Gail Patrick

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Gail Patrick
Gail Patrick Argentinean Magazine corp.jpg
1939 studio publicity photograph
Born Margaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick
(1911-06-20)June 20, 1911
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Died July 6, 1980(1980-07-06) (aged 69)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other names
  • Gail Patrick Jackson
  • Gail Patrick Velde
Alma mater Howard College
Years active 1932–1973
  • Robert Howard Cobb
    (married 1936–1941)
  • Arnold Dean White
    (married 1944–1946)
  • Thomas Cornwell Jackson
    (married 1947–1969)
  • John E. Velde Jr.
    (married 1974–1980)
Children 2

Gail Patrick (June 20, 1911 – July 6, 1980) was an American film actress and television producer. Often cast as the bad girl or the other woman, she appeared in more than 60 feature films between 1932 and 1948, notably My Man Godfrey (1936), Stage Door (1937) and My Favorite Wife (1940). After retiring from acting she became, as Gail Patrick Jackson, president of Paisano Productions and executive producer of the Perry Mason television series (1957–66). She was one of the first women producers, and the only female executive producer in prime time during the years Perry Mason was on the air. She served two terms (1960–62) as vice president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and as president of its Hollywood chapter—the first woman to serve in a leadership capacity in the academy, and its only female leader until 1983.


Gail Patrick was born Margaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick on June 20, 1911, in Birmingham, Alabama.[1] Her parents were Lawrence C. Fitzpatrick, a municipal fireman, and LaVelle Fitzpatrick.[2]

After graduating from Howard College, she remained as acting dean of women.[3] She completed two years of law school at the University of Alabama[4] and aspired to be the state's governor.[5] In 1932, "for a lark", she entered a Paramount Pictures beauty and talent contest and won train fare to Hollywood for herself and her brother. Although she did not win the contest (for "Miss Panther Woman" in the 1932 film, Island of Lost Souls), Patrick was offered a standard contract.[1] She visited the studio officials by herself and asked to negotiate. She said that she must have $75 a week instead of the customary $50, and that she would not accept the standard 12-week-layoff provision. "I also read the fine print and blacked out the clause saying I had to do cheesecake stills," Patrick recalled in a 1979 interview. "In the back of my mind I had this idea I could never go home to practice law if such stills were floating around."[6]:286

Paramount Pictures contract players Wolfe Hopper and Gail Patrick in July 1936; 20 years later William Hopper was Paul Drake and Gail Patrick Jackson was executive producer of the CBS-TV series, Perry Mason
Gail Patrick Jackson and Erle Stanley Gardner speak with Hollywood columnist Norma Lee Browning during filming of the last Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" (1966)

Patrick got occasional top billing—as she did in King of Alcatraz (1938) and Disbarred (1939), both directed by Robert Florey[1]—but she was most often the cool, aloof, usually unsympathetic "other woman".[3] She appeared in more than 60 movies between 1932 and 1948, usually as the leading lady's extremely formidable rival. Some of these roles include Carole Lombard's spoiled sister in My Man Godfrey (1936), Ginger Rogers' rival in Stage Door (1937) and Anna May Wong's sophisticated competitor in Dangerous to Know (1938). Patrick played Cary Grant's second wife in My Favorite Wife (1940), with Irene Dunne,[7] and helped Leo McCarey write the judge's lines in the second courtroom scene.[8]

Praising her perfect combination of haughtiness and malice, as well as her comic gifts and refusal to play for sympathy, film scholar Maria DiBattista called her "the underrated Gail Patrick, who excelled in feckless or selfish or simply second-best brunettes."[9]

Patrick attributed her screen success to an accident of timing. At the particular time that she arrived in Hollywood, the movie studios wanted hussies, and they felt she looked like one. "I never thought I had much to do with it," Patrick recalled. "Somebody made me up, somebody did my hair, somebody told me what to say and do, and somebody took the picture."[10]

Patrick was so afraid of the camera that she made it a point to never see her films. In 1979 she screened a print of My Man Godfrey given to her by a friend, and she watched herself on screen for the first time. "My fright emerged as haughtiness and I can see where I got my image as a snob, a meanie," Patrick said.[6]:291 "And it's the movie that typed me and the one I'm still asked about."[1] She said director Gregory La Cava told her she should suck on lemons and beat up little children to prepare for the role of Cornelia Bullock. La Cava borrowed Patrick from Paramount again for his next film, Stage Door—"where I was never nastier".[6]:287

