Sunday, February 13, 2011

R.I.P. Betty Garrett




A small confession.


As a small lad of perhaps 6 or 7, one of my first celebrity `crushes’ was on actress Betty Garrett, no doubt stemming from having seen On The Town  and Take Me Out To The Ballgame a number of times. 


What can I say, musicals were very big in my house growing up.

Years later I had a 78 of Betty Garrett wistfully singing `There’s a Small Hotel’, which I played often on my wind-up Victrola.


You can watch her do this number on YouTubeThis from the 1948 movie, Words & Music.




So it is with some sadness that I report that Ms. Garrett has passed away this weekend at the age of 91.


Younger readers probably remember her best as “Irene Lorenzo” on All in the Family and “Edna Babbish” on Laverne & Shirley.  But for me, she’ll always be cabby Brunhilde Esterhazy, doing her best to corral Frank Sinatra in On The Town.


Ms. Garrett’s career stumbled badly in the early 1950s when her husband, Larry Parks, was forced to testify before the  House UnAmerican Activities Committee over his early involvement in the communist party.


Parks, who had been OSCAR nominated for his breakout roles as Al Jolson in two popular bio pics, was subsequently blacklisted in Hollywood.


Ms. Garrett made a bit of a comeback in 1955 in My Sister Eileen, and did scattered television work in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but her career languished.


It wouldn’t be until the 1970s, when she appeared on All In The Family, and after that on Laverne & Shirley, that her career would take off again.   She appeared in a number guest roles on TV shows and movies during the 1990s and as recently as 2009.




The Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television has conducted hundreds of long-form interviews with the pioneers of early TV, and we are fortunate to have a 2 1/2 hour interview with Ms. Garrett on May 21, 2003.


You can view this 5-part interview HERE. 


I’ll leave you with this 3 minute montage of clips from Betty Garrett’s work which was put together for her 90th Birthday bash.


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