Monday, February 28, 2011

This week in Television History: March 2011 Part I

listen to me on me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:

Shokus Radio

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Fridays 7pm ET and PT

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Saturdays 11pm ET, 8pm PT
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As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.


March 4, 1995
John Candy dies.
The larger-than-life comedic star John Candy dies suddenly of a heart attack on this day in 1995, at the age of 43. At the time of his death, he was living near Durango, Mexico, while filming Wagons East, a Western comedy co-starring the comedian Richard Lewis.
Born in 1950, Candy's first professional acting work was in children's theater in his native Canada. In 1972, he was accepted into the prestigious Second City comedy troupe in Toronto, where he would become a regular writer and performer for the group's television program, SCTV, alongside other rising comics like Eugene Levy (later Candy's co-star in Splash) and Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters). When SCTV moved to network television in 1981, Candy moved with it; that year and the next, he won Emmy Awards for writing for the show. Candy's recurring (and most famous) SCTV persona was Yosh Shmenge, a clarinet player in a polka band. He would reprise the character in a mock documentary, The Last Polka, on HBO in 1985 and would also play a polka musician in the smash hit Home Alone (1990).
Candy made his big break into movies with Splash (1984), in which he stole most of his scenes as the idle, high-living brother of the main character, played by Tom Hanks. The film, directed by Ron Howard, was a smash hit, jump-starting the careers of Candy, Hanks, Darryl Hannah and Levy. In one particularly memorable scene, Candy throws himself with abandon around a racquetball court, using his hefty frame to full comedic effect. Six-foot-three and weighing as much as 275 pounds, he struggled with dieting over the years, but his heft undoubtedly contributed to his success as a comic performer.
After Splash, Candy was in high demand as a lovable oaf. He starred in a number of box-office hits over the next 10 years, including Spaceballs (1987), and collaborations with the writer, producer and director John Hughes in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), The Great Outdoors (1988) and Uncle Buck (1989). A devoted sports fan and co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, he was also part owner of House of Blues, with the actors Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi. In 1993, Candy won praise for his role as the sensitive coach of an unlikely Jamaican bobsled team in Cool Runnings (1993).
At the time of his death, Candy had just completed his directorial debut, the Fox Television movie comedy Hostage for a Day. He had performed two-thirds of his scenes in Wagons East, which was finished after the filmmakers' insurance company paid a reported $15 million settlement. Another recently wrapped movie, Canadian Bacon, was released in 1995. Candy was survived by his wife, Rosemary, and their two children, Jennifer and Christopher.


March 4, 1996
Minnie Pearl dies.
A longtime fixture of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, comedian Minnie Pearl dies on this day. Pearl was famous for her comic monologues about hillbilly life, and was featured on the long-running syndicated show Hee Haw from 1970 to 1990.


March 5, 2006
Jon Stewart hosts 78th annual Academy Awards ceremony.

By early 2006, Jon Stewart, the irreverent host of The Daily Show, a fake television news program on Comedy Central, had seen the ratings for his show jump dramatically as a result of its coverage of the 2004 presidential election. The show spawned a popular spin-off, The Colbert Report, starring Daily Show regular Stephen Colbert, and a best-selling parody of a social studies textbook, America (The Book). On March 5, 2006, however, Stewart took on his highest-profile gig to date--hosting the 78th annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
In preparation for the Oscars, Stewart enlisted a team of writers from The Daily Show led by Ben Karlin, a former editor of the satirical newspaper The Onion and the then-executive producer of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. After the stars swanned down the red carpet, the ceremony began with a filmed segment suggesting Stewart was the last possible choice for the hosting gig and showing a series of former hosts refusing the job.
While Stewart’s deadpan humor might have had audiences laughing at home, his constant poking fun at Hollywood and the stars themselves seemed to meet with a less friendly reception from the Kodak Theatre audience. Jokes about Scientology and Hollywood’s liberal politics fell flat, but the audience did warm up to Daily Show-style fake ads mocking Oscar-campaigning tactics and Stewart’s ad-libbed running joke about the exuberant acceptance speech given by the rap group Three 6 Mafia, who won an Oscar for Best Song for “It’s Hard Out There For a Pimp” (from Hustle & Flow).
In the post-show media analysis the next morning, the consensus seemed to be that Stewart struggled; his hosting performance and its reception by the audience was compared with less-successful hosts from the past, such as David Letterman and Chris Rock, as opposed to Oscar favorites like Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. He was praised, however, for poking fun at the bloated, self-important nature of the Academy Awards ceremony itself, with its often-overdone production numbers and political posturing by the stars themselves. Stewart earned a second Oscars hosting gig--and better reviews--in 2008, in the wake of Hollywood’s writers’ strike and in the midst of the presidential campaign season.
The 78th annual Oscars were also memorable for the surprising upset victory of the ensemble drama Crash in the Best Picture category. After the Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee took home the Best Director Oscar for Brokeback Mountain, that film’s string of awards seemed to have given it the front-runner’s momentum to win Best Picture, the last statuette of the night. The New York Times called Crash’s selection as Best Picture a “stunning twist” to the evening, while Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times observed that some Academy voters may have been uncomfortable with the subject matter of Brokeback Mountain, which starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as sheepherders who fall in love while working in Wyoming in the early 1960s. Acting awards went to Rachel Weisz (Best Supporting Actress for The Constant Gardener), George Clooney (Best Supporting Actor for Syriana), Reese Witherspoon (Best Actress for Walk the Line) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Actor for Capote).


