She said she didn’t retire. She quit. She started at Paramount in 1932. Over the next sixteen years, she made over sixty movies. She was only uncredited a few times, which is doubly impressive in those years, because there was as yet no rule that you had to be credited for even relatively important roles. And if they weren’t all winners, they weren’t all losers, either; sure, I’m one of the few people who still defends The Big Broadcast of 1936—inasmuch as I’m one of the few people who has seen it—but My Man Godfrey doesn’t need my support. And once again, we’ve hit someone where, if all she were known for was that, she’d be worth writing about, and we’ll be getting back to her acting in a minute.
But she only had one TV appearance; apparently, she wasn’t much interested in acting for TV. And that one was uncredited. In 1966, she played a courtroom spectator in “The Case of the Final Fade-Out.” It was the last episode of Perry Mason, and as such, it was crammed with in-jokes. A reference about “going up against Bonanza” referred to the fact that such was the show’s time slot at the time. But two of the uncredited guests are worth discussing. One is Erle Stanley Gardner himself as “Judge #2.” And the other is Patrick’s. You see, after her busy career as an actress, she turned to producing. One is for Cool and Lam, an attempted series about a lesser-known Gardner series. The other is for Perry Mason.
In fact, while “executive producer” isn’t always a meaningful credit and can be given away in contract negotiations to sweeten a pot, it seems we have Patrick to thank for the existence of the show at all. Before Raymond Burr took up the role, there had been a few movies that didn’t do well. There had been a radio show that apparently Erle Stanley Gardner had personally hated. And there had, in its aftermath, been a vow from Gardner that he wouldn’t allow any further adaptations. Patrick herself, who was married to his agent, persuaded him to give it another try. She loved the books, and it seems she thought television was the right medium for them.
I don’t know what she did from there. Reading between the lines, it seems a lot. The company that produced the series, Paisano Productions, was a partnership with Cornwell Jackson (said husband and agent) and Gardner. She was its president. She wrote the contract with CBS herself, it seems—she was herself a lawyer and had negotiated her own contract with Paramount back in the day, including blacking out the clause saying she’d do “cheesecake” pictures. Seems she believed you couldn’t do those and then someday go back and practice law, which itself proves how smart she was in those days.
She said of her acting career that they were hiring hussies and thought she looked the part. And she wasn’t bad at that; I haven’t seen most of her movies, but after all My Man Godfrey is pretty much all you need to talk about there. (And she was in the Lux Radio Theatre of The Jazz Singer!) She was good at the roles, and I suspect she was having fun. Being the only female TV producer in the business was almost certainly less fun, but we owe her a lot for it.
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