Saturday, August 22, 2015

Melody Patterson R.I.P.

Melody Patterson, probably best known for playing Wrangler Jane on the Sixties Western spoof F Troop, died on August 20 2015 at the age of 66. She had broken her back several years ago and had been in poor health ever since.

Melody Patterson was born on April 16 1949 in Inglewood, California. She made her first appearance on stage when she was only four years old, in the play Mrs. McThing at the Downey Community Theatre in Downey, California. In her ninth grade in school she attended the Hollywood Professional School, but left it for Downey High School. She was only 15 years old when she auditioned for F Troop, having told the producers she was 18. The pilot for F Troop was filmed during her Christmas vacation from school. By the time the producers of F Troop realised Miss Patterson was underage it was too late. The show was already on the air and had a following.  Before F Troop she had appeared in an uncredited, bit part in the film Bye Bye Birdie (1963) and an episode of Wendy and Me.

After F Troop was cancelled in 1967, in the Sixties Miss Patterson guest starred on the TV shows The Monkees, Adam-12, Green Acres, and Hawaii Five-O. She appeared in the films The Angry Breed (1968) and The Cycle Savages (1969). In the Seventies she appeared in the films Blood and Lace (1971) and The Harrad Experiment (1973). She guest starred on Hawaii Five-O. During the Seventies she took up modelling and made commercials. In Hawaii she appeared in the plays Butterflies Are Free, The Front Page, and Miss Julie.

During the Sixties Melody Patterson also did a radio show on Armed Forces Radio for the troops serving in Vietnam. She later wrote a column "Wrapping with Wrangler" for Wildest Westerns Magazine.

Melody Patterson was wonderful as Wrangler Jane on F Troop. Wrangler Jane could out-shoot, out-ride, and out-rope any of the men in F Troop. What is more, she ran her own store. In an era when many women portrayed on television were still housewives, Wrangler Jane was an extremely independent young woman. while she always wanted to marry Captain Parmenter, she really didn't need any man to support her, help her, or save her.  Melody Patterson was wholly convincing in the role. If little boys watching F Troop in its original run and reruns developed crushes on Wrangler Jane, it wasn't simply because she was pretty. It was because Wrangler Jane was a woman who more than a match for any man.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Gerald S. O’Loughlin Passes On

Gerald S. O’Loughlin, perhaps best known for his starring role on the Seventies TV series The Rookies, died on July 31 2015 at the age of 93.

Gerald S. O’Loughlin was born on December 23 1921 in New York City. He grew up in Spring Valley, New York. During World War II he served in the United States Marines. After the war he studied acting at the Neighbourhood Playhouse and later the Actors Studio. He appeared on Broadway in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Golden Boy, a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, and Who’ll Save the Plowboy.

Mr. O'Loughlin made his television debut in 1952 in an episode of Suspense. In the Fifties he guest starred on the shows Goodyear Playhouse, Mister Peepers, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, and The Witness. He made his film debut in Lovers and Lollipops (1956). He appeared in the films A Hatful of Rain (1957) and Cop Hater (1958).

In the Sixties he appeared in what may be his best known film role, that of Harold Nye, an agent of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, in the film In Cold Blood. He also appeared in the films Ensign Pulver (1964), A Fine Madness (1966), A Man Called Adam (1966), Ice Station Zebra (1968),   and Riot (1969). On television he had recurring roles on the soap operas The Doctors and The Guiding Light. He guest starred on such shows as The United States Steel Hour, The Asphalt Jungle, Ben Casey, Naked City, Dr. Kildare, The Defenders, Gunsmoke, The Green Hornet, Judd for the Defence, Mission: Impossible, Medical Centre, Then Came Bronson, Hawaii Five-O, and Ironside.

In the Seventies Gerald O'Loughlin starred as Lt. Ryker, the experienced police officer in charge of a group of cops who were new to the job on The Rookies. He guest starred on such shows as Storefront Lawyers, Nichols, The F.B.I., Room 222, and The Eddie Capra Mysteries. He appeared in the films The Organization (1971), The Valachi Papers (1972), and Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977).

In the Eighties Mr. O'Loughlin played Capt. E. G. Boyd on the short lived show Automan and next door neighbour Joe Kaplan on Our House. He played Sgt. O'Toole in the mini-series The Blue and the Grey. He guest starred on such shows as Charlie's Angels, Trapper John M.D., M*A*S*H, Quincy M.E., Too Close for Comfort, and Highway to Heaven. He appeared in Frances (1982), Crimes of Passion (1984), City Heat (1984), and Quicksilver (1986).

From the Nineties into the Naughts he guest starred on such shows as Murder, She Wrote; ER, Chicago Hope, The Division, and Judging Amy. He appeared in the films The Secret Kingdom (1998), 3 Strikes (2000), and Destinesia (2008).

