Betty Garrett


Actor
Betty Garrett

About

Birth Place
St Joseph, Missouri, USA
Born
May 23, 1919
Died
February 12, 2011
Cause of Death
Aortic Aneurysm

Biography

While her big break in film came with "On the Town" (1949) opposite Frank Sinatra, stage and screen actress Betty Garrett was more widely known to a younger generation as the landlady with a heart of gold on the comedy series "Lavern & Shirley" (ABC, 1975-1983). After gaining acclaim on Broadway in musical comedies such as "Call Me Mister" (1946), she was soon under contract with MGM, ho...

Photos & Videos

Take Me Out to the Ball Game - Group Publicity Stills
Neptune's Daughter - Publicity Stills
On the Town - Group Publicity Stills

Family & Companions

Larry Parks
Husband
Actor. Married from September 8, 1944 until his death in 1975.

Bibliography

"Betty Garrett and Other Songs"
Betty Garrett, Madison Publishing (1997)

Biography

While her big break in film came with "On the Town" (1949) opposite Frank Sinatra, stage and screen actress Betty Garrett was more widely known to a younger generation as the landlady with a heart of gold on the comedy series "Lavern & Shirley" (ABC, 1975-1983). After gaining acclaim on Broadway in musical comedies such as "Call Me Mister" (1946), she was soon under contract with MGM, hoofing it alongside the likes of Mickey Rooney and Gene Kelly. Sadly, the "Red Scare" and subsequent Hollywood Blacklisting of the 1950s largely derailed the careers of Garrett and husband Larry Parks. After years in relative obscurity, she returned with the recurring role of Irene Lorenzo on "All in the Family" (CBS, 1970-79), followed by a six year stint on "Laverne & Shirley." Garrett continued to make infrequent television and stage appearances over the next three decades before passing away in February of 2011 at the age of 91.

Born May 23, 1919 in St. Joseph, MO, she made her stage debut in 1938 with the Mercury Theatre's production of "Danton's Death." She also danced with Martha Graham and performed at the 1939 World's Fair. On Broadway, she appeared in "All in Fun" (1941), "Let Freedom Sing" (1942), "Call Me Mister" (1946) and other musicals before an MGM contract lured her to Hollywood. Garrett's first film was the non-musical "The Big City" (1948), in which three men race to be the first to marry in order to adopt a young girl (Margaret O'Brien). In the film, she played the prospective bride of George Murphy. From there, she was tapped for "Words and Music" (1948), the sanitized biography of Rodgers and Hart, in which she sang "Manhattan" with Mickey Rooney.

Arguably her most memorable film was the classic musical, "On the Town" (1949), in which she portrayed the female taxi driver romanced by Frank Sinatra. Her greatest musical success, however, was in "My Sister Eileen" for Columbia (1955), in which she played the plain-Jane sister often overshadowed by the tempting Eileen (Janet Leigh). It was around this time period, however, that her husband, Larry Parks, had been the first actor called before the Communist-hunting House Committee on un-American Activities as an unfriendly witness, and although he eventually named names, Parks' career took a tumble.

In deference to him and the poisonous atmosphere in Hollywood at that time, Garrett stopped acting in films after "Shadow on the Window" (1957). Although she made her television debut in a 1955 episode of "The Ford Television Theatre" (NBC/ABC, 1951-57), with the exception of a repeat appearance on the show two years later and guest turns on "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" (NBC, 1956-1963) and "The Lloyd Bridges Show" (CBS, 1962-63), she was hardly seen on screens large or small for several years. Instead, Garrett and Parks tended to raising two sons - one of whom would become actor Andrew Parks - and running a real estate business. Garrett also made periodic returns to Broadway in productions like "Bells Are Ringing" (1958), "Beg, Borrow or Steal" (1960), and "A Girl Could Get Lucky" (1964).

Garrett took on her first recurring role in 1973, when Norman Lear added her to the cast of "All in the Family" (CBS, 1970-79). As the feisty feminist neighbor Irene Lorenzo, she frequently sparred with Carroll O'Connor's Archie Bunker. She also performed a one-woman show in Los Angeles called "Betty Garrett and Other Songs." When Parks died in 1975, Garrett left the cast of "All in the Family," but the following year, joined the cast of "Laverne & Shirley" (ABC, 1975-1983). As Edna Babish, the title duo's (Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall) landlady who would eventually marry Laverne's father (Phil Foster), Garrett remained with the series until 1981, when she was lured away to co-star in the short-lived Broadway musical, "The Supporting Cast."

