RIP Betty Garrett (aka Irene Lorenzo, aka Edna Babish-DeFazio)

She made it to 91and taught an acting class just last week, but still sad to see her go as she was always a blast on interview programs. Very interesting life: young starlet (who never quite became a star), married to a star (Larry Parks), survivor of the Blacklist, rebuilt her life a couple of times (once from the financial damage done by McCarthyism, then rebuilt her career in her 50s), and a very fit and vital senior. Best remembered for her early work in On the Town and her later TV work in All in the Family and Laverne & Shirley.

For those who are really really interested, the Archive of American Television filmed a very long interview (roughly a couple of hours) interview with her in 2003. For those who love classic TV, their interviews are the best (and best of all- you can fast forward the parts you’re not as interested in;)).

RIP Betty.

I thought she made an excellent foil to Archie Bunker on All In the Family. And I remember her well as Laverne and Shirley’s landlady. She will be missed.

I also liked her on All In The Family, Sada “Family” Thompson was originally cast to play the part but she and Norman Lear had different visions for the part, so Thompson left.

I liked her on Laverne And Shirley, but I preferred her as Irene

As Archie was fond of saying, “Goodnight Irene.”

In her interview linked above she said that Vincent Gardenia really disliked his part (not sure why) and so he left the show about a year before she did. They were supposed to cover his absence with “Frank’s on the road for 6 months with his job” or “Frank’s gone to visit the kids” or whatever, but those lines always got cut for time. Apparently nobody ever wondered where Frank was. I never noticed- I just assumed she visited more than Frank did.

On a L&S reunion show Eddie Mekka said he was offered two jobs in the same week and took Carmine strictly because Betty Garrett, who he worshiped from her big-screen musicals and Broadway days, was attached. He said this scenewas a dream come true. (To answer the next question- Eddie Mekka is indeed straight, just loved musical theater- recent film of him in a tour of Grease.)

Apparently the Blacklist had little effect on stage stars. She and her husband continued to perform in Summer Stock and in their cabaret act even when no film or TV studio would touch them. (Her husband had indeed been a member of the Communist Party at one time and admitted it but refused to name names.)