“The rationale I sought out Betty Garrett’s e-book within the first place was due to one thing devastating that I learn – and didn’t need to be true – in Farley Granger’s 2007 memoir, Embrace Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway.”
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Did you ever discover that the tales of people that succeed past their wildest goals are not often as fascinating because the tales of people that don’t? I imply, actually: what’s so spellbinding concerning the story of an individual who will get precisely what she needs? One in every of my favourite books is 2012’s The Entertainer: Films, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century, by which The New Yorker’s Margaret Talbot recounts the lifetime of her father, the actor Lyle Talbot, who managed to help his household via his appearing profession however by no means achieved something resembling household-name standing. The Hollywood star-making equipment was grinding for him, he was straightforward on the eyes, and he had as a lot expertise as anybody preening on the studio lot on the time. And but the scales by no means tipped in his favor.
The identical was true for Betty Garrett, who died eight years in the past at this time (February 12, 2011) and would have turned 100 on Might 23. The distinction is, there’s a heartbreaking purpose that her profession by no means took off, and I don’t simply imply the blacklist, though, sure, in fact there was that.
After profitable plaudits in 1946 as a triple menace in Broadway’s Name Me Mister, Garrett was wooed by Hollywood, the place in 1948 and 1949 she appeared in 5 MGM movies, 4 of them musicals, alongside the likes of Danny Thomas, Mickey Rooney, and Gene Kelly. On the City is each the perfect recognized and the perfect of the bunch – Garrett performs a libidinous cabbie with the hots for navy man Frank Sinatra – however her greatest work is in Neptune’s Daughter, during which she performs the equally man-crazy sister of Esther Williams. In each movies, there’s a heat, game-for-anything high quality to Garrett’s performances, together with plenty of gangly-graceful mugging conjuring a Busby Berkeley hoofer by means of Lucille Ball. When Garrett’s longtime supervisor and lawyer, Lou Mandel, informed her early on in her profession, “Don’t fear, darling, sometime you’re going to be an enormous star!,” he appeared to have an excellent learn on her future.
When Judy Garland left MGM’s Annie Get Your Gun, Garrett was in place to pounce. She dearly needed the position, she says in Betty Garrett and Different Songs, her 1998 memoir written with Ron Rapoport; the issue was that enjoying Annie Oakley would have required signing one other seven-year contract with MGM. (There have been three years left on her unique contract.) Garrett says that Lou Mandel inspired her to carry out for a much less binding supply: “It wasn’t actually the cash that was at stake,” Garrett writes. “It was the studio’s perception it needed to be in complete management of you. MGM stored saying I used to be being provided the prospect of a lifetime and that my lawyer was ruining my profession. However I felt Lou was urging me to do precisely what I ought to have carried out.” Garrett considers the William Morris Company the “actual villain” of this story: “My agent was slightly man named Sammy Weisbord and he stored encouraging me to carry out, too. What I didn’t know was that William Morris additionally represented Betty Hutton, who made much more cash than I did. Betty obtained the half and the company obtained a better fee.”
Garrett’s subsequent movie position was for Columbia, in 1955’s My Sister Eileen, through which she performs the older and (because the film ceaselessly reminds us) much less engaging of two sisters who transplant themselves to Greenwich Village to pursue their inventive goals. Even the New York Occasions’ Bosley Crowther, who didn’t like a lot of something, slobbered over Garrett’s efficiency: “Miss Garrett has the right skepticism and the proper desperation for the position. Her approach with a line is homicidal.” However the movie didn’t do good enterprise – musicals have been falling out of favor – and neither did the subsequent film Garrett made, 1957’s The Shadow on the Window, a slow-witted black-and-white thriller through which she was bewilderingly forged as the feminine lead. Columbia dropped her choice: “Maybe the studio was nonetheless nervous concerning the blacklist or thought I used to be too strongly recognized as a musical performer. Or maybe, as a result of I had been in two flops in a row, I used to be not a saleable property. Regardless of the purpose, I’ve not made a film since Shadow on the Window.”