Having earned a comfortable living through her television work and various real estate holdings, Garrett was less active in the 1980s and 1990s. She reappeared sporadically on programs such as "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986) and "Murder She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996), in addition to being interviewed for Broadway-themed entries of the program "Biography" (A&E, 1987- ). Later appearances included spots on "Becker" (CBS, 1998-2004) and "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2004- ), in addition to small roles in the independent horror spoofs "Trail of the Screaming Forehead" (2007) and "Dark and Stormy Night" (2009). The actress died at age 91 of an aortic aneurysm in Los Angeles.

Life Events

1938

Made her stage debut in the Mercury Theater production of "Danton's Death"

1942

Made her Broadway debut in the revue "Of V We Sing"

1948

Made feature film debut in "The Big City"

1955

Starred opposite Janet Leigh and Jack Lemmon in "My Sister Eileen"

1955

Made her TV debut on episode of "Ford Theatre" (NBC)

1973

Played Irene Lorenzo on "All in the Family" (CBS)

1976

Performed in one-woman show, "Betty Garrett and Other Songs"

1976

Played Edna Babish on "Laverne & Shirley" (ABC)

1981

Returned to Broadway in "The Supporting Cast"

2001

Again appeared on Broadway belting "Broadway Baby" in the revival of "Follies"

2003

Received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress for her role on "Becker" (CBS)

2003

Received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Photo Collections

Take Me Out to the Ball Game - Group Publicity Stills
Here are a number of group publicity stills from the MGM musical Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Neptune's Daughter - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Neptune's Daughter (1949), starring Esther Williams and Red Skelton. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
On the Town - Group Publicity Stills
Here is a series of stills taken to publicize MGM's On the Town (1949) featuring the cast around a park bench. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Neptune's Daughter - Movie Poster
Here is an original-release American movie poster for Neptune's Daughter (1949), starring Esther Williams and Red Skelton.

Videos

Movie Clip

On the Town (1949) - My Place! Cabbie Hildy (Betty Garrett) has advice for tourist Chip (Frank Sinatra) delivered through the song "Come Up to My Place" by Leonard Bernstein, Beddy Comden and Adolph Green, in On the Town, 1949.
On the Town -- (1949) - You're Awful Chip (Frank Sinatra) and Hildy (Betty Garrett) tease and charm each other with You're Awful, music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Comden and Green, on top of the Empire State building in On the Town, 1949.
On the Town (1949) - Taxi! Taxi! The sailors (Gene Kelly, Jules Munshin and Frank Sinatra) meet cabbbie Hildy (Betty Garrett) who takes an immediate liking to Chip (Sinatra) in On the Town, 1949.
Neptune's Daughter (1949) - Baby, It's Cold Outside So nice they sang it twice, and everyone singing their own parts, first Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams, then Betty Garrett and Red Skelton, in the Academy Award winning song that year, already made a Hollywood party standard by composer Frank Loesser, in MGM's Neptune's Daughter, 1949.
Take Me Out To The Ball Game - It's Fate Baby, It's Fate Having rescued Dennis (Frank Sinatra) after a bench-clearing brawl, fan Shirley (Betty Garrett) pursues him into the first of their famous numbers together, music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Comden and Green, in MGM's Take Me Out To The Ball Game, 1949.
Take Me Out To The Ball Game - The Hat My Dear Old Father Wore Gene Kelly as turn-of-the-century shortstop Eddie O'Brien, his performance as ever up to the standard of a professional athlete, music by Jean Schwartz, lyric by William Jerome, in Take Me Out To The Ball Game, 1949, from MGM's Freed unit.
My Sister Eileen (1955) - Bigger Than You and Me Editor Bob (Jack Lemmon) puts the moves on writer Ruth (Betty Garrett) and sings "It's Bigger Than You and Me" by Jule Styne and Leo Robin in My Sister Eileen, 1955.
Big City (1948) - I'm Gonna See A Lot Of You Rare solo number for wonderful Betty Garrett, as singer "Shoo-Shoo" Grady, being courted by cop Pat (George Murphy), song by Fred Spielman and Janice Torre, in MGM's Big City, 1948.
Boys and Girls Like You and Me - Take Me Out to the Ball Game This cut number from Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) features Frank Sinatra singing to Betty Garrett "Boys and Girls Like You and Me," originally written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the musical "Oklahoma!"
My Sister Eileen (1955) - I'm Ruth Sherwood Writer Ruth from Ohio (Betty Garrett) meets New York editor Bob Baker (Jack Lemmon) who's leaving on vacation in director Richard Quine's My Sister Eileen, co-written by Blake Edwards.

Trailer

Family

Andrew Parks
Son
Actor. Father Larry Parks.
Garrett Parks
Son
Composer. Father, Larry Parks.

Companions

Larry Parks
Husband
Actor. Married from September 8, 1944 until his death in 1975.

Bibliography

"Betty Garrett and Other Songs"
Betty Garrett, Madison Publishing (1997)