Sunday, February 13, 2011

Betty Garrett passes away at the age of 91

I had the great gift of working with Betty Garrett in the Broadway revival of FOLLIES in 2001 at the Belasco Theater. She was a wonderful, warm and funny woman who brought the house down with her performance of "Broadway Baby."

I always remember Betty got the theater early, went out to the stage to do her own warm-up, physically and vocally, and I can't recall her ever missing a show.

The audiences loved her. And she showed a genuine love for them. There was a joy and smile in her eyes all the time it seemed.

Most people may remember her from her recurring roles on "All In The Family" and "Laverne & Shirley" but her career stretched back decades to Hollywood. She starred in movie musical classics like "On The Town" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" opposite Frank Sinatra, and at 27 she signed a contract with MGM, then the king of musical movies.

Her career took a terrible hit during the Red Hunt of the 1950s when her husband, Larry Parks, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and he admitted that he had joined the Communist Party in 1941 and left in 1944 or 1945.

From MSNBC: Parks had won stardom and an Academy Award nomination as best actor for his dynamic portrayal of singer Al Jolson in the 1946 "The Jolson Story." But in 1951, he was
Pressed to name his fellow members of the party, Parks pleaded not to be forced "to crawl through the mud as an informer." He agreed to testify fully in executive session.

He made one more film, "Love Is Better Than Ever" with Elizabeth Taylor, then his film career was over.

"It was a dark period, a foolish, foolish period," Garrett said in 1998. "It destroyed a lot of lives and ruined my husband's career."

In 1998, she published her autobiography, "Betty Garrett and Other Songs," which was the title of her one-woman show.

I really loved seeing her smile before a performance of FOLLIES began. She, and her smile, will be missed.

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