Saturday, October 9, 2010
Happy birthday, Hank Patterson!
One hundred and twenty-two years ago on this date in Springville, Alabama, actor and musician Hank Patterson was born—a performer with ambitions of becoming a concert pianist but one who found work plying his trade in vaudeville. He then found a niche playing character roles in films, with his first credited role coming in 1946 in the Randolph Scott oater Abilene Town. (Abilene was also the film debut of Paul “Wishbone” Brinegar—but that’s a birthday shout-out for another day.)
Patterson specialized in playing rubes and old codgers in many a B-western and serial, and if you’ve ever sat down to watch some of the classic television westerns prominently featured on Encore Westerns chances are if won’t be long before you catch some of his work. He guested regularly on The Virginian, Lawman, Maverick, Cheyenne and Have Gun – Will Travel (he’s particularly first-rate as the bounty hunter in the classic episode “Blind Circle”). Hank also turns up periodically as Hank Miller, the hired hand in charge of the livery stables owned by Dodge City’s Moss Grimmick (George Selk) on the dean of TV westerns, Gunsmoke. Other boob tube sagebrush shows that Patterson appeared on from time to time include The Cisco Kid, The Roy Rogers Show, Death Valley Days, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Tales of Wells Fargo and Bat Masterson. But his talents weren’t just limited to tales of the Old West; he also turns up on the likes of Science Fiction Theatre, The Untouchables, Perry Mason and The Twilight Zone (including the classic “Kick the Can”).
But if you were to look at Patterson’s face at first glance I’d bet dollars to donuts two words would immediately come to mind: “Fred Ziffel.” Hank played the dourly deadpan farmer and “father” of talented pig Arnold on the landmark comedy of bucolic surrealism, Green Acres—a role that he originated on Petticoat Junction, which took place in the same rustic hamlet. The always reliable IMDb says Patterson was in forty-six episodes of Acres over six seasons and while the current financial situation here at TDOY prevents us from investing in one of those Ziffel-o-Meters, that number seems a bit low to me. Hank left this world for a better one in 1975—but he lives on eternally through the magic of reruns, and holds a special place in the hearts of dedicated couch potatoes here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.