December 28, 2011

Singer/actress Kaye Stevens dead at 79

Singer and actress Kaye Stevens, who performed with the Rat Pack and was a frequent guest on Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show," has died at a central Florida hospital. She was 79.

Close friend Gerry Schweitzer confirmed that Stevens died Wednesday at the Villages Hospital north of Orlando following a battle with breast cancer and blood clots.

Stevens, a longtime South Florida resident, performed with Rat Pack members including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop. She also sang solo at venues like Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and the Plaza Hotel's Persian Room in New York City.

During the Vietnam War era, Stevens performed for American soldiers in the war zone with Bob Hope's USO tour.

According to a handout from friend Rhonda Glenn, Stevens was born Catherine Louise Stephens in Pittsburgh. Her family eventually moved to Cleveland, where a teenage Stevens got her start as a drummer and singer. She later married now deceased bandleader and trumpet player Tommy Amato, and the couple performed throughout the eastern U.S.

During a gig in New Jersey, Stevens was discovered by Ed McMahon, Carson's longtime sidekick, which led to new bookings. Her big break came when she was playing a lounge at The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Debbie Reynolds became ill and was unable to perform in the main room. Stevens filled in and was an instant hit.

Besides singing, Stevens also acted in film and television. She appeared in six movies, earning a Golden Globe nomination in 1964 for "The New Interns." She was a regular celebrity player on game shows and appeared as a regular on "Days of Our Lives" from 1974-79.

During the past two decades, Stevens started her own ministry and began performing only Christian and patriotic music. She staged benefits to help build St. Vincent Catholic Church in her longtime home of Margate, Fla., where city officials named a park in her honor.

December 25, 2011

Deck the Malls (My Parody of Deck the Halls

Deck the Malls
(My parody of Deck the Halls)

Deck the malls with loads of money,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to act funny,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fill the cash tills, use the plastic,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Stretch your money like elastic,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fill the cash tills, drain your money,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Pretend you find the season funny,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Deck the malls with loads of money,
Fa la la la la, la la la la...

December 07, 2011

Actor Harry Morgan dead at 96

Emmy-winning character actor Harry Morgan, whose portrayal of the fatherly Col. Potter on television's "M-A-S-H" highlighted a show business career that included nine other TV series, 50 films and the Broadway stage, died Wednesday. He was 96.

His daughter-in-law, Beth Morgan, told The Associated Press the actor died at his home in Brentwood after having pneumonia.

"He was side-splittingly funny, a very gent and loving father-in-law," Beth Morgan said. "He was very humble about having such a successful career."

Morgan appeared in mostly supporting roles on the big screen, playing opposite such stars as Henry Fonda, John Wayne, James Garner, Elvis Presley and Dan Aykroyd.

On television, he was more the comedic co-star, including roles on "December Bride," its spin-off "Pete and Gladys," as Sgt. Joe Friday's loyal partner in later "Dragnet" episodes and on CBS-TV's long-running "M-A-S-H" series, for which he earned an Emmy award in 1980.

Yet acting wasn't Morgan's first career choice.

Born in Detroit in 1915, Morgan was studying pre-law at the University of Chicago when public speaking classes sparked his interest in the stage. Before long, he was working with a little-theater group in Washington, D.C., followed by a two-year stint on Broadway in the original production of "Golden Boy," with Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb.

Morgan made his way to Hollywood in 1942 "without any assurance that I would find work," he said in a 1976 interview with The Associated Press.

"I didn't have enough money to go back East, so I stayed around finding jobs mainly out of friendships."

He signed a contract with 20th Century Fox after a talent scout spotted him in the one-act play, "Hello, Out There."

One of his earliest films was "The Ox Bow Incident" in 1943 with Fonda. Other films included: "High Noon," ''What Price Glory," ''Support Your Local Sheriff," ''The Apple Dumplin g Gang" and "The Shootist."

Morgan began his television career in 1954 when the medium was in its infancy.

"Television allowed me to kick the Hollywood habit of typing an actor in certain roles," Morgan said, referring to his typical sidekick or sheriff portrayals on the big screen

In "December Bride," his first TV series, Morgan played Pete Porter, a perpetually henpecked neighbor. The CBS series lasted from 1954-1959, when he went on to star in his own series, "Pete and Gladys," a spinoff of "December Bride."

Demonstrating his diversity as a character actor and comedian, Morgan also starred in "The Richard Boone Show," ''Kentucky Jones" and "Dragnet."

But it was his role as Col. Sherman Porter on "M-A-S-H" for which Morgan became best known.

"M-A-S-H was so damned good," Morgan told the AP. "I didn't think they could keep the level so high."

His acting career didn't stop after the popular series left the air in 1983 after 11 years - - one of television's most successful prime-time runs. Morgan went on to appear in several made-for-TV movies and other television series, such as "AfterMASH" and "Blacke's Magic."

When he was not on the set, Morgan enjoyed reading books about the legal profession and poetry. He also liked horses, which he once raised on his Northern California ranch.

Morgan is survived by three sons, Charles, Paul and Christopher; eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

November 25, 2011

Gable/Young's daughter Judy Lewis dead at 76

For decades, the identity of Judy Lewis' parents was one of the best-kept secrets in Hollywood.

Not until Lewis acknowledged her story in the 1994 autobiography "Uncommon Knowledge" did the general public know the truth: Lewis was not the adopted daughter of Hollywood starlet Loretta Young but had been conceived out of wedlock by Young and Clark Gable while the two filmed "Call of the Wild" in the 1930s.

Lewis died of cancer Nov. 25 in the Philadelphia suburb of Gladwyne, said Rodger McKinney, owner of the Chadwick & McKinney Funeral Home. Services will be held Saturday. She was 76.

Lewis, of Palm Springs, Calif., was raised in Los Angeles by Young as her adopted daughter. She was an adult when she learned that Young, a devout Roman Catholic, conceived her during an affair with Gable in the 1930s.

"At the time, what Loretta Young did was completely successful," said Leonard Maltin, a film critic and Hollywood historian. "The general public never had any inkling that she had done this. It protected her stardom and her image as a wholesome young woman."

Lewis was born Nov. 6, 1935, in Venice, Calif., and went on to perform on Broadway and television in her own career. She also produced the soap opera "Texas," a spinoff of "Another World." In the 1980s, she earned psychology degrees, advocating for children's rights and counseling teenagers. She later became a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, something she pursued until she was diagnosed with cancer.

In 1994, she wrote "Uncommon Knowledge," acknowledging her parentage publicly for the first time. Her mother was a single Catholic and Gable was married at the time of her birth, and the news would have led to scandal, so she created the story that Lewis was adopted.

"The situation in which they found themselves in 1935 would not have posed such a problem in the Hollywood of today," Lewis wrote in the book.

Lewis wrote that Young kept her sequestered with a nurse for months after her birth and that she was then turned over to an orphanage. When she was 2, Young brought her home as her adopted daughter.

Before her memoir was published, the identity of her parents had long been rumored. Maltin said the truth was never truly public, however, until the memoir, in which Lewis describes her mother telling her the truth in 1966, years after Gable had died.

In the book, Lewis said Young told her then: "'Well, he was your father. ... He was darling. Sweet and very gentle. ... He was married, so when I discovered I was pregnant with you, I was frantic and terrified. It would have ruined both our careers, a scandal like that.'"

Lewis wrote in her book that Young wanted her to keep the secret. She described a heated argument with Young on Mother's Day in 1986, in which Young threatened to sue Lewis if a book came out that revealed the truth about Lewis' parentage.

"'Leave this house. I never want to see you in my house again,'" Young said, Lewis recounted.

"I refused to be dismissed that easily," Lewis wrote. "It all came pouring out — all the years of hurt and abandonment, all the feelings of not belonging, of being an outsider in my own family, years of repressed emotions that couldn't be contained any longer. The floodgates were opened and the words flowed unchecked."

Lewis said she asked Young if she would "ever acknowledge to the world that I am your child, and that Clark Gable is my father?'

"'No. I will never acknowledge what I consider a mortal sin — my mortal sin,'" Young replied, according to Lewis.

Lewis' survivors include her daughter, three half brothers and her partner, Steve Rowland. Another memorial service is being planned for later this month in Los Angeles, McKinney said.

September 15, 2011

Actress Frances Bay dead at 92

Frances Bay, who tussled with Jerry Seinfeld over a loaf of marble rye and played Adam Sandler's grandmother in "Happy Gilmore" during a career that began in the 1930s, has died. She was 92.

Her cousin Les Berman says Bay died Thursday at a Los Angeles area hospital after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

After working as a radio actress before World War II, Bay married and became a housewife. She returned to acting in the 1970s and her career took off. Bay played Fonzie's Grandma Nussbaum on "Happy Days" and kindly older ladies in shows like "The Jeffersons," ''The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Who's the Boss?"

The Canadian-born actress also was cast by director David Lynch in several films, including "Blue Velvet" and "Wild at Heart."

Fans of "Seinfeld" know her as the tough lady who fought with the show's star over the last loaf of bread.

She has no immediate survivors.

September 11, 2011

Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson dies in US at 88

President John F. Kennedy had just one critique when he saw photos of the actor set to play him in a World War II drama.

