Saturday, May 30, 2009

For Your Consideration: Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth Patterson
November 22, 1875 - January 31, 1966

Many actors in Hollywood's Golden era created memorable performances that were denied peer recgonition. Of course, for a while the Oscars were the only game in town (we will now pause to imagine such a time), and they couldn't nominate everybody. In my little corner of the blogosphere I plan to spotlight some of these performances that still touch audiences.

Character actress great Elizabeth Patterson was a Daughter of the Old South. Her father, a Tennessee Judge and her mother, approved of Mary Elizabeth's studies in music elocution and English at Martin College, but did not imagine a life on the stage for their daughter. A trip to Europe that they hoped would get the acting bug out of her system only made her more determined, and with a small inheritance she won a position with the not-yet Sir Ben Greet Players. Sir Greet brought Shakespeare and fine drama to the masses and in 1913 brought "Patty" to Broadway in a revival of Everyman. She would appear in 26 Broadway productions from that date to 1954.

In 1926 at the age of 51, Elizabeth Patterson came to Hollywood for her first picture, setting up residence at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Some of her well-remembered films include Dinner at Eight, Hide-Out, Sing, You Sinners, Remember the Night, Michael Shayne: Private Detective, Tobacco Road, Hail the Conquering Hero and Lady on a Train. Fans of I Love Lucy recall her fondly as the Ricardo's obliging neighbour Mrs. Trumble. Somebody had to look after Little Ricky!

1949's Intruder in the Dust directed by Clarence Brown from William Faulkner's novel is my choice for Miss Patterson's award-worthy turn. She plays Miss Eunice Habersham, and was selected by Faulkner as the perfect choice for the role.

In Intruder in the Dust a bigot (David Clarke) is murdered and a proud and isolated black man (Juano Hernandez) is jailed for the crime. A teenage boy (Claude Jarman Jr.) whose views of life have been challenged by this man believes him innocent and enlists his lawyer uncle (David Brian) to defend him. A gathering lynch mob may not wait for a trial.

Elizabeth Patterson, Charles Kemper

Compelled to search for evidence, time is running out for the youngster and the man in jail. Observing the mob, the lawyer decides that only one thing will stop them and that one thing would be an old white woman without a rifle. Miss Habersham is surely brave and probably foolhardy, but she is a woman who will do the right thing and in "Patty's" hands she is a beautiful, determined sight to behold.


  1. Cool! After that you CANNOT tell me you don't have "Intruder in the Dust" to share. Hand it over or off to StarStruck with you!

  2. It's a good thing Starstruck phoned. My Bela Lugosi set is in.

    Regarding "Intruder in the Dust", I read the novel years ago and saw the movie for the first time last year on TCM.

    MissMcCrodile, I love your photo.



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