On December 17, 1936, Patrick married restaurateur Robert H. Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby[11] and principal owner of the Hollywood Stars baseball team.[12] An ardent baseball fan, she was called "Ma Patrick"[10] and threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the team's new Gilmore Field on May 2, 1939.[13][14] To Hollywood's surprise,[15] the Cobbs separated in October 1940[11] and were divorced in November 1941.[16]

Patrick's patriotic service during World War II included four tours of Canada promoting Victory Loans, making her the only film star to visit the entire nation from coast to coast.[17] On her return from a war bond tour she met Lieutenant Arnold Dean White, a pilot in the U.S. Navy Naval Air Transport Service, and they were married July 11, 1944.[18][19] In June 1945 she gave premature birth to twins who soon died.[6]:290[20][21] She became diabetic[1] and had to take insulin the rest of her life.[6]:290 She and White divorced in March 1946.[21][22]

In July 1947 Patrick married her third husband, Thomas Cornwell Jackson, head of the Los Angeles office of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.[23][24] She created a business out of her home, designing clothing for children, and moved to a shop on Rodeo Drive[1] that she called the Enchanted Cottage.[25] Patrick ran the shop for eight years with considerable success.[26]:19 A 1947 short film, part of the Paramount Pictures Unusual Occupations series, includes scenes of Patrick with patrons including Maureen O'Sullivan.[1][27]

Patrick stopped acting in 1948. "I never formally retired", she told journalist James Bawden in 1979. "I just quit, and it was a good time as TV started taking over."[1] During the summer of 1951 Patrick hosted Home Plate, a post-game interview show at Gilmore Field that immediately followed television broadcasts of the Hollywood Stars home games on KTTV.[28][29] She and Jackson adopted a daughter in 1952,[30] and a son in 1954.[6]:290[31]:75

Gail Patrick Jackson, executive producer of Perry Mason, in 1961

Cornwell Jackson was literary agent for attorney-author Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of the fictional criminal defense attorney Perry Mason. After a series of disappointing Warner Bros. films and a radio series he despised, Gardner had refused to license the popular character for any more adaptations, but Patrick won the author's trust. She had maintained her network in show business, and shared Gardner's love for the law. Patrick, Jackson and Gardner formed a production company, Paisano Productions, of which she was president. Patrick developed the television series Perry Mason and sold it to CBS, where it ran for nine seasons (1957–66) and earned the first Silver Gavel Award presented for television drama by the American Bar Association.[32] Gail Patrick Jackson was its executive producer.[1][33] She was one of the first women producers.[34]

Longtime CBS executive Anne Nelson, who handled contract negotiation and other business affairs for CBS, called Patrick "my adversary in business, but my friend in life." In a 2008 interview, Nelson reported that Patrick was the only female executive producer in prime time during the years Perry Mason was on the air. "Women today won't believe that things were that tough," Nelson said, "but Gail was alone in her bailiwick, and I was the only female executive not in personnel at CBS at the time." Nelson said that years later Patrick told her she had written up the contract herself, and that it was so wild and favorable to Paisano Productions that she had no idea CBS would accept it. "But we bought it," Nelson said. "And it has been a very big financial success, not only for CBS but for the Paisano partners over this many years."[35]

Patrick also developed a half-hour Paisano Productions series based on Gardner's Cool and Lam stories.[26]:19 A pilot directed by Jacques Tourneur aired on CBS in 1958 but a series did not materialize.[36][37]

Patrick's home, a gated estate of nearly seven acres on La Brea Terrace in Los Angeles,[38] was occasionally a shooting location for Perry Mason, beginning with the third season.[39]:34360 The mansion was built in 1911 for Dustin Farnum.[40] Patrick purchased it from the estate of writer-producer Mark Hellinger after his death in December 1947.[41]

Patrick served two terms (1960–62) as vice president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and as president of its Hollywood chapter.[42][43] She was the first woman to serve in a leadership capacity in the academy, and its only female leader until 1983.[44]

Patrick was divorced from Jackson in 1969.[1] They remained partners in Paisano Productions, together with Gardner's widow, daughter, and sister-in-law. When Jackson proposed reviving Perry Mason for CBS, the Paisano partners voted with him despite Patrick's opposition. She was given the title of executive consultant for the resulting series, The New Perry Mason (1973–74).[45]:39234 "My name was on it," said Patrick, "but I wanted nothing to do with it. Corney was on his own."[1] A failure with critics and in the Nielsen ratings, the series ran only 15 episodes.[45]:38534

