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"In the Spotlight"

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In the Spotlight: BETTY GARRETT




The sunny singer, dancer and comic actress, belonged to the golden era of the movie musical. She was born Betty Garrett on May 23, 1919, in St. Joseph, Missouri.


Betty Garrett trained at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse and, undecided between drama and dance, tried both, acting with Orson Welles' famed Mercury Theatre and performing with Martha Graham's dance company.

For Garrett, musical comedy seemed a happy compromise. When she was performing with the American Youth Theatre, Mike Todd saw her and signed her to understudy Ethel Merman in "Something For The Boys".


Other Broadway shows followed including "Jackpot", "Laffing Room Only", and "Call Me Mister", where her rendition of "South America, Take It Away" won her the Donaldson Award, the forerunner of the Tony Award.


She married actor Larry Parks in 1944, star of "The Jolson Story" (1946) and "Jolson Sings Again" (1949).


Garrett moved to California where she made her film debut as Shoo Shoo Grady in the Margaret O'Brien film "Big City", and co-starred in the popular MGM musicals "On the Town", "Take Me Out To The Ball Game", "Words and Music", "Neptune's Daughter", and "My Sister Eileen".


In 1951 she was at the top of her game when the Communist scare in the 1950s brought her career to a screeching, ugly halt.

Larry Parks became one of the blacklisted "Hollywood 19" to be brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Although Garrett was never accused, her Hollywood career suffered because of her husband's predicament. She found out to her happy surprise that the blacklist did not extend to Las Vegas or New York City.


Garrett and Parks formed a musical team and toured nightclubs and theatres in the United States and England. Part of the reasons the couple started acting in England was because of her husband being black listed, which also affected her career, making it hard for them to work in the states.


Sadly, in 1975 after 30 years of marriage, Larry Parks died of a heart attack at age 60.


Betty carried on, and today, she is probably best known for a pair of roles in two prominent 1970s sitcoms, "All in the Family" playing Archie Bunker's socially liberal next-door neighbor, Irene Lorenzo (for which she won an Emmy Award) and on "Laverne and Shirley" as Edna Babish, landlady of the ditzy duo.

She also was nominated for an Emmy Award for a guest stint on "Becker".


When not appearing in musicals or films and stage, she has played non-musical roles, starring in plays such as "A Girl Could Get Lucky", "Miss Reardon Drinks A Little", and "Plaza Suite".


Miss Garrett has never remarried, and at age 88 and the mother of two sons, composer Garrett Parks and actor Andrew Parks, she remains as active as ever.


The diversified performer got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.


Quoted: Garrett admitted to having a major crush on her co-star Jack Lemmon in the musical comedy "My Sister Eileen" in 1955. But she insisted that nothing happened as they were both "very solidly married at that time".

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mongo, THANKS for the lovely spotlight on Betty Garrett. I was a big fan of Laverne and Shirley when I was a kid, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a young "Mrs. Babish" in *On the Town*. Since then, I've been a fan!


Sandy K

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Thanks Momgo for your profile on Betty Garrett. She was hilarious in "On The Town", and she showed her multi talents in "My Sister Eileen". Larry Parks career was destroyed in Hollywood, but Betty stayed the course through their marriage. I admire her.

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In the Spotlight: CLIFTON WEBB




The distinguished , pompous actor was born Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck in a rural part of Marion County, Indiana on November 19, 1889.

His parents were Jacob Grant Hollenbeck, the son of a grocer and Maybelle A. Parmelee, the daughter of a railroad conductor.


In 1892, Webb's formidable mother, Maybelle, moved to New York with her beloved "little Webb", as she called him for the remainder of her life. She dismissed questions about her husband Jacob, a ticket clerk who, by saying, "We never speak of him. He didn't care for the theater."


Privately tutored, Webb started taking dance and acting lessons at the age of five. He made his stage debut at seven in the impressive setting of Carnegie Hall by performing with the New York Children's Theater.

This success was followed by a vaudeville tour and succeeded by leading roles as "Oliver Twist" and Tom Sawyer in "Huckleberry Finn".


By the age of nineteen, Webb had become a professional ballroom dancer and, taking the stage name "Clifton Webb", sang and danced in about two dozen operettas before debuting on Broadway.

