Patricia Dane: Florida Firecracker

We promise that it is only a coincidence that we are posting about Yank cover girls two days in a row. As it happens, today’s subject, Patricia Dane (Thelma Patricia Pippins, 1917-1995) is probably the more significant of the two.

Dane was a Florida native who studied for three years at the University of Alabama before moving to New York to be a model at the age of 21. Her beauty was often compared to that of Hedy Lamarr’s, not an asset to be taken lightly, so she moved to Hollywood in 1941, where she was contracted by MGM. A chorus part in Ziegfeld Girl (1941) was her first screen role. A supporting role in Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941) was her first proper speaking part. Comedy fans may know her from Rio Rita (1942) with Abbott and Costello and I Dood It (1943) with Red Skelton. Other pictures of the time included Johnny Eager (1941), Somewhere I’ll Find You (1942), and Northwest Rangers (1942). Grand Central Murder (1942) was probably her high water mark, a mystery thrilled in which she co-starred with Van Heflin, the only movie in which she had a lead role.

Then, as happened all too often back then, this brief but promising beginning was thwarted — by marriage. It’s always the most vexing when you read about women sacrificing their careers in order to marry…and then the damn marriage proves unsuccessful, as it almost always does, in show business anyway. After all, this is Hollywood, where people are promiscuous, flirtatious, and prone to partying, all of which spawns fights, fights, fights, both among couples and among rivals. Naturally it’s not true of everyone, but it’s true of plenty, and it was true of Patricia Dane and her husband Tommy Dorsey, the famous bandleader whom she’d married in 1943. The pair frequently made the scandal sheets. On one occasion in 1944 the pair were arrested following a brawl at a party where Jon Hall lost part of his nose to a knife blade. On top of this, Dorsey was constantly on the road, leading to three separations and finally an official divorce in 1947.

At this time she resumed her career as best she could, with fairly decent sized supporting roles in Republic’s Joe Palooka in Fighting Mad (1948) and the carnival musical Are You With It? (1948), in which she was billed beneath Donald O’Connor, Olga San Juan, Martha Stewart, and Walter Catlett. Bit parts in The Road to Bali (1952) with Hope and Crosby and the boxing drama The Harder They Fall (1956, Bogart’s last picture) rounded out her career. Dorsey (whom she’d remained close to) died in 1956, leaving her some money, upon which she retired.

In 1973 Dane returned to her Florida hometown, moved in with her elderly mother, and got a job at the local library. She died just over 20 years later.