Melody Patterson was a popular actress who starred as Wrangler Jane in the 1960s comedy series F Troop. She was also known for her roles in The Angry Breed, The Cycle Savages, and Hawaii Five-O. She died at the age of 66 on August 20, 2015, due to multiple organ failure. Her death was shocking to many, given that she was still relatively young and her health issues were not widely known to the public. In this article, we will explore the life and career of Melody Patterson, as well as the circumstances and causes of her death.
A Child Prodigy in Show Business
Melody Patterson was born on April 16, 1949, in Inglewood, California. She was the daughter of a machinist and a former dancer who doubled for Joan Crawford in several films. She started performing at the age of four, appearing in a play at the Downey Community Theatre. She wrote and directed a play at the age of five. Before turning 10, she had also been a photographer’s model, an actress, and an ice skater.
She enrolled in the Hollywood Professional School in the ninth grade, and later studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Her first screen appearance was an uncredited walk-on in Bye Bye Birdie (1963).
A Breakthrough Role in F Troop
Melody Patterson reportedly auditioned for F Troop on a lark. To her surprise, she was asked to read some lines from the script of the Doris Day Calamity Jane film, which happened to be her favorite movie. She had seen it enough times on television to know every scene and line from the film. Her reading impressed the producers and led to her being cast as Wrangler Jane.
She, however, was not quite 16 years old, and she misrepresented her age in order to get the audition. She later confessed to the producers that she was only 15 when they offered her the role. They were shocked but decided to keep her on the show because of her maturity and professionalism.
Wrangler Jane was a tomboy character who ran the trading post in town and was smitten with the bumbling Captain Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry). She was also a sharpshooter who could outride and outshoot anyone else in town. She was a very self-reliant teenager, which Patterson admired about her.
F Troop was a screwball comedy set in an Army fort on the western frontier after the Civil War. It ran on ABC for two seasons, from September 1965 to April 1967. It was a big hit in syndication for decades after that.
A Diverse Career After F Troop
After the cancellation of F Troop, Melody Patterson worked in television, radio, and theater. She also appeared on Mr. Novak and Shindig! In the 1970s, she appeared in three episodes of Hawaii Five-O, and began modeling and appearing in television commercials.
She also starred in some movies, such as The Angry Breed (1968), where she played a Hollywood starlet opposite her then-husband James MacArthur, who was also the adopted son of famed actress Helen Hayes. She also starred in The Cycle Savages (1969), where she played a victim of a biker gang led by Bruce Dern.
She married MacArthur in 1970, but they divorced in 1975. She later married Robert Seaton in 1976, but they also divorced in 1998. She then married Vern Miller in 1998.
A Tragic Death Due to Multiple Organ Failure
Melody Patterson died in a nursing home in Hollister, Missouri on August 20, 2015, at the age of 66. Multiple organ failure was the reported cause of death.
According to Factsverse, her death was preceded by years of poor health after she broke her back in an accident. She suffered from chronic pain and mobility issues that affected her quality of life. She also struggled with depression and alcoholism.
Her death was announced by her co-star Larry Storch on Facebook, who wrote: “It’s with a heavy heart that we can let you know our beloved Wrangler Jane, Melody Patterson passed away. Our hearts are sad today. RIP Sweet Melody. We love you.”
Her fans and friends also expressed their condolences and tributes online, remembering her as a talented and beautiful actress who brought joy and laughter to many.
Melody Patterson’s cause of death was a tragic end to a remarkable life and career. She will always be remembered as Wrangler Jane, the feisty and lovable heroine of F Troop.