To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Agnes Moorehead and Detroit 187: Next on TV CONFIDENTIAL

Charles Transberg, Tony Trupiano and Robert Thompson will be our guests on our next edition of TV CONFIDENTIAL, premiering Monday, Feb. 28 at 9pm ET, 6pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio, with additional airings Tuesday, Mar. 1 at 11:05pm ET, 8:05pm PT on Passionate World Radio, Friday, Mar. 4 at 7pm ET and PT on Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org, and Saturday, Mar. 5 at 8pm PT and Sunday, Mar. 6 on KWDJ 1360-AM (Ridgecrest, CA).

Most Baby Boomers think of Agnes Moorehead as Endora, the powerful witch who loved to fools of us mere mortals (and particularly her son-in-law, Darrin Stephens) every week on the long-running ABC comedy series Bewitched. But though Bewitched made Agnes Moorehead a star, it was just one chapter in her long, distinguished and very diverse career, which saw her leave her mark in film, television, theater and radio, including her many collaborations with such legends as Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten and Charles Laughton. That is the key point behind I Love The Illusion, an excellent biography of Agnes Moorehead by film and television historian
Charles Tranberg. We’ll talk about Agnes Moorehead when Charles Tranberg joins us in our second hour.














In our first hour, media consultant and radio talk show host Tony Trupiano will join us as we discuss Detroit 187, the critically acclaimed ABC police drama that is one of many film and TV productions currently being filmed on location in Detroit, Michigan. We’ll talk about what production of Detroit 187 has meant to the community of Detroit, as well as the tax credit program that was designed as an incentive to bring film companies to Michigan, but which has become the subject of political debate.





Plus: pop culture critic Robert Thompson on Charlie Sheen’s latest meltdown and what that bodes for the future of Two and a Half Men.

TV CONFIDENTIAL: A radio talk show about television
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Fridays 7pm ET and PT
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Sundays 2pm PT
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

This week in Television History: February 2011 Part IV

listen to me on me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:

Shokus Radio

Mondays 9pm ET, 6pm PT
with replays three times a day, seven days a week at
11am ET, 8am PT 9pm ET, 6pm PT and 1am ET, 10pm PT

Passionate World Radio

Tuesdays 11:05pm ET, 8:05pm PT

KSAV – San Francisco Bay Area

Fridays 7pm ET and PT

KWDJ 1360 AM – Ridgecrest, CA

Saturdays 11pm ET, 8pm PT
Sundays 5pm ET, 2pm PT

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

February 23, 1997
Schindler's List is shown on NBC, the first network to broadcast a movie without commercial interruption.


