Betsy Palmer

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Betsy Palmer
Betsy Palmer 1960.JPG
Palmer in 1960.
Patricia Betsy Hrunek

(1926-11-01)November 1, 1926
DiedMay 29, 2015(2015-05-29) (aged 88)
Education Goodman School of Drama, DePaul University
Years active1951–2007
Notable work
Friday the 13th
Television I've Got a Secret ,
anthology series,
game shows
Vincent J. Merendino
(m. 1954;div. 1971)
ChildrenMelissa [1]
  • Rudolph Vincent Hrunek
  • Marie Love
RelativesJack (brother) [2]

Betsy Palmer (born Patricia Betsy Hrunek; November 1, 1926 – May 29, 2015) was an American actress, known as a regular supporting movie and Broadway actress and television guest star, as a panelist on the game show I've Got a Secret , and later for playing Jason Voorhees' mother, Pamela Voorhees, in the popular slasher film Friday the 13th (1980).

Actor person who acts in a dramatic or comic production and works in film, television, theatre, or radio

An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hupokritḗs), literally "one who answers". The actor's interpretation of their role—the art of acting—pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art.

Game show Type of television or radio program where contestants compete for prizes

A game show is a type of radio, television, or stage show in which contestants, individually or as teams, play a game which involves answering questions or solving puzzles, usually for money or prizes. Alternatively, a gameshow can be a demonstrative program about a game [while usually retaining the spirit of an awards ceremony]. In the former, contestants may be invited from a pool of public applicants. Game shows often reward players with prizes such as cash, trips and goods and services provided by the show's sponsor prize suppliers.

<i>Ive Got a Secret</i> television series

I've Got a Secret is a panel game show produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman for CBS television. Created by comedy writers Allan Sherman and Howard Merrill, it was a derivative of Goodson-Todman's own panel show What's My Line? Instead of celebrity panelists trying to determine a contestant's occupation, the panel tries to determine a contestant's "secret": something that is unusual, amazing, embarrassing or humorous about that person/people.


Early life

Palmer was born Patricia Betsy Hrunek on November 1, 1926, [3] in East Chicago, Indiana, the daughter [4] [5] of Marie (née Love), an adoptee, who launched the East Chicago Business College before she married, [6] [7] [8] [1] [9] and Rudolph Vincent Hrunek, [10] [11] an industrial chemist who was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, [12] [13] [14] [15] who became a stay at home father. [16] They moved to Hessville and she attended Warren G Harding Elementary School in Hammond, Indiana. [16] She performed in school plays all through childhood. [16] She graduated from East Chicago's Roosevelt High School in 1944, [9] attended East Chicago Business College. She then worked as a stenographer and secretary for the car foreman on the RIP track of the B&O Railroad. She hated it, she said, because she was shut off from people. [17] Some time after Palmer took an aptitude test at the Chicago YWCA, which indicated a flair for The Arts, her father brought a coworker home for dinner, a former New York actor who recommended she study with David Itkin at DePaul University. [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [19] [26] [17] [16] Working days and commuting to night classes from East Chicago, she graduated from the Goodman School of Drama (now called The Theatre School) at DePaul University. [16] [27] [28] [29]

East Chicago, Indiana City in Indiana, United States

East Chicago is a city in Lake County, Indiana, United States. The population was 29,698 at the 2010 census. It is the home of Marktown, Clayton Mark's planned worker community.

Czechoslovakia 1918–1992 country in Central Europe, predecessor of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Czechoslovakia, or Czecho-Slovakia, was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.

Stay-at-home dad man whose main occupation is running or managing the familys home

A stay-at-home dad is a father who is the main caregiver of the children and is generally the homemaker of the household. As families have evolved, the practice of being a stay-at-home dad has become more common and socially acceptable. Pre Industrialisation, the family worked together as a unit and was self-sufficient. When affection-based marriages emerged in the 1830s, parents began devoting more attention to children and family relationships became more open. Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, large-scale production replaced home manufacturing; this shift, coupled with prevailing norms governing sex or gender roles, dictated that the father become the breadwinner and the mother the caregiver.

