Monday, August 29, 2011
Goodbye Irene...Part two (Sort of) Betty Garrett...and "other" Irenes!
"The man who can speak acceptably is usually given credit for an ability out of all proportion to what he really possesses."
-Lowell Thomas (1892-1981)
For some of us, Irene is a memory. For others it is our reality. My spouse Danny just came home to say there is no power in Valhalla. The tracks of Metro North are completely under water.
For others, there has been more than the loss of electricity, there has been real property damage and in other scenarios, the loss of loved ones. If you did not suffer any damages, please take a moment to pause and reflect on how lucky you are. AND to think of those that are not so lucky. We ALL can deal with the inconvenience of late buses and trains.
Say hello to the people around you and decide to MAKE THIS A GREAT WEEK!
We all have been in IRENE mode for the past several days. My blogs over the past few days have reflected upon that. On Saturday, I wrote about IRENE,the 1973 Broadway musical.
Yesterday, I wrote about Irene Ryan and women who have played Irene Malloy over the years. Last night, I sat down to watch MY MAN GODFREY, the original with Dick Powell and Carole Lombard.
The screenplay was written by Morrie Ryskind, with uncredited contributions by La Cava, based on "1101 Park Avenue", a short story by Eric Hatch.
The story concerns a socialite who hires a derelict to be her family's butler, only to fall in love with him, much to his dismay. The film stars William Powell and Carole Lombard.
The film was remade in 1957 with June Allyson and David Niven in the starring roles.
I had forgotten that her character's name is IRENE Bullock!
I almost fell off the sofa because I was planning on following up with my Irene theme today with other famous Irenes (which was the original intent of yesterday's blog). My tribute to the women who have played Irene Malloy took on a life of its own. There are so many and I barely touched the surface.
Thanks to Facebook, these are the ones that have been sent to me.
I'm sure there are still many I am leaving out! Our first Irene today is Irene Lorenzo!
Betty Garrett (May 23, 1919 – February 12, 2011) was an American actress, comedienne, singer and dancer who originally performed on Broadway before being signed to a film contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Who could forget that she played the Lady Cab driver in the film version of "On the Town" (1949) ie: "Come Up To My Place" the part originated by Nancy Walker on B'way in '45.
Harlan Boll, Betty's friend, sent me the following, "
"Betty was not only one of the most talented women, but truly one of the greatest 'ladys' in the industry. A true survivor herself, she was always there for others and made life better for so many on this planet. A nudist at heart, she always had a song in her heart and a limerick ... often risqué ... on her lips"
While there, she appeared in several musical films before returning to Broadway and making guest appearances on several television series.
Later, she became known for the roles she played in two prominent 1970s sitcoms: Archie Bunker's liberal neighbor Irene Lorenzo in All in the Family and landlady Edna Babish in Laverne & Shirley.
In later years, Garrett appeared in television series such as Grey's Anatomy, Boston Public and Becker as well as in several Broadway plays and revivals.
Garrett was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Shortly after her birth, her parents relocated to Seattle, Washington, where her mother, Octavia, managed the sheet music department in Sherman Clay, while her father, Curtis, worked as a traveling salesman.
His alcoholism and inability to handle finances eventually led to their divorce, and Garrett and her mother lived in a series of residential hotels in order to curtail expenses.
When Garrett was eight years old, her mother married the fiancé she had jilted in order to marry Curtis.
They settled in Regina, Saskatchewan, where her new stepfather worked in the meat packing industry. A year later her mother discovered her new husband was involved in a sexual relationship with his male assistant, and she and Betty returned to Seattle.
After graduating from public grammar school, Garrett enrolled at the Annie Wright School in Tacoma, which she attended on a full scholarship.
There was no drama department there, and she frequently organized musical productions and plays for special occasions. Following her senior year performance in Twelfth Night, the bishop urged her to pursue a career on the stage. At the same time, her mother's friend arranged an interview with Martha Graham, who was in Seattle for a concert tour, and the dancer recommended her for a scholarship at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City.
Garrett and her mother arrived in Manhattan in the summer of 1936 and Garrett began classes in September. Her teachers included Graham and Anna Sokolow for dance, Sandy Meisner for drama, Lehman Engel for music, and Margaret Webster for the Shakespearean classics, and fellow students included Daniel Mann and Richard Conte. She felt she was destined to be a dramatic actress and shied away from playing comedic roles.