Ford Motor Company, which sponsored the broadcast, showed one commercial before and after the film.
The 1993 film about German factory owner Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of Jewish workers in his factory during World War II, was Spielberg's most ambitious movie to date. The picture, filmed in black and white, won Spielberg his first Academy Award as Best Director, and it also garnered Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay awards. The film's screenplay, by Thomas Keneally and Steven Zallian, was adapted from Keneally's novel, Schindler's Ark, published in 1982.
Spielberg started making amateur films in his teens, and by the late 1970s he had become heavily involved in production and scriptwriting. He gained fame early in his career for directing such blockbusters as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Poltergeist, and a string of other phenomenal successes. He established his own independent production company, Amblin' Entertainment, in 1984, where he produced Gremlins, Back to the Future, Arachnophobia, Cape Fear, and more. In 1994, he formed DreamWorks SKG with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, and the following year the trio announced a partnership with Microsoft Corporation, called DreamWorks Interactive, which produced interactive games and teaching tools. Just months before he released Schindler's List, Spielberg released Jurassic Park, which featured computer-generated dinosaurs that took the world by storm. He won his second Academy Award for Best Director in 1999 for Saving Private Ryan. Virtually all of Spielberg's films have been box office smashes.

February 25, 1950
Comedy program Your Show of Shows, hosted by Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, first airs on this day in 1950.

Although the show lasted only four seasons, it became a classic of television's golden era, featuring comedy by future stars Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, and others. The series was one of television's Top 20 hits for three of its four years.

February 27, 2003
Children’s Television Host Fred Rogers succumbs to stomach cancer at 74.

The talented writer and puppeteer, known to generations of children simply as “Mr. Rogers,” hosted Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on public television for more than 30 years.
A native of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Rogers filmed the famed show in Pittsburgh, 30 miles east of his hometown. He studied early childhood development at the University of Pittsburgh and, in 1962, was ordained as Presbyterian minister with a mission to work with children and families through television. Beginning in 1954, he worked as a puppeteer on a show called The Children’s Corner, before beginning work on his own show, which first aired in 1968.
Singing his well-known theme song, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Rogers would enter his living-room-like set at the beginning of each episode, changing his shoes and sweater. He would then take his viewers on a magical trolley ride to the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe,” where he introduced them to characters such as King Friday XIII, his wife Queen Sara Saturday, Curious X the Owl, and Henrietta Pussycat. Even in an era of slick packaging and new technology in children’s programming, Rogers found continued success by sticking to his original message—that children should love each other and themselves. He aimed to help children deal with troubling emotions, like fear and anger, as well as everyday problems, like visiting the dentist.

Rogers composed most of his show’s songs and did much of the puppeteering and voices himself. Despite countless awards and honors, including four Emmys® and a George Foster Peabody Award, Rogers once remarked, “I have never really considered myself a TV star. I always thought I was neighbor who just came in for a visit.” He taped his last show in December 2000, but came out of retirement briefly to film public service announcements helping parents and children deal with the September 11th tragedy. One of Rogers’ trademark red sweaters now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Join Us This Week for The Best of TV CONFIDENTIAL

The next edition of TV CONFIDENTIAL, featuring encore presentations of our conversations with Days of Our Lives executive producer Ken Corday and Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer Charles Fox, premieres Monday, Feb. 21 at 9pm ET, 6pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio, with additional airings Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 11:05pm ET, 8:05pm PT on Passionate World Radio, Friday, Feb. 25 at 7pm ET and PT on Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org, and Saturday, Feb. 26 at 8pm PT and Sunday, Feb. 27 on KWDJ 1360-AM (Ridgecrest, CA).

Executive producer of Days of Our Lives since 1986, Ken Corday is also the author of The Days of Our Lives: The True Story of One Family’s Dream and The Untold History of Days of Our Lives, a very moving book that tells the story of how Ken’s parents, Ted and Betty Corday, not only created the series in 1965, but overcame many obstacles behind the scenes over the past 45 years, from personal tragedies to the ever-looming threat of cancellation. Our conversation with Ken from November 2010 will be replayed in our first hour.




Our second hour will feature a rebroadcast of our November 2010 interview with Charles Fox, one of the most accomplished composers of the late 20th century. Charles not only wrote such classic songs as “I Got a Name,” “Ready to Take a Chance Again” and “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” but has also scored more than 100 motion pictures and television series, including the theme songs for such iconic TV shows as Love, American Style, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Wonder Woman and The Love Boat. Charles’ book, Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music, is not only filled with stories of his collaborations with Garry Marshall, Colin Huggins, Thomas L. Miller and Edward K. Milkis, Jerry Goldsmith, Jim Croce, Barry Manilow, Lena Horne, Fred Astaire and other music and TV legends, but is a loving tribute to the teacher who mentored him, French composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger.












