Photoplay Cookbook: Gwen Lee’s Potato Omelet

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Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from a starlet who supported many famous flappers in her day.

We’ve all heard of “that guy” actors: performers who don’t have name recognition but seem to show up everywhere. In the twenties, Gwen Lee was something of a “that gal” actress. She appeared in support of most of the big names at MGM, from Norma Shearer to Lon Chaney and also stepped out of the MGM ranks to appear alongside famed flappers Clara Bow and Colleen Moore.


Gwen Lee was born Gwendolyn Lepinski in Nebraska but she was Gwen Lee of Hollywood by the time she was twenty. She specialized in playing world-weary girls, often from the wrong side of the tracks. You can spot her in Lady of the Night, The Plastic Age and Laugh Clown Laugh, just to name a few of her silent supporting roles. Everything seemed ducky and she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1928 but her career never quite ignited.

Lee’s parts got steadily smaller as the thirties wore on but you can still see her in uncredited parts in films like A Night at the Opera and Libeled Lady. Her last credited role was in 1938’s Paroled from the Big House.

So, we know that Miss Lee was a charming actress who never quite cracked the upper ranks but how are her omelet-making skills?


Well, there’s not much that can go wrong with potatoes, eggs and onions. Whether or not this can be considered a proper omelet is another matter. Like the great chili debate (beans? no beans?), I think it is wise that I steer clear of the controversy.

Anyway, here is the result:

Bubble, bubble
Bubble, bubble

It's losing containment!
It’s losing containment!

My omelet broke
My omelet broke

Yes, I do put cheese and ketchup on my eggs. Don't judge.
Yes, I do put cheese and ketchup on my eggs. Don’t judge.

Excuse the paper plates. I have a cold.

The taste test video:

My rating: 3 out of 5. The recipe is easy and the ingredient combination is edible. (If you think that isn’t an accomplishment, you clearly have not seen Joan Crawford’s Banana Salad.) The flavor combination is basic, even simplistic but you can do a lot to juice it up with salsa, hot sauce or ketchup.

The whole thing fell apart even before I attempted to flip it. I think perhaps the potatoes are too heavy for the egg to hold together. This might have been more successful in a tiny pan.

Improve it: I took a peek at potato omelet and modified frittata recipes and discovered a pattern. Many of these recipes fell into two basic categories. The first type was cooked on the stove-top and used a much, much higher proportion of egg to potato, usually at least two to one. The second type used a similar egg-to-potato proportion to Miss Lee’s recipe but baked the concoction in an oven-safe skillet. So, if you decide to make this recipe, use a lot more eggs or opt for baking.

On the other hand, I may just have terrible potato-omelet-flipping skills. Such is life.