester Morris, Cary Grant in an early and small role, Alison Skipworth, Adrienne Ames (such a beauty!).
Her second movie was Stand Up and Cheer!. Since this movie has a ton of extras, I think I reviewed it at least 3 times, so I’m not gonna write anything much more about it. Gale moved to the A class productions, and appeared in The Gilded Lily This is a typical 1930s romance movie with Claudette Colbert caught in a love triangle with Fred MacMurray and Ray MIlland (poor girl, she could do worse). It’s a nice and sweet movie, nothing deep but entertaining enough and the leads are charming as always.
Sadly, IMDB next lists Gale working on a movie that was not A class anymore – A Girl with Ideas. It’s another of the madcap heiress comedies made popular by It happened one night. The heiress in the movie is Wendy Barrie, and the newspaperman is Walter Pidgeon, not exactly Claudette and Clark but not too shabby. Anyway, the film is very funny, a “terrific rush of nonsense” as the reviewer wrote on IMDB, not a classic but immensely watchable and endearing. Gale was once again in the A class with You Can’t Take It with You, perhaps the best known movie of the lot. He plot is simple enough: A man from a family of rich snobs becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family. This is one of those ultimate feel-good movies that make your week! And so many good actors – Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Ann Miller! Enjoy it!
Gale made three movies movies in he 1940s. The first was Beyond the Blue Horizon, one of the many Dottie Lamour in the jungle exotic films. What can I say, people loved Dottie in a sarong, somewhere on an tropical island, with a young, handsome and muscular man as a mate – that was pure and wonderful escapism. The movies roll, The stories changes ever so slightly, put the point stayed the same. The story here is that Dottie’s parents were killed in the jungle when she was a child, and she was raised, like Mowgli, by animals. Then comes a greedy capitalist who wants to abuse the jungle, and a handsome knight, scantly dressed, and ready to help our heroine and save the jungle (Richard Denning, not that well remembered today but what a hunk). There is a nice scenes with elephants and some good music, and it seems a lot of folks remember watching this when it came out or just afterwards, with much nostalgia. That’s really nice!
Experiment Perilous is a lower quality version of Gaslight. It doesn’t have the solid performances of Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, but George Brent and Hedy Lamarr were adequate and the movie is agreeable enough. Gale’s last movie listed on IMDB is Repeat Performance, an uniquely insular movie. A beautiful actress kills her cheating, alcoholic husband on New Year’s Eve, but soon finds she’s getting the chance to relive the past year of her life all over again. The twist at the end is great, and the movie definitely goes outside the typical Hollywood cannon. Too bad it’s not an A class production, but good actors make up for it – Joan Leslie sheds her nice girl persona and is actually pretty good at it – Louis Hayward is his (wonderful) cynical self, and Richard Baseheart made his movie debut here! What’s not to like!
That’s i from Gale!
Gale was a beautiful blonde with blue eyes who weighted 100 lbs in her Hollywood prime. The press wrote this about her beauty secrets;
Gale Ronn, a statuesque blond, who admits that one secret of beauty lies in her dressing room mirror. It is there that she spends many hours perfecting her coiffure, make-up and all details of her attire.
So, Gale emphasized taking your time to properly set yourself up – not a bad hint, and definitely one most people don’t comply, myself first!
Gale married her first husband, Phillip E. Flanagan (or Phillip Harlan) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in September 1924, just after she graduated. Harlan was born in 1901 – that is literary all I know about him. I cam assume that they lived together in Kansas City, but hey divorced prior to 1930.
No other information is available about Gale’s private life. However, the reason why Gale tickled my fancy is an article that was published in 1935 that very well illustrates how a successful movie extra lived and worked, both male and female. Gale was featured as the female extra, and actor Oliver Cross as the male extra. Here is the article:
GALE RONN, who Is blonde, 29, and Kansas City bred, has been revealed as the woman extra who earned the most money during 1934. She averaged ?50 weekly. But talk about it? Not Gale, who fears the jealous taunts of her fellow extras. Oliver Cross is the male extra whose – – . earnings last year were more man any other extra’s, man or woman. He averaged $54 weekly, but he considers the disclosure no compliment to his ability. In fact, he took just the opposite view. Although he was financially the most successful extra, he considers himself a failure. “Why advertise failure?” he asks. TWO IN ONE DAY To meet a person in Hollywood who does not want to discuss his accomplishments is rare, but to find two in one day is extraordinary. But hear the stories of the woman and the man who are tops in the extra army: “Unless one is an extra, It is dim cult to understand why I will not talk about being, as you call it, the “Number one girl,” explained Gale Ronn when I discovered her on the “Paris in Spring” set. “Many of the people with whom I work daily already have shown their resentment toward me by ‘ribbing me, and I know that others have said unkind things behind my back.” Miss Ronn implied in her guarded remarks that only an extra could realize- how jealous other players can be of one of their number’s success. That she might “get into trouble” if it became too widely known that she had had more days’ work than any other woman extra, was clearly inferred. She said “people would write letters and everything” and these letters might influence the casting bureau to give her less work. CAN’T ACT, SHE SAYS “No, I don’t. want publicity and I don’t think it would do me any good to have my picture taken,” Gale went on. “I don’t want to be an actress because I’m pretty sure I can’t act. “I make a good living and I have lots of clothes. I make more money than a stenographer, whose ambition is to live well and wear nice clothes. Why should I want to try being an actress? No, I’m satisfied being an extra.” Miss Ronn has been an extra four and a half years. She came to Hollywood from the East several years ago and first earned her living as a clothing model. A FAILURE, HE SAYS Oliver Cross came here from Buffalo, N. Y. how long ago he wouldn’t say with the hope of becoming a star. “I’m not a star,” he told me when I found him working in “In Caliente.” “I’m nothing but a clothes horse a failure. Yes, I know I’m supposed to have made more than any other extra last year, but what of it? How do you suppose I got 195 days’ work last year? Because I know a director? Nothing like it. Because I’ve invested hundreds of dollars in my wardrobe.” Cross’ inference was that studios call him to work because they know he has the clothes to wear in any atmosphere. He is tall, dark-haired and handsome.
Viola! We know a bit more about movie extras now, and Gale seems a very realistic, grounded person who knew her limits well and had a plan on how to make a living. This is totally in sync with her meticulous approach to appearances. Anyway, it seems that Gale did not remarry, and continued living in California long after her career was over.
Gale Ronn died in ? (sorry, I could not find a date, but she is listed in the obituary section in Ancestry.com). As always, I hope she had a good life!