TV CONFIDENTIAL: A radio talk show about television
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Passionate World Radio
Fridays 7pm ET and PT
Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org
Saturdays 8pm PT
Sundays 2pm PT
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Your Mental Sorbet: Archie Bunker & Irene Lorenzo

Here is another "Mental Sorbet" that we could use to momentarily forget about those things that leave a bad taste in our mouths.

RIP Betty Garrett.



Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kenneth Mars

Kenneth "Ken" Mars died today. He may be best-remembered for his roles in several Mel Brooks films: the insane Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind in 1968's The Producers, and the relentless Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Fredrich Kemp in 1974's Young Frankenstein.


Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mars made his acting debut in 1962 as a book publisher on the comedy series Car 54, Where Are You?. Afterwards, he appeared on such television series as Gunsmoke, Get Smart, McMillan & Wife and The Bob Crane Show. Mars played Harry Zarakartos on the television sitcom He & She, and was featured in a number of small roles in programs such as the Misfits of Science pilot episode, the audio program Adventures in Odyssey, and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Shadowplay". He was cast opposite Bette Davis in Hello Mother, Goodbye!, a 1973 television pilot that was aired by NBC but never added to its schedule. From 1970 till 1974 he guest starred in 5 episodes of Love, American Style, playing random characters. In 1977, he became a series regular on Fernwood 2-Night, playing "Bud Prize" on the fictional comedy talk show and later appeared on America 2-Night in the same role.



Mars often played characters with exaggerated accents. He was German in The Producers, Young Frankenstein and was the Croatian musicologist Hugh Simon in What's Up, Doc?. In 1975, ABC/Dunhill released a comedy LP produced by Earl Doud titled "Henry the First" featuring Mars in a number of comedy bits as Henry Kissinger, including a cover version of the Bachman–Turner Overdrive song, Takin' Care of Business.


Mars cultivated his voice-over career, launching it by voicing several characters on Uncle Croc's Block. He voiced the roles of Ariel's father King Triton in The Little Mermaid, and Littlefoot's Grandpa Longneck in The Land Before Time movie series and the spin-off television series.

This week in Television History: February 2011 Part III

listen to me on me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:

Shokus Radio

Mondays 9pm ET, 6pm PT
with replays three times a day, seven days a week at
11am ET, 8am PT 9pm ET, 6pm PT and 1am ET, 10pm PT

Passionate World Radio

Tuesdays 11:05pm ET, 8:05pm PT

KSAV – San Francisco Bay Area

Fridays 7pm ET and PT

KWDJ 1360 AM – Ridgecrest, CA

Saturdays 11pm ET, 8pm PT
Sundays 5pm ET, 2pm PT


As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

February 15, 1960
"Danny Meets Andy Griffith" was telecast on The Danny Thomas Show.

In the episode, Griffith played fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina, who arrests Thomas for running a stop sign. Future players in The Andy Griffith Show, Frances Bavier and Ron Howard, appeared in the episode as townspeople, Henrietta Perkins, and Sheriff Taylor's son, Opie.

February 16, 1950
What's My Line debuts on TV


TV game show What's My Line debuts on this day in 1950. The show, produced by game show magnates Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, became the longest-running prime-time game show in the history of television. It ran for 18 years. A radio version launched in 1952 but was cancelled in 1953.

February 20, 1972
Radio personality and newspaper columnist Walter Winchell dies at the age of 74.