During the summer months, Garrett performed in the Borscht Belt, where she had the opportunity to work with Danny Kaye, Jerome Robbins, Carol Channing, Imogene Coca, and Jules Munshin, and she was encouraged to hone her singing and dancing skills. She joined Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre as an understudy in what was to be its last stage presentation, a poorly-reviewed and short-lived production of Danton's Death that gave her the opportunity to work with Joseph Cotten, Ruth Ford, Martin Gabel, and Arlene Francis.
She performed with Martha Graham's dance company at Carnegie Hall and the Alvin Theatre, sang at the Village Vanguard, and appeared in satirical and political revues staged by the Brooklyn-based Flatbush Arts Theatre, which eventually changed its name to the American Youth Theatre and relocated to Manhattan.
It was during this period she joined the Communist Party and began performing at fundraisers for progressive causes.
After Laffing Room Only, another production Garrett appeared in on Broadway closed, she traveled with the show as it played extended runs in Detroit and Chicago, after which she returned to New York and was cast in Call Me Mister, which reunited her with Harold Rome, Lehman Engel, and Jules Munshin. She won critical acclaim and the Donaldson Award for her performance, which prompted Al Hirschfeld to caricature her in the New York Times.
It led to her being signed to a one-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Louis B. Mayer. Garrett arrived at the studio in January 1947 and made her film debut portraying nightclub performer Shoo Shoo O'Grady in Big City, directed by Norman Taurog and co-starring George Murphy.
Mayer renewed her contract and she appeared in the musicals Words and Music, On the Town, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, and Neptune's Daughter in quick succession.
The Jolson Story had been a huge hit in the United Kingdom, and Garrett and husband Larry Parks decided to capitalize on its popularity by appearing in at the London Palladium and then touring the UK with their nightclub act.
Its success prompted them to return to the country three times, but the increasing popularity of television eventually led to the decline of music hall entertainment.
Then Garrett was cast opposite Janet Leigh and Jack Lemmon in My Sister Eileen, a 1955 musical remake of a 1942 film starring Rosalind Russell, when Judy Holliday dropped out of the project due to a contract dispute.
The following year, she and Parks replaced Holliday and Sydney Chaplin in the Broadway production of Bells Are Ringing during their vacation from the show.
Over the next two decades, she worked sporadically, appearing on Broadway in two short-lived plays (Beg, Borrow or Steal with Parks and A Girl Could Get Lucky with Pat Hingle) and a musical adaptation of Spoon River Anthology, and making guest appearances on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Lloyd Bridges Show, and The Fugitive.
Garrett made her Broadway debut in 1942 in the revue Of Thee We Sing, which closed after 76 performances but led to her being cast in the Harold Rome revue Let Freedom Sing later that year.
It closed after only eight performances, but producer Mike Todd saw it and signed her to understudy Ethel Merman and play a small role in the 1943 Cole Porter musical Something for the Boys.
Merman became ill during the run, allowing Garrett to play the lead for a week. During this time she was seen by producer Vinton Freedley, who cast her in Jackpot, a Vernon Duke/Howard Dietz musical also starring Nanette Fabray and Allan Jones.
The show closed quickly, and Garrett began touring the country with her nightclub act.
In the fall of 1973, All in the Family added two new neighbors to the neighborhood, Frank Lorenzo and his feisty Irish American wife, Irene. Lear had been the publicity man for Call Me Mister, All in the Family writers Bernard West and Mickey West knew Garrett from her days with the American Youth Theatre, and Jean Stapleton had been in the cast of Bells Are Ringing, so Garrett appeared to be a frontrunner for the role of Irene.
It went instead to Sada Thompson, but, unhappy after filming one episode, Thompson asked to be released from her commitment, freeing the role for Garrett.
Irene was Catholic and assumed many of the household duties normally associated with husbands, and she therefore presented a kind of nemesis to Archie Bunker. She later worked with Archie at his place of employment, driving a forklift, and was paid less than the man she replaced. Garrett remained with the series from 1973 through 1975.
The following year, Garrett was performing her one-woman show Betty Garrett and Other Songs in Westwood when she was offered the role of landlady Edna Babish in Laverne & Shirley. The character was a five-time divorcée who eventually married Laverne's father Frank. Although Garrett reportedly felt she was never given enough to do on the show, she appreciated the fact that her musical talents occasionally were incorporated into the plot, and she won a Golden Globe for her performance. When the series was extended beyond what had been intended to be its final season, Garrett was forced to drop out because she already had committed to performing with Sandy Dennis, Jack Gilford, Hope Lange, and Joyce Van Patten in The Supporting Cast on Broadway.