Acting career

Betsy Palmer, 1958 Betsy Palmer 1958.png
Betsy Palmer, 1958

Palmer began working, in summer stock, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, then winter stock at The Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, Illinois with Paul Newman, and then summer stock, in Chicago with Imogene Coca. Having saved $400 she told her parents she was changing her name to Betsy Palmer and moving to New York City with Sasha Igler, who had a job in advertising.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin City in Wisconsin, United States

Lake Geneva is a city in Walworth County, Wisconsin, USA. The population was 7,651 at the 2010 census. A resort city located on Geneva Lake, it is popular with vacationers from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

Woodstock, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Woodstock is a city in and the county seat of McHenry County, Illinois, United States, located 51 miles (82 km) northwest of Chicago. The population was 25,528 at the start of 2017. The city's downtown includes a historic, turn-of-the-century town square, which is anchored by the landmark Woodstock Opera House and the Old McHenry County Courthouse. The city was named one of the nation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 2007 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Paul Newman American actor and film director

Paul Leonard Newman was an American actor, film director, producer, race car driver, IndyCar owner, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He won and was nominated for numerous awards, winning an Oscar for his performance in the 1986 film The Color of Money, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, an Emmy Award, and many others. Newman's other roles include the title characters in The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Harper (1966) and Cool Hand Luke (1967), as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), The Sting (1973), Slap Shot (1977), and The Verdict (1982). He voiced Doc Hudson in the first installment of Disney-Pixar's Cars as his final acting performance, with voice recordings being used in Cars 3 (2017).

Palmer got her first television acting job in 1951 when she joined the cast of the 15-minute weekday television soap opera Miss Susan , which was produced in Philadelphia, and all actors traveled each day from New York City by train. [30] [9] She was "discovered" for this role, by Norman Lessing, while attending a party in the apartment of actor Frank Sutton who was married to Toby Igler, the sister of Palmer's roommate, Sasha Igler. She had been in Manhattan less than one week.

<i>Miss Susan</i> television series

Miss Susan is a daytime drama which aired on NBC from March 12 to December 28, 1951. The main writer was William Kendall Clarke. The show, originating from Philadelphia and later retitled Martinsville, U.S.A., aired for 15 minutes at 3:00 p.m. ET on weekdays, and starred Susan Peters, who had previously garnered critical acclaim as a film actress before suffering an accidental gunshot wound that left her paraplegic. It was the first program with a handicapped person as the star.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2018 census-estimated population of 1,584,138. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Norman Lessing was an American television screenwriter and producer, playwright, chess master, and chess writer.

A life member of The Actors Studio, [31] Palmer's stage work included a tour of South Pacific (as Nellie Forbush) and a summer-stock season in the title role in Maggie , the 1953 musicalization of What Every Woman Knows by William Roy and Hugh Thomas.

Actors Studio organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights

The Actors Studio is a membership organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights at 432 West 44th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. It was founded October 5, 1947, by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford and Robert Lewis, who provided training for actors who were members. Lee Strasberg joined later and took the helm in 1951 until his death on February 17, 1982.

<i>South Pacific</i> (musical) 1949 Broadway musical

South Pacific is a musical composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan. The work premiered in 1949 on Broadway and was an immediate hit, running for 1,925 performances. The plot is based on James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific and combines elements of several of those stories. Rodgers and Hammerstein believed they could write a musical based on Michener's work that would be financially successful and, at the same time, send a strong progressive message on racism.

Maggie is a common short form of the name Margaret or sometimes Magdalene, Marjorie and Margarida.

In 1953, she created the role of Virginia in the original teleplay version of Paddy Chayefsky's Marty . Also in 1953 she appeared in a Studio One television broadcast of Hound-Dog Man with Jackie Cooper and others. [32] She would become a familiar face on television as a news reporter on Today in 1958 (the Today Girl), and a long-running regular panelist on the quiz show I've Got a Secret . She joined the show's original run, replacing Faye Emerson in 1958 and remaining until the show's finale in 1967. She did not reprise her role in any of the various revivals of the show. Palmer was the last surviving member of the I've Got a Secret first version's cast.

Paddy Chayefsky American playwright, screenwriter and novelist

Sidney Aaron "Paddy" Chayefsky was an American playwright, screenwriter and novelist. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay.

Marty (teleplay) 23rd episode of the fifth season of The Philco Television Playhouse

"Marty" is a 1953 television play by Paddy Chayefsky. It was telecast live May 24, 1953, on The Philco Television Playhouse with Rod Steiger in the title role and Nancy Marchand, in her television debut, playing opposite him as Clara. Chayefsky's story of a decent, hard-working Bronx butcher, pining for the company of a woman in his life but despairing of ever finding true love in a relationship, was produced by Fred Coe with associate producer Gordon Duff.

<i>Studio One</i> (U.S. TV series) television program (1948-1958)

Studio One is an American radio anthology drama series that was also adapted to television. It was created in 1947 by Canadian director Fletcher Markle, who came to CBS from the CBC. It aired under several variant titles: Studio One in Hollywood, Studio One Summer Theatre, Westinghouse Studio One and Westinghouse Summer Theatre.

Palmer appeared as Kitty Carter in The Long Gray Line (1955), starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara. She also played nurse Lt. Ann Girard (the main female character) in Mister Roberts (1955), starring beside Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney, and William Powell. In the same year she played Carol Lee Phillips in Queen Bee , which starred Joan Crawford. [30]

Palmer starred alongside Anthony Perkins and Fonda again in the Paramount production of The Tin Star (1957). [33]

In 1958, she played undercover agent Phyllis Carter/Lynn Stuart in the film The True Story of Lynn Stuart , co-starring Jack Lord and featuring Kim Spalding as her husband, Ralph Carter.