Gerald O'Loughlin was best known for playing tough guys in positions of authority. Throughout his career he more often than not played police officers or members of the military. What is more, he was very good at it. He was convincing as Harold Nye in In Cold Blood and as Lt. Ryker on The Rookies. That having been said, he could play much more than tough guys. Indeed, what may be his best known television role besides that of Lt. Ryker was Joe Kaplan, Gus Witherspoon's avuncular Jewish neighbour and best friend on Our House. It is hard to picture Joe as a police officer, much less making a career out of the military. Despite this, Mr. O'Loughlin played Joe as well as he did Lt. Ryker. Ultimately Gerald O'Loughlin was a fine actor who did well by every role he played.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Late Great Yvonne Craig

Yvonne Craig died on Monday, August 17 2015, at the age of 78. The cause was breast cancer. Yvonne Craig was best known for playing Barbara Gordon and her alter ego Batgirl on the cult classic television series Batman. She also guest starred on TV shows ranging from Perry Mason to Star Trek, and appeared in such films as Gidget (1960), Ski Party (1965), In Like Flint (1967) and Mars Needs Women (1967).

Yvonne Craig was born on May 16 1937 in Taylorville, Illinois. She  grew up in Ohio. She trained as a ballerina and at 17 years of age she became the youngest member of The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She toured with the troupe for three years. She made her film debut in 1957 in a small role in Eighteen and Anxious. She made her television debut the following year in an episode of Schlitz Playhouse. Miss Craig guest starred on such shows as Perry Mason, Bronco, Philip Marlowe, Man with a Camera, and Hennesy. She appeared in such films as Gidget (1959), The Young Land (1959), The Gene Krupa Story (1959), and High Time (1960).

The Sixties were perhaps the height of Yvonne Craig's career. She was cast in the role of Batgirl on the TV show Batman for its third and final season. Batgirl was the alter ego of Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and a librarian at the Gotham City Library. Batgirl had been added to Batman in an effort to save the show, whose ratings had been declining. Unfortunately, the show's ratings continued to decline and it was ultimately cancelled during its third season. Regardless, Yvonne Craig proved very popular as Batgirl and it would become the role for which she is best known.

During the Sixties Yvonne Craig also played opposite Elvis Presley twice, appearing in the movies It Happened at the World's Fair (1963) and Kissin' Cousins (1964). She also appeared in such films as By Love Possessed (1961), 7 Women from Hell (1961), Advance to the Rear (1964), Quick Before It Melts (1964), Ski Party (1965), Mars Needs Women (1967), and In Like Flint (1967). She was frequent guest starred on TV shows throughout the decade, appearing on such series as Laramie, Death Valley Days, Dobie Gillis, 77 Sunset Strip, Dr. Kildare, Wagon Train, McHale's Navy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., My Favourite Martian, The Wild Wild West, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, Star Trek, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father.

In the Seventies Yvonne Craig appeared in the film How to Frame a Figg (1971). She guest starred on the shows O'Hara, U.S. Treasury; Love, American Style; Mannix; The Magician; Kojak; Emergency!; Holmes & Yoyo; The Six Million Dollar Man; and Starsky and Hutch. In 1972 she reprised her role of Batgirl in a public service announcement for equal pay for women from the United States Department of Labour. Burt Ward reprised his role as Robin in the ad, while Batman was played by Dick Gautier doing an Adam West imitation (Mr. Gautier may be best known as Hymie on Get Smart).

Miss Craig's career slowed in the Eighties, and she only appeared in an episode of Fantasy Island and the film Diggin' Up Business (1990) . For a while she was a producer of industrial shows, and later went into real estate. She and her sister Meridel later went into the pre-paid card business, making phone cards as fundraisers for charities as well as phone cards as promotional tie-ins for such studios as Paramount and Warner Bros. She was the voice of Grandma on the animated show Olivia from 2009 to 2011.

There can be no doubt that for many Yvonne Craig will always be Batgirl. She was certainly ideal for the part. Yvonne Craig was incredibly beautiful and possessed a ballerina's physique. She had the perfect combination of beauty, athleticism, and grace necessary for the part. More importantly, Miss Craig played the role of Batgirl with a sincerity that many other actresses might well have lacked.

Of course, Yvonne Craig played many more roles than Batgirl over the years. In Seven Women from Hell she played a pregnant teenager in a Japanese prisoner camp during World War II. She played Elvis's love interest from the backwoods in Kissin' Cousins. In In Like Flint she played the ballerina Natasha, who also happened to be a spy. On television she played everything from a dancer and assassin (on The Wild Wild West) to the money hungry love interest of Dobie Gillis to a nurse (on McHale's Navy). Even when Yvonne Craig was not necessarily convincing in a role (it is hard to accept her as a scientist in Mars Needs Women, although that is more the fault of the script than her acting ability..), she was always sincere in the parts she played.  And more than often not, she was convincing in them as well.

Beyond being a talented actress, it must also be said that Yvonne Craig was a very nice woman. She attended several conventions over the years so many fans were fortunate enough to meet her. Everyone I know who met her had the same thing to say bout her. Quite simply she was a sweetheart, one of the nicest people one could ever meet. If many fans are mourning Yvonne Craig so deeply, it is not simply because she played Batgirl. It is because she was a truly sweet person who loved her fans.