Of all the “Other Women” she was most famous…..
She was tall for an actress back in the Thirties and Forties (5-feet-7-inches; a moderate height by today’s standards) and felt self-conscious about it. She had a good head for business, and later in her career produced, with her then husband, one of the most famous tv series of all time.
And, yes, perhaps her most famous movie role was that of Cary Grant’s demanding second wife in RKO’s My Favorite Wife. (She and Grant are pictured above.) The picture proved to be the studio’s second biggest hit of 1940.
The screwball comedy, co-written by Leo McCarey and directed by Garson Kanin, has a marvelous setup: after Grant’s first wife is declared dead, he marries a second spouse played by Patrick. Problems ensue when the first wife reappears after being shipwrecked on desert island for seven years.
Thus, Patrick’s character is the “other woman.”
In My Favorite Wife, she tangles with Irene Dunne (as the first wife). In 1937’s Stage Door, she crosses swords with Ginger Rogers. In 1936’s My Man Godfrey (overrated, in Frank’s opinion), Patrick and Carole Lombard mix it up.
In other words, Patrick excelled at playing the second woman or second female leads in unflattering fashion. She was confident and assertive when these qualities were considered at least slightly unfeminine, more the earmarks of a scheming villainess.
She was born Margaret Lavelle Fitzpatrick in Alabama in 1911, and was headed for a legal career when Paramount Pictures almost by accident signed her to a $50-per-week contract, which she supposedly renegotiated up to $75. (Don’t scoff, these are 1932 dollars.)
From 1932 to 1966, Patrick appeared in 65 movie and tv credits, and costarred among an impressive roster of leading men: including, besides Grant, Bing Crosby, Randolph Scott, Preston Foster and George Sanders.
Her personal life was a busy one. By the time she died at age 69 in 1980, she was on her fourth marriage. Her first husband, Robert Cobb, was the proprietor of Hollywood’s then famous Brown Derby restaurant, and is credited with introducing to the world a salad named after him — the Cobb Salad.
With husband number three, Cornwell Jackson, who was novelist Earl Stanley Gardner’s literary agent, Patrick produced from 1957 to 1966 the tv series based on Gardner’s most famous fictional creation, Perry Mason. By the end of her life, Patrick was financially well-heeled, allowing a substantial (said to be at least $1 million) bequest to her college sorority.