Betty Garrett, best known for her work opposite Frank Sinatra in Take Me Out to the Ballgame and On the Town, and by trading insults with Archie Bunker in a semi-regular role in TV’s All In The Family, died Saturday at the age of 91. One of my favorite Betty Garrett roles was in the delightful minor musical from 1955, My Sister Eileen, featuring a young Jack Lemmon, Janet Leigh as the titled sister and a couple of dancers who acted a bit, Tommy Rall (Seven Brides For Seven Brothers) and Bob Fosse. Yes, that Bob Fosse.
Garrett’s career in film was destroyed by the Communist witchhunts of the 1950s when she and husband Larry Parks were blacklisted.
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.
The bad news continued when it was announced that one of Mel Brook’s favorite comic actors, Kenneth Mars, died of cancer at the age of 75. Ironically I watched Brooks on a DVD from The Dick Cavett Show this past weekend, featuring a clip from The Producers. Mars was hilarious in the film as the German author of the musical “Springtime For Hitler.”
Mars also had a role in Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, and was well known for his roles on the TV series Fernwood Tonight and Malcolm in the Middle. Director Peter Bogdanovich also liked Mars and cast him in What’s Up Doc? Mars was a superstar behind the microphone as a voice actor in numerous animated series and movies.
Both were treasured character actors who will be missed .