In 1974 she married her fourth husband, John E. Velde Jr.[1]

Gail Patrick died from leukemia on July 6, 1980, age 69, at her Hollywood home[46] of more than 30 years. She had been treated for the disease for four years[47] but kept her illness secret from everyone but her husband.[6]:290 She was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea off Santa Monica, California, in a private ceremony.[48]

Awards, honors and memorials[edit]

Patrick was twice named Los Angeles Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, and she received awards from the National Association of Women Lawyers and the City of Hope National Medical Center.[42]

In 1955 Patrick returned to Howard College (now Samford University), her alma mater, for the laying of the cornerstone of its new Edgewood Campus. She was presented with a citation for outstanding achievement, "in recognition of achievements in the arts, in service to her fellow man, and devotion to home and family".[49] Samford University presents the Gail Patrick Directing Award in her honor.[50]

In 1960 Patrick received the Mystery Writers of America's Raven Award for her contributions to the mystery genre as executive producer of Perry Mason.[51]

In 1962 Patrick was named the Delta Zeta Woman of the Year. A member of the sorority at Howard College, Patrick was vice president of the first board of directors of the Delta Zeta Foundation.[43] A $1 million bequest from the Gail Patrick Velde Trust established the sorority's Gail Patrick Women of Distinction Program, which provides undergraduate and graduate scholarships and the honorarium awarded to Delta Zeta alumnae designated as woman of the year, the organization's highest honor.[52]

In 1970 Patrick was appointed national honorary chairman of the American Lung Association's Christmas Seals campaign.[46] She accepted the post as "a meaningful way" to pay tribute to her Perry Mason colleagues who died of respiratory disease associated with tobacco smoking: Ray Collins, who died of emphysema; William Talman, who publicly blamed cigarettes for his lung cancer; and William Hopper, who died from pneumonia following a stroke. "I have a personal share in the untimely loss of my co-workers, for they were my friends, too," Patrick said.[53]

In 1973 Patrick became the first national chairman of the American Diabetes Association Board of Directors. The Gail Patrick Innovation Award is presented by the organization in her honor, to advance research toward the prevention, treatment and cure of diabetes.[46][54]

The Gail Patrick Stage is a film soundstage that opened in 2008 at Columbia College Hollywood.[55][56] Patrick was a member of the film school's board of trustees and funded the facility through her estate.[57]

Select film and television credits[edit]

