Inside ‘I Love Lucy’: Meet Elizabeth Patterson, Who Played Little Ricky’s Babysitter, Mrs. Trumbull

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of sitcoms. The first are the so-called joke machines, more concerned about punchlines than how they get to them. The others are the ones in which the humor arises from character; people we’ve gotten to know who are doing or saying funny things. That is the category I Love Lucy falls into, which separates it from many other comedies of its era. This is reinforced beyond the core characters of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) and Ethel and Fred Mertz (Vivian Vance and William Frawley). There are supporting players appearing in a number of episodes that add to the reality the show is creating. One of them is Elizabeth Patterson, who plays Little Ricky’s babysitter, Mrs. Trumbull, and became one of the more beloved members of the company.

Explains Michael Karol, author of Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia, “I Love Lucy was so popular in the 1950s, and remains so to this day, that it created a unique show-business paradox: Actors who had long, successful careers before and after they appeared on the show — actors who’d won Oscars (William Holden, Orson Welles), those who went on to become way more famous in other showbiz ventures (producer Aaron Spelling, voice actress Janet Waldo) — are very often recognized most by the public due to their appearances on the classic sitcom. This is the case with Elizabeth Patterson, who had a showbiz career any actor might envy, but is best remembered as the Ricardos’ neighbor, Mrs. Matilda Trumbull, on I Love Lucy.”

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Geoffrey Mark, author of The Lucy Book: A Complete Guide to Her Five Decades in Television, elaborates, “Her nickname was Patty Patterson. Nobody called her Elizabeth. She was one of those Dames who had been on radio and the Broadway stage and a million movies, but had never become a star. She was one of those wonderful character people who you saw pretty much everywhere. One example is that while she was Mrs. Trumbull, she was on the George Reeves series The Adventures of Superman.”

Please scroll down to learn more about Elizabeth Patterson and Mrs. Trumbull.

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