Genevieve Tobin

Active - 1923 - 1940  |   Born - Nov 21, 1901   |   Died - Jul 31, 1995   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Crime, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The daughter of a stage performer, American actress Genevieve Tobin helped put food on the family table by going to work in the 1919 play Palmy Days. Tobin worked her way up from ingenue to glamorous romantic leading lady, attaining the status of "critic's darling" --meaning that her reviews often commented on her looks and mannerisms, seldom on her talent. This isn't to say that she wasn't talented; indeed, it was Tobin's rendition (with William Gaxton) of Cole Porter's song "You Do Something to Me" that helped make Porter's 1929 production Fifty Million Frenchmen a hit. Squired by many of society's richest and most desirable bachelors, Tobin was the living, walking personification of "Broadway Celebrity" in the eyes of many fans. She entered films with A Lady Surrenders (1930), thereafter specializing in comedy roles (with the notable exception of her role as a bored businessman's wife in The Petrified Forest [1936]). But while she seemed bewitchingly adorable on stage, she came off as a bit arch in films; her interpretation of Perry Mason's secretary Della Street in Case of the Lucky Legs (1935) is undercut by a "stage British" accent that wouldn't convince a grade school kid. Nonetheless, she excelled in roles calling for surface charm and superciliousness, such as her flighty patroness of the arts in No Time for Comedy (1940). Genevieve Tobin curtailed her acting career after her 1938 marriage to film director William Keighley, who in the fashion typical of the era frowned upon having a working wife.

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