Monday, January 12, 2009
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!