The year was 1963 and actor Cliff Robertson looked convincing in his costume for "PT-109," the first film to portray a sitting president. Kennedy had favored Robertson for the role, but one detail was off.

Robertson's hair was parted on the wrong side.

The actor dutifully trained his locks to part on the left and won praise for a role he'd remain proud of throughout his life.

Robertson, who went on to win an Oscar for his portrayal of a mentally disabled man in "Charly," died of natural causes Saturday afternoon in Stony Brook, New York, a day after his 88th birthday, according to Evelyn Christel, his secretary of 53 years.

Robertson never elevated into the top ranks of leading men, but he remained a popular actor from the mid-1950s into the following century. His later roles included kindly Uncle Ben in the "Spider-Man" movies.

He also gained attention for his second marriage to actress and heiress Dina Merrill, daughter of financier E.F. Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal fortune and one of the world's richest women.

His triumph came in 1968 with his Academy Award performance in "Charly," as a mentally disabled man who undergoes medical treatment that makes him a genius — until a poignant regression to his former state.

"My father was a loving father, devoted friend, dedicated professional and honorable man," daughter Stephanie Saunders said in a statement. "He stood by his family, friends, and colleagues through good times and bad. He made a difference in all our lives and made our world a better place. We will all miss him terribly."

Robertson had created a string of impressive performances in television and on Broadway, but always saw his role played in films by bigger names. His TV performances in "Days of Wine and Roses" and "The Hustler," for example, were filmed with Jack Lemmon and Paul Newman, respectively. Robertson's role in Tennessee Williams' play "Orpheus Descending" was awarded to Marlon Brando in the movie.

Robertson first appeared in the "Charly" story in a TV version, "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon." Both were based on "Flowers for Algernon," a short story that author Daniel Keyes later revised into a novel. Robertson was determined that this time the big-screen role would not go to another actor.

"I bought the movie rights to the show, and I tried for eight years to persuade a studio to make it," he said in 1968. "Finally I found a new company, ABC Films. I owned 50 percent of the gross, but I gave half of it to Ralph Nelson to direct."

Critic Roger Ebert called Robertson's portrayal "a sensitive, believable one." The motion picture academy agreed, though Robertson was unable to get a break from an overseas movie shoot and was not on hand when his Oscar was announced.

Portraying Kennedy in "PT-109," presented other challenges. The president warned Robertson he didn't want someone trying to imitate his distinctive New England accent.

"That was fine with me," the actor commented in 1963. "I think it would have been a mistake for me to say 'Hahvahd' or try to reproduce gestures. Then the audience would have been constantly aware that an actor was impersonating the president."

He added that the film obviously couldn't be done with heroics, "like Errol Flynn gunning down 30 of the enemy. This young naval officer just does things because they have to be done."

"PT-109" was plagued with problems from the start: script changes, switch of directors, bad weather, snakes and mosquitoes in the Florida Keys where it was filmed.

The troubles were evident on the screen, and critics roundly rapped the film, although Robertson's work won praise.

In 1977, Robertson made the headlines again, this time by blowing the whistle on a Hollywood financial scandal.

He had discovered that David Begelman, president of Columbia Pictures, had forged his signature on a $10,000 salary check, and he called the FBI and the Burbank and Beverly Hills police departments. Hollywood insiders were not happy with the ugly publicity.

"I got phone calls from powerful people who said, 'You've been very fortunate in this business; I'm sure you wouldn't want all this to come to an end,'" Robertson recalled in 1984.

Begelman served time for embezzlement, but he returned to the film business. He committed suicide in 1995.

Robertson said neither the studios nor the networks would hire him for four years.

He supported himself as a spokesman for AT&T until the drought ended in 1981 when he was hired by MGM for "Brainstorm," Natalie Wood's final film.

Born Sept. 9, 1923, in La Jolla, California, Robertson was 2 when he was adopted by wealthy parents who named him Clifford Parker Robertson III. After his parents divorced and his mother died, he was reared by his maternal grandmother, whom he adored.

Robertson studied briefly at Antioch College, majoring in journalism, then returned to California and appeared in two small roles in Hollywood movies. Rejected by the services in World War II because of a weak eye, he served in the Merchant Marine.

He set his sights on New York theater, and like dozens of other future stars, profited from the advent of live television drama. His Broadway roles also attracted notice, and after avoiding Hollywood offers for several years, he accepted a contract at Columbia Pictures.

"I think I held the record for the number of times I was on suspension," he remarked in 1969. "I remember once I turned down a B picture, telling the boss, Harry Cohn, I would rather take a suspension. He shouted at me, 'Kid, ya got more guts than brains.' I think old Harry might have been right."

Robertson's first performance for Columbia, "Picnic," was impressive, even though his screen pal, William Holden, stole the girl, Kim Novak. He followed with a tearjerker, "Autumn Leaves," as Joan Crawford's young husband, then a musical, "The Girl Most Likely" with Jane Powell. In 1959, he endeared himself to "Gidget" fans as The Big Kahuna, the mature Malibu surf bum who takes Gidget under his wing.

He remained a busy, versatile leading man through the '60s and '70s, but lacked the intensity of Brando, James Dean and others who brought a new style of acting to the screen.

"I'm not one of the Golden Six," he commented in 1967, referring to the top male stars of that day. "I take what's left over."

"They all know me as a great utility player. 'Good old Cliff,' they say. Someday I'd like to be in there as the starting pitcher."

The chance came with "Charly," but after the usual Oscar flurry, he resumed his utility position.

Robertson had the most success in war movies. His strong presence made him ideal for such films as "The Naked and the Dead," ''Battle of Coral Sea," ''633 Squadron," ''Up From the Beach," ''The Devil's Brigade," ''Too Late the Hero" and "Midway."

He had a passion for flying, and he poured his movie earnings into buying and restoring World War I and II planes. He even entered balloon races, including one in 1964 from the mainland to Catalina Island that ended with him being rescued from the Pacific Ocean.

In 1957, Robertson married Lemmon's ex-wife, Cynthia Stone, and they had a daughter, Stephanie, before splitting in 1960. In 1966, he married Merrill and they had a daughter, Heather. The couple divorced in 1989.

Robertson's funeral is set for Friday in East Hampton, New York.

July 23, 2011

1940s actress Linda Christian dies

Linda Christian, a 1940s Hollywood actress nicknamed "anatomic bomb" by Life magazine for her stunning looks and famous for her marriage to actor Tyrone Power, has died aged 87, her daughter said here Saturday.

Romina Power told journalists in Rome that her mother, who had been suffering from colon cancer, died in Palm Springs on Friday.

Born in 1923 in Mexico, Christian -- whose real name was Blanca Rosa Henrietta Stella Welter Vorhauer -- was known for playing Mara in the last Tarzan film starring Johnny Weissmuller in 1948.

She was also the first James Bond girl in the 1954 television adaptation of "Casino Royale".
But she was perhaps most famous for her seven-year marriage to 20th Century Fox star Tyrone Power, with whom she had two children.

Thousands of people flocked to Rome to celebrate their wedding in 1949 in the Santa Francesca Romana church, a stone's throw from the Colosseum. The newlyweds were later received by Pope Pius XII.

After Power's death, Linda Christian married the English actor Edmund Purdom.

May 12, 2011

Norma Zimmer, TV's 'Champagne Lady,' dies at 87

Norma Zimmer, the "Champagne Lady" of TV's "The Lawrence Welk Show" and a studio singer who worked with Frank Sinatra and other pop stars, has died. She was 87.

Zimmer died peacefully Tuesday at her Brea, Calif., home, Welk's son, Larry, said Wednesday. Larry Welk didn't know the cause of death but said Zimmer had been living an active life in recent years.

"She was one of the most gracious, likable people that anyone could ever meet. The other people on the show, to this day, just respect and love her," Larry Welk said.

Zimmer performed on Welk's network and later syndicated show from 1960 to 1982 as the "Champagne Lady," the title Welk traditionally gave to his orchestra's lead female singer. Zimmer sang solos, duets with Jimmy Roberts and waltzed with Welk to the strains of his effervescent dance tunes tagged "champagne music."

She appeared on the orchestra's public TV specials that have aired (along with repeats of the series) since 1987. Zimmer took part in a tribute to Welk and his show held earlier this year at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.

Welk, who stopped performing in 1989, died in 1992.

Zimmer, born in July 1923 in Larson, Idaho, grew up in Seattle. The petite blonde sang with The Girlfriends, a quartet that performed with Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, including on Crosby's famed recording of "White Christmas."

Zimmer made several film and TV appearances, including one with Crosby in the 1950 film "Mr. Music" and in an episode of "I Love Lucy," and was the voice of the White Rose in the 1951 Disney film, "Alice in Wonderland."

Her survivors include her sons, Ron and Mark. Her husband, businessman Randy Zimmer, died in 2008.

Funeral services for Zimmer were pending.

May 08, 2011

'Body Snatchers' star Dana Wynter dies at 79

Dana Wynter, who ran from the Pod People in the 1956 science-fiction classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," has died in Southern California. She was 79.

Her son, Mark Bautzer, told the Los Angeles Times the actress died Thursday in Ojai of congestive heart failure.

