Monday, January 12, 2009

Patsy Kelly

PATSY KELLY (January 12, 1910 - September 24, 1981)

She was the epitome of the tough-talking, wisecracking Brooklynite; but as these photos from her official website demonstrate, Patsy Kelly could, in her quieter moments, demonstrate surprising casual chic.

In her successful 1930's career playing brash second bananas, Ms. Kelly appeared with a virtual galaxy of superstars: Gary Cooper, Marion Davies, Alice Faye, Judy Garland, Jean Harlow, Fredric March, Robert Taylor, and Loretta Young all benefited from her support. By the 1940's, however, she was on the skids and relegated to Poverty Row. Her alcoholism could be overlooked in a town where such a disease was as commonplace as a cold; but her outspokeness about her lesbianism could not.

Happily, there were second- and third act revivals in the Patsy Kelly saga; television eventually rediscovered her, and she made numerous appearances in such hits of the day as Bonanza, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Burke's Law, and The Wild, Wild West. She also began appearing in low-budget movies like The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966), which, we admit, is where we first saw her! In 1968, Patsy Kelly landed a role in an important film, Rosemary's Baby, and three years later, culiminated her comeback with a Best Supporting Actress Tony Award for her role in the revival of No, No, Nanette. She was nominatedfor the same award the following year for her work in Irene, which starred Debbie Reynolds.

Patsy Kelly was not only a consummate performer, she was a trailblazer and, certainly, a survivor. She not only weathered the ups, downs, and injustices of Hollywood and society at large; she survived being Tallulah Bankhead's paid companion and lover! Now, that's a gutsy lady. Ms. Kelly, we salute you!


  1. Fascinating! As always, thaks for such great Hollywood life lessons and bios TJB!

  2. You're welcome!

    (Patsy Kelly, Dusty, Lana Cantrell...I'm on a sapphic roll this week...)

  3. Whatever the topic roll I always find it educational and enlightening!

  4. My Grandfather used to hang out with her back in the 30's and 40's. He loves telling stories about going to the Stork Club with her.


  5. Well, now, don't be shy! Fill us in on some of your grandfather's stories.

  6. Patsy was my grandmother's youngest sister. They had never even met until we brought my grandmother to the United States from Ireland for a visit in 1969. My great-grandparents, John & Delia Kelly, had emigrated to New York and left my grandmother and another sister in Mayo to be raised by their uncle Henry Kelly. It was an amazing reunion to witness. It was like they'd known each other their entire lives -neither of them stopped laughing; they just cracked each other up. I was amazed at how similar their distinctive laughs were, though they'd lived apart for more than half a century.


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