There were quite a few “girls about town” who decided to try for an acting career. As most of them had beauty in spades, at least their appearance netted them a contract with a studio. Yet, as most of them were not hard bitten to cling to any chance given to become true working actresses – they lasted only a few short years. Pat Clark was one of these group of women, a true knockout who never amounted to much in her acting career, but made headlines via her private life.
Patricia Cecelia Clarke was born to George L. Clarke and Cecelia C. Clarke in 1925 in New York City. Her younger brother George E. was born in 1930. Her father was a military man. The family first lived in Orange, New York, and then In cca, 1937 moved to Los Angeles. In 1940, they were living in 756 1/2 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, California. Pat graduated from high school in Los Angeles, and due to her catlike brand of beauty, found success as a girl about town early, prior to 1944 – she already had a mink coat in 1943, a sign of great social standing back in the 1940s and 1950s. That year she started her social life in the Hollywood circles. Soon, she was touring with the “Room service” show and this pushed her into an acting career with Warner Bros.
Pat has a slim filmography, but quite a few of the movies she appeared in are hidden or forgotten gems worth discovering. Needless to say, she was uncredited in all of her roles except one (let me get to that later).
20 year old Pat got her first taste of film making in Hotel Berlin. At a time when Hollywood shamelessly belted out propaganda movie of the “us against them” type, Hotel Berlin tried to shake off that rigid outlook on the morality of war, and showed Germans in a better light, trying to explain that not all of them are Nazis. Of course, it was easy to make this movie when the victory for the allies was definite (and not during the dark days of the war), but the movie tries and succeeds to some degree in it’s cause. The cast is very impressive, made out of highly capable actors stuck in B movies – Faye Emerson, Helmut Dantine and Andrea King.
Pat’s next movie was one of the long string of WW2 women empowerment movies, Pillow to Post. Ida Lupino, a true acting dynamo, fittingly plays a woman who can do it better than a man can. This theme of a highly capable working girl at odds with her society role of a homemaker was further explored in Too Young to Know, where it was Joan Leslie who was torn between her GI husband and her career.
Pat was transported to lighter fare by getting a role in Night and Day, a sugar coated and highly dubious version of a Cole Porter’s biopic. When Cary Grant play s a guy who looked more like Quasimodo than James Bond, you know just how over the top it really is.
The Big Sleep, one of the best film noirs ever made, could have been the impulse Pat needed to enter a higher sphere in Hollywood. The role of the mysterious, seductive Mona Maris was perfect for Pat’s general looks and attitude (both were girls about town who seduce powerful men), but due to some executive meddling her shots were deleted and she was replaced by Peggy Knudsen. Neither she nor Peggy went on to have great careers, but Peggy is much better known today and had a filmography several notches above Pat. One often wonders what could have been if Pat’s role was left intact…
Pat made only one more Hollywood movie, Cass Timberlane, basically a story about a mismatched couple played by Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner. He is a straight laced judge living his upper crust life, and she a girl from the wrong side of the tracks spending her days playing baseball, a primarily masculine game. While not as deep and poignant as the book, the movie is still a study of marriage, class differences and societal pressure extorted on every man and woman.
Peggy’s last appearance was in El marqués de Salamanca.a forgotten Spanish speaking movie.
Pat was the typical girl around town when she arrived in Hollywood in 1943. News of her movie career were slim, but the news of her romantic escapades were rich and frequent. In 1944, she posed for a series of columns by Josephine Lowman on how to lead a healthy and happy life. Pat exercised, went to bed early and so on. One wonder if she really that in real life.
Pat’s first conquest was Luis “Doc” Shurr, a very influential agent who discovered Kim Novak among others. In June 1944, they were a solid altar bet, but he left her sometime after August 1944. In November 1944, as a gag she announced she would marry Ali Ipar, later the husband of the evanescent Virginia Bruce. Te newspaper blew it over and she had to deny it for weeks afterwards. In December 1944, she started going out with producer Bill Girard. He proved to be a more stable man in her life, but it was not a smooth road – in February they had a very public tiffing accident in a club – he went home and she spent time with other men. In April she was seen with the bon vivant Bill Holmes, but was soon back with Girard, dating him all the way to mid 1945. In June 1945, she took up with Steve Stanford.
