Gertrude Michael ~ The Alcoholic Actress

Gertrude Michael

Gertrude Michael was a popular 1930s actress who struggled with alcoholism

 She was born Lillian Gertrude Michael on June 1, 1911 in Talladega, Alabama. When she was a child she learned how to play the piano and the violin. At the young age of fourteen she graduated from high school and began studying law at the University of Alabama. Gertrude dropped out after a year and spent some time teaching school in Talladega. Sadly her father, Carl Michael, passed away when she was sixteen years old. Soon after she enrolled at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. After taking a trip to New York City she decided to move there and become an actress. She made her Broadway debut in the 1931 play Caught Wet. The following year she made her film debut in the drama Wayward. Gertrude co-starred with Mae West in I'm No Angel and with Carole Lombard in Bolero. She usually got supporting roles and found herself typecast as a "tough broad". Unfortunately she also developed a serious drinking problem. In 1934 she appeared in the pre-code musical Musical At The Vanities in which she sang a song titled Sweet Marijuana.

Gertrude MichaelGertrude Michael

Then the beautiful redhead was given the leading role in The Notorious Sophie Lange. The film got good reviews and she went on to star in two sequels. Gertrude had a tumultuous love affair with writer Paul Cain. He would later base a character in his novel Fast One on her. She also dated Buster Crabbe, George Gershwin, and director Rouben Mamoulian. As she got older her drinking began to affect her health and her career. After one alcoholic binge she found herself locked in a psychiatric ward. During the 1940s she landed small roles in the films Allotment Wives and Flamingo Road with Joan Crawford. Gertrude made guest appearances on numerous television shows including Perry Mason, Fireside Theater, and The Pepsi Cola Playhouse. Her final film role was in the 1961 drama The Outsider. Tragically on December 31, 1964 she died at her home following a long illness. She was only fifty-three years old. Gertrude was cremated and her ashes were buried at the Chapel Of The Pines crematory in Los Angeles, California.

Gertrude and Mae West in I'm No Angel

Gertrude MichaelGertrude Michael