PROFILE
Name:
Betty Garrett
Birth Date:
May 23, 1919
Birth Place:
St. Joseph, Missouri, USA
Nationality:
American
BIOGRAPHY
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All in the Family

Background:

American actress of stage, film and television Betty Garrett, born in 1919, died in 2011, is best recalled for her roles on the sitcoms “All in the Family” and “ Laverne & Shirley,” where she respectively played Archie Bunker's liberal neighbor Irene Lorenzo from 1973 to 1975 and landlady Edna Babish from 1976 to 1981. She won a Golden Globe Award for the first show. Garrett began her career on Broadway before being signed to a film contract with MGM. She appeared in several musical films during this period such as “Words and Music” (1948), “On the Town” (1949), “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” (1949) and “Neptune's Daughter” (1949). However, her greatest musical success was in “My Sister Eileen” (1955) for Columbia. Due to the Hollywood blacklist that her husband experienced as a result of his past affiliations with the Communist Party, Garrett had difficulties in finding works and in late 1950s, she put her film career on hold. She worked sporadically on Broadway and on television before eventually gaining major success on the aforementioned sitcoms in the 1970s. Later, she was nominated for an Emmy for her guest starring performance in “Becker” (2003). On May 23, 2003, Garrett was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Live Theatre.

Garrett was married to actor Larry Parks from 1944 to his death in 1975. Apart from acing career, the couple enjoyed a highly successful business in construction. She had two sons, composer Garrett Parks and actor Andrew Parks. In 1997, she published an autobiography titled “Betty Garrett and Other Songs.”


Neighborhood Playhouse Alum

Childhood and Family:

Betty Garrett was born on May 23, 1919, in St. Joseph, Missouri, to Curtis Garrett and Olivia Garrett. Shortly after her birth, her parents moved to Seattle, Washington, where her father worked as a traveling salesman, while her mom managed the sheet music department in Sherman Clay. Lured by her father's alcoholism and incapability to cover funds, her parents eventually divorced, and she went on to live with her mother in several residential hotels to limit cost. When she was eight, her mother remarried, and the new family lived in worked in Regina, Saskatchewan, where her stepfather Curtis worked at the meat packing industry. A year later, when her mother found that her new husband had an affair with his male assistant, Betty and her mom decided to move back to Seattle. Betty received a full scholarship to attend the Annie Wright School in Tacoma, in which she often organized musical productions and plays for special occasions. After graduating, she got a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, where she studied dance under Martha Graham and Anna Sokolow, drama with Sandy Meisner, music with Lehman Engel and the Shakespearean classic under Margaret Webster.

Betty met actor Larry Parks at the Actor's Lab in Hollywood. The couple married on September 8, 1944, only four months after their first meeting. Actor Lloyd Bridges served as best man. They spent a month in Malibu Beach for honeymoon, but then lived separately for the next two years to pursue their own careers. Betty and Larry remained married until he died on April 13, 1975 due to heart attack. The couple had two children, composer Garrett Parks and actor Andrew Parks (born March 1, 1951).

On February 12, 2011, Betty passed away due to an aortic aneurysm in Los Angeles, CA. She was 91 years old.


Laverne & Shirley

Career:

Betty Garrett made her stage debut in the Mercury Theater production of “Danton's Death” (1938), along with Joseph Cotten, Ruth Ford, Martin Gabel, and Arlene Francis. The show received negative reviews and was quickly pulled out. She also joined Martha Graham's dance company, and performed at the Carnegie Hall and the Alvin Theatre. Garrett made her Broadway debut in the revue “Of V We Sing” (1942), which closed after 76 performances. She followed it up later that same year with a performance in the Harold Rome revue “Let Freedom Sing,” which closed after 8 performances. Although short lived, the production put her under the radar of producer Mike Todd, who signed her to understudy Ethel Merman, and in 1943, she landed a small part as Mary-Frances in the Cole Porter musical “Something for the Boys,” starring Merman as Blossom Hart. The show ran for 422 performances at the Alvin Theatre from January 7, 1943 to January 8, 1944.

In 1944, Garrett landed the role of Sgt. Maguire in the Vernon Duke/Howard Dietz musical “Jackpot,” which also starred Nanette Fabray as Sally Madison, Allan Jones as Hank Trimble, and Benny Baker as Winkie Cotter. The show premiered on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on January 13, 1944 and closed on March 11, 1944 after a total of 69 performances. Following this, she started toured the country with her nightclub act. In December 1944, she returned to Broadway in the Burton Lane musical “Laffing Room Only,” where she was singer on “Go Down To Boston Harbor,” “ Stop That Dancing,” “This Is As Far As I Go,” “Sunny California” and “ The Steps of the Capitol.”