The 1920s saw Clifton Webb in no less than eight Broadway shows, numerous other stage appearances, including vaudeville, and a handful of silent films.


In 1925, Webb appeared on stage in a dance act with vaudeville star and silent film actress Mary Hay. Later that year, when she and her husband, actor Richard Barthelmess, decided to produce and star in their own film vehicle "New Toys", they chose Webb to be second lead. The movie proved to be financially successful, but 19 more years would pass before Webb appeared in another feature film.


Webb's mainstay was the Broadway theatre. Between 1913 and 1947, the tall and slender performer who sang in a clear, gentle tenor, appeared in 23 Broadway shows.

Most of Webb's Broadway shows were musicals, but he also starred in Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest", and his longtime friend Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" and "Present Laughter", in parts that Coward wrote with Webb in mind.


After "New Toys" and another 1925 silent "The Heart of a Siren", he was classified as a character actor and stereotyped as a fussy, effete snob.

Webb was in his mid-fifties when actor/director Otto Preminger chose him over the objections of 20th Century Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck to play the classy, but evil, radio columnist Waldo Lydecker, who is obsessed with Gene Tierney's character in the 1944 film noir "Laura".

His performance was showered with acclaim and made him an unlikely movie star.

Despite Zanuck's original objection, Webb was immediately signed to a long-term contract with Fox. Two years later he was reunited with Tierney in another highly praised role as the elitist Elliott Templeton in "The Razor's Edge". He received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for both films.


Webb received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 1949 for "Sitting Pretty", the first in a three-film series of comedic "Mr. Belvedere" features with Webb portraying the snide and omniscient central character.


In 1950's film "Cheaper by the Dozen", Webb and Myrna Loy played Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, real-life efficiency experts of the 1910s and 1920s, and the parents of 12 children. The film's success led to a sequel, "Belles on Their Toes", without Webb.


Webb's other movie roles include "The Dark Corner", "For Heaven's Sake", "Elopement", "Dreamboat", "Stars and Stripes Forever" a biography of bandmaster John Philip Sousa.

In 1953 he had his most dramatic role as the doomed husband of unfaithful Barbara Stanwyck in "Titanic", followed by "Mister Scoutmaster", "Three Coins in the Fountain", "Woman's World", "The Man Who Never Was", "Boy on a Dolphin", second-billed to Alan Ladd, with third-billed Sophia Loren, "The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker", and "Holiday for Lovers".


Webb's elegant taste kept him on Hollywood's best-dressed lists for decades. Even though he exhibited comically foppish mannerisms in portraying Mr. Belvedere and other movie characters, his scrupulous private life kept him free of scandal.

Webb was a friend and Broadway co-star of lesbian singer Libby Holman. Webb and his mother used to take frequent vacations with Holman, and they would remain friends until the mid-1940s.


In fact, the character of Lynn Belvedere is said to have been very close to his real life?he had an almost Oedipal-like extreme devotion to his mother Maybelle, who was his companion and who lived with him until her death at age 91. Although he was gay, he might be better defined as asexual, given that the object of his love and tenderness was his mother.

The couple were inseparable, and often held gatherings at their home, often attended by the top stars of Hollywood.


After Maybelle's death Webb's mourning for his mother continued for a year with no signs of letting up and in a fit of comic exasperation Noel Coward is said to have finally told Webb, "It must be difficult to be orphaned at 70, Clifton."


But the twilight had arrived for Webb's life and career. Inconsolable in his grief, he completed a final role as an initially sarcastic, but ultimately self-sacrificing Catholic priest in Leo McCarey's "Satan Never Sleeps".


Webb spent the remaining five years of his life as an ill recluse at his home in Beverly Hills, California, succumbing to a heart attack on October 13, 1966 at the age of 76. He is interred at the Abbey of the Psalms in Hollywood Forever Cemetery.


Clifton Webb has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.


The part that got away: Ayn Rand wanted him to play suave villain Ellsworth Toohey in the 1949 adaptation of "The Fountainhead" and indeed it would have been superb casting (and might have significantly improved a flawed film), but studio chiefs vetoed this idea.

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