Cute and spirited Patti Brill was a ball of energy severely underused by her studio, RKO, and instead of becoming another Betty Hutton (both were the happy-go-lucky girl next door types), ended a complete unknown.
Patricia Eloise Brilhante was born on March 8, 1923 in San Francisco, California, to Manuel P. Brilhante and Warrena Owen Caldwell.
Her parents married in Alameda, California in 1921. Little is known about Patti’s childhood, except that her parents divorced at some point, that she grew up in San Francisco, California, and attended high school there. She had her first taste of Hollywood in 1929, when she appeared in The Vagabond Lover, but her mother wanted her to finish school before going into acting full time. Following her advice, she started her career in earnest in 1942 at the age of 19.
Patti’s filmography is a mixed bag of credited and uncredited performances, depending on the period.
For the first two years, she was uncredited in all of her appearances. She started very nicely by appearing in the Nelson Eddy/Jeannette McDonald movie, I Married an Angel, but from then on stay on the low budget tier. They were mostly inconsequential comedies made by the dozen in the early 1940s, often parts of movie franchises: The Falcon Strikes Back, Gildersleeve’s Bad Day, Petticoat Larceny, Mexican Spitfire’s Blessed Event and The Adventures of a Rookie
Suddenly, Patti changed lanes completely and got her chance in a few serious, even grim movies. The Fallen Sparrow distantly dealt with concentration camps and directly with crime, and, as it is the case with most movies starring John Garfield, hasn’t got a funny bone in its stark body. The Seventh Victim is a very good, chilly Val Lewton horror starring Kim Hunter. Gangway for Tomorrow was a socially conscious movie, as was Government Girl, directly dealing with a then burning problem of war industries. This was actually quite expected – WW2 was raging, and Hollywood turned to war movies of all kinds – not just those featuring soldiers and combat, but how the ordinary people back home react to it. Tender Comrade, a Ginger Rogers vehicle, was one such movie, a small gem about housing conditions during the wartime.
Yet, on the flip side, people always wanted to see comedies, especially when rela life was that grim – Seven Days Ashore and were just such fluffy, cute movies to divert attention from more pressing matters. Them, finally, Patti got billing! It was in 1944, and the movie was Music in Manhattan, a thin but ultimately passable musical. Girl Rush again had her in the credited supporting bunch, but the movie was a sub par comedy. She was next in a Leon Errol short, He Forgot to Remember.
For unknown reasons, Patti again fell into the uncredted tier for a time. She was uncredited in all of her Falcon movies (The Falcon in Hollywood, The Falcon Out West and The Falcon and the Co-eds), and in a few small productions – Nevada, a forgotten western and What a Blonde a decent but in the end undistinguished Leon Errol comedy. The Enchanted Cottage, gave her a role, albeit uncredited, in a superb film, and remains the best film she has ever appeared in. A wonderfully touching, melancholic story about forgivance, true love, and the quest for future, it gave its stars, Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young, a chance to truly shine, something to rare in Hollywood except for the few chosen ones.
Unfortunately, the rest of her filmography lags after The Enchanted Cottage: Sing Your Way Home and Pan-Americana are musicals of dubious quality. Live Wires was a bit better, as a comedy with a strong dose of reality poured in it – Hard Boiled Mahoney is, as one can guess from the title, a silly but amusing romp. Kilroy Was Here and Incident, her last two movies, are hardy remembered today.
Patti married quite young, on February 14, 1943, aged 19, to William Harold Knight, in California. Knight was born in 1917 in Texas as one of four children of Jesse Knight and Harriett Smith. In the mid 1930s he moved to California to further his dancing career. There he married Dortha Alice Archer in 1937, and their son Hal Knight was born in 1939. They divorced in cca. 1941. Since neither William nor Patti were famous by that time, nothing is known about the marriage, except that they did not have any children and divorced sometime prior to 1950.
Patti was one of the 1940’s girl that ushered the girl-next-door persona, next to Betty Hutton, Debbie Reynolds and Jane Powell. Neither of the girls mentioned was drop dead stunning or conventional beauties, but their perky style and bubbly, pert attitude combined with cute faces and nimble bodies made them a hit with the public. Patti was well known for wearing colorful and youthful clothes and often posed for fashion columns.
Patti married for the second time to Hugo Edward Fredlund on Setpember 24, 1950. Fredlung was born on September 24, 1923 in Illinois to Swedish immigrants, Hugo and Ethel Fredlund. He enlisted in the Army in 1942 or 1943. By 1950 he was a WW2 veteran who was hit by a stray German bullet just weeks before Victory day, paralyzed from the waist down as a result, necessitating the use of a wheelchair. Since Patti worked extensively with WW2 veterans both during and after the war, it was not unusual for her to bond with a man such as Hugo. The pairing got some newspaper coverage, with Patti claiming that she does not care that her husband was a paraplegic and that she loved him deeply.
Patti continued her work with veterans with a new vigor after the marriage, and was often featured in the papers with paraplegic patients. Unfortunately, the marriage failed sometime in the early 1950s. Hugo went on to marry twice more, to Betty, whom he divorced in 1968, and Marian, whom he married in 1969 and divorced in 1974. He died in 1993 in California.
Patti married for the third time to Max Egbert Albright in 1956. Max was born on June 10, 1923 to Ned Egbert Albright and Jane Garland, their second child after daughter Rebecca. Ned was killed in an automobile accident in 1938. Unfortunately, he would not be the only one from his family to die young.
Max died on February 23, 1959 in California. The widowed Patti married her fourth husband, Mr. Osborne, in about 1961. They remained married until her death.
Patti Albright Osborne died on January 18, 1963 from cancer in North Hollywood, California.