Wynter, who starred in a number of television dramas in the 1960s, was best known for her role as Becky Driscoll in director Don Siegel's paranoid film about townspeople being replaced by emotionless duplicates grown from plant-like pods.

Born in Germany, Wynter grew up in England and studied to be a doctor before turning to acting.

She appeared with Robert Lansing in the ABC series "The Man Who Never Was," and starred in "Wagon Train," "Cannon" and "The Rockford Files."

Sada Thompson, 1970s TV mom, dies in Conn. at 81

Sada Thompson, the durable matriarch of stage and screen who won a Tony Award for her portraits of three sisters and their mother in the 1971 comedy "Twigs" and an Emmy Award for playing the eternally understanding mother in the television series "Family," has died at age 81.

Thompson died Wednesday of a lung disease at Danbury Hospital, agent David Shaul said Sunday from Los Angeles.

Thompson won wide acclaim during an illustrious career that spanned more than 60 years, during which she gravitated toward quality work that allowed her to plumb her characters' complexities.

"When you start off acting, it does seem very romantic, and the make-believe part of it all seems very exciting," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1991. "It's only later that you begin to realize how fascinating the work is — that it's a bottomless pit, and you never get to the end of it. Human character is just endlessly fascinating."

Even before she graduated in 1949 from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, then called the Carnegie Institute of Technology, she was on a trajectory to take on challenging roles drawn from the classics as well as contemporary plays.

A prolific actress, she made her mark in theater and film generally portraying the matriarchs in family dramas.

In her stage debut in 1945, she played Nick's Ma in William Saroyan's "The Time of Your Life." She was Mrs. Higgins in "Pygmalion" (1949), the resentful matriarch determined not to hurt again in "Real Estate" (1987), the embattled Mrs. Fisher in the 1991 comedy "The Show-Off," the slovenly and bitter mother, Beatrice, in the 1965 production of "The Effect Of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" and Dorine in "Tartuffe" (1965). She collected Obies for the latter two.

By far, her biggest Broadway success was "Twigs," by George Furth, in which she played three sisters — as well as their mother. The play took its title from a line by Alexander Pope: "Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined." She won a Tony and the New York Drama Critics Award that season.

The New York Times' Walter Kerr noted that what held the play together was "the peculiar luminosity that moves with Miss Thompson wherever she goes."

Throughout her career, her choices brought recognition from fellow actors more than they made her famous.

"When you're around great actors (like Thompson), they become an ideal or a goal that keeps reminding you of the quality you want your work to be," William Anton, who played Thompson's son in the 1989 San Diego production of "Driving Miss Daisy" and a preferred son-in-law in "The Show-Off," told the Los Angeles Times in 1991.

In the late '70s, she picked up an Emmy for her portrayal of the levelheaded Kate Lawrence in the ABC drama "Family," which ran for five seasons.

Born Sada Carolyn Thompson on Sept. 27, 1929, in Des Moines, Iowa, she got her unusual name from her maternal grandmother, whose name, Sarah, was turned into Sada. Her parents moved to New Jersey when she was 5, and her fascination with the stage began soon thereafter. Her parents would often take her to a summer theater where plays would stop on their way to Broadway or before they began their national tours.

"I saw stars like Helen Hayes, Maurice Evans, Tallulah Bankhead and Cornelia Otis Skinner," she told The Associated Press in 1987. "It was enchanting. I knew that was the world I wanted to be in."

In 1956, she won a Drama Desk Award for Moliere's "The Misanthrope" and for an English girl mourning the death of her half-brother in war in "The River Line" (1957). She was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Carla's mother in the NBC comedy "Cheers" (1991).

Thompson said she loved a good character role.

"There's always something more to be accomplished with a character," she told the AP in 1987.
"Theater is a human experience. There's nothing shellacked or finished off about it. I guess that's why it always draws me back."

Thompson met and married a fellow drama student, Donald Stewart, at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1949. Their daughter is a costume designer.

May 06, 2011

'Gypsy' playwright Arthur Laurents dies in NYC

Arthur Laurents, the director, playwright and screenwriter who wrote such enduring stage musicals as "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," as well as the movie classics "Rope" and "The Way We Were," died Thursday. He was 93.

Laurents died at his home in Manhattan from complications of pneumonia, said his agent, Jonathan Lomma.

Laurents had an extensive career in radio and in Hollywood, but it was on Broadway where he had his biggest successes — particularly with two musicals many consider to be among the finest ever written. And Laurents provided the book — or story — for both.

"West Side Story," which opened on Broadway in 1957, transformed Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" into musical theater. It had pulsating, jazz-flecked music by Leonard Bernstein and galvanizing direction and choreography by Jerome Robbins.

Robbins also directed and choreographed "Gypsy," based on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. The 1959 musical, with a score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, told the story of Rose, a domineering stage mother who pushed her daughter into show business. As Rose, Ethel Merman had the greatest triumph of her career.

The show, Laurents once said in an interview with The Associated Press, is "about the need for recognition, which is a need for love."

"Gypsy" has been successfully revived four times on Broadway, first in 1974 with Angela Lansbury as Rose, then with Tyne Daly in 1989 (Laurents directed both of them) and Bernadette Peters in 2003.

Laurents was back as director for the 2008 Broadway version, with Patti LuPone as Rose. The production won Tonys for LuPone and two featured, or supporting, performers. Laurents was nominated for best director but did not win.

"I directed this unlike I've directed any other musical," Laurents said in the 2008 interview. "We spent an awful lot of time sitting around the table and examining literally every line in the book and in the lyrics.

"I did a totally new `Rose's Turn' (the show's big finale) for Patti. ... I didn't feel it was right for her. Whoever plays Rose determines the tone of the production. And it had to be for Patti — what Patti is and what Patti does."

In 2009, Laurents directed a revised version of "West Side Story," giving the show a new dose of realism by having much of the dialogue in Spanish.

His credits as a stage director also include "I Can Get It for You Wholesale," best remembered as the musical that introduced a 19-year-old Barbra Streisand to Broadway in 1962, and "La Cage Aux Folles" (1983), the smash Jerry Herman musical that ran for four years.

Laurents was a short, compact man with a trim fighter's build and a direct manner of speaking. He was known for saying exactly what was on his mind.

He was born in Brooklyn, the son of an attorney. He attended Cornell University and after graduation began writing radio plays including scripts for such popular series as "Dr. Christian" and "The Thin Man." While serving in the Army during World War II, Laurents wrote military training films as well as scripts for such radio programs as "Army Service Forces Present" and "Assignment Home."

His wartime experiences led to his first Broadway play, "Home of the Brave," which opened in December 1945. The military drama about anti-Semitism had a short run but later was made into a well-received movie in which the theme was changed to racial rather than religious prejudice.

In Hollywood after the war, Laurents wrote or co-wrote scripts for such films as "Rope" (1948), Alfred Hitchcock's masterful take on the Leopold-Loeb murder case; an uncredited contribution to "The Snake Pit" (1948), a look at mental illness underlined by Olivia de Havilland's harrowing lead performance; "Caught" (1949), Max Ophuls' love triangle melodrama starring James Mason, Barbara Bel Geddes and Robert Ryan; and "Anna Lucasta" (1949), an all-white version of the black stage hit about a Brooklyn prostitute.

Laurents returned to the New York theater in 1950 with "The Bird Cage," a drama about a nightclub owner. It quickly flopped despite a cast that included Melvyn Douglas and Maureen Stapleton.

Two years later, he had one of his biggest successes, "The Time of the Cuckoo," a rueful comedy about a lonely woman who finds romance in Venice with an already married Italian shopkeeper. "Cuckoo" provided Shirley Booth with one of her best stage roles and was later made into the movie "Summertime," starring Katharine Hepburn.

In 1966, Laurents reworked "Cuckoo" as a musical, retitled "Do I Hear a Waltz?" It had music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Sondheim. The following year, he wrote the book for the musical "Hallelujah, Baby!" The show, starring Leslie Uggams and with a score by Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, won the best-musical Tony Award in 1968.

Laurents' biggest film successes occurred in the 1970s, first as screenwriter for "The Way We Were," the 1973 movie starring Streisand and Robert Redford who played lovers pulled apart by the ideological conflicts of the McCarthy period of the late 1940s and 1950s.

He also wrote the script for "The Turning Point," a 1977 film starring Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft as two former dancers still enmeshed in a personal rivalry. Other movies with screenplays by Laurents include "Anastasia" (1956) and the unsuccessful "Bonjour Tristesse" (1958), based on the novel by Francoise Sagan.

Laurents was not immune to stage failure, either. "Anyone Can Whistle," his 1964 collaboration with Sondheim, lasted only nine performances on Broadway. Yet thanks to its original cast recording featuring Angela Lansbury and Lee Remick, the show developed a cult following among musical-theater buffs.

In 1991, Laurents directed the musical "Nick and Nora," which he called "the biggest and most public flop of my career." Based on Dashiell Hammett's famous "Thin Man" detective couple — Nick and Nora Charles — the show played nearly two months of preview performances before finally opening — and closing — in less than a week.