The play closed after only eight performances, but returning to Laverne & Shirley was not an option, as the writers had explained Edna's disappearance by having her divorce Frank.
In the ensuing years, Garrett appeared on television in Murder, She Wrote, The Golden Girls, Harts of the West, Union Square, Boston Public, Becker (for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series), and Grey's Anatomy, among others, and on stage in Plaza Suite (with Parks), And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little, and the 2001 Broadway revival of Follies.
At Theatre West, which she co-founded, she directed Arthur Miller's The Price and appeared in the play Waiting in the Wings.
She won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award twice, for Spoon River Anthology and Betty Garrett and Other Songs.
Garrett received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2003.
On the occasion of her ninetieth birthday in 2009, she was honored at a celebration sponsored by Theatre West at the Music Box Theatre in Hollywood.
In 2010, Garrett appeared alongside former two-time co-star Esther Williams during Turner Classic Movies' first annual Classic Film Festival.
Their film Neptune's Daughter was screened at the pool of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California while a Williams-inspired synchronized swimming troop, The Aqualilies, performed.
While appearing in Los Angeles, Garrett was invited to perform a comedy sketch at the Actor's Lab in Hollywood.
It was there she met Larry Parks, who was producing the show.
He invited her to join him for a drink, then drove her to the top of Mulholland Drive and told her, "You're the girl I'm going to marry." During the next two weeks, the two were inseparable.
Garrett departed for a nightclub engagement in Chicago.
Eventually Parks joined her and introduced her to his mother, who lived in nearby Joliet. Parks returned to Los Angeles to begin filming Counter-Attack and Garrett continued to New York to prepare for Laffing Room Only with Olsen and Johnson, but before rehearsals began she called Parks and proposed marriage. The two were wed on September 8, 1944,four months after their initial meeting.
Actor Lloyd Bridges served as best man. Garrett and Parks spent a month honeymooning in Malibu Beach, and then lived apart for the next two years while pursuing their respective careers.
Garrett and Parks remained married until his death in 1975.
She had two sons, composer Garrett and actor Andrew.
Because of their past affiliations with the Communist Party, Garrett and Parks became embroiled with the House Un-American Activities Committee, although only Parks was forced to testify.
He willingly admitted he had been a member of the party and initially refused to name others though did later. Despite this he found himself on the Hollywood blacklist. Garrett also had trouble finding work, although as the mother of two young sons she did not mind being unemployed as much as her husband did. Parks formed a highly successful construction business, and eventually the couple owned many apartment buildings scattered throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Rather than sell them upon completion, Parks decided to retain ownership and collect rents as a landlord, a decision that proved to be extremely profitable. During this period, the couple occasionally performed in Las Vegas showrooms, summer stock productions, and touring companies of Broadway shows.
Betty Garrett died of an aortic aneurysm in Los Angeles on February 12, 2011, at the age of 91.
Our second Irene is Irene Cara.
She is also known for her recording of the song "Fame", and she also starred in the 1980 film Fame.
She married Hollywood stuntman Conrad Palmisano in 1986.
Cara's father, Gaspar Cara, was Puerto Rican and Cara's mother, Louise, was an American of Cuban descent.
Cara has two sisters and two brothers.
At age three, Irene Cara was one of five finalists for the 'Little Miss America' pageant.
Cara began to play the piano "by ear" and soon thereafter, she began seriously studying music, acting, and dance.
Cara's performing career started when she was a child on Spanish-language television, professionally singing and dancing.
She made early TV appearances on the Original Amateur Hour (singing in Spanish) and Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show.
She was a regular on PBS’s educational program The Electric Company, which starred Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, and Morgan Freeman.
As a child, Cara recorded a Latin-market Spanish-language record; an English Christmas album soon followed. She also appeared in a major concert tribute to Duke Ellington which also featured Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis Jr, and Roberta Flack.
Cara appeared in on-and off-Broadway theatrical shows including the musicals Ain't Misbehavin', The Me Nobody Knows (which won an Obie award), Maggie Flynn opposite Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy, and Via Galactica with Raul Julia.