Winchell's influential gossip and news show, Walter Winchell's Jergens Journal, ran for 18 years.
Winchell started as a vaudeville performer, working with an array of future stars, including Eddie Cantor and George Jessel. He began writing about Broadway in 1922 for the Vaudeville News and in 1929 began writing a syndicated column for the New York Daily Mirror, which ran for three decades. But dishing on socialites became his claim to fame when he began his radio news show in 1930. His fast-paced show was packed with short news and gossip items-his rapid-fire radio prattle was clocked at 215 words a minute. Millions of people tuned into his witty and extremely popular Sunday evening show, which he introduced with, "Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press!"
A gossip columnist when few others existed, Winchell ruined more than a few careers with reports that some maintained were sensationalistic, reckless, and actually untrue. His show popularized catchphrases like "blessed event" and "scram," and peers admired his penchant for finding fresh ways to report on Hollywood's elite. Winchell starred as himself in several films, including Love and Hisses in 1937 and Daisy Kenyon in 1947.
What some called captivating reporting was labeled yellow journalism by others. His career declined in the 1950s. Like so many other radio stars, Winchell's career lost its sparkle when Americans' allegiance turned to television. Meanwhile, he made an unpopular decision to back Senator Joseph McCarthy's "Red Scare," publicly accusing a number of Hollywood stars of being communists. In the 1960s, the New York Daily Mirror closed and his column ended. One of his last major jobs was narrating The Untouchables, a popular television drama series, from 1959 to 1963. When he died penniless in 1972, it was reported that just one person-his daughter-showed up at his funeral.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned


Tony Figueroa

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love in the Air Plus Western Fare: Next on TV CONFIDENTIAL

Join us this week for a look at classic TV couples and classic TV weddings on the next edition of TV CONFIDENTIAL, premiering Monday, Feb. 14 at 9pm ET, 6pm PT on Shokus Internet Radio, with additional airings Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 11:05pm ET, 8:05pm PT on Passionate World Radio, Friday, Feb. 18 at 7pm ET and PT on Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org, and Saturday, Feb. 19 at 8pm PT and Sunday, Feb. 20 on KWDJ 1360-AM (Ridgecrest, CA).

Our guests this week include author
Wesley Hyatt, whose books on music and television history include The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits, Short-Lived Television Shows and Emmy Award Winning Nighttime Television Shows.

From Jeannie’s wedding to Rhoda’s wedding, from the nuptials of Mr. Peepers to Chandler and Monica’s wedding on Friends, wedding episodes have been a prime time tradition since television virtually began. But does marrying off a character help a series, or hurt it? Find out when Wes joins us in our first hour.










Then, in our second hour, we’ll head out West and talk about the longtime appeal of television Westerns along with Douglas Brode, author of more than 30 books on popular culture include Shooting Stars of the Small Screen, an encyclopedic look at more than 450 actors who contributed significantly to TV Westerns over the past six decades.

Plus: excerpts from Ed’s 1993 interview with iconic Western film director Budd Boetticher (The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Bullfighter and the Lady) in which he discusses his work with such legends as Robert Stack and James Garner.


TV CONFIDENTIAL: A radio talk show about television
Tuesdays 11:05pm, 8:05pm PT
Passionate World Radio
Fridays 7pm ET and PT
Share-a-Vision Radio, KSAV.org
Saturdays 8pm PT
Sundays 2pm PT
KWDJ 1360-AM (Ridgecrest, Calif.)
Three times a day, every day
on
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blog.tvconfidential.net
Also available as a podcast via
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Find us now on
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Betty Garrett

Betty Garrett died this morning of natural causes at UCLA Medical Center following a brief illness. She was 91. The actress, comedienne, singer and dancer originally performed on Broadway before being signed to a film contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While there, she appeared in several musical films before returning to Broadway and making guest appearances on several television series.

Later, she became known for the roles she played in two prominent 1970s sitcoms: Archie Bunker's liberal neighbor Irene Lorenzo in All in the Family and landlady Edna Babish in Laverne and Shirley.



After graduating from public grammar school, Garrett enrolled at the Annie Wright School in Tacoma, which she attended on a full scholarship. There was no drama department there, and she frequently organized musical productions and plays for special occasions. Following her senior year performance in Twelfth Night, the bishop urged her to pursue a career on the stage. At the same time, her mother's friend arranged an interview with Martha Graham, who was in Seattle for a concert tour, and the dancer recommended her for a scholarship at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City.


Garrett and her mother arrived in Manhattan in the summer of 1936 and Garrett began classes in September. Her teachers included Graham and Anna Sokolow for dance, Sandy Meisner for drama, Lehman Engel for music, and Margaret Webster for the Shakespearean classics, and fellow students included Daniel Mann and Richard Conte. She felt she was destined to be a dramatic actress and shied away from playing comedic roles.