Tony-winning `Promises, Promises' actress dies

Tony Award-winning "Promises, Promises" actress Marian Mercer, whose five-decade career also included dozens of television appearances, has died in California at age 75.

Her husband, Patrick Hogan, tells the Los Angeles Times that Mercer died April 27 of Alzheimer's disease complications in the Newbury Park area of Thousand Oaks, about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Besides her 1969 Broadway hit "Promises, Promises," Mercer won praise for the 1978 revival of "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off" co-starring Sammy Davis Jr.

On television, she starred in the ABC-TV comedy "It's a Living" from 1980 to 1982. She also had roles on "St. Elsewhere," "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" and "Love, American Style."

Besides her husband of 31 years, Mercer is survived by a daughter, Deirdre Whitaker, of Seattle.

May 04, 2011

Hollywood actor Jackie Cooper dead at 88

Actor Jackie Cooper, the former child star who enjoyed renewed fame years later as Daily Planet editor Perry White in the Christopher Reeve "Superman" movies, has died near Los Angeles, his attorney said on Wednesday. He was 88.

Cooper died on Tuesday at a convalescent home in the coastal city of Santa Monica. "He just kinda died of old age," attorney Roger Licht told Reuters. "He wore out."

He rose to fame as a prominent cast member of Hal Roach's "Our Gang" short comedy films, appearing in such notable releases as "Teacher's Pet" and "Love Business."

Cooper holds the record as the youngest actor to receive an Oscar nomination for his title role, at age 9, in the 1931 film "Skippy," an adaptation of the comic strip about a lively youngster.

Later that year, he co-starred in "The Champ" as the innocent son of a washed-up boxer played by Wallace Beery.

After a stint as a television executive during the 1960s and as a TV director during the 1970s, Cooper won over a new generation of fans playing grizzled newspaperman Perry White in the 1978 film "Superman" and its three sequels.

He co-wrote his memoirs, "Please Don't Shoot My Dog," in 1981. He was married three times, and is survived by two of his four children.

April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding

Who watched the Royal Wedding today? Comments? Cate's wedding dress reminded of Grace Kelly's. It was beautiful.

April 09, 2011

Lumet, '12 Angry Men' and 'Network' director, dies

Sidney Lumet, the award-winning director of such acclaimed films as "Network," "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon" and "12 Angry Men," has died. He was 86.

Lumet's death was confirmed Saturday by Marc Kusnetz, who is the husband of Lumet's stepdaughter, Leslie Gimbel. He said Lumet died during the night and had suffered from lymphoma.

A Philadelphia native, Lumet moved to New York City as a child, and it became the location of choice for more than 30 of his films. Although he freely admitted to a lifelong love affair with the city, he often showed its grittier side.

Such dramas as "Prince of the City," "Q&A," "Night Falls on Manhattan" and "Serpico" looked at the hard lives and corruptibility of New York police officers. "Dog Day Afternoon" told the true-life story of two social misfits who set in motion a chain of disastrous events when they tried to rob a New York City bank on an oppressively hot summer afternoon.

"It's not an anti-L.A. thing," Lumet said of his New York favoritism in a 1997 interview. "I just don't like to live in a company town."

Although he didn't work in Los Angeles, the director maintained good relations with the Hollywood studios, partly because he finished his pictures under schedule and budget. His television beginnings had schooled him in working fast, and he rarely shot more than four takes of a scene.

He was nominated four times for directing Academy Awards, and although he never won, Lumet did receive an honorary Oscar in 2005 for lifetime achievement. He also received the Directors Guild of America's prestigious D.W. Griffith Award for lifetime achievement in 1993.

Al Pacino, who produced memorable performances for Lumet in both "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Serpico," introduced the director at the 2005 Academy Awards.

"If you prayed to inhabit a character, Sidney was the priest who listened to your prayers, helped make them come true," the actor said.

Accepting the award, Lumet thanked the many directors who had inspired him, then added, "I guess I'd like to thank the movies (too)."

Lumet immediately established himself as an A-list director with his first theatrical film, 1957's "12 Angry Men," which took an early and powerful look at racial prejudice as it depicted 12 jurors trying to reach a verdict in a trial involving a young Hispanic man wrongly accused of murder. It garnered him his first Academy Award nomination.

Other Oscar nominations were for "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975), "Network" (1976) and "The Verdict" (1982).

"Network," a scathing view of the television business, proved to be Lumet's most memorable film and created an enduring catch phrase when crazed newscaster Peter Finch exhorted his audience to raise their windows and shout, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

It won Academy Awards for Paddy Chayefsky for best screenplay, Finch as best actor (presented posthumously) and Faye Dunaway as best actress.

Although best known for his hard-bitten portrayals of urban life, Lumet's resume also included films based on noted plays: Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night," Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge," and Tennessee Williams' "Orpheus Descending," which was made into "The Fugitive Kind." He also dealt with such matters as the Holocaust ("The Pawnbroker"), nuclear war ("Fail-Safe") and the convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg ("Daniel").

He directed a highly successful Agatha Christie mystery, the all-star "Murder on the Orient Express," as well.
Other popular Lumet films included "Running On Empty," "Equus," "Family Business' and "The Wiz."

The director was born June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia to a pair of Yiddish stage performers, and he began his show business career as a child actor, appearing on radio at age 4.

He made his Broadway debut in 1934 with a small role in Sidney Kingsley's acclaimed "Dead End," and he twice played Jesus, in Max Reinhardt's production of "The Eternal Road" and Maxwell Anderson's "Journey to Jerusalem."

After serving as a radar repairman in India and Burma during World War II, Lumet returned to New York and formed an acting company. In 1950, Yul Brynner, a friend and a director at CBS-TV, invited him to join the network as an assistant director. Soon he rose to director, working on 150 episodes of the "Danger" thriller as well as other series.

The advent of live TV dramas boosted Lumet's reputation. Like Arthur Penn, John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann and other directors of television drama's Golden Age, he smoothly made the transition to movies.
Lumet continued directing features into his 80s, and in 2001 he returned to his television roots, creating, writing, directing and executive producing a cable series, "100 Centre Street." It was filmed in his beloved New York.

In 2006, he brought out "Find Me Guilty," starring Vin Diesel and based on a true story about a mob trial in New Jersey. His final film was 2007's "Before the Devil Knows Your Dead," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei.

Lumet once claimed he didn't seek out New York-based projects.

"But any script that starts in New York has got a head start," he said in 1999. "It's a fact the city can become anything you want it to be."

His first three marriages ended in divorce: to actress Rita Gam, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt and Lena Horne's daughter, Gail Jones. In 1980, he married journalist Mary Gimbel.

March 29, 2011

1950s screen idol Farley Granger dead at 85

Farley Granger, the 1950s bobby sox screen idol who starred in the Alfred Hitchcock classics "Rope" and "Strangers on a Train," has died. He was 85.

Granger died Sunday of natural causes, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner's office.

Granger, who died at his Manhattan home, was an overnight Hollywood success story. He was a 16-year-old student at North Hollywood High School when he got the notion that he wanted to act and joined a little theater group.

Talent scouts for movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn saw the handsome youngster and signed him to a contract. His first movie was "The North Star" in 1943, a World War II story that starred Anne Baxter and Dana Andrews.

"It was one of those miracle careers," he said. "I had no talent and no training whatsoever and suddenly I was thrown ... (in) with Walter Huston, Erich von Stroheim, Anne Baxter, Ann Harding and Walter Brennan."

A decade later, at the height of his Hollywood stardom, he walked away from it to really learn his craft. He spent the rest of his career in a mix of movies, television and stage work.

Granger was born on July 1, 1925, in San Jose, Calif., where his father was a car dealer. The business went bust during the Depression and in 1933 the family moved to Los Angeles where he was subsequently spotted.

His career halted for U.S. Navy service during World War II — "I was chronically seasick." But when he was mustered out he returned to Hollywood and the Goldwyn publicity machine.

"Goldwyn firmly believed in big hype and hoopla for his stars, so he'd publicize me in projects that were never even written just to get space in the fan magazines," Granger once recalled.

The magazines ran pictures of Granger in swim trunks cavorting with such stars as Debbie Reynolds, Ann Blyth and Jane Powell. But he said the only serious romance he had with a woman was with Shelley Winters.

In the 2007 memoir "Include Me Out," written with his partner Robert Calhoun, Granger says he was bisexual.

He writes about a Honolulu night that epitomized his life. A 21-year-old virgin and wartime Navy recruit, he was determined to change his status. He did so with a young and lovely female prostitute. He was about to leave the premises when he ran into a handsome Navy officer. Granger was soon in bed again.

"I lost my virginity twice in one night," he writes.

His lifelong romance with Winters was "very much a love affair."

"It evolved into a very complex relationship, and we were close until the day she died," he said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press.

A briefer affair with Ava Gardner began when both quarreled with their dates at a Hollywood Christmas party. "We met at the bar and left together," he recalled in the interview. "It was a short but pretty intense and enormously fun affair."

He also writes about his same-sex celebrity affairs. For a time, he lived with Arthur Laurents, writer of the stage and movie versions of "West Side Story" and "Gypsy." In New York, Granger says he had a two-night fling with Leonard Bernstein.