Clip from My Man Godfrey (1936), with Patrick as Cornelia Bullock
Wives Under Suspicion (1938), one of Patrick's occasional starring roles
Year Title Role Notes
1932 If I Had a Million Secretary Film debut[1][7]
1933 The Mysterious Rider Mary Benton Foster [1][7][58]
1933 Pick-Up Unbilled bit part [6]:291
1933 Mama Loves Papa Unbilled bit part [6]:291
1933 Murders in the Zoo Jerry Evans [7]
1933 The Phantom Broadcast Laura Hamilton [7]
1933 To the Last Man Ann Hayden Stanley [7]
1933 Cradle Song Maria Lucia [7]
1934 Death Takes a Holiday Rhoda Fenton [7]
1934 The Crime of Helen Stanley Helen Stanley [7]
1934 Murder at the Vanities Sadie Evans [7]
1934 Take the Stand Cornelia Burbank [7]
1934 Wagon Wheels Nancy Wellington [7]
1934 One Hour Late Mrs. Eileen Barclay [7]
1935 Rumba Patsy [7]
1935 Mississippi Elvira Rumford [7]
1935 Doubting Thomas Florence McCrickett [7]
1935 No More Ladies Theresa German [7]
1935 Smart Girl Kay Reynolds [7]
1935 The Big Broadcast of 1936 Nurse [7][58]
1935 The Wanderer of the Wasteland Ruth Virey [7]
1935 Two-Fisted Sue Parker [7]
1935 The Lone Wolf Returns Marcia Stewart [7]
1936 Two in the Dark Irene Lassiter [7]
1936 The Preview Murder Mystery Claire Woodward [7]
1936 Early to Bed Grace Stanton [7]
1936 My Man Godfrey Cornelia Bullock [7]
1936 Murder with Pictures Meg Archer [7]
1936 White Hunter Helen Varek [7]
1937 John Meade's Woman Caroline Haig [7]
1937 Her Husband Lies Natalie Thomas [7]
1937 Artists and Models Helen Varek [7]
1937 Stage Door Linda Shaw [7]
1938 Mad About Music Gwen Taylor [7]
1938 Dangerous to Know Margaret Van Case [7]
1938 Wives Under Suspicion Lucy Stowell [7]
1938 King of Alcatraz Dale Borden [7]
1939 Disbarred Joan Carroll [7]
1939 Man of Conquest Margaret Lea [7]
1939 Grand Jury Secrets Agnes Carren [7]
1939 Reno Jessie Gibbs [7]
1939 The Hunchback of Notre Dame minor role [7][58]
1940 The Doctor Takes a Wife Marilyn Thomas [7]
1940 My Favorite Wife Bianca Bates [7][9]
1940 Gallant Sons Clare Pendleton [7]
1941 Kathleen Lorraine Bennett [7]
1941 Love Crazy Isobel Grayson [7]
1942 Tales of Manhattan Ellen [7]
1942 We Were Dancing Linda Wayne [7]
1943 Quiet Please, Murder Myra Blandy [7]
1943 Hit Parade of 1943 Toni Jarrett [7]
1944 Women in Bondage Margot Bracken [7]
1944 Up in Mabel's Room Mabel Essington [7]
1945 Brewster's Millions Barbara Drew [7]
1945 Twice Blessed Mary Hale [7]
1946 The Madonna's Secret Ella Randolph [7]
1946 Rendezvous with Annie Dolores Starr [7]
1946 Claudia and David Julia Naughton [7]
1946 Plainsman and the Lady Cathy Arnesen [7]
1947 Calendar Girl Olivia Radford [7]
1947 King of the Wild Horses Ellen Taggert [7]
1947 Unusual Occupations Herself "Film Tot Fairyland"[1][27][59]
1948 The Inside Story Audrey O'Connor [7]
1951 Home Plate Host Post-game interview show following KTTV broadcasts of Hollywood Stars baseball games at Gilmore Field, with sportswriter Braven Dyer[28][29]
1957–66 Perry Mason (TV series) Executive producer[60]
1973–74 The New Perry Mason (TV series) Executive consultant[45]:39234

Select radio credits[edit]

Dinah Shore and Patrick in the CBS Radio studio at a rehearsal for The Screen Guild Theater (1945)
Date Title Notes
May 27, 1937 Kraft Music Hall [61]
August 16, 1937 1937 Shakespeare Festival "As You Like It"[62]
January 24, 1938 Lux Radio Theatre "Clarence"[63][64]
April 18, 1938 Lux Radio Theatre "Mad About Music"[63][64]
May 9, 1938 Lux Radio Theatre "My Man Godfrey"[63][64]
January 30, 1939 Lux Radio Theatre "The Arkansas Traveler"[63]
April 24, 1939 Lux Radio Theatre "Broadway Bill"[63][65]
January 29, 1940 Lux Radio Theatre "Intermezzo"[63]
December 9, 1940 Lux Radio Theatre "My Favorite Wife"[63][66]
March 9, 1941 The Free Company "An American Crusader"[67]
April 28, 1941 Lux Radio Theatre "Wife, Husband and Friend"[63][68]
June 19, 1941 Kraft Music Hall [61]
February 23, 1942 Cavalcade of America "Arrowsmith"[69][70]
March 23, 1942 Lux Radio Theatre "The Strawberry Blonde"[63]
April 10, 1942 Lum and Abner [71]
February 8, 1943 Lux Radio Theatre "The Maltese Falcon"[63][72]
July 29, 1944 Visiting Hours [73]
February 4, 1945 The Harold Lloyd Comedy Theatre "My Favorite Wife"[74][75]
February 12, 1945 The Screen Guild Theater "Belle of the Yukon"[76][77][78]
October 9, 1945 This Is My Best "The Gilded Pheasant"[79]
November 12, 1945 The Screen Guild Theater "My Favorite Wife"[77][78]
November 20, 1945 This Is My Best "This Is Violet"[80]
December 16, 1946 Lux Radio Theatre "Killer Kates"[63][81][82]
April 24, 1947 Lum and Abner [71]
June 2, 1947 Lux Radio Theatre "The Jazz Singer"[63][83]
1947 Proudly We Hail [84]
194- The Dreft Star Playhouse "Dark Victory"[85]:211


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  56. ^ "Campus Overview". Columbia College Hollywood. Retrieved 2015-07-06. The Gail Patrick Stage is used both as a location for students to shoot their projects and also for classroom instruction. 
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External links[edit]