Betty Garrett (born May 23, 1919, St. Joseph, Missouri) is an American actress, comedienne, and dancer who belonged to the golden era of the movie musical, such as On the Town and Neptune’s Daughter. in her later career, she is best known for a pair of roles in two prominent 1970s sitcoms: Archie Bunker’s liberal next-door neighbor, Irene Lorenzo, in All in the Family and Edna Babish in Laverne and Shirley.
Biography of Betty Garrett (May 23, 1919 – February 14, 2011)
Betty Garrett was a famous film comedienne, who co-starred in many classic comedies alongside Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, and many others, but is best remembered for her roles on All in the Family as Edith Bunker’s neighbor Irene, and on Laverne and Shirley as landlady Edna Babish.
Career of Betty Garrett
Betty Garrett trained at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse and, undecided between drama and dance, tried both, acting with Orson Welles’ famed Mercury Theatre and performing with Martha Graham’s dance company. For Betty Garrett, musical comedy seemed a happy compromise. When she was performing with the American Youth Theatre, Mike Todd saw her and signed her to understudy Ethel Merman in the 1943 Broadway musical Something for the Boys. Other Broadway shows followed: Jackpot (1944), Laffing Room Only (1944), and Call Me Mister (1948), where her rendition of “South America, Take It Away” won her the Donaldson Award, the forerunner of the Tony Award.
She married Larry Parks, star of The Jolson Story (1946) and Jolson Sings Again (1949), in 1944. They moved to California, where she was featured in Words and Music (1948), On the Town (1949), Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949), Neptune’s Daughter (1949), and My Sister Eileen (1955). She also began appearing on television in drama and variety shows, and made recordings.
In 1951, Larry Parks was one of the blacklisted “Hollywood 19” brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Although Betty Garrett was never accused, her Hollywood career suffered because of her husband’s predicament. Betty Garrett and her husband formed a musical team and toured nightclubs and theaters in the United States and England. One of the reasons the couple started acting in England was because her husband’s blacklisting made it hard for them to work in the states. The two also appeared together on Broadway in Bells Are Ringing (1956) and Beg, Borrow or Steal (1960). The couple remained married until Larry Park’s death in 1975. They had two sons: composer Betty Garrett and actor Andrew.
Not restricted to stage and film musicals, Betty Garrett starred in plays such as A Girl Could Get Lucky (1964), And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little, and Plaza Suite. She also appeared in Spoon River Anthology, which originated at Theatre West, went to Broadway for a four-week concert engagement, and stayed a season. When it was revived in Los Angeles several years ago, Betty Garrett won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for her performance. Her second Los Angeles Drama Critics Award came when she first presented Betty Garrett and Other Songs at Theatre West. She has also appeared in this production at the Westwood Playhouse in Los Angeles. In 2001, she returned to the Broadway stage in the role of Hattie Walker for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Follies.
In late 1973, she played the liberal nemesis of conservative Archie Bunker in the television sitcom All in the Family. Her character was phased out in late 1975. The following year, she joined the cast of Happy Days spin-off Laverne and Shirley as Edna Babish, Laverne and Shirley’s landlady, who eventually marries Laverne’s father, Frank DeFazio (played by Phil Foster). She remained with the series until 1982, when her character divorced Frank.
Betty also ventured into directing with Arthur Miller’s The Price at Theatre West. Her effort gained critical acclaim.
Betty Garrett received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2003.
Death of Betty Garrett
Betty Garrett has died of aortic aneurysm on February 14, 2011, at the age of 91. The comedienne and singer passed away at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on Saturday. She is survived by her sons Garrett Parks and Andrew Parks
Filmography of Betty Garrett
- Big City (1948)
- Words and Music (1948)
- Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)
- Neptune’s Daughter (1949)
- On the Town (1949)
- My Sister Eileen (1955)
- The Shadow in the Window (1957)
- Trail of the Screaming Forehead (2007)
Betty Garrett – Broadway Theatre
- Of V We Sing (1942)
- Let Freedom Sing (1942)
- Something for the Boys (1943-1944)
- Jackpot (1944)
- Laffing Room Only (1944-1945)
- Call Me Mister (1946-1948)
- Bells Are Ringing (1956-1959)
- Beg, Borrow Or Steal (1960)
- Spoon River Anthology (1963-1964)
- A Girl Could Get Lucky (1964)
- The Supporting Cast (1981)
- Meet Me in St. Louis (1989-1990)
- Follies (2001)
Betty Garrett’s Television Work
- The Ford Television Theatre (1957)
- The Chevy Show (1961)
- The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962)
- The Fugitive (1964)
- All in the Family (1975)
- The Love Boat (1978)
- Laverne and Shirley (1978 — 1982)
- All the Way Home (1981)
- Mr Merlin (1982)
- Murder, She Wrote (1991)
- The Golden Girls (1991)
- Harts of the West (1994)
- The Good Life (1994)
- Townies (1996)
- Union Square (1998)
- The Long Way Home (1998)
- Boston Public (2003)
- Becker (2003)
- Grey’s Anatomy (2006)