Granger made "Rope" in 1948 and "Strangers on a Train" in 1951. In the latter, based on the classic novel by Patricia Highsmith, he played a tennis star who meets a man on a train. The other man, played by Robert Walker, turns out to be a psychotic who proposes that each of them murder the other's troublesome relative. He tells Granger's character, "Some people are better off dead — like your wife and my father, for instance."

Walker's character proceeds to carry out his part of the bargain, killing the tennis star's estranged wife and trapping the Granger character in an ever-tightening circle of suspicion.

Beside the two Hitchcock thrillers, Granger appeared in "They Live By Night," "Roseanna McCoy," "Side Street," "The Story of Three Loves," "Edge of Doom" and "Hans Christian Andersen."

But he wasn't happy with most of the films he was offered. "I was on suspension most of the time for turning down scripts," he recalled. Finally, in 1953, he effectively fired his boss and headed for New York.

"I bought out my contract from Goldwyn, which had two years to go. It took every penny I had. It helped that I didn't live a big fancy life, that I'd saved my money for a rainy day. Because that was a rainy day.

"I left Hollywood because I didn't know my craft," he said. "I was a star, but I knew nothing of the techniques of acting. I figured I'd better learn or I'd be in trouble when the star aspects of my career wore off."

In New York, he studied with Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner, among the top and most famous acting coaches.

"What saved my life then was live television, the so-called Golden Age of television drama," Granger said. "I did a lot of it and loved it. Most movie actors were afraid to go into live TV because they weren't used to it. I had to, just to make a living, but I also wanted to because it was the closest thing to theater."

He made his Broadway debut in 1960 in "First Impressions," a musical version of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." He later did two years with Eva Le Gallienne's repertory troupe and a considerable stint as the lead in the long-running thriller "Deathtrap."

Granger continued to make films over the years, including "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing," "The Serpent," "The Man called Noon," "The Imagemaker" and "The Whoopee Boys." He made several movies in Italy including Luchino Visconti's "Senso."

He also appeared in several daytime soaps, including "As the World Turns," "Edge of Night" and "One Life to Live," for which he received a Daytime Emmy nomination.

But he said he preferred the stage: "I feel I'm much more relaxed in front of an audience than a camera. I feel the response. The live audience really turns me on and I like it.

March 23, 2011

TCM: Elizabeth Taylor Memorial Program on 4/10

Turner Classic Movies will remember the life and career of two-time Academy Award®-winning actress and beloved humanitarian Elizabeth Taylor on Sunday, April 10. The 24-hour memorial tribute, which is set to begin at 6 a.m. (ET/PT), will include both of Taylor's Oscar®-winning performances, with Butterfield 8 (1960) at 8 p.m. (ET) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) at 10 p.m. (ET).

TCM's tribute will also feature Taylor in such memorable films as the family classics Lassie Come Home (1943) and National Velvet (1944); the delightful comedies Father of the Bride (1950) and Father's Little Dividend (1951); the historical epic Ivanhoe (1952); and the powerful dramas Giant (1956), Raintree County (1957) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). Also included is the spy drama Conspirator (1949), with Taylor in her first adult role.

The following is a complete schedule of TCM's April 10 memorial tribute to Elizabeth Taylor (all times Eastern):
6 a.m. - Lassie Come Home (1943), with Roddy McDowall and Edmund Gwenn; directed by Fred M. Wilcox.
7:30 a.m. - National Velvet (1944), with Mickey Rooney, Anne Revere and Angela Lansbury; directed by Clarence Brown.
10 a.m. - Conspirator (1952), with Robert Taylor and Robert Flemyng; directed by Victor Saville.
11:30 a.m. - Father of the Bride (1950), with Spencer Tracy, Billie Burke, Joan Bennett and Don Taylor; directed by Vincente Minnelli.
1:15 a.m. - Father's Little Dividend (1951), with Spencer Tracy, Billie Burke, Joan Bennett and Don Taylor; directed by Vincente Minnelli.
2:45 p.m. - Raintree County (1957), with Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Rod Taylor and Agnes Moorehead; directed by Edward Dmytryk.
6 p.m. - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), with Paul Newman and Burl Ives; directed by Richard Brooks.
8 p.m. - Butterfield 8 (1960), with Laurence Harvey and Eddie Fisher; directed by Daniel Mann.
10 p.m. - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), with Richard Burton, George Segal and Sandy Dennis; directed by Mike Nichols.
12:30 a.m. - Giant (1956), with James Dean and Rock Hudson; directed by George Stevens.
4 a.m. - Ivanhoe (1952), with Robert Taylor and Joan Fontaine; directed by Richard Thorpe.

In addition to TCM's on-air tribute to Taylor, the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood will feature a special 60th anniversary screening of her brilliant performance opposite Montgomery Clift in George Stevens' A Place in the Sun (1951). The TCM Classic Film Festival takes place April 28-May 1.

TCM REMEMBERS ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1932-2011)

There may be other contenders for the honor, but if you want the definitive picture to put next to the phrase "movie star" in the dictionary, there's only one person who truly fills the bill -- Elizabeth Taylor. One of the last of the great studio stars, Taylor encompasses all of the glamour and all of the contradictions of stardom. A beautiful child who never went through an awkward phase, she grew up to become one of the most desired women in Hollywood. Even as she matured as an actress of surprising depth, she was generating headlines that made her the focus of unbridled idolatry and unreasoning hatred.

In her 79 years, she has dazzled audiences with her talents for acting and living large, and inspired them with her refusal to give in to heartache or illness. Like every great star she has re-invented herself as needed, ranging from child beauty to budding actress to fallen woman to diva to respected leader in the fight against AIDS. Through it all, the studio manipulations, the broken marriages, and the constant headlines, her greatest accomplishment is simply being her own woman.

Taylor's legendary beauty preceded her first films. According to legend, a talent scout spotted her playing as a child and tried to interest her mother in putting her up for the role of Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone with the Wind (1939). She started dancing at three in her native London, where she performed in a recital for Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. When World War II started, her art dealer father sent the girl and her mother to California to escape the Blitz.

As more and more people commented on the child's beauty, her mother finally decided to make the rounds, winning her a screen test at Universal, where she made her big-screen debut opposite "Our Gang" star Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer in There's One Born Every Minute (1942). When the studio didn't have any other roles for her, Taylor's father, now in the U.S., ran into MGM executive Sam Marx while volunteering as an air warden. That led to another test and a contract. Studio head Louis B. Mayer kept a stable of child stars that at various times included Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Lana Turner to play out variations on his dreams of the perfect American family. With her dark hair, perfect face and violet eyes, Taylor was a welcome addition to Mayer's vision. Her first Metro film was Lassie Come Home (1943), which started a lifelong friendship with co-star Roddy McDowall.

Taylor worked out for months to win the role of Velvet Brown in National Velvet (1944), a project that years earlier had been planned for Katharine Hepburn. At 13, however, Taylor was perfect as the young girl devoted to her horse. She so loved the film that the studio gave her the horse that played Pie after the picture wrapped. The critical and box-office success made it clear that Taylor was a very special child indeed. The studio didn't always heed that lesson. Some of her early films, like Cynthia (1947), were pedestrian at best. But in the right vehicle, as when she tried to rehabilitate Lassie after wartime service in Courage of Lassie (1946), she was dazzling.

Taylor matured early. By the time she was 16, she seemed adult enough to win Robert Stack from Jane Powell in A Date with Judy (1948), even though both leading ladies were cast as high-school girls. At 18, she graduated to adult roles as Spencer Tracy's daughter in Father of the Bride (1950), a film that got a big publicity boost out of her marriage to hotel heir Conrad "Nicky" Hilton, and as Robert Taylor's wife in Conspirator (1949). While filming the latter, she also had to deal with her co-star's very adult ardor for her.

Taylor's first grown-up roles were mainly built around her beauty. All she had to do was look good while Robert Taylor fought for her honor in Ivanhoe (1952) or Stewart Granger tried to make his fortune in Beau Brummell (1954). But the talents that had made National Velvet so successful were still there, waiting for the right vehicle. She found one such part when MGM loaned her to Paramount for A Place in the Sun (1951). She showed surprising passion and subtlety as the wealthy young woman who falls for social-climbing Montgomery Clift and even impressed her very serious co-star, who became another close friend. Taylor would credit the F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) as the first film in which she realized how much she wanted to be respected as an actress, but there are hints of a more mature approach to her work in Rhapsody (1954), in which she plays an heiress involved with the classical music world, and Elephant Walk (1954), as a plantation owner's wife torn between her husband and his plantation manager. In the latter, she replaced an ailing Vivien Leigh and had to match footage already shot with the other actress. The film made her more beautiful than ever, which may have blinded critics to the quality of her work.

MGM finally realized they had an actress on their hands when a loan to Warner Bros. for Giant (1956) earned her critical raves. The studio began developing projects to exploit both her beauty and her acting, helping her to her first Oscar® nomination with Raintree County (1957), a Civil War tale about a Southern belle who goes mad.

