Arthur even took Patricia, her brother Robert and Arthur’s wife Jessie to Germany with him and talked of settling down there. On one such trip there was an attempt to kidnap Patricia and Robert but this was thwarted by their mother.
However Arthur Owens didn’t only take his family with him on his missions to Germany and when Jessie discovered that he was taking a young mistress with him she took Patricia and Robert to the police station to expose Arthur as a Nazi spy. What she didn’t know was that this news came as no surprise to the British authorities because long before Arthur Owens walked into the Germany embassy in Belgium and became a Nazi spy he was already working for British intelligence. In fact during the early years of world war two Arthur Owens was the most important double agent working for Mi5 and they had given him the codename Snow. The trust the German’s placed in him meant that all the other German agents that followed him were rounded up by Mi5 and either turned in to double agents or executed as spies. Owens set the pattern for the British double cross system and by the end of the war Mi5 controlled every single German agent in Britain. Owens nightly radio calls to Germany under Mi5 control were used to send false information to Germany and these messages were also used to make the first British breakthrough in the German Enigma code which changed the course of the war. However whether it was the official secrets act or the fact that Arthur and Jessie were no longer speaking, Patricia was not to learn how important her father had been to the allied war effort.
Patricia worked as a manicurist for a hairdresser near her home in Kingston upon Thames. There she met Eric L’Epine Smith, a casting director from the nearby Warner Brothers Studio at Teddington, who was immediately taken with the young girl, suggesting that she should do a screen test because they were looking to put people under contract. In 1943 Patricia Owens made her first film Miss London Ltd, directed by Val Guest and starring the British comedian Arthur Askey. Her first scene in the film shows her singing and dancing as one of three female porters on a railway platform full of men in uniform going off to war. The camera closes in on the trio and gives a close up of each of them in turn. Last of the three is Patricia who looks straight at the camera and sings. Her face, although considerably prettier, bears a striking similarity to that of her father. The eyes are where the family resemblance is most noticeable, both father and daughter have the same arch of the eyebrows, both give the impression of an assured intelligence and both obviously have a prodigious capacity to assume a fictitious identity.
However by this time Arthur Owens was locked up in a cell in Dartmoor prison where he had been interned by Mi5. Never sure of Owens' motives or his loyalties, they had decided that it was safer to lock him up in case his loose talk revealed the existence of the double cross system. Even when he was in Dartmoor Owens still managed to uncover important information about V2 rockets from his fellow German inmates which he then passed on to Mi5. After the war Arthur Owens was scared that someone he had betrayed might catch up with him and seek their revenge so he used all the skills he had learned as a master spy to vanish, He changed his identity and moved to Southern Ireland where he started a new family.
Meanwhile Patricia’s career was going from strength to strength. She met an American Air force officer, Sydney Bartlett, who was also a screenwriter and producer living in England. Bartlett was Jewish and his revenge on the Nazis, was his participation in one of the first American air-raids on Berlin. What his father-in law would have thought of this is not recorded because by this time Arthur and Patricia had become estranged and Patricia would never hear from him again.
Patricia hit the height of her fame in the mid to late fifties when she appeared in films like Sayonara alongside Marlon Brando. She said of him “Whatever Brando does he does well. You may not think so while you are acting with him; then later on screen it’s perfect.” She also starred in Islands in the Sun alongside James Mason.
The film for which Patricia is best remembered is the 1958 science fiction classic and cult film The Fly in which she played the wife of a scientist who invents a matter transmitter, but things go wrong when he gets entangled with a fly.
In the early 1970s a book called The Game of foxes by Ladislas farrago was published. The book outlined the activities of the double cross system and revealed that Mi5’s first double agent had been Patricia’s father. She was horrified by the book’s portrayal of him as an untrustworthy, philandering womaniser who had betrayed his country. Having been based on German sources Farago did not have access to the Mi5 files that documented Owens real role in the formation of the double cross system. Patricia sent a copy of the book to her brother Robert in England. He wrote to the British Prime Minister Edward Heath in an effort to put the record straight about his father’s role in world war two but the Prime Minister invoked the official secrets act to stop him.
In the 1970s Patricia returned to England with her son Adam Nathanson in an effort try to find her father but, despite her best efforts, she could find no record of the elusive Arthur who unknown to her had in fact died in 1957 the year of her greatest success. Her son Adam believed that it would have given her a sense of "closure" if they could have found him.
In the intervening years The Fly would achieve cult status and she was interviewed in 1998 about her role in the film by Tom Weaver for Special Effects Magazine.” It had been a long time since she had worked and she was surprised that people still remembered her “Well I’m delighted that I’m still remembered. For a long time I’ve been getting fan mail and requests for autographs – a lot of it from Germany for some reason.” Only she could have realised any irony in the comment.
Her son Adam believes that the stress of keeping the family secret took a toll and holds the opinion that Arthur Owens made her feel that it was her responsibility to keep his secrets. She was made to believe that if she told anyone about her father’s secrets that it could lead to his death. Adam says “So here's a girl who loved her father so much that she took his secrets to her grave.” In the 1980s Patricia Owens developed cancer and died in Lancaster, California aged 75 on 31 August 2000.
The extraordinary life story of Arthur Owens is told in “Snow: the double life of a world war II spy” by Nigel West and Madoc Roberts published by Biteback London. Hardback ISBN: 1849540934. Kindle ASIN: B00623RLAG
Interview with author Madoc Roberts:- http://americymru.blogspot.com/
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