If you are like me, you first took notice of Hank Patterson as Fred Ziffel, the owner of Arnold the Pig in the TV series, Green Acres. By the time Mr. Patterson took this role he was almost completely deaf. However, the producers were so impressed by his performance that they allowed a dialog coach to sit off camera and tap his leg with a yardstick to cue him for his lines.
If you don’t remember Hank Patterson from Green Acres, you have certainly seen him in one of his slew of TV performances, including a continuing role in Gunsmoke as Hank Miller the stableman. Or perhaps you remember him from one of his appearances in The Twilight Zone, including one of my favorites, “Kick the Can.”
But here at Exclamation Mark, we remember Hank Patterson for his appearances in a spattering of B movie greats. His most prominent role was probably in 1955’s Tarantula with John Agar and Mara Corday. Patterson played Josh (see image above), the nosy hotel clerk who listened in on Dr. Hasting’s telephone conversations. In 1958, Hank made an appearance in another giant spider flick, Earth vs The Spider. He portrayed Hugo, the high school janitor who let the teenagers into the gymnasium where the over-sized spider was supposed to be dead. Of course rock and roll music rejuvenated the beast and Hugo met a grisly end.
Hank Patterson’s roles in these B science fiction/horror pictures were never significant, but he always added a dash of spice, or a slice of reality. In Monster on the Campus (1958) he played the kindly night watchman; in Beginning of the End (1957), Hank is the father who describes his last visit with his daughter before her entire town was demolished by giant grasshoppers; and in The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Mr. Patterson is the drunk who utters the line, “Not another drop! Not another drop as long as I live,” when he sees the 60 foot giant.
When he started out, Hank Patterson had aspirations of becoming a serious musician. However, he ended up playing piano in vaudeville shows until he worked his way to California where, fortunately for us, he made his way into the movies and television. Perhaps Hank is not the biggest name in B movie science fiction and horror, but his presence always adds a touch of cantankerous charm.