Elizabeth Patterson (actress)
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|Born||Mary Elizabeth Patterson
November 22, 1874
Savannah, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||January 31, 1966
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Elizabeth Patterson (November 22, 1874 – January 31, 1966) was an American theatre, film, and television character actress who gained popular recognition late in her career playing the elderly neighbor Matilda Trumbull in the television comedy series I Love Lucy.
Patterson was born in Savannah, Tennessee. Her father, who had been a Confederate soldier, was a judge in Hardin County. She was educated in the county's public schools and at colleges in Pulaski and Columbia, where her participation in college theatricals helped to form her interest in drama. Her parents sent her to Europe in the hope of discouraging her interest in the theater, but her determination to become an actress was only reinforced by her experiences attending productions at the Comédie Française.
After returning from Europe, Patterson used a small inheritance to move to Chicago, where she joined a theatrical troupe, and subsequently toured with repertory companies. In 1913, she made her Broadway debut in the play Everyman. She remained active in New York City theatre through 1954.
In 1926, at the age of 51, Patterson was cast in her first movie, The Boy Friend. Additional screen credits include: A Bill of Divorcement; Tarnished Lady; Dinner at Eight; High, Wide, and Handsome; Remember the Night; No Man of Her Own; The Shocking Miss Pilgrim; Little Women; My Sister Eileen; and Pal Joey. She also appeared as "Susan" in two adaptations of the play The Cat and the Canary: The Cat Creeps (1930) and The Cat and the Canary (1939). In 1949 she played the heroic Eunice Habersham in the groundbreaking racial crime drama, Intruder in the Dust, a film based on the William Faulkner novel of the same name, set in the deep south.
In 1952, at the age of 77, Patterson made her first appearance on the hit CBS-TV sitcom I Love Lucy in the episode entitled "The Marriage License". In that installment, Patterson's character, Mrs. Willoughby, was the wife of the Greenwich, Connecticut justice of the peace (played by character actor Irving Bacon) who remarries Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. In that role, she most notably sings an off-key version of I Love You Truly during the wedding ceremony. The following year she was cast in a featured guest role as Mrs. Matilda Trumbull in the episode "No Children Allowed". Patterson's character of Mrs. Trumbull was initially an ornery curmudgeon who also resided in the Ricardos' apartment building. In that installment, she threatened to make trouble for the Ricardos since the building did not allow children. At the end of the episode, however, her character softens as she holds the Ricardos' baby for the first time and, as a result, Mrs. Trumbull becomes friends with both the Ricardos and the Mertzes. In fact, Patterson's role was so popular (as well as useful to the writers of the series) that she continued in the role for three more years as the babysitter for "Little Ricky". In the fall of 1956, with I Love Lucy in its final season, Patterson made her last appearance as Mrs. Trumbull in the episode, "Little Ricky Learns To Play The Drums". Her character was mentioned one last time in the 1957 episode "Lucy Raises Chickens". In that installment, Fred and Ethel Mertz decide to follow the Ricardos and move to Connecticut to be near them, and Mrs. Trumbull's sister moves into 623 East 68th Street to manage the apartment building for Fred.
Never married, Patterson lived alone at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel during her 35-year motion picture career. She died in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia at the age of 91. She is buried in her hometown of Savannah.
- The Boy Friend (1926)
- The Return of Peter Grimm (1926)
- South Sea Rose (1929)
- The Cat Creeps (1930)
- New Morals for Old (1932)
- Miss Pinkerton (1932)
- They Call It Sin (1932)
- Secret of the Blue Room (1933)
- Dinner at Eight (1933)
- Infernal Machine (1933)
- Hold Your Man (1933)
- Go West, Young Man (1936)
- Night of Mystery (1937
- That Navy Spirit (1937)
- Sons of the Legion (1938)
- Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938)
- Bulldog Drummond's Bride (1939)
- The Cat and the Canary (1939)
- Remember the Night (1940)
- Adventure in Diamonds (1940)
- Tobacco Road (1941)
- I Married a Witch (1942)
- Lucky Legs (1942)
- My Sister Eileen (1942)
- Together Again (1944)
- Colonel Effingham's Raid (1946)
- The Secret Heart (1946)
- Out of the Blue (1947)
- Intruder in the Dust (1949)
- Little Women (1949)
- Pal Joey (1957)
- Tall Story (1960)
- Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
- New York Times biography
- The Divine Miss Patty at LucyFan.com
- Elizabeth Patterson at the Internet Broadway Database
- Elizabeth Patterson at the Internet Movie Database
- Elizabeth Patterson at Find a Grave