Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A Lavender Lady

Today marks the centenary of the birth of one of Hollywood's lesser-known characters, the late, great comedienne Patsy Kelly. Why bother to feature such an obscure lady, you may ask?

I admire Miss Kelly mainly for one key aspect that has emerged over the years - her surprisingly candid "out" lesbianism, a lifestyle that was very difficult to maintain in the moralistic society of the 1930s and 40s. At a time when all the major closeted stars in the Hollywood system (such as Barbara Stanwyick, Agnes Moorehead and Marjorie Main) were being "married-off", she proclaimed to anyone who would listen that she was a "dyke" and had a long-term affair with none other than Tallulah Bankhead. Of course, the "scandal" meant she never achieved any top-billing parts in films of the Golden Era - she must have played the maid in more films than anyone else!

However Patsy Kelly went on to earn a healthy living as a character actress and in comedy roles on radio in The Bob Hope Show and on TV in series such as Bonanza and The Untouchables, and later in life returned to the big screen in Rosemary's Baby and Freaky Friday, and to the stage in No, No Nanette. RIP a bold lady and pioneer...

Here she is extolling the virtues of the "Vibrato", which I am certain has more tongue-in-cheek meaning than anyone at the time would have liked to admit:

I found a fascinating article on the subject: Hollywood's golden age of lesbian 'glam'.

Patsy Kelly official website

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