Actress Betty Garrett dies at 91

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Miss Garrett 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 marries 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.”

Miss 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. Miss Garrett was 17.

Her 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 in 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 son Garrett Parks, a composer; his wife, Karen Culliver Parks; and their daughter, Madison Claire Parks, she is 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.

Associated Press writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

 

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