Day 21 of Noirvember: Remembering Lee Patrick

With Bogart in The Maltese Falcon.

She was Effie Perine in The Maltese Falcon (1941). Maggie Biederhof in Mildred Pierce (1945). Elvira Powell in Caged (1950).

Lee Patrick could do it all.

Undeniably talented but woefully underrated, Patrick died on today’s date in 1982, just one day before her 81st birthday. Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on this character actress whose versatility allowed her to play a soft-hearted matron as convincingly as she could portray a hard-bitten floozy.

As Mrs. Biederhof in Mildred Pierce.

Patrick was born in New York on November 22, 1901 (although her studio bios knocked 10 years off her life, claiming 1911 as her birth year). She grew up in Chicago and reportedly entered acting on the advice of veteran performer George Arliss. She made her Broadway debut in 1922 in The Bunch and Judy (often incorrectly cited on the Internet as Punch and Judy), which starred Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele. She spent the next several years trodding the boards before appearing in 1929 in her first big screen production, a murder mystery called Strange Cargo (not to be confused with the 1940 Joan Crawford feature), after which she returned to her stage work. Her productions included a long run in Stage Door in the late 1930s, in a cast that included Margaret Sullavan and Tom Ewell.

With Bette Davis in Now, Voyager.

Patrick didn’t move to Hollywood until 1937, when she was reportedly seriously considered – but ultimately passed over – for the title role played by Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas. She didn’t have to wait long for her first big break, though. It came the following year with her appearance in The Sisters, a Bette Davis vehicle, in which she played the boisterous neighbor of Davis’s character. She was also in two other Bette Davis starrers, In This Our Life (1942), where she was again Davis’s pal, and Now, Voyager (1942), where she was an old friend of Davis’s lover, played by Paul Henreid.

As Elvira Powell in Caged.

Throughout the 1940s, Patrick was kept busy in a variety of roles, but she’s perhaps best known for playing Sam Spade’s loyal, hard-working, and nearly unflappable gal Friday in The Maltese Falcon (1941). Some of her other films included City for Conquest (1940), Mrs. Parkinson (1944), The Snake Pit (1948), Vertigo (1958), Auntie Mame (1958), and Pillow Talk (1959). In the early 1950s, she starred in TV’s Topper, which ran on CBS for three years; she also appeared in many other popular television shows, from 77 Sunset Strip to Hazel. Patrick retired from the big screen in 1964, but she returned 11 years later to reprise her role as Effie in a spoof of The Maltese Falcon called The Black Bird, starring George Segal.

Remembering Lee.

Plagued by ill health in her later years, Patrick traveled to New York in November 1982 with her husband of 45 years, magazine writer Tom Wood. The two were in town for a dual purpose – to celebrate her upcoming birthday and to appear on ABC’s Good Morning America, which aired a salute to the Topper television series. Sadly, after the couple’s return to their Laguna Hills home, Patrick suffered a fatal heart seizure.

If you’re not familiar with Lee Patrick’s screen work, do yourself a favor and check out her noir appearances in The Maltese Falcon, Mildred Pierce, and Caged, as well her many first-rate non-noirs.

You only owe it to yourself.

And join me tomorrow for Day 22 of Noirvember!


~ by shadowsandsatin on November 21, 2017.

6 Responses to “Day 21 of Noirvember: Remembering Lee Patrick”

  1. Lee was one of the best! I love her in the Maltese Falcon.

  2. A good actress, and someone who seemed like a right gal. I enjoyed learning more about Lee through your article.

  3. I loved her in The Maltese Falcon !

  4. Lovely tribute. Lee was SO good in everything. How interesting that she was on Broadway with the Astaires. Don’t know anything about the Bunch and Judy – odd name for a musical.

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