June 20, 1911
Actress Gail Patrick was born in Birmingham on June 20, 1911, as Margaret LaVelle Fitzpatrick. She’s known as an actress and TV producer, whose top hit was the “Perry Mason” TV series. Patrick attended Woodlawn High School, and was in the Thalian Dramatic Club and president of her senior class. After graduating in 1928, she enrolled at Howard College (now Samford University) in East Lake. Patrick joined the Howard faculty and became the dean of women. She studied pre-law at the University of Alabama before entering a Paramount Studios acting contest. She auditioned at the Alabama Theatre and advanced to a screen test in Los Angeles playing opposite Gary Cooper. Though another actress won the part, Patrick negotiated a $75-a-week contract with Paramount. With support from actress Joan Crawford, Patrick won small parts, eventually winning a niche as the “other woman.” In 1939, she landed a leading role as the female attorney in “Disbarred.” Patrick’s producing career started when, in 1947, she married Cornwell Jackson, the literary agent to author Erle Stanley Gardner. Jackson secured the film rights to 255 stories featuring Gardner’s lawyer character, Perry Mason. In 1957, Patrick began producing the TV series. Gardner originally wanted Patrick to play secretary Della Street, but Patrick declined, and the role went to Barbara Hale. Before the premier, Patrick brought actor Raymond Burr to Birmingham for a promotional visit. The trip included breakfast at the Tutwiler Hotel and interviews on WBRC-AM and WBRC 6. The popular show was on CBS for nine years.
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