Sean Kinder, Associate Professor from the Department of Library Public Services at WKU Libraries, talked on his new book Una Merkel: The Actress with Sassy Wit and Southern Charm, on the evening of Thursday, October 13, 2016 at Barnes & Noble (1680 Campbell Lane).
Our next Kentucky Live! speaker is Sean Kinder, Associate Professor from the Department of Library Public Services at WKU Libraries. A native of West Virginia, he has been a member of the WKU Libraries faculty since 2001, serving as the Humanities and Social Science Librarian. Kinder began his project on the actress Una Merkel in 2006 and a research grant enabled him to access rare archival material in California and interview both screen actors and people behind the scenes who were associated with Merkel. This work culminated into his first book, Una Merkel: The Actress with Sassy Wit and Southern Charm, which was published in January, 2016 by BearManor Media and is the first full-length biography of the actress.
Born December 10, 1903, in Covington, Kentucky, Una Merkel began acting at an early age, travelling extensively throughout her childhood. By the age of 20, Merkel was appearing in film, vaudeville productions and Broadway before finally heading to Hollywood to work for the famous director and fellow Kentuckian, D. W. Griffith in his first all-sound film, Abraham Lincoln. She became a familiar face on the silver screen throughout the 1930s – playing in 13 films in 1933 alone! Though she mostly played character roles such as “harebrained ingenues, wisecracking best friends, feisty pioneer women, or cantankerous matrons,” her quirky characterizations, Southern accent, and comic delivery made Merkel loved by critics and audiences. Despite her success as an actress, readers will see that her life was also marked with considerable tragedy as well.
Merkel’s career spanned dozens of films and lasted for over forty years. Colleagues remembered her for her professionalism and work ethic and though she earned a Tony award, an Oscar nomination, and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she remained “unpretentious and down to earth” and was a “self-professed wallflower”. Though she lived in California for most of her life, she remained fond of Kentucky and ultimately was buried in Fort Mitchell, KY, upon her death on January 2, 1986.
Come hear Sean Kinder talk about the biography of “Una Merkel: The Actress with Sassy Wit and Southern Charm” on Thursday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble (1680 Campbell Lane). The event is free and open to the public, and ‘swipeable’ for WKU students. There will be door prizes and a book signing to follow; we hope you’ll join us!