Elizabeth Patterson, Broadway, motion picture, and television actress, was born in Savannah, Tennessee, on November 22, 1875. She was the daughter of a Civil War veteran and subsequent judge in Hardin County. She attended Hardin County schools through high school. Patterson’s interest in dramatics was enhanced by theatricals and drama at colleges in Pulaski and Columbia. Patterson’s parents disapproved of a theatrical career and sent her to Europe to show her other things. However, she had the chance to see great French plays at the Comédie Française and came back even more determined to go into the theater.
Patterson later left for Chicago with a small inheritance and joined a theatrical troupe, later touring with other repertory companies. Her big break came when novelist and playwright Booth Tarkington saw her work and asked her to act in a play of his on Broadway. Patterson eventually appeared in over twenty Broadway plays from the 1920s to the 1950s in starring and supporting roles.
Her fame rests with the more than a hundred motion pictures in which she appeared. Patty, as she was known by her friends, was in a variety of films, often as the matron aunt. She had supporting roles all types of films, including Tobacco Road (1941), So Red the Rose (1935), Anne of Windy Poplars (1940), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), and A Bill of Divorcement (1932). She told interviewers that her favorite role was as Miss Habersham in the 1949 film Intruder in the Dust. Her portrayal of an old-fashioned southern lady who defies tradition to assist in trying to clear a black man accused of murdering a white man is unforgettable in its courage and tenacity.
Elizabeth Patterson later became known to new generations as Miss Trumball, Little Ricky’s babysitter on the immensely popular “I Love Lucy” television series in the 1950s. She died on January 31, 1966, in Los Angeles.