When Grace Kelly retired from films to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco, the studio projects she left unfilmed included Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). Taylor's third husband, showman Mike Todd, convinced the studio to cast her in the role, and she scored another triumph. Making her accomplishment more amazing was the fact that she shot the film while mourning for Todd, who was killed in a plane crash during the making of Cat. By the time the film came out, Taylor was making headlines again, this time as the scarlet woman who had stolen Todd's friend, singer Eddie Fisher, from wife Debbie Reynolds. Although she was denounced by some, the publicity drove ticket sales for the adult drama, and the film brought her a second Oscar® nomination.

Taylor took another stab at a Tennessee Williams adaptation, co-starring with Clift and Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). Again, she turned in a surprisingly good performance, pulling off a lengthy final monologue about her cousin's tragic fate. The film brought her third Oscar® nomination. 20th Century-Fox had offered her the title role in their epic Cleopatra (1963), prompting her to jokingly demand $1 million, the highest fee ever paid an actor at that time. When they compromised on $750,000 and a percentage, she couldn't say, "No." But she still owed MGM one more film. With no time to turn anything down, they stuck her in Butterfield 8 (1960), a turgid adaptation of John O'Hara's novel about a high-priced call girl. Taylor hated the film. When the studio screened it for her, she threw a drink at the screen. Still, she gave a respectable performance and won her fourth Oscar® nomination in as many years.

By the time Butterfield 8 came out, she was already working on Cleopatra in England. The harsh English winter gave her a cold that turned into pneumonia. Suddenly headlines proclaimed that she was at death's door. She survived, and the publicity brought her first Oscar® win against some very strong competition. At last, the world seemed to have forgiven her "stealing" Fisher from Debbie Reynolds.

By the time she returned to work on Cleopatra, there had been some changes. Director Rouben Mamoulian had dropped out and been replaced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and leading men Peter Finch and Stephen Boyd had gone off to work on other films. To replace them, Fox hired Rex Harrison and Richard Burton. That's when the headlines started all over again. A few days after they filmed their first scenes as legendary lovers Cleopatra and Marc Antony, Taylor and Burton were engaged in a passionate affair. Before long, Fisher left the location in Rome, followed later by Burton's wife. By the time the film ended, both marriages were over, and Taylor was a pariah once again. The bloated production's box office failure didn't help, either, and Fox tried to sue her for slowing production and causing bad publicity.

As soon as Taylor and Burton had finished Cleopatra, however, they played an estranged couple in The V.I.P.s (1963), a Grand Hotel in an airport with an all-star cast including Orson Welles, Margaret Rutherford, Rod Taylor and Maggie Smith. Critics hated the film, but audiences bought tickets thinking they were getting an inside look at the infamous couple. The same attraction worked with The Sandpiper (1965), a turgid romance with bohemian artist Taylor falling for married priest Burton, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), their best film together. For her role as the slatternly wife of a college professor, Taylor gained weight, grayed her hair and had the makeup men add rather than hide wrinkles. Her searing performance brought her a second Oscar®, and this time she could feel that it was deserved.

After Virginia Woolf, however, their box office popularity started to decline. By now married, the pair continued to generate headlines with their expensive purchases and jet-set socializing, but their films grew steadily worse. For one thing, she and Burton priced themselves out of many interesting mid-budget films. For another, his drinking impaired his judgment. Scripts like Boom (1968) and Hammersmith Is Out (1972) had critics lamenting the betrayal of both stars' abilities and talent. Oddly, when they announced their separation in 1973, they each got some of their best reviews for their TV movie, Divorce His - Divorce Hers; Taylor also received plaudits for the plastic surgery drama Ash Wednesday (1973) but it wasn't enough to restore her waning career.

As film work dried up, Taylor explored other acting opportunities, guesting on the soap opera General Hospital and starring in an acclaimed revival of The Little Foxes on Broadway. She even reunited with Burton for a stage tour of Private Lives. But she soon found a more productive outlet for her talents. The death of her friend Rock Hudson from AIDS complications in 1985 put Taylor in the center of the controversy over the disease. She soon became a tireless worker for AIDS-related charities, eventually winning a third Oscar®, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for her efforts.

Even in semi-retirement, Taylor has remained a star and will always be one even after more acclaimed actors are long forgotten. She died at the age of 79 at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Hospital on March 23, 2011.

Film legend Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79 in LA


Elizabeth Taylor, the violet-eyed film goddess whose sultry screen persona, stormy personal life and enduring fame and glamour made her one of the last of the classic movie stars and a template for the modern celebrity, died Wednesday at age 79.

She was surrounded by her four children when she died of congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she had been hospitalized for about six weeks, said publicist Sally Morrison.

"My Mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love," her son, Michael Wilding, said in a statement.

"We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts."

"We have just lost a Hollywood giant," said Elton John, a longtime friend of Taylor. "More importantly, we have lost an incredible human being."

Taylor was the most blessed and cursed of actresses, the toughest and the most vulnerable. She had extraordinary grace, wealth and voluptuous beauty, and won three Academy Awards, including a special one for her humanitarian work. She was the most loyal of friends and a defender of gays in Hollywood when AIDS was new to the industry and beyond. But she was afflicted by ill health, failed romances (eight marriages, seven husbands) and personal tragedy.

"I think I'm becoming fatalistic," she said in 1989. "Too much has happened in my life for me not to be fatalistic."

Her more than 50 movies included unforgettable portraits of innocence and of decadence, from the children's classic "National Velvet" and the sentimental family comedy "Father of the Bride" to Oscar-winning transgressions in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "Butterfield 8." The historical epic "Cleopatra" is among Hollywood's greatest on-screen fiascos and a landmark of off-screen monkey business, the meeting ground of Taylor and Richard Burton, the "Brangelina" of their day.

She played enough bawdy women on film for critic Pauline Kael to deem her "Chaucerian Beverly Hills."

But her defining role, one that lasted past her moviemaking days, was "Elizabeth Taylor," ever marrying and divorcing, in and out of hospitals, gaining and losing weight, standing by Michael Jackson, Rock Hudson and other troubled friends, acquiring a jewelry collection that seemed to rival Tiffany's.

She was a child star who grew up and aged before an adoring, appalled and fascinated public. She arrived in Hollywood when the studio system tightly controlled an actor's life and image, had more marriages than any publicist could explain away and carried on until she no longer required explanation. She was the industry's great survivor, and among the first to reach that special category of celebrity — famous for being famous, for whom her work was inseparable from the gossip around it.

The London-born actress was a star at age 12, a bride and a divorcee at 18, a superstar at 19 and a widow at 26. She was a screen sweetheart and martyr later reviled for stealing Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds, then for dumping Fisher to bed Burton, a relationship of epic passion and turbulence, lasting through two marriages and countless attempted reconciliations.

She was also forgiven. Reynolds would acknowledge voting for Taylor when she was nominated for "Butterfield 8" and decades later co-starred with her old rival in "These Old Broads," co-written by Carrie Fisher, the daughter of Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.

Taylor's ailments wore down the grudges. She underwent at least 20 major operations and she nearly died from a bout with pneumonia in 1990. In 1994 and 1995, she had both hip joints replaced, and in February 1997, she underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. In 1983, she acknowledged a 35-year addiction to sleeping pills and pain killers. Taylor was treated for alcohol and drug abuse problems at the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Her troubles bonded her to her peers and the public, and deepened her compassion. Her advocacy for AIDS research and for other causes earned her a special Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1993.

As she accepted it, to a long ovation, she declared, "I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being รข€” to prove that we are a human race, to prove that our love outweighs our need to hate, that our compassion is more compelling than our need to blame."

The dark-haired Taylor made an unforgettable impression in Hollywood with "National Velvet," the 1945 film in which the 12-year-old belle rode a steeplechase horse to victory in the Grand National.

Critic James Agee wrote of her: "Ever since I first saw the child ... I have been choked with the peculiar sort of adoration I might have felt if we were in the same grade of primary school."

"National Velvet," her fifth film, also marked the beginning of Taylor's long string of health issues. During production, she fell off a horse. The resulting back injury continued to haunt her.

Taylor matured into a ravishing beauty in "Father of the Bride," in 1950, and into a respected performer and femme fatale the following year in "A Place in the Sun," based on the Theodore Dreiser novel "An American Tragedy." The movie co-starred her close friend Montgomery Clift as the ambitious young man who drowns his working-class girlfriend to be with the socialite Taylor. In real life, too, men all but committed murder in pursuit of her.

Through the rest of the 1950s and into the 1960s, she and Marilyn Monroe were Hollywood's great sex symbols, both striving for appreciation beyond their physical beauty, both caught up in personal dramas filmmakers could only wish they had imagined. That Taylor lasted, and Monroe died young, was a matter of luck and strength; Taylor lived as she pleased and allowed no one to define her but herself.

"I don't entirely approve of some of the things I have done, or am, or have been. But I'm me. God knows, I'm me," Taylor said around the time she turned 50.

She had a remarkable and exhausting personal and professional life. Her marriage to Michael Todd ended tragically when the producer died in a plane crash in 1958. She took up with Fisher, married him, then left him for Burton. Meanwhile, she received several Academy Award nominations and two Oscars.