In January 1946 she was seen with a war hero, Jeff Jones. Not long after, she landed in hospital with an unknown ailment, and as soon as she left the sick ward she snatched the prominent West coast socialite, Dick Brown.
In 1947, she was beaued by Peter Shaw, who was to become Angela Lansbury’s husband. After Dick came Arnold Kunody, insurance man who also dated quite a few pretty actresses (Andrea Leeds being his most famous escort). In 1948, she visited Spain and went back to the States and the arms of socialite Billy Bapst. Yet, Spain stayed in her heart.
In 1950 she was noted a Madrid twosome with Don Luis Dominguez.
In December 1951 Pat finally wed, and wed well she did – her husband became Rene Max Toriel, one of the richest living Egyptians at the time. They met in Paris in December 1950, and Rene followed her to California in September after a long distance romance (allegedly he came to have a good time). He dabbled in the cotton business.
Toriel was born in about 1920 in Egypt. Little was written about their marriage, but it obviously failed spectacularly just months after the ceremony, as by January 1953, she had already ripped al of his clothes into pieces (the start of every marriage drama, it seems). In February they had reached the “I don’t care stage”. In March 1953 she was in New York, and so was Max, but they tiffed again and she stayed with another girl-around-town, Selene Walters, and not him. By mid 1953, Pat was still Mrs. Toriel but dating other men with an alarming frequency.
In 1953, she was seen on oilman Bob Calhoun’s arm. She then made a minor scandal as she slapped a man at a bar who annoyed her. Ditching Calhoun, she took up with Richard Melvin, a so called Florida sportsman (in other words, a wealthy socialite with a hefty inheritance and no day job), who was inconveniently married to June Horne, the ex wife of Jackie Cooper (everybody is connected in Hollywood, one way or another). Pat was in the middle of a nasty feud between them, but did not give up and continued to date Melvin for some time after. In August 1953, she was seen with an another wealthy Egyptian, Gaston Hakim (yep, he allegedly owns a few pyramids…Yep, the papers back then sure knew how to be annoying).
She as briefly involved with Lee Trent before taking up with Pierre Lamure, author of the Moulin Rouge book, but by Feburary 1954, they were in a middle of a huge quarrel that had the tongues wagging. Despite their separation, his wife’s many flings did not leave Toriel immune. He also came to blows with Pat’s latest admirer, Wally Berman, in February 1954. Not long after, she got a legal separation in New York and left for Los Angeles. He followed her there, and the two seems to make up,if only briefly.
In may 1955, her furs were stolen and she offered a large reward for their safe return, seeing them in a more nostalgic light than pure garments.
In July 1955, Patricia almost died when she could not exit her apartment after an fire broke out. A broken key in one of four locks designed to keep out burglars was the culprit. Luckily, she survived and recovered quickly. In 1956, she raised some journalistic dust by dating a dashing army colonel (sorry, no name given). He was allegedly the youngest colonel in the army, but she still dated men on the side, notably rich Venezuelan Francisco Diaz.
In 1957 she dated Jimmy Donahue, wealthy heir. Pat continued to generate news in society columns for some time after (she was seen in Chicago in 1957, she was barred from the Mocambo club in 1958 along with a fellow socialite Marian Schaffer, who was sitting a tad bit too close to Pat’s escort, she flew to Los Angeles for two hours just to go for a gown fitting and so on.) That same year she finally divorced Rene Max Toriel in Putman, Florida. In August 1957, she dated Charles Conway, the Ziegfeld Follies producer. The man got around, also dating Dody Marshall in parallel.
Pat Clark Toriel remarried to James Phillips in August 1958. Phillips was a wealthy Wal Street broker, son of Herman Phillips, part owner of the Sherry Netherland hotel. He was divorced from Terry Allen just months prior. Unbethest to the general public, Phillips and Pat had been lovers for a long time by then. He lavished her with jewels. Their daughter Maria Cecelia Phillips was born on June 9, 1959.
In an article for the Observer magazine, published in 1998, Phillips said that Pat “was kind of a neurotic person” who at one point was “hooked on all sorts of stuff like sleeping pills.”
The same article mentions that Pat died young, but it does not give the exact time and place.