October 2017


The Wild West's Favorite Daughter:
Actress Melody Patterson
Best Known As "Wrangler Jane" From The Hit Television Show F- Troop.
Article By: Samantha Byrne Leyte

From the misty mountains to the roaring plains and piney forests of the west came the wonderful role model of her era "Wrangler Jane." She was portrayed by Melody Patterson who was a natural beauty Melody was only 16 years old when she won the role on F Troop,which was a mid sixties fantasy sitcom about a likable but klutzy troop of U.S.cavalry soldiers stationed at Fort Courage. Patterson made her way into the show with a touched up birth certificate stating that she was 18. F Troop aired on ABC-TV for two seasons in 1965 and 1966. The second year the show went in color and unfortunately it went off the air in 1967. The show starred Ken Berry as Captain Parmenter, father of Jennifer Berry who would be called "F Troop" for years after the show ended.... Gruff character actor Forrest Tucker played Sargent O'Rourke, lovable actor Larry Storch was Corporal Argan and there were other characters like Hakawi Native American chief Wild Eagle played by veteran gangster movie actor Frank Dekova. There were other ancillary characters in F Troop like Wild Eagle's sidekick Crazy Cat played by child actor Jackie Coogan. Others in the cast included Trooper Vanderbilt,Trooper Duffy and Fort Courage Bugler Hannibal Dobbs. The F Troop guys were appalling and incompetent yet hilarious to behold. The Hakawis were supposed to be an evil Native American menace. They were about as threatening as an army of ice cream vendors Sargent O'Rourke and Corporal Argan ran a good natured black market set up called "O'Rourke Enterprises" in the show. F Troop had some great schticky dialogue and jokes. And there were outrageous,calamitous sight gags such as The Fort Courage lookout tower getting knocked down by enemy cannon fire over and over again.

Melody Patterson was born to Pat Patterson(a Machinist)and Rosemary(Wilson)Patterson in Inglewood,California,1949. Rosemary had been a Miss Universe pageant contest official. She had been an MGM dancer and a Joan Crawford double in a few movies. Before Melody turned 10 years old she had written and directed a play,been a photographer's model and a skater,and She had acted. While Patterson was 15 she enrolled in The Hollywood Professional School and continued to attend while she worked on F Troop. When she was on F Troop she made guest appearances on Shindig and the Richard Chamberlain show Mr. Novak. The studio and the show's producers,along with various contractual and legalistic stuff required that Melody had to be 18 to be on the show,hence the altered birth certificate. Imagine what if Melody Patterson hadn't done that!? Can you imagine any other girlfriend for Captain Parmenter? She was perfect for the role... On the show Wrangler Jane kept trying to take up as much of Captain Parmenter's time as she could and she would get so far and then he would get a telegram ordering him to attack the Hakawis or another one ordering him to trim the budget for the Fort PX. So anyway,Parmenter would get distracted and in all naive he would stop what he was doing with Wrangler Jane and attend to other things,much to her frustration. She'd bring him picnic baskets or breakfast on a tray. He appreciated it but her fun would barely start when someone or something would cut things off. You almost can't tell if Captain Parmenter is kinda chicken and intimacy scared him. I realize it was a running gag for laughs.

During the time that The F Troop was on the air the writers and actors were not allowed to let the show be risque. There was NO nudity or profanity. Instead,the affair between Captain Parmenter and Wrangler Jane was always described in dialogue which masked a subtext. It's an hilarious and innocent relationship between the two. Cable TV was introduced in 1975 and then things began to change. In some of the scenes that include both Ken Berry and Melody Patterson in her signature TV designer's "Western Cowgirl" outfits,you can see that her main goal in life is to make Captain Parmenter into her "boy toy". Melody was very beautiful and she was one of the women in the mid sixties era who was pretty but yet strong...

F Troop was an immensely popular comedy show. It was only on for two seasons and they were 1965-66 and 1966-67 In those days of Sunday Roast Beef and Bonanza at 7:00(as most people will tell you) and I'm sure if any of us went back to those days in a rented time machine(Hertz or Avis)we would be appalled at the little kids with ice cream cones in the station wagon lifestyle complete with work,school and church that most of us led in those days. However,from 1964 to 1970.. I had Top 40 radio everyday and everyday there were those dumb TV sitcoms like Leave It To Beaver, Gilligan's Island and of course,F Troop. There were silly but fascinating teen(and preteen)mags like 16, Mad, Song Hits,Hit Parader,Dig,Tiger Beat and Date Book. I'll take those over Rolling Stone with it's "angst" and "halcyon days" anytime. I'm saying Top 40 Radio,along with those dumb sitcoms and fanzines were what kids had in the 60s until cable TV and Video games came out in the 70s and the 80s. I do NOT miss the 60s. Not in the least. Those were wholesome and confining years. I DO miss having all those things at my disposal that I just now mentioned and because I grew up in that era so it puts an aggravating hole in my day and it's a minor irritant that those things aren't there anymore. But I should be practical and realize that my life nowadays and maybe yours too is much better than if we had those years to live over again! Well,50 years have gone by since then and so have about 5 different generations. Lots of 60s stuff has stayed with us all that time but each generation coming along has music,TV and stuff all of their own. End of lecture. You can get all of The F Troop shows on DVDs and You Tube has got cool F Troop stuff on there.

F Troop was cancelled in 1967.. But there continued to be all kinds of demand for Melody Patterson as a TV actress in both TV shows and commercials. The list of TV shows that she guest starred in is a nice,concise list of show biz prestigious shows: Wendy and Me(1965) The Monkees(1967) Adam 12(1968) Green Acres(1968) Hawaii Five-O(1969-1974). Melody Patterson was married to James MacArthur who played Dan "Danno" Williams on Hawall Five-O.They met when they appeared on the show. He was the son of vetern Actress Helen Hayes... She later married musician Vern Miller. It seems to me there was no longer a big demand for her.

Melody Patterson was involved with The Johnny Grant Christmas tour entertaining The Troops in Viet Nam. She was a Disc Jockey for The Armed Forces Radio Service. And she wrote a column for Wildlife Western Magazine. It was called "Wrappin' With Wrangler". Patterson's health began to fail and she died at a nursing home at Hollister,MO near Branson,MO. in 2015 at the age of 66. A bereaved Larry Storch announced Melody's passing to the press and the public.