During the summer months, Garrett performed in the Borscht Belt, where she had the opportunity to work with Danny Kaye, Jerome Robbins, Carol Channing, Imogene Coca, and Jules Munshin, and she was encouraged to hone her singing and dancing skills. She joined Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre as an understudy in what was to be its last stage presentation, a poorly-reviewed and short-lived production of Danton's Death that gave her the opportunity to work with Joseph Cotten, Ruth Ford, Martin Gabel, and Arlene Francis. She performed with Martha Graham's dance company at Carnegie Hall and the Alvin Theatre, sang at the Village Vanguard, and appeared in satirical and political revues staged by the Brooklyn-based Flatbush Arts Theatre, which eventually changed its name to the American Youth Theatre and relocated to Manhattan. It was during this period she joined the Communist Party and began performing at fundraisers for progressive causes.


Garrett made her Broadway debut in 1942 in the revue Of V We Sing, which closed after 76 performances but led to her being cast in the Harold Rome revue Let Freedom Sing later that year. It closed after only eight performances, but producer Mike Todd saw it and signed her to understudy Ethel Merman and play a small role in the 1943 Cole Porter musical Something for the Boys. Merman became ill during the run, allowing Garrett to play the lead for a week. During this time she was seen by producer Vinton Freedley, who cast her in Jackpot, a Vernon Duke/Howard Dietz musical also starring Nanette Fabray and Allan Jones. The show closed quickly, and Garrett began touring the country with her nightclub act.


After closing on Broadway, Laffing Room Only played extended runs in Detroit and Chicago. Garrett returned to New York and was cast in Call Me Mister, which reunited her with Harold Rome, Lehman Engel, and Jules Munshin. She won critical acclaim and the Donaldson Award for her performance, which prompted Al Hirschfeld to caricature her in the New York Times. It also led to her being signed to a one-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Louis B. Mayer. Garrett arrived at the studio in January 1947 and made her film debut portraying nightclub performer Shoo Shoo O'Grady in Big City, directed by Norman Taurog and co-starring George Murphy. Mayer renewed her contract and she appeared in the musicals Words and Music, On the Town, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, and Neptune's Daughter in quick succession.



Garrett was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Shortly after her birth, her parents relocated to Seattle, Washington, where her mother, Octavia, managed the sheet music department in Sherman Clay, while her father, Curtis, worked as a traveling salesman. His alcoholism and inability to handle finances eventually led to their divorce, and Garrett and her mother lived in a series of residential hotels in order to curtail expenses. Garrett and her mother arrived in Manhattan in the summer of 1936 and Garrett began classes in September. Her teachers included Graham and Anna Sokolow for dance, Sandy Meisner for drama, Lehman Engel for music, and Margaret Webster for the Shakespearean classics, and fellow students included Daniel Mann and Richard Conte. She felt she was destined to be a dramatic actress and shied away from playing comedic roles.


During the summer months, Garrett performed in the Borscht Belt, where she had the opportunity to work with Danny Kaye, Jerome Robbins, Carol Channing, Imogene Coca, and Jules Munshin, and she was encouraged to hone her singing and dancing skills. She joined Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre as an understudy in what was to be its last stage presentation, a poorly-reviewed and short-lived production of Danton's Death that gave her the opportunity to work with Joseph Cotten, Ruth Ford, Martin Gabel, and Arlene Francis. She performed with Martha Graham's dance company at Carnegie Hall and the Alvin Theatre, sang at the Village Vanguard, and appeared in satirical and political revues staged by the Brooklyn-based Flatbush Arts Theatre, which eventually changed its name to the American Youth Theatre and relocated to Manhattan. It was during this period she joined the Communist Party and began performing at fundraisers for progressive causes.


