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Iowa History Daily: April 9 - The Mystery of Lyle Latell

Determining the true identity of Lyle Latell, the actor who played Pat Patton, on the popular film series “Dick Tracy” might take a little extra investigation. Sources suggest the famous actor born on April 9, 1904, is none other than Elma, Iowa’s Lyle Devereaux.

Described as a lantern-jawed American character who racked up 121 film and television credits before his death on October 24, 1967, including spots on Perry Mason, Dennis the Menace, and The Andy Griffith Show. Lyle Latell first appeared as Chuck the Chauffer in the 1941 film “Federal Fugitives.” Several other small parts followed as Lattell seemed to consistently find casting as tough guy, henchman, soldier, driver, or police officer.

As the minor roles racked up over the course of the early 1940s, Latell broke through as Pat Patton in the 1947 film Dick Tracy. Patton, Tracy’s original partner on the city police force, often experienced bad luck and embarrassing setbacks as he served as comic relief in the detective films. Lattell portrayed the character in all four major Dick Tracy films of the 40s.

Not until Latell shows up in the 1950 film “Bright Leaf” which starred Gary Cooper as an aristocratic tobacco grower planning to mass-produce cigarettes, did the home newspaper for Elma, the Elma New Era, speculate as to the identity of the actor. “Lyle Latell, former Elma boy, has been signed by Warner Bros. studio to be added to the cast of ‘Bright Leaf’....Several of the long-time residents who were questioned concerning the identity of ‘Lyle Latell’ seemed to agree that it must be Lyle Devereaux who left here many years ago.” No other evidence of Lyle Latell or Lyle Devereaux appears in the archives of the Elma New Era of other various Howard County newspapers.

Other biographical listings suggest Lyle Latell was born Lyle Zeiem, however, searches of specific local sources do not turn up any evidence. Perhaps, Dick Tracy might take the case. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar

1 Comment

Lyle Latell was born Lyle Thomas Zeien Elma, Iowa. His World War 2 draft registration was signed: Lyle Thomas Zeien-- Professional Lyle Latell.

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