She was the original Daisy Allen on the 1970s daytime serial Love of Life. Next came her role as Angela in romance/thriller Aaron Loves Angela, followed by her portrayal of the title character in Sparkle, Television brought Cara international acclaim for serious dramatic roles in two outstanding mini-series, Roots: The Next Generation and Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.
John Willis' Screen World, Vol. 28, named her one of twelve "Promising New Actors of 1976;" that same year, a readers' poll in Right On! magazine named her Top Actress.
Cara graduated from the Professional Children's School in Manhattan, a rival of the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art. Coincidentally, LaGuardia High was the inspiration for the performing arts school in her third movie, Fame, along with The Juilliard School. When she attended high school, it was called the School of Performing Arts.
In 1984 the High School of Music & Art was merged with the School of Performing Arts (founded in 1948 by Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia) to become LaGuardia High.
Coco has an incredible talent. She is generous, she has a great personality, she is full of energy and she loves to be in the center of the stage. She always fights to defend her ideas and her dream: to become famous. But on the other hand, she is very simple and she can admit her mistakes and apologize for them.
Coco is very close to her grandmother and when she dies, Coco reacts by closing herself off and not performing or singing. But soon she goes back to the true Coco.
The 1980 hit movie Fame catapulted Irene Cara to stardom.
Cara was originally cast as a dancer, and when production heard her voice they re-wrote the role of Coco Hernandez.
As Coco Hernandez, she sang both the title song "Fame" and the film’s other single "Out Here on My Own". These songs helped make the film's soundtrack a chart-topping, multi-platinum album.
Further history was made when at the Academy Awards that year: It was the first time two songs from the same film were nominated in the same category and both sung by the same artist. Thus, Cara had the opportunity to be one of the few singers to perform more than one song at the Oscar ceremony. "Fame", written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, won the award that year.
Cara earned Grammy nominations in 1980 for Best New Female Artist and Best New Pop Artist, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical. Billboard Magazine named her Top New Single Artist, while Cashbox Magazine awarded her both Most Promising Female Vocalist and Top Female Vocalist.
Asked by the Fame TV series' producers to reprise her role as Coco Hernandez, she declined so as to focus her attention on her recording career.
As a result, Erica Gimpel assumed the role.
Cara was slated to star in her own sitcom, Irene, on NBC in 1981.
Even though the pilot aired and received favorable reviews, the network did not pick it up for its fall season.
It also starred veteran performers Kaye Ballard and Teddy Wilson, as well as newcomers Julia Duffy and Keenan Ivory Wayans.
In 1983, Cara appeared as herself in the film D.C. Cab, which is a film about a group of cabbies.
The movie stars Mr. T. One of the characters, Tyrone played by Charlie Barnett, is an obsessed Cara fan who decorated his Checker Cab as a shrine to her.
In 1982, Cara earned the Image Award for Best Actress when she co-starred with Diahann Carroll and Rosalind Cash in the NBC Movie of the Week, Maya Angelou's Sister, Sister.
Cara portrayed Myrlie Evers-Williams in the PBS TV movie about civil rights leader Medgar Evers, For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story; and earned an NAACP Image Award Best Actress nomination. She also appeared in 1982's Killing 'em Softly.
Then there is Irene Worth(pictured)
(She pronounced her given name with three syllables: "I-REE-nee".)
She joined the Old Vic company in 1951, worked with Tyrone Guthrie and there played Desdemona, Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Portia in The Merchant of Venice and her first Lady Macbeth.
The company went off to South Africa with Worth as one of the leading ladies.
In 1953, she joined the fledgling Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario for its inaugural season. There she was the principal leading lady, performing under an enRicormous tent with Alec Guinness in All's Well That Ends Well and Richard III.
"Binkie" Beaumont brought her back to London in N. C. Hunter's "Chekhovian" drama, A Day by the Sea, with a cast that included John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. She joined the Midland Theatre Company in Coventry for Ugo Betti's The Queen and the Rebels. Her transformation from "a rejected slut cowering at her lover's feet into a redemption of regal poise" ensured a transfer to London, where Kenneth Tynan wrote of her technique: "It is grandiose, heartfelt, marvellously controlled, clear as crystal and totally unmoving."
Harriet Elizabeth Abrams was born in Fairbury, Nebraska to a Mennonite family.Her parents, Agnes Thiessen and Henry Abrams, were educators. They moved from Nebraska to California in 1920.