Overlook the twerp at William Morris: the villain in Betty Garrett and Different Songs is the blacklist. (This explains the back-of-book blurb by somebody who would appear to be among the many world’s least probably celebrity-memoir endorsers: liberal icon Studs Terkel.) In 1944, Garrett married the actor Larry Parks, who might be remembered much less for his Oscar-nominated starring position in 1946’s The Jolson Story than for being a sacrificial lamb throughout Hollywood’s odious blacklist interval. Like lots of Parks’s and Garrett’s friends, he had joined the Communist Get together in his youthful days, though his participation had been low-level and he hadn’t attended a gathering in years. Nonetheless, Parks’s erstwhile membership was sufficient to earn him a summons from the Communist-stalking Home Un-American Actions Committee in 1947. The listening to was postponed till 1951, when, his profession chugging alongside properly, Parks acquired a subpoena.
This time he testified earlier than HUAC, admitting that he had been a member of the Communist Celebration. Then Parks had a selection: he might identify the well-known personalities who have been already targets of HUAC, or he might say nothing and be held in contempt of the committee, like the unique Hollywood Ten, who landed in jail for refusing to speak. Parks did the previous, actually studying aloud the names that have been written on a bit of paper earlier than him, though Garrett notes that “nothing I’ve ever heard or examine his testimony makes this clear.” Columbia canceled Parks’s subsequent movie position, and the presents dried up. (Garrett writes that, though she too was blacklisted, her profession wasn’t affected to the identical extent.) For revenue, Parks constructed and rented out condo buildings. In 1975, at age sixty, he died at house of a coronary heart assault helped alongside by years of self-destructive habits rooted within the despair brought on by the politically motivated torpedoing of his appearing profession. As one among their sons tells Garrett after Parks’s demise, “Pop didn’t die of overeating. He died of disappointment.”
Understandably, the fallout from Parks’s sunken profession casts extra of a pall over Betty Garrett and Different Songs than Garrett’s comparatively smaller disappointment: blowing the prospect to star in 1950’s smash Annie Get Your Gun. But when one is to consider Farley Granger, who moved in the identical lefty showbiz circles as Garrett and Parks, Garrett hobbled multiple profession when she let Annie slip previous her. The rationale I sought out her guide within the first place was due to one thing devastating that I learn – and didn’t need to be true – in Granger’s 2007 memoir, Embrace Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway. About what occurred following Judy Garland’s abdication of the lead in Annie, Granger writes,
Louis B. Mayer’s subsequent transfer was to supply the half to Betty Garrett, who, after Neptune’s Daughter, Take Me Out to the Ball Recreation, and On the City, was a rising star within the musical unit at Metro. Betty’s supervisor, clearly considering he had Mayer in a nook, demanded extra money for her to step into the half, a mistake that was as silly because it was massive. Louis B. fired her as an alternative, and borrowed Betty Hutton from Paramount. The horrible irony of that supervisor’s mistake was that not solely would Annie Get Your Gun have made an enormous star of Betty Garrett, it may need saved her husband’s profession as properly. Larry Parks of The Jolson Story fame was making a film at Metro with Elizabeth Taylor at roughly the identical time as Annie Get Your Gun was launched. He was subpoenaed by HUAC. Despite the fact that he named names, his profession was completed. If his spouse had been in Metro’s huge musical of the yr, the studio would have gone to any lengths to quash that subpoena, and two careers would almost definitely have been saved.
It’s a cringe-makingly persuasive tackle the state of affairs, whether or not Granger was right that Lou Mandel’s greed undid Garrett’s lock on Annie or it was Garrett’s shortsighted balking on the seven-year contract that value her the career-making half. In fact, Garrett couldn’t have recognized how badly she may at some point want the Annie position on her résumé for her profession’s sake, by no means thoughts her husband’s.
She remained professionally lively into center age and past, enjoying recurring secondary roles within the seventies TV staples All within the Household and Laverne and Shirley; appearing, directing, and educating at Los Angeles’s Theatre West, of which she was a founding member; returning to Broadway in 1989 in Meet Me in St. Louis; doing the requisite Homicide, She Wrote episode or two; and placing on the self-created one-person present for which her memoir is known as. It’s a powerful profession to these of us who know to search for it.
Garrett writes in her e-book, her higher lip stiff, “In the long term, I by no means actually regretted not enjoying Annie. Larry and I took our act to the London Palladium and the British provinces for the primary time shortly afterwards and that opened up an exquisite interval in our lives we might have missed if I had stayed at MGM.” Garrett might have copped to no regrets, however I’ve one on her behalf. And I don’t assume I’ll ever have the guts to observe Annie Get Your Gun.