Though born in Cincinnati as "Janet Flynn," Gina Malo represented herself as a Parisian actress when securing her first Broadway parts. After a stint with Ziegfeld as a showgirl, Malo's ambitions as a singer found vent when she secured the part of the prima donna in Sigmund Romberg's operetta "The New Moon" (1928-1929). When a Paris production of Romberg's musical formed, she jumped at the chance to play the part again. A capable French speaker, she obtained another stage role in Paris singing in "Broadway." She returned to New York as a replacement for Lily Damita in "Sons o'Guns." Rumors of her American nativity were not laid to rest by her speaking in a heavy French accent to interviewers, but her singing, markedly superior to Damita's, won praise in 1930.
After Ruby Keeler Jolson bailed out of "The Gang's All Here" during its Philadelphia try-out in 1931, Malo took over as the singing lead. Keeler may have intuited something, for the show was being hi-jacked by Ted Healey and his three stooges; not a place for an ambitious leading lady to be. The musical died after 23 performances doomed by its "spasmodic merriment."
Assuaging her wounds by crossing the Atlantic, Malo appeared in the London production of "Victoria and Her Hussar." She remained in London for the production of Jerome Kern's "The Cat and the Fiddle," a smash hit with Peggy Wood in the lead. When the British-Gaumont film company decided to adapt Johann Strauss's "Fledermaus" to the screen, they tapped Malo to play Adele, the singing maid. "Waltz Time" was a success in England and the United States.
Firmly established in the British entertainment world, Malo next starred in "The Bride of the Lake," a nostalgic, tuneful rendering of Dion Boucicault's old Irish melodrama, "The Colleen Bawn." After testing unsuccessfully for the role of Anna Held in "The Great Ziegfeld" in Hollywood, Malo returned to London to play in the French importation, "Toi C'est Moi," followed in spring 1935 with a turn in the musical, "Leave it to Love." She also appeared on screen in the Jan Kiepura vehicle, "My Song for You."
Malo was in the late 1930s a fixture of the English stage, playing in a succession of hits: "The Gang Show," "On Your Toes," "Diversion," and "The Gentle People." Her film career remained lively, with highlights such as "The Private Life of Don Juan," "Windbag the Sailor," "Where There's a Will" and the film version of the stage hit, "The Gang Show."
In 1937 she married actor and dramatist Romney Brent. In March 1940 the couple left London for New York as war loomed. She could only secure a role in a B-level scare flick, "Chamber of Horrors." She played in American regional summer theater through World War II. She eventually found her way to Toronto and won praise there for her work in repertory work, such as the 1944 production of "Hamlet." After the war, she toured in Brent's production of "Merry Wives of Windsor."
NOTES: J. Brooks Atkinson, "Songs, Dances and Stooges," NY Times (Feb 19, 1931), 28. NY Times (Jan 19, 1932), 13. LA Times (Feb 22, 1934), 7. NY Times (Feb 10, 1935). LA Times (Jul 12, 1935), A:11. NY Times (Mar 19, 1940), 34. Obituary, NY Times (Dec 3, 1963), 43. Internet Broadway Database. Internet Movie Database. David S. Shields/ALS