She was educated at Newport Harbor High School, Newport Beach, California, Santa Ana Junior College, Santa Ana, California and UCLA.
and Irene Sharaff
Irene Sharaff (January 23, 1910 - August 10, 1993) was an American costume designer for stage and screen. Her work earned her five Academy Awards and a Tony Award. Another Aquarian!
Sharaff was born in Boston and studied at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, the Art Students League of New York, and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris.
And Irene Castle.
One of the most important couples of twentieth century ballroom dancing: before there was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, there was Vernon and Irene Castle.
With her husband, Vernon, Irene Castle was the leading popularizer of ballroom dance in the early 20th century.
Born Irene Foote on April 7, 1893, she was the daughter of a prominent physician in New Rochelle, New York. Irene studied dancing and performed in several amateur theatricals before meeting Vernon Castle in 1910. With his help, she was hired for her first professional job, a small daing part in The Summer Widowers.
The next year, over her father’s objections, the two were married. The English-born Vernon had already established himself as a dancer in comedic roles. His specialty was playing a gentleman drunk, who elegantly fell about the stage while trying to hide his condition. After their marriage, Irene joined Vernon in The Hen-Pecks (1911), a production in which he was a featured player. The two then traveled together to Paris to perform in a dance revue. The show closed quickly, but the couple was then hired as a dance act by the Café de Paris. Performing the latest American dances, the Castles were soon the rage of Parisian society. Their success was widely reported in the United States, preparing their way for a triumphant return to New York in 1912.
The Castles were hired to stage dance exhibitions at Louis Martin’s, a Broadway cabaret. Their routine presented a series of popular dances, such as the onestep, tango, fox-trot, and the Castle Walk, their signature dance. The dance fioor was then turned over the couples in the audience, who did their best to imitate the Castles’ footwork. In addition to cabaret, the Castles also became staples of Broadway. Among their shows were The Sunshine Girl (1913) and Watch Your Step (1914), which boasted a score written by Irving Berlin with them in mind. Emerging as America’s premier dance team, the Castles were trendsetters in a number of arenas. Their infectious enthusiasm for dance encouraged admirers to try new forms of social dance. Considered paragons of respectability and class, the Castles specifically helped remove the stigma of vulgarity from close dancing. The Castles’ performances, often set to ragtime and jazz rhythms, also popularized African-American music among well-heeled whites. Irene’s fashion sense, too, started national trends. Her elegant, yet simple, fiowing gowns were often featured in fashion magazines. She is also credited with introducing American women to the bob—the short hairstyle favored by fiappers in the 1920s.
Irene Castle continued to perform periodically on Broadway, but by the late 1920s was much more engrossed in her work with the antivivisection movement. In 1928, she established an animal shelter called Orphans of the Storm, which she held society balls to support. After Vernon’s death, she married three more times and had two children, Barbara and William. Suffering from emphysema, she died on January 25, 1969. Though largely forgotten today, the Castles’ career and performance style were immortalized on screen in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), the last of nine films starring dance greats GINGER ROGERS and Fred Astaire.
And Irene Dunn.Irene Dunne (December 20, 1898 – September 4, 1990) was an American film actress and singer of the 1930s and 1940s. Dunne was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her performances in Cimarron (1931), Theodora Goes Wild (1936), The Awful Truth (1937), Love Affair (1939) and I Remember Mama (1948). She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1958.
After her father's death, she, her mother and younger brother Charles moved to her mother's hometown of Madison, Indiana. Dunn's mother taught her to play the piano as a very small girl.
According to Dunn, "Music was as natural as breathing in our house."
Dunne was raised as a devout Roman Catholic.
Nicknamed "Dunnie," she took piano and voice lessons, sang in local churches and high school plays before her graduation in 1916.
And Irene Selznick
Irene Pappas with Gian Maria Volente
Bewitched ,Beautiful ,and Bespectacled . Even through her tinted specs you can see that Irene Pappas, as well as Gian Maria Violente, is taken aback by what she sees in We Still Kill The Old Way.
As I've already written, Irene (1940) is an American musical film produced and directed by Herbert Wilcox.
The screenplay by Alice Duer Miller is based on the book of the 1919 stage musical of the same name by James Montgomery, who had adapted it from his play Irene O'Dare. The score features songs with music by Harry Tierney and lyrics by Joseph McCarthy.
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