Garrett made her Broadway debut in 1942 in the revue Of V We Sing, which closed after 76 performances but led to her being cast in the Harold Rome revue Let Freedom Sing later that year. It closed after only eight performances, but producer Mike Todd saw it and signed her to understudy Ethel Merman and play a small role in the 1943 Cole Porter musical Something for the Boys. Merman became ill during the run, allowing Garrett to play the lead for a week. During this time she was seen by producer Vinton Freedley, who cast her in Jackpot, a Vernon Duke/Howard Dietz musical also starring Nanette Fabray and Allan Jones. The show closed quickly, and Garrett began touring the country with her nightclub act. After closing on Broadway, Laffing Room Only played extended runs in Detroit and Chicago. Garrett returned to New York and was cast in Call Me Mister, which reunited her with Harold Rome, Lehman Engel, and Jules Munshin. She won critical acclaim and the Donaldson Award for her performance, which prompted Al Hirschfeld to caricature her in the New York Times. It also led to her being signed to a one-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Louis B. Mayer. Garrett arrived at the studio in January 1947 and made her film debut portraying nightclub performer Shoo Shoo O'Grady in Big City, directed by Norman Taurog and co-starring George Murphy. Mayer renewed her contract and she appeared in the musicals Words and Music, On the Town, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, and Neptune's Daughter in quick succession.


The Jolson Story had been a huge hit in Great Britain, and Garrett and husband Larry Parks decided to capitalize on its popularity by appearing at the London Palladium and then touring the UK with their nightclub act. Its success prompted them to return to the country three times, but the increasing popularity of television eventually led to the decline of music hall entertainment. Then Garrett was cast opposite Janet Leigh and Jack Lemmon in My Sister Eileen, a 1955 musical remake of a 1942 film starring Rosalind Russell, when Judy Holliday dropped out of the project due to a contract dispute.[20] The following year, she and Parks replaced Holliday and Sydney Chaplin in the Broadway production of Bells Are Ringing during their vacation from the show. Over the next two decades, she worked sporadically, appearing on Broadway in two short-lived plays (Beg, Borrow or Steal with Parks and A Girl Could Get Lucky with Pat Hingle) and a musical adaptation of Spoon River Anthology, and making guest appearances on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Lloyd Bridges Show, and The Fugitive.


In the fall of 1973, All in the Family added two new neighbors to the neighborhood. Frank Lorenzo and his feisty Irish American wife Irene. Lear had been the publicity man for Call Me Mister, All in the Family writers Bernard West and Mickey West knew Garrett from her days with the American Youth Theatre, and Jean Stapleton had been in the cast of Bells Are Ringing, so she appeared to be a front runner for the role of Irene. It went instead to Sada Thompson, but, unhappy, after filming one episode, Thompson asked to be released from her commitment, thus freeing the role for Garrett. Irene was a kind of nemesis to Archie Bunker, but she later worked with Archie at the plant driving a forklift and be paid less than the man she replaced. Garrett remained with the series from 1973 through 1975.



The following year, Garrett was performing her one-woman show Betty Garrett and Other Songs in
Westwood when she was offered the role of landlady Edna Babish in Laverne and Shirley. The character was a five-time divorcĂ©e who eventually married Laverne's father Frank. Although Garrett felt she never was given enough to do on the show, she appreciated the fact her musical talents occasionally were incorporated into the plot, and she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her performance. When the series was extended beyond what had been intended to be its final season, Garrett was forced to drop out because she already had committed to performing with Sandy Dennis, Jack Gilford, Hope Lange, and Joyce Van Patten in The Supporting Cast on Broadway. The play closed after only eight performances, but returning to Laverne and Shirley was not an option, as the writers had explained Edna's disappearance by having her divorce Frank.


In the ensuing years, Garrett appeared on television in Murder, She Wrote, The Golden Girls, Harts of the West, Union Square, Boston Public, Becker (for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series), and Grey's Anatomy, among others; on stage in Plaza Suite (with Parks), And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little, and the 2001 Broadway revival of Follies. At Theatre West, which she co-founded, she directed Arthur Miller's The Price and appeared in the play Waiting in the Wings. She won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award twice, for Spoon River Anthology and Betty Garrett and Other Songs.


Garrett received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2003. On the occasion of her ninetieth birthday in 2009, she was honored at a celebration sponsored by Theatre West at the Music Box Theatre in Hollywood. In 2010, Garrett appeared alongside former two-time co-star Esther Williams during Turner Classic Movies' first annual Classic Film Festival. Their film Neptune's Daughter was screened at the pool of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California while a Williams-inspired synchronized swimming troop, The Aqualilies, performed.

Good Night Ms. Garrett

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa