Family & Companions
A celebrated beauty in her native England, actress Patricia Medina enjoyed modest success in Hollywood during the early 1950s, most notably in Orson Welles' "Mr. Arkadin" (1955), before spending the remainder of her career in episodic television and low-budget features. The child of Spanish and English parents, her exotic looks made her a natural for swashbuckling adventures like "Fortunes of Captain Blood" (1950) and "Botany Bay" (1953). By the 1960s, she had married actor Joseph Cotten and worked almost exclusively on television, save for a risqué turn in "The Killing of Sister George" (1968). Medina retired from acting in 1978 to care for Cotten in his final years before she, herself, passed away in 2012 from natural causes at the age of 92. Though never a celebrated actress, Patricia Medina remained an alluring favorite among fans of B-movies from the 1950s and early '60s.
Born Patricia Paz Maria Medina in Liverpool, England on July 19, 1919, she was one of three daughters by a Spanish landowner father from the Canary Islands and an English mother. Raised outside of London in the town of Stanmore, she spent a lengthy period in Paris, where she became fluent in French, Spanish and Italian. After winning top prize in a magazine beauty contest sponsored by Warner Bros., she began acting in her teens, and made her screen debut with an uncredited turn in the mystery "Dinner at the Ritz" (1937) with David Niven. She then found steady work in British features, rising quickly from bit player and supporting roles to the lead in "Don't Take it to Heart" (1944), opposite Richard Greene, whom she married in 1941. Though a sophisticated presence on the screen, her appeal was largely due to her exotic visage, for which English PR reps named her as "the most beautiful face in the whole of England."
Following World War II, she and Greene left England for Hollywood, where she signed with MGM. Initially, she found herself back as a supporting player in "The Secret Heart" (1946) and "The Foxes of Harrow" (1947) with Rex Harrison. But where many of her former British co-stars moved into A-pictures, Medina became a picture of second-on-the-bill programmers like "Francis" (1950), the first entry in Universal's much-maligned Francis the Talking Mule franchise. Save for a supporting turn opposite James Stewart in "The Jackpot" (1950), she was a fixture of both costume dramas and adventures set in foreign locales like "Plunder in the Sun" (1953) with Glenn Ford and John Farrow's seafaring drama "Botany Bay" (1953) with James Mason and Alan Ladd. She also co-starred with actor Louis Hayward in a string of low-budget swashbucklers, including "Fortunes of Captain Blood" (1950) and "Captain Pirate" (1952).
By 1954, Medina tempered her film work with appearances in television anthology series. The following year, she appeared as the female lead in Orson Welles' ill-fated "Mr. Arkadin" (1955). Having divorced Greene in 1951, Medina married Joseph Cotten at the home of power couple David O. Selznick and Jennifer Jones in 1960. Both actors experienced something of a career downturn in the following decade, working largely on television and in low-budget features like "Snow White and the Three Stooges" (1961), which featured Medina as the evil Queen. She made her Broadway debut with Cotton in a 1962 production of "Calculated Risk," then returned to an almost exclusive run on television until 1968, when she portrayed a predatory lesbian dominatrix in Robert Aldrich's scandalous "The Killing of Sister George" (1968). The following year, she joined Cotten in Japan for "Latitude Zero" (1969), a ludicrous science fiction adventure produced by Toho Films, makers of the Godzilla film series. Medina retired from acting in 1978, and spent much of the next two decades caring for Cotten, who retired in 1981 following a stroke and a laryngectomy. His death in 1994 prompted her to write an autobiography, Laid Back in Hollywood, in 1998. Medina would herself die of natural causes at the age of 92 on April 28, 2012.
By Paul Gaita
Cast (Feature Film)
Launched film career in "Double or Quits" and "Simply Terrific"
Began playing leading roles in British films with "Kiss the Bride Goodbye"
Went to Hollywood (date approximate)
First American film, "The Secret Heart" with Lionel Barrymore and Claudette Colbert
Began playing lead roles in American films such as "Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion"
First film opposite Louis Hayward, "Fortunes of Captain Blood"
Co-starred with Karl Malden in "Phantom of the Rue Morgue"
Appeared a panelist on the NBC game show "High Low Quiz"
Returned to primarily stage work after "Snow White and the Three Stooges"
Successfully played in the drama "Calculated Risk" on Broadway opposite husband Joseph Cotten
Returned to films to play a role in "The Killing of Sister George"
Acted opposite Cotten in the Japanese-American co-production "Ido zero daisakusen/Latitude Zero"
Cast in the adventure film "Timber Tramps"
Retired from acting after final film appearance, the Mexican drama "El llanto de los pobres"
Released autobiography Laid Back in Hollywood