Palmer appeared in seven Broadway shows. All the original productions had short runs, but she replaced other actresses in long-run shows, notably Lauren Bacall in Cactus Flower in 1967, and Ellen Burstyn in Same Time Next Year in 1977. In 1976 Palmer was the actress whom Tennessee Williams chose to embody the frustrated lead, Alma Winemiller, in his The Eccentricities of a Nightingale. [34]

Palmer's Mercedes-Benz stopped working on the highway to her home in Connecticut after a performance in New York City, arriving home at five o'clock in the morning, so she resolved to replace her car, and later, her daughter suggested that the Volkswagen Scirocco was a cute car and it was $10,000. The offer of $1000 a day for ten days work on location at a Boy Scout camp in New Jersey, to fund the car purchase, was a reason for taking her most famous recent role, Friday the 13th . She recounted, in an interview, that her initial reaction to the experience was: "What a piece of shit! Nobody is ever going to see this thing." [35] Despite her distaste for the film, she reluctantly consented to a cameo appearance in Friday the 13th Part 2 . She ultimately came to accept and celebrate her participation in the franchise, as it made her more famous rather than infamous. Palmer was asked to reprise her role as Mrs. Voorhees in Freddy vs. Jason in 2003 and agreed to return, but ultimately turned down the role after being offered a surprisingly low salary. [36]

In 1982 Palmer created the role of "Suzanne Becker" on the CBS daytime soap opera As the World Turns. From 1989 to 1990, the actress appeared on Knots Landing as Virginia "Ginny" Bullock, the aunt of Valene Ewing (played by series star Joan Van Ark). Palmer acted in a Mayfield Dinner Theatre production of On Golden Pond in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1997.

In 2002, Palmer provided the voice of the title character, the ghost of a witch, for the horror film Bell Witch: The Movie , released in 2007.

In 2005, at around 79 years old, she appeared as Trudie Tredwell in the horror short Penny Dreadful, [37] and in 2007, at 81, as the older version of the title character in Waltzing Anna. [38]

Palmer appeared in the 2006 documentary, Betsy Palmer: Scream Queen Legend, [16] as part of the publicity for the 2007 release of Bell Witch: The Movie . [39] [40]

Personal life

Palmer dated James Dean [30] and worked on Studio One together.


Palmer married Vincent J. Merendino, an obstetrician-gynecologist, in 1954, whom she met in New York on a blind date. [41] They divorced in 1971, after 17 years of marriage. They had one child.


Palmer died on May 29, 2015, at a hospice care center in Danbury, Connecticut. [42] She was 88.


Betsy Palmer and Jackie Gleason in The Time of Your Life (1958) Betsy Palmer Jackie Gleason The Time of Your Life 1958.JPG
Betsy Palmer and Jackie Gleason in The Time of Your Life (1958)
Palmer on I've Got a Secret with host Garry Moore and three of Bing Crosby's sons (1961) Garry Moore Betsy Palmer Crosby boys Ive Got a Secret 1961.JPG
Palmer on I've Got a Secret with host Garry Moore and three of Bing Crosby's sons (1961)

1955Death TideGloria
The Long Gray Line Kitty Carter
Mister Roberts Lt. Ann Girard
Queen Bee Carol Lee Phillips
1957 The Tin Star Nona Mayfield
1958 The True Story of Lynn Stuart Phyllis Carter / Lynn Stuart
1959 It Happened to Jane Herself (panelist)
The Ballad of Louie the LouseTina AdamsTV movie
The Last Angry Man Anna Thrasher
1968A Punt, a Pass, and a PrayerNancyTV movie
1980 Friday the 13th Pamela Voorhees
1981 Friday the 13th Part 2
Isabel's Choice Ellie FinemanTV Movie
1988 Windmills of the Gods Mrs. Hart BrisbaneTV movie
Goddess of Love Hera TV movie
1992 Still Not Quite Human Aunt MildredTV movie
1999The Fear: ResurrectionGrandmother
2005Penny DreadfulTrudie Tredwell
2006Waltzing AnnaAnna Rhoades(final film performance)
2006Betsy Palmer: Scream Queen LegendSelfdocumentary
2007 Bell Witch: The Movie Bell Witch (final film release)

Television appearances

From 1953 to 2001, Palmer was a guest star on 73 television programs, including (in no particular order):


Fantasporto Film FestivalSpecial Career AwardPenny DreadfulWon
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Supporting Actress Friday the 13th Nominated
New England Theatre Conference 2005 Major AwardAward for Stage Work [43] VariousWon

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