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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 853

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This is the grave of Patricia Medina.

Born in 1919 in Liverpool, Medina was the daughter of a Spanish opera singer and lawyer (interesting combination) as her father and an English mother. They were loaded and despite the working class nature of her home town, she and her sisters grew up in a mansion outside of London. A dark-haired Spanish beauty, Medina was seen as one of England’s most beautiful women by the late 1930s and had success as an actor because of that. She also had spent a ton of time in Paris and was fluent in both French and Italian, as well as Spanish and English. Her exotic looks served her well and while never a lead actress, she rose into important supporting roles in the British pictures during the 1940s. Her first role was uncredited, in the 1937 David Niven vehicle Dinner at the Ritz. By the mid-1940s, she was playing important supporting actress parts, such as in the 1944 film Don’t Take It To Heart with her first husband Richard Greene.

After World War II, Medina, now nearing 30 and needing to make this move if she was ever going to do it, left England for Hollywood. But she mostly remained in supporting roles there. She was a working actor, but never the star she hoped to become. She ended up in a lot of silly B movies, including the first feature in the awful Universal Frances the Talking Mule franchise. You’d find her as a slightly exotic presence in swashbuckling pirate films or films set in other exotic locales. There were some better parts in there, including The Jackpot, with Jimmy Stewart. Her biggest claim to fame came when Orson Welles cast her in Mr. Arkadin, though like most Welles films, filming was a disaster and it led to no real additional work for her. Being in the Welles orbit, she met another his good friends, Joseph Cotten. They became friends and then lovers, marrying in 1960. Cotten was the epitomy of the working actor, taking a lot of not great parts so he could continue to work. Medina was the same. They both struggled through their later careers, taking lots of bad parts but getting paid a bit nonetheless and there’s nothing wrong with that. Mostly she was on TV in the 60s, as there were always one-off roles for good actors on those shows. Seriously, it’s interesting to spend time looking at the film credits of older actors and seeing just how much TV they did during these years to make ends meet. From Rawhide to Branded, you could occasionally see Medina. She did have one notorious role in these years–as a lesbian dominatrix in Robert Aldrich’s 1968 film The Killing of Sister George. The next year, she and Cotten went to Japan to shoot Latitude Zero, a Japanese sci-fi film.

In 1978, Medina officially retired from acting, though she hadn’t really worked since 1971 anyway. Cotten had a major stroke soon after and she spent much of her later years taking care of him. In 1998, she wrote a book about her life and their relationship titled Laid Back in Hollywood. I haven’t read it. Medina died in 2012. She was 92 years old.

Patricia Medina is buried in Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia.

Here is some interviews and performances from Medina.

This grave visit was sponsored by LGM reader contributions. Thanks! If you would like this series to visit other actors in Mr. Arkadin, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Mischa Auer is in Gloversville, New York and Michael Redgrave is in London if you want to sacrifice and send me across the pond. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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