Happy 141st Birthday, Elizabeth Patterson!

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!

Elizabeth Patterson

Happy Birthday, Elsa Lanchester!

Elsa Lanchester, who was born 113 years ago today, enjoyed a long and varied career in show business, but she’s so strongly associated with her role in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) that we wonder if she ever got tired of being asked about it.

We suspect she did.

Elsa Lanchester quote

Born in London to “bohemian” parents, she studied dance as a child with Isadora Duncan (we wonder if she encountered young Preston Sturges, whose mother was bosom buddies with Duncan during those years) and eventually began to work in cabaret and the theatre.

Her unconventional marriage with Charles Laughton began in 1929 and lasted until his death in 1962; the pair were to appear in 12 movies and a great many theatrical productions together.

Though most people immediately think of her role as the Bride when the name Elsa Lanchester is mentioned, she enjoyed an impressive and lengthy motion career, appearing in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), David Copperfield (1935), The Spiral Staircase (1945), The Razor’s Edge (1946), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Big Clock (1948), Mary Poppins (1964), and Murder By Death (1976); she even appeared in an Elvis Presley picture: Easy Come, Easy Go (1967). Lanchester was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Come to the Stable (1949) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

Lanchester also worked frequently on television, appearing as a guest star on programs such as I Love Lucy, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Elsa Lanchester died at age 84 in Woodland Hills, California, on the day after Christmas, 1986.

Happy birthday, Ms. Lanchester, wherever you may be!

We Love Lucy, Even in Color

We’re looking forward to tonight’s I Love Lucy Christmas special on CBS—so much so that we don’t even mind that it’s been colorized, a process we usually don’t have much use for.

For one thing, the colorizing technology has improved so much over the years, it makes hard to object terribly strenuously (though you’d still hear us howling if they were to colorize The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca or some other black-and-white cinematic masterpiece).

Today’s hour-long offering includes a 1956 Christmas episode that places colorized wraparound segments around a number of flashbacks of classic scenes (which for some reason are not colorized—why, we’ve no clue) and the familiar episode that finds the Ricardos and the Mertzes traveling to Rome, where Lucy and Ethel taking a run at stomping grapes at a winery (this episode, if we understand correctly, is colorized).

The colorized fun begins at 8 p.m. ET on CBS, and to whet your appetite, here’s a snippet from the Christmas episode.