I was saddened to learn this morning that Betty Garrett, the great star of stage, screen, and TV, passed away yesterday at the age of 94 after suffering an aortic aneurysm.
Garrett was one of those rare people — like, say, Jack Valenti — who happened to be a witness to and/or participant in a remarkably high number of historic events of the 20th century. She was a member of Orson Welles’s famed Mercury Theatre company, and was with him on the night that he shook up America with his infamous radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” (1938); she was Frank Sinatra’s leading lady in two of the earliest great M-G-M musical-comedies, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (1949) and “On the Town” (1949); her career was greatly hurt by the Hollywood Red Scare after her husband, the Oscar nominated actor Larry Parks, refused to name names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and blacklisted; she later came back and was a part of two classic TV shows, playing Archie Bunker’s liberal neighbor on “All in the Family” (from 1973-1975) and the singing landlady on “Laverne & Shirley” (from 1976-1981); and she was the beloved godmother of the Oscar winning actor Jeff Bridges and his siblings. Perhaps most remarkably, she was just as passionate about her craft at the end as she was at the beginning — in fact, she taught her regular musical-comedy class at Theatre West on Wednesday night before being stricken on Saturday. All in all, she was quite a lady.
I had the immense privilege and pleasure of interviewing Garrett at-length at her home in Studio City back on August 23, 2005, and I’d like to share with you the full transcript of our conversation.
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