An actress who played a tomboyish, gun-slinging, independent teenager in post-Civil War sitcom called F Troop, Melody Patterson, has died at age 66.
News of her death came on Facebook, announced by her co-star, Larry Storch, who played Corporal Randolph Agarn.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we can let you know our beloved Wrangler Jane, Melody Patterson passed away. Our hearts are sad today. RIP Sweet Melody. We love you.”
Details about Melody’s death were scarce. However, a friend told the Hollywood Reporter that Patterson had been in ill health since breaking her back years ago. According to Variety, she died in a nursing home of multiple organ failure.
Though Patterson had a scattering of other notable roles, she is most well known for her portrayal of Wrangler Jane on the short-lived ABC program. It ran for just two seasons, from 1965 to 1967, but in the decades following its brief life on network TV, the sitcom was very popular in syndication.
F Troop was set in the years following the Civil War, and took place at an Army fort on the western frontier. Melody’s character, Jane, ran a trading post in town. After the show ended, Patterson reminisced in an interview about the tomboy’s feisty spirit.
“She was extremely independent. She owned her own store, she ran the mail and she could outride and outshoot anybody else in town. She was a very self-reliant teenager, which I always saw her as.”
One of F Troop‘s plot lines saw Melody’s character harboring a crush on a character named Captain Wilton Parmenter, played by Ken Berry. But she was too bashful to say anything to him.
In an interesting side note, Melody actually lied about her age to get the part of Wrangler Jane, claiming to be 18, when in reality she was 15. The show’s producers didn’t learn her real age until the show had begun and it was too late.
In fact, she filmed the show’s pilot while on Christmas vacation from school.
Of course, Melody Patterson isn’t known for just one role. She was a fixture on TV shows in the 60s, with roles on The Monkees, Adam-12, and Green Acres, as well as Hawaii Five-O. For five years, in fact, she was married to the show’s star, James MacArthur, Variety added.
Patterson augmented her TV roles with a few on the silver screen, including The Angry Breed (in which she portrayed a Hollywood starlet opposite MacArthur), Cycle Savages (opposite Bruce Dern), and Blood and Lace.
Melody also had an uncredited role in Bye Bye Birdie just before her breakthrough on F Troop. After the sitcom, she performed in the Armed Forces Radio Show for Vietnam troops.
You can watch episodes of F Troop on YouTube.
[Photo Courtesy of Twitter]