She was a box-office star cast in numerous "prestige" films, from "Raintree County" with Clift to "Giant," an epic co-starring her friends Hudson and James Dean. Nominations came from a pair of movies adapted from work by Tennessee Williams: "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Suddenly, Last Summer." In "Butterfield 8," released in 1960, she starred with Fisher as a doomed girl-about-town. Taylor never cared much for the film, but her performance at the Oscars wowed the world.

Sympathy for Taylor's widowhood had turned to scorn when she took up with Fisher, who had supposedly been consoling her over the death of Todd. But before the 1961 ceremony, she was hospitalized from a nearly fatal bout with pneumonia and Taylor underwent a tracheotomy. The scar was bandaged when she appeared at the Oscars to accept her best actress trophy for "Butterfield 8."

To a standing ovation, she hobbled to the stage. "I don't really know how to express my great gratitude," she said in an emotional speech. "I guess I will just have to thank you with all my heart." It was one of the most dramatic moments in Academy Awards history.

"Hell, I even voted for her," Reynolds later said.

Greater drama awaited: "Cleopatra." Taylor met Burton while playing the title role in the 1963 epic, in which the brooding, womanizing Welsh actor co-starred as Mark Antony. Their chemistry was not immediate. Taylor found him boorish; Burton mocked her physique. But the love scenes on film continued away from the set and a scandal for the ages was born. Headlines shouted and screamed. Paparazzi, then an emerging breed, snapped and swooned. Their romance created such a sensation that the Vatican denounced the happenings as the "caprices of adult children."

The film so exceeded its budget that the producers lost money even though "Cleopatra" was a box-office hit and won four Academy awards. (With its $44 million budget adjusted for inflation, "Cleopatra" remains the most expensive movie ever made.) Taylor's salary per film topped $1 million. "Liz and Dick" became the ultimate jet set couple, on a first name basis with millions who had never met them.

They were a prolific acting team, even if most of the movies aged no better than their marriages: "The VIPs" (1963), "The Sandpiper" (1965), "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966), "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967), "The Comedians" (1967), "Dr. Faustus" (1967), "Boom!" (1968), "Under Milk Wood" (1971) and "Hammersmith Is Out" (1972).

Art most effectively imitated life in the adaptation of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" — in which Taylor and Burton played mates who fought viciously and drank heavily. She took the best actress Oscar for her performance as the venomous Martha in "Virginia Woolf" and again stole the awards show, this time by not showing up at the ceremony. She refused to thank the academy upon learning of her victory and chastised voters for not honoring Burton.

Taylor and Burton divorced in 1974, married again in 1975 and divorced again in 1976.

"We fight a great deal," Burton once said, "and we watch the people around us who don't quite know how to behave during these storms. We don't fight when we are alone."

In 1982, Taylor and Burton appeared in a touring production of the Noel Coward play "Private Lives," in which they starred as a divorced couple who meet on their respective honeymoons. They remained close at the time of Burton's death, in 1984.

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London on Feb. 27, 1932, the daughter of Francis Taylor, an art dealer, and the former Sara Sothern, an American stage actress. At age 3, with extensive ballet training already behind her, Taylor danced for British princesses Elizabeth (the future queen) and Margaret Rose at London's Hippodrome. At age 4, she was given a wild field horse that she learned to ride expertly.

At the onset of World War II, the Taylors came to the United States. Francis Taylor opened a gallery in Beverly Hills and, in 1942, his daughter made her screen debut with a bit part in the comedy "There's One Born Every Minute."

Her big break came soon thereafter. While serving as an air-raid warden with MGM producer Sam Marx, Taylor's father learned that the studio was struggling to find an English girl to play opposite Roddy McDowall in "Lassie Come Home." Taylor's screen test for the film won her both the part and a long-term contract. She grew up quickly after that.

Still in school at 16, she would dash from the classroom to the movie set where she played passionate love scenes with Robert Taylor in "Conspirator."

"I have the emotions of a child in the body of a woman," she once said. "I was rushed into womanhood for the movies. It caused me long moments of unhappiness and doubt."

Soon after her screen presence was established, she began a series of very public romances. Early loves included socialite Bill Pawley, home run slugger Ralph Kiner and football star Glenn Davis.

Then, a roll call of husbands:

• She married Conrad Hilton Jr., son of the hotel magnate, in May 1950 at age 18. The marriage ended in divorce that December.
• When she married British actor Michael Wilding in February 1952, he was 39 to her 19. They had two sons, Michael Jr. and Christopher Edward. That marriage lasted 4 years.
• She married cigar-chomping movie producer Michael Todd, also 20 years her senior, in 1957. They had a daughter, Elizabeth Francis. Todd was killed in a plane crash in 1958.
• The best man at the Taylor-Todd wedding was Fisher. He left his wife Debbie Reynolds to marry Taylor in 1959. She converted to Judaism before the wedding.
• Taylor and Fisher moved to London, where she was making "Cleopatra." She met Burton, who also was married. That union produced her fourth child, Maria.
• After her second marriage to Burton ended, she married John Warner, a former secretary of the Navy, in December 1976. Warner was elected a U.S. senator from Virginia in 1978. They divorced in 1982.
• In October 1991, she married Larry Fortensky, a truck driver and construction worker she met while both were undergoing treatment at the Betty Ford Center in 1988. He was 20 years her junior. The wedding, held at the ranch of Michael Jackson, was a media circus that included the din of helicopter blades, a journalist who parachuted to a spot near the couple and a gossip columnist as official scribe.

But in August 1995, she and Fortensky announced a trial separation; she filed for divorce six months later and the split became final in 1997.

"I was taught by my parents that if you fall in love, if you want to have a love affair, you get married," she once remarked. "I guess I'm very old-fashioned."

Her philanthropic interests included assistance for the Israeli War Victims Fund, the Variety Clubs International and the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

She received the Legion of Honor, France's most prestigious award, in 1987, for her efforts to support AIDS research. In May 2000, Queen Elizabeth II made Taylor a dame — the female equivalent of a knight — for her services to the entertainment industry and to charity.

In 1993, she won a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute; in 1999, an institute survey of screen legends ranked her No. 7 among actresses.

During much of her later career, Taylor's waistline, various diets, diet books and tangled romances were the butt of jokes by Joan Rivers and others. John Belushi mocked her on "Saturday Night Live," dressing up in drag and choking on a piece of chicken.

"It's a wonder I didn't explode," Taylor wrote of her 60-pound weight gain — and successful loss — in the 1988 book "Elizabeth Takes Off on Self-Esteem and Self-Image."

She was an iconic star, but her screen roles became increasingly rare in the 1980s and beyond. She appeared in several television movies, including "Poker Alice" and "Sweet Bird of Youth," and entered the Stone Age as Pearl Slaghoople in the movie version of "The Flintstones." She had a brief role on the popular soap opera "General Hospital."

Taylor was the subject of numerous unauthorized biographies and herself worked on a handful of books, including "Elizabeth Taylor: An Informal Memoir" and "Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewelry." In tune with the media to the end, she kept in touch through her Twitter account.

"I like the connection with fans and people who have been supportive of me," Taylor told Kim Kardashian in a 2011 interview for Harper's Bazaar. "And I love the idea of real feedback and a two-way street, which is very, very modern. But sometimes I think we know too much about our idols and that spoils the dream."

Survivors include her daughters Maria Burton-Carson and Liza Todd-Tivey, sons Christopher and Michael Wilding, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A private family funeral is planned later this week.

March 12, 2011

'Merry Little Christmas' songwriter Martin dies

Hugh Martin, the composer-songwriter whose works included "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Trolley Song," died Friday. He was 96.

He died from natural causes at his home in Encinitas, Calif., said Martin's niece Suzanne Hanners.

Martin and songwriting partner Ralph Blane co-wrote such catchy tunes as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Trolley Song" and "The Boy Next Door" from the musical "Meet Me in St. Louis."

Martin, who hailed from Birmingham, Ala., also crafted songs for several other film and Broadway musicals, including "Best Foot Forward," "Make a Wish," "High Spirits" and "Hooray for What!"

He was nominated for best original song Academy Awards for "The Trolley Song" in 1944 and "Pass the Peace Pipe" from "Good News" in 1947. He wrote about his exploits in show business in his 2010 autobiography, "Hugh Martin: The Boy Next Door."

Martin is survived by his brother Gordon Martin; nephews Gordon Martin Jr. and Hugh Martin III; and nieces Hanners and Lua Martin Wells.

