The delightful character actress Elizabeth Patterson, best remembered today for her role as Mrs. Trumble on I Love Lucy, was born 141 years ago today in Savannah, Tennessee. Here are 10 EP Did-You-Knows:
- Patterson’s father, a Confederate soldier, was a county judge. She attended public schools and college in her home state, and it was after participating in collegiate theatricals that caught the acting bug, very much against her parents’ wishes.
- Her parents sent young Patterson to Europe in hopes of discouraging her theatrical ambitions, but their tactics backfired: Attending performances of the Comédie Française only increased her interest in a life in the theatre.
- Upon returning from Europe, Patterson received a small inheritance that allowed her to move to Chicago. There she joined a theatrical troupe, the Ben Greet Players, that specialized in the works of William Shakespeare; Patterson also toured with repertory companies.
- Patterson made her Broadway debut in 1913 in the play Everyman. She would remain active on the New York stage through 1954.
- It wasn’t until 1926, when she was 51, that Patterson appeared in her first motion picture, The Boy Friend, but having broken into cinema, she made up for lost time, appearing in more than 100 features and shorts over the next 35 years.
- Patterson made her first appearance on television in 1950 on an episode of The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre. She would go on to appear on nearly 35 other television series and TV movies, including the recurring role for which she is most famous today, Mrs. Trumble, the elderly neighbor of the Ricardos and the Mertzes on I Love Lucy.
- Patterson was 77 when she made her first appearance on I Love Lucy, but it wasn’t as Mrs. Trumble. On an episode entitled The Marriage License, she played Mrs. Willoughby, the wife of a Connecticut justice of the peace (you may recall her painfully off-key rendition of I Love You Truly). It wasn’t until the next season that the Mrs. Trumble character was introduced, and Patterson would go on to play her for three more seasons.
- Patterson’s nickname was Patty.
- Patterson never married, and during her 35 years in pictures, she lived alone at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood.
- Patterson, who specialized in frail but persnickety characters—maiden aunts, small town gossips and the like—proved to be a relatively tough old bird: She lived to the age of 90, dying in 1966 of pneumonia.
Happy birthday, Elizabeth Patterson, wherever you may be!