Two years later, Garrett was cast in the Harold Rome revue “Call Me Mister,” which opened on Broadway at the National Theatre on April 18, 1946. Her performance was critically acclaimed, and she was handed the Donaldson Award. The success led to her being signed to a one year contract with MGM by Louis B. Mayer. She arrived at the studio in January 1947 and made her film debut in “ Big City” (1948), a drama directed by Norman Taurog and starring Margaret O'Brien, Robert Preston and Danny Thomas. There she appeared as a nightclub performer named Shoo Shoo O'Grady. Her contract was renewed, and she soon appeared in musicals like “Words and Music” (1948, with Mickey Rooney, Tom Drake and June Allyson), “ On the Town” (1949, with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra), “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” (1949, with Sinatra, Esther Williams and Gene Kelly) and “Neptune's Daughter” (1949, with Esther Williams, Red Skelton and Ricardo Montalban).

Lured by the big success of the 1946 film “The Jolson Story,” starring husband Larry Parks, in the UK, Garrett and Parks performed at London Palladium and then touring the UK with their nightclub act. They would return to perform in the UK three times more. When the popularity of music hall entertainment declined as a result of the growing popularity of television, Garrett made her returned to features with the musical “My Sister Eileen” (1955) for Columbia Pictures. There she portrayed Ruth Sherwood, the plain-Jane sister often overshadowed by the beguiling Eileen (played by Janet Leigh). The same year, Garrett also made her television debut on an episode of NBC's “ The Ford Television Theatre” called “A Smattering of Bliss” (1955).

In 1957, Garrett co-starred with Philip Carey and John Drew Barrymore in William Asher's crime/drama “Shadow on the Window.” Following that, she decided to put her film career on the backburner. Garrett found difficulties in finding works after husband Larry Parks, a one time member of the Communist Party, was forced to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but he declined to name names. Her husband found himself on the Hollywood blacklist. In 1958, she reunited with her husband husband to appear in the Broadway production of “ Bells Are Ringing,” for which they replaced Judy Holliday and Sydney Chaplin, respectively, when both actors were on vacation from the show. During the 1960s, Garrett spent much of her time with her family and rising her two sons. She and her husband also ran a successful real estate business. She irregularly returned to small screen by appearing in episodes of “The Chevy Show” (1961), “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” (1961), “The Lloyd Bridges Show” (1962) and “The Fugitive” (1964). She also periodically returned to Broadway in productions of “Beg, Borrow or Steal” (1960), “Spoon River Anthology” (1963) and “A Girl Could Get Lucky” (1964).

Garrett's career received a big boost when she landed the supporting role of Irene Lorenzo, part of the liberal and Roman Catholic next-door neighbors Irene and Frank Lorenzo, on the CBS sitcom “ All in the Family,” starring Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers and Danielle Brisebois. She was on the show from 193 to 1975, and in 1975, she won a Golden Globe in the category of Best Supporting Actress - Television for her performance. She played the role of Mary Hallen in an episode of “Great Performances” called “Who's Happy Now?” (also 1975).

After leaving “All in the Family,” Garrett joined the cast of the Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams sitcom “Laverne & Shirley” (ABC) as the landlady Edna Babish DeFazio. She played the role from 1976 to 1981. While there, she also appeared in a “The Love Boat” episode called “ Julie's Dilemma/Who's Who/Rocky” (1978). She also performed in a one-woman show, “Betty Garrett and Other Songs” (1976).

In 1981, Garrett made her television movie debut on “ All the Way Home,” opposite Sally Field, William Hurt and Ned Beatty, and revisited Broadway in “The Supporting Cast.” She next played Elizabeth Rogers in “ Mr. Merlin”'s episode, “Change of Venue: Part 1 & 2” (1982), and had two different characters on episodes of “Murder, She Wrote” called “Trouble in Eden” (1987) and “Who Killed J. B. Fletcher?” (1991). She continued to guest star in television series like “ The Golden Girls” (1992), “Harts of the West” (1994), “The Good Life” (1994), “ Townies” (1996) and “Union Square” (1998). In 1998, she portrayed Veronica in the made for TV film “ The Long Way Home.”

In the new millennium, Garrett appeared on Broadway in the revival of”Follies” (2001). In the following year, she helmed “ Spoon River Anthology,” a play by Charles Aidman, based on the poetry of Edgar Lee Masters, at the Theater West in Hollywood, CA. In 2003, she returned to the small screen with a guest spot in “Boston Public,” but it was her portrayal of Molly Firth in an episode of CBS' “Becker” called “Nightmare on Becker Street” (2003) that brought her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.

Between 2005 and 2006, Garrett starred with Lee Meriwether and Bridget Hanley in a production of “Nunsense.” From May to July 2007, she and Marvin Kaplan headlined a production of the play “Morning's at Seven” at Theatre West in Hollywood, California. Meanwhile, on TV, Garrett appeared as Eleanor in an episode of “ Grey's Anatomy” called “Break on Through” (2006). In 2007, following a number of years hiatus, she resumed her film career by playing the role of

Mrs. Cuttle on the comedy/science fiction flick “Trail of the Screaming Forehead,” which was directed and written by Larry Blamire, and starred Daniel Roebuck, Susan McConnell and Fay Masterson. In 2009, she was cast as Mrs. Hausenstout in Blamire's film, “Dark and Stormy Night.” She died two years later on February 12, 2011 due to aortic aneurysm.


Awards:

  • Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actress – Television, “All in the Family,” 1975

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