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Patsy Kelly

Kelly in Topper Returns
Born Bridget Sarah Veronica Rose Kelly
January 12, 1910(1910-01-12)
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died September 24, 1981 (aged 71)
Woodland Hills, California, USA
Official website

Patsy Kelly (January 12, 1910 – September 24, 1981) was a Tony Award-winning American stage and film comedic actress.



Kelly was born Bridget Sarah Veronica Rose Kelly in Brooklyn, New York to Irish immigrants and made her Broadway debut in 1928. In 1930 and 1931, she performed for producer Earl Carroll in his popular Sketches and Vanities musicals. She also appeared with popular stage comic Frank Fay. During one performance she arrived at the theater late, and Fay was already on stage. Kelly explained to Fay and the audience that she had been at the beauty parlor. Fay ad-libbed, "You weren't waited on, were you?"

Kelly, like other New York actors, made her screen debut in a Vitaphone short subject filmed there. In 1933 producer Hal Roach hired Kelly to co-star with Thelma Todd in a series of short-subject comedies. (Kelly replaced ZaSu Pitts, who left Roach after a salary dispute.) The Todd-Kelly shorts cemented Patsy Kelly's image: a brash, wisecracking woman who frequently punctured the pomposity of other characters. Later entries in the series showcased Kelly's dancing skills. Thelma Todd died in 1935, and Kelly finished out the series, first with Pert Kelton, then with Lyda Roberti.

Patsy Kelly then moved into the more ambitious world of feature films, often playing working-class character roles in comedies and musicals.

Later years and death

Offscreen, Kelly's unabashed lifestyle resulted in loud ejections from cocktail lounges and restaurants. On occasion she would frankly disclose, in public and with typical candor, to being a "dyke". By 1943 movie producers had distanced themselves from loose-cannon Kelly, and she could find work only at Producers Releasing Corporation, the smallest and cheapest of the movie studios. Her last starring roles were in two PRC comedies, My Son, the Hero and Danger! Women at Work.

She eventually became a housekeeper and sporadic lover to Tallulah Bankhead, claiming that any man attracted to her must really be a "lesbo."[1]

On television she appeared on top-rated shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Wild Wild West, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, as well as many unsold pilots. Patsy also made a memorable appearance as "Laura-Louise" in the film thriller Rosemary's Baby (1968), directed by Roman Polanski, alongside veteran actors Sidney Blackmer, Ruth Gordon, and Maurice Evans.

She returned to Broadway in 1971 in the revival of No, No, Nanette with fellow Irish Catholic hoofers Ruby Keeler and Helen Gallagher. Kelly scored a huge success as the wisecracking, tap-dancing maid, and won Broadway's 1971 Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actress for her performance in the show. She topped that success the following year when she starred in Irene with Debbie Reynolds, and was again nominated for a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Kelly appeared as the housekeeper Mrs. Schmauss in the 1976 film Freaky Friday which starred Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris. Her final motion picture appearance came in the 1979 Disney comedy, The North Avenue Irregulars, also co-starring Harris, along with Cloris Leachman, Edward Herrmann and Karen Valentine.

She died in 1981 at the age of 71 in Woodland Hills, California of cancer. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Patsy Kelly has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6669 Hollywood Boulevard.

Selected filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1931 The Grand Dame Peggy O'Rourke Short
1933 Air Fright Peggy Short
1934 The Countess of Monte Cristo Mimi
1935 The Misses Stooge Peggy Short
1936 Pigskin Parade Bessie Winters Alternative title: Harmony Parade
1937 Wake Up and Live Patsy Kane
1938 The Cowboy and the Lady Katie Callahan
"There Goes My Heart" Peggy O'Brien
1939 The Gorilla Kitty - the Maid
1940 Hit Parade of 1941 Judy Abbott Alternative title: Romance and Rhythm
1941 Topper Returns Emily - the maid
1942 In Old California Helga
1943 Danger! Women at Work Terry Olsen
1960 Please Don't Eat the Daisies Maggie
1964 The Naked Kiss Mac, the Head Nurse
1966 The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini Myrtle Forbush
1967 C'mon, Let's Live a Little Mrs. Fitts
1968 Rosemary's Baby Laura-Louise McBirney
1976 Freaky Friday Mrs. Schmauss
1979 The North Avenue Irregulars Mrs. Rose Rafferty/Blarney Stone, Irregular Alternative title: Hill's Angels
Year Title Role Notes
1955 Lux Video Theatre 1 episode
1957 Kraft Television Theatre 1 episode
1960 The Untouchables Slapsie Sadie 1 episode
1962 Pete and Gladys Katy 1 episode
1963 Arrest and Trial Catalina 1 episode
1966 Vacation Playhouse Miss Primrose 1 episode
1967 Laredo Abbie Heffernan 1 episode
1968 Bonanza Mrs. Neeley 1 episode
1969 The Pigeon Mrs. Macready, the Landlady Television movie
1970 Barefoot in the Park Old Lady 1 episode
1979 The Love Boat Mabel Hopkins 2 episodes

See also


  1. ^ Boze Hadleigh. Hollywood Lesbians 1994

External links



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