We were shocked and saddened to learn that Patrick Curtis passed away on November 24, 2022. Over the past three years, Patrick penned six articles for Toluca Lake Magazine about his fond memories of growing up in the neighborhood in the 1940s and 1950s. From taking a wild ride to the Smoke House in Clark Gable’s sports car to trick-or-treating at Bela Lugosi’s house, his tales blended humor, nostalgia and local history to paint a vivid picture of what life was like in midcentury Toluca Lake, when the polio epidemic was raging, movie Westerns were in their golden age, the drive-in at Bob’s Big Boy was the Friday-night destination for area teens, and notable neighbors included Frank Sinatra and Audie Murphy.
Patrick’s reminiscences chronicle an amazing series of brushes with fame. Born into a showbiz family (his father worked at Republic Pictures in Studio City, which specialized in Westerns), Patrick got his start in the entertainment industry as an infant when he played baby Beau Wilkes in Gone With the Wind in 1939. Though the role was uncredited and Patrick didn’t even see the film until its rerelease in 1951, he was always happy to engage with its fans throughout his life, attending commemorative events and maintaining friendships with his co-stars — among them Mickey Kuhn, the last surviving credited cast member, who played an older version of the same character and died just four days before Patrick.
Patrick described his early work as “a long, shaky career as a kid actor (usually the fourth kid on the right).” As a college student studying film, he had the opportunity to learn the production side of the business as a jack-of-all-trades behind the scenes on Leave It to Beaver, as well as occasionally appearing onscreen as one of Wally’s friends. The experience not only forged a 60-year friendship with actor Tony Dow, but also helped Patrick transition to a career as a writer, producer and director. His more than 35 movies and TV shows — a number of them featuring Raquel Welch, his wife from 1967 to 1973 — included A Swingin’ Summer, The Sorcerers, Raquel, The Beloved, Hannie Caulder, The Avenging Angel and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch. Continuing his love of Westerns, he was also a writer and producer for the Golden Boot Awards, which honored achievements in the genre for 25 years.
Of his many accomplishments and honors, Patrick always said that one of his proudest moments was receiving a Beautiful People Award from Saint Joseph Medical Center in recognition of his philanthropy in the community, which included producing and directing over a dozen public service announcements at no cost for Valley organizations such as MADD and Activities, Recreation and Care for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities. The experience was all the sweeter because the award was presented to him by his lifelong friend Clayton Moore, the star who played the Lone Ranger.
In conversation and in his writing, Patrick conveyed a genuine, boundless enthusiasm and admiration for the famous figures he came in contact with — particularly the cowboy heroes of his youth — and an ongoing affection for the Toluca Lake area, despite having spent the past 15 years enjoying the iconic Western landscapes of St. George, Utah, with his wife, Annabel. We loved being able to share his wonderful stories with our readers and are so sorry we won’t get the chance to read the future installments he planned to write for us. At the time of his passing, we had one last unpublished article on file, and his family has graciously given us permission to print it in this issue as a tribute to Patrick. “Hoppy, Montie and the Cowgirl With the Lake-Blue Eyes” is a great example of his trademark self-deprecating wit, love of cowboy culture and ability to capture the intersections between the many famous figures who have passed through our neighborhood over the years. We hope it makes you smile and perhaps inspires you to check out some of the vintage Western films whose legacy Patrick was dedicated to celebrating.