• 22 November 1901
  •  New York City, New York, USA

Lee Patrick


Lee Patrick could play a tough, scrapping, hard-bitten dame as she did in the gritty women's prison drama Caged (1950), or the meek and twittery socialite wife as exemplified as Doris Upson in the freewheeling farce Auntie Mame (1958). The versatile character actress had plenty of places to go in films and TV and she did, for over five decades. Born in New York City in 1901, Lee's father was an editor of a trade paper who prompted her interest in theater. She started off on the stock stage as a teen and debuted on Broadway in The Green Beetle (1924), becoming a long and popular NY stage presence during the 20s and early 30s with such scene-stealing roles in June Moon, Little Women, Blessed Event and Stage Door. Good notices in the last play led to an RKO contract and steady secondary film work starting in 1937. By the 40s she had became an invaluable Warner Bros. stock player enhancing such movies as The Sisters (1938), Saturday's Children (1940), Dangerously They Live (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and Mildred Pierce (1945). However, probably her best known role of that period was that of Effie, the wry, altruistic Girl Friday to 'Humphrey Bogart (I)' 's Sam Spade in the classic The Maltese Falcon (1941). Lee also found time to do radio with a running part on The O'Neils. During her potboiler run at Warners, she seemed to play everything with a biting, cynical edge, from nurses to floozies, but in the mid-50s the now matronly actress suddenly seemed to blossom before our very eyes into a dithery and obtuse Billie Burke-like delight as she geared herself toward comedy eccentrics. TV got a heads up on this angle when she played society doyenne Henrietta Topper, the flighty, quivery-voiced wife of Leo G. Carroll on the popular ghostly sitcom Topper (1953) which ran from 1953 to 1955. And there would be other fun and fluttery turns in Pillow Talk (1959) and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), to name a couple. In the mid-1960s Lee retired to travel and paint, but was coaxed back one more time to revive her role of Effie in the Maltese Falcon spoof The Black Bird (1975). The only one joining her from the original cast was Elisha Cook Jr.. Long and happily married to newsman-writer Tom Wood of "The Lighter Side of Billy Wilder," Lee was plagued by health problems in later years and died of a heart seizure in 1982. They had no children.