March 01, 2011

Jane Russell, star of '40s and '50s films, dies

She was the voluptuous pin-up girl who set a million male hearts to pounding during World War II, the favorite movie star of a generation of young men long before she'd made a movie more than a handful of them had ever seen.
Such was the stunning beauty of Jane Russell, and the marketing skills of the man who discovered her, the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.
Russell, surrounded by family members, died Monday at her home in the central coast city of Santa Maria. Her death from respiratory failure came 70 years after Hughes had put her on the path to stardom with his controversial Western "The Outlaw." She was 89.
Although she had all but abandoned Hollywood after the 1960s for a quieter life, her daughter-in-law Etta Waterfield said Russell remained active until just a few weeks ago when her health began to fail. Until then, she was active with her church, charities that were close to her heart and as a member of a singing group that made occasional appearances around Santa Maria.
"She always said 'I'm going to die in the saddle, I'm not going to sit at home and become an old woman,'" Waterfield told The Associated Press on Monday. "And that's exactly what she did, she died in the saddle."
It was an apt metaphor for a stunningly beautiful woman who first made her mark as the scandalously sexy and provocatively dressed (for the time) pal of Billy the Kid, in a Western that Hughes fought for years with censors to get into wide release.
As the billionaire battled to bring the picture to audiences, his publicity mill promoted Russell relentlessly, grinding out photos of her in low-cut costumes, swimsuits and other outfits that became favorite pinups of World War II GIs.
To contain her ample bust, the designer of the "Spruce Goose" airplane used his engineering skills to make Russell a special push-up bra (one she said she never wore). He also bought the ailing RKO film studio and signed her to a 20-year contract that paid her $1,000 a week.
By the time she made her third film, the rollicking comedy-western "The Paleface," in which she played tough- but-sexy Calamity Jane to Bob Hope's cowardly dentist sidekick, she was a star.
She went on to appear in a series of potboilers for RKO, including "His Kind of Woman" (with Robert Mitchum), "Double Dynamite" (Frank Sinatra, Groucho Marx), "The Las Vegas Story" (Victor Mature) and "Macao" (Mitchum again).
Although her sultry, sensual look and her hourglass figure made her the subject of numerous nightclub jokes, unlike Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and other pinup queens of the era, Russell was untouched by scandal in her personal life.
During her Hollywood career she was married to star UCLA and pro football quarterback Bob Waterfield.
"The Outlaw," although it established her reputation, was beset with trouble from the beginning. It took two years to make, according to its theatrical trailer, and director Howard Hawks, one of Hollywood's most eminent and autocratic filmmakers, became so rankled under producer Hughes' constant suggestions that he walked out.
"Hughes directed the whole picture — for nine bloody months!" Russell said in 1999.
It had scattered brief runs beginning in 1943, earning scathing reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it "one of the weirdest Western pictures that ever unreeled before the public."
Russell's only other notable film was "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," a 1953 musical based on the novel by Anita Loos that cast her opposite Monroe.
She followed that up with the 1954 musical "The French Line," which — like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" — had her cavorting on an ocean liner. The film was shot in 3-D, and the promotional campaign for it proclaimed "J.R. in 3D. Need we say more?"
In 1955, she made the sequel "Gentlemen Marry Brunettes" (without Monroe) and starred in the Westerns "The Tall Men," with Clark Gable, and "Foxfire," with Jeff Chandler. But by the 1960s, her film career had faded.
"Why did I quit movies?" she remarked in 1999. "Because I was getting too old! You couldn't go on acting in those years if you were an actress over 30."
She continued to appear in nightclubs, television and musical theater, including a stint on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim's "Company." She formed a singing group with Connie Haines and Beryl Davis, and they recorded gospel songs.
For many years she served as TV spokeswoman for Playtex bras, and in the 1980s she made a few guest appearances in the TV series "The Yellow Rose."
She was born Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell on June 21, 1921, in Bemidji, Minn., and the family later moved to Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Her mother was a lay preacher, and she encouraged the family to build a chapel in their back yard.
Despite her mother's Christian teachings, young Jane had a wild side. She wrote in her 1985 autobiography, "My Paths and Detours," that during high school she had a back-alley abortion, which may have rendered her unable to bear children.
Her early ambition was to design clothes and houses, but that was postponed until her later years. While working as a receptionist, she was spotted by a movie agent who submitted her photos to Hughes.
The producer was famous for dating his discoveries, as well as numerous other Hollywood actresses, but his contact with Russell remained strictly business. Her engagement and 1943 marriage to Waterfield assured that.
She was the leader of the Hollywood Christian Group, a cluster of film people who gathered for Bible study and good works. After experiencing problems in adopting her three children, she founded World Adoption International Agency, which has helped facilitate adoptions of more than 40,000 children from overseas.
She made hundreds of appearances for WAIF and served on the board for 40 years.
As she related in "My Path and Detours," her life was marked by heartache. Her 24-year marriage to Waterfield ended in bitter divorce in 1968. They had adopted two boys and a girl.
That year she married actor Roger Barrett; three months later he died of a heart attack. In 1978 she married developer John Peoples, and they lived in Sedona, Ariz., and later, Santa Barbara. He died in 1999 of heart failure.
Over the years, Russell was also beset by alcoholism. She was able to rebound from troubles by relying on lessons she learned from her Bible-preaching mother.
"Without faith, I never would have made it," she commented a few months after her third husband's death. "I don't know how people can survive all the disasters in their lives if they don't have any faith, if they don't know the Lord loves them and cares about them and has another plan."
Survivors include her children, Thomas K. Waterfield, Tracy Foundas and Robert "Buck" Waterfield, six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
A public funeral is scheduled March 12 at 11 a.m. at Pacific Christian Church in Santa Maria.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in her name to either the Care Net Pregnancy and Resource Center of Santa Maria or the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County.

February 13, 2011

Betty Garrett, actress in film, TV, Broadway, dies


Betty Garrett, the vivacious Broadway star who played Frank Sinatra's sweetheart in two MGM musicals before her career was hampered by the Hollywood blacklist, has died in Los Angeles, her son said Sunday. She was 91.
Garrett died Saturday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, most likely from an aortic aneurysm, said her son, Garrett Parks. Garrett had been in good health and taught her usual musical comedy class at Theater West, the non-profit organization she helped found, on Wednesday night, but Friday checked into the hospital with heart trouble, and died with her family at her side the following morning.
Garrett was best known as the flirtatious girl in love with the shy Sinatra in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "On the Town," both in 1949, and later in life she became well-known to TV audiences with recurring roles in the 1970s sitcoms "All in the Family" and "Laverne and Shirley."
Her movie career was brief, largely because of the Red Hunt led by congressmen who forced her husband, actor Larry Parks, to testify about his earlier membership in the Communist Party.
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 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.
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."
Garrett had also had a brief dalliance with the party but wasn't called to testify, perhaps, she said, "because I was nine months pregnant with my second son, and they didn't think I would be a good witness."
Garrett's stage career began to click when she sang the show-stopping "South America, Take It Away" in "Call Me Mister" on Broadway in 1946. That brought Hollywood offers, and at 27 she signed a contract with MGM, then the king of musical movies. Her son said aside from her family she considered the work she would do for MGM her life's highest point.
"She was very proud of the MGM musicals," Parks said.
Particularly memorable was "On the Town," the Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein musical about three sailors on leave in New York City. She played the comically aggressive cab driver who pursues Sinatra (singing the racy "Come Up to My Place") while his pals, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin, team up with Vera-Ellen and Ann Miller.
Besides the two pictures with Sinatra, she appeared in "Words and Music" and "Neptune's Daughter," in which she and Red Skelton sang the Oscar-winning song "Baby, It's Cold Outside."
MGM dropped her after Parks' testimony, and she received no film offers until she co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Janet Leigh in the 1955 musical version of "My Sister Eileen," playing Eileen's (Leigh's) sister, Ruth.
Unable to find much work in Hollywood, she and Parks hit the road with a musical act. It proved a hit in Las Vegas, London and other cities. When the bookings thinned out, Parks became a home builder. He died in 1975.
Betty maintained a busy career in theater and television. She played recurring roles in "All in the Family," as the chatty friend of Edith Bunker who duels with Archie, and "Laverne and Shirley," as a landlady who married Laverne's father.
She garnered an Emmy nomination in 2003 for guest actress in a comedy series for an appearance on the Ted Danson sitcom "Becker."
Over the years, she also had sporadic roles on Broadway, including parts in "Spoon River Anthology" in 1963 and "Meet Me in St. Louis" in 1989. She was back on Broadway in 2001 in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies."
In 1998, she published her autobiography, "Betty Garrett and Other Songs," which was the title of her one-woman show.
She also taught and appeared in plays at Workshop West, which she helped found in the late 1950s.
Asked in 1998 if she retained bitterness that she and Parks were blacklisted, she replied: "It's not my nature to be bitter. What I feel is deep sorrow. We both, I think, were just on the verge of becoming really big stars, particularly Larry. And it just went crashing down."
Betty Garrett was born in 1919 in St. Joseph, Mo. Her father, a traveling salesman, moved his wife and daughter to Seattle. He died of alcoholism when Betty was 2. She attended Roman Catholic schools though she wasn't a Catholic.
She had demonstrated a talent for dancing and acting, and her ambitious mother took her to New York where she had won a scholarship at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse. Betty was 17.
Garrett's stage debut came with "Danton's Death" at Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre in 1938. Later shows included "All in Fun," "Something for the Boys," "Laffin' Room Only" and "Bells Are Ringing." She also danced with the Martha Graham troupe, worked summers on the Borscht Belt, and even wore a fake jewel in her navel as a $25-a-week chorus girl in the Latin Quarter in Boston.
In addition to Garrett Parks, a composer, his wife Karen Culliver Parks and her granddaughter Madison Claire Parks, she was survived by her son Andrew Parks, an actor, and his wife Katy Melody.
The family did not plan to have a funeral, but was planning a memorial service for later in the month.