Betty Thomas

Last updated
Betty Thomas
Betty Thomas (cropped).jpg
Thomas at the Emmy Awards Governors Ball in 1994
Born
Betty Lucille Nienhauser [1]

(1948-07-21) July 21, 1948 (age 74)
OccupationActress, film and television director
Years active1975–present
Height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
SpouseDouglas Thomas [2]

Betty Thomas (born Betty Lucille Nienhauser; July 21, 1948) [1] [3] is an American actress, director, and producer. She is known for her Emmy Award-winning role as Sergeant Lucy Bates on the television series Hill Street Blues . [4] As of March 2018, Thomas is one of just two directors (and the only solo director) to have multiple films on the list of seventeen highest-US-grossing female-directed films. [5] Additionally, two of her films are in the top twenty-five highest-US-grossing female-directed films. [6]

Contents

Early life

Thomas was born Betty Lucille Nienhauser in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1947 to Nancy (née Brown) and William H. Nienhauser, Sr. [7] [8] She graduated from Willoughby South High School, Willoughby, Ohio, in 1965. After high school Thomas attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Upon graduating Thomas worked as an artist and taught high school before becoming a part of The Second City, the premiere venue for improvisational theater in Chicago. [9]

Second City

Thomas came to her entertainment career by a circuitous route. While working as an artist and school teacher, she became a waitress at The Second City to earn extra cash for a trip abroad. While waiting on tables, Thomas was encouraged to try out for the troupe, and subsequently joined the company. [10]

She was praised for her brassy and outspoken performances, and became the first woman to direct one of their MainStage theatre productions. [11] Thomas also worked with several up and coming Second City alumni, most notably Bill Murray. [12] When The Second City opened a Los Angeles branch, Thomas moved west. She later reunited with some of the Second City cast members when she appeared as special guest star in a 1983 episode of SCTV. [13] [14]

Career

Acting career

Upon her arrival in Los Angeles, Thomas received many bit parts in low-budget films like Chesty Anderson, USN (1976), the Robert Zemeckis film Used Cars (1980) as well as sketch comedy films like Tunnel Vision (1975), and Loose Shoes (1980), the latter of which featured Second City classmate Bill Murray. [10] She also appeared in the 1989 film Troop Beverly Hills , starring Shelley Long. [15]

While Thomas had been building her career in comedy, her breakthrough role as an actress came when she was cast in the role of police officer (later Sergeant) Lucy Bates on the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981–87). Over the course of the series her character goes from inexperienced rookie to confident sergeant. She received seven Emmy nominations for best supporting actress, and took home the award for the 1984–85 season. [16]

Directing career

After having lied to a Variety reporter about planning on directing a Hooperman episode, she was given a real opportunity by the show's executive producer, and from there her directing career began. [17] After making several other acting appearances, Thomas began directing episodes of Hooperman in addition to the premiere episodes of Doogie Howser, M.D. in 1989. She went on to direct episodes of Arresting Behavior and several episodes of the HBO series Dream On, the latter of which earned her an Emmy for best director. [16] Thomas is nicknamed "The Midnight Queen" because of her preference for nighttime shoots. [18]

In 1992 Thomas took the next step in her directing career with her feature debut Only You . A slight, playful romantic comedy, Only You was a departure from Thomas's experience on Hill Street Blues or her subsequent television directing. Wayne Rice, the film's producer and screenwriter, said that Thomas was chosen to direct due in part to the film's plot in which a man is on a hapless quest to find the perfect woman. He felt it would be considered inherently sexist without a female director. [19]

Three years following the release of Only You, Thomas directed The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), a satirical vision of the 1970s television series The Brady Bunch . The Brady Bunch Movie was a box office hit with domestic ticket sales of $46,576,136, nearly quadrupling its $12 million budget and making it at the time one of the highest-grossing films directed by a woman. [4]

She followed The Brady Bunch Movie with other successes, including Private Parts (1997), Dr. Dolittle (1998), 28 Days (2000), and John Tucker Must Die (2006). The 2009 film Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel became the first female-directed picture to gross more than $200 million and made her the most successful woman director up to that time at the box office. [20] In 2012, Thomas directed a low-budget online series called Audrey for the WIGS YouTube channel. [21] In 1998, her Tall Trees productions company was signed to a first look deal with Columbia Pictures. [22]

In 2001, Thomas won the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award of the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards, presented by the Los Angeles chapter of the Women in Film Organization. [15]

Filmography

Film

Director

Executive producer

Producer

Television

TV series

YearTitleNotes
1989 Hooperman Episodes: "Goodnight, Sweet Hooperman", "Dog Day Afternoon", "Morning and Night", "In the Still of My Pants"
1989 Doogie Howser, M.D. Episodes: "Doogie The Red-Nosed Reindeer", "The Ice Queen Cometh"
1990 Mancuso, FBI Episodes: "Night of the Living Shred", "Shiva Me Timbers", "Murder of Pearl"
1990 Parenthood Episodes: "Thanksgiving with a T that Rhymes with B that Stands for Basketball", "I Never Invested for My Father"
1990–1996 Dream On 18 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (1993)
1991 Sons and Daughters Episode: "The Thing"
1991 Midnight Caller Episode: "Her Dirty Little Secret"
1991 Shannon's Deal Episode: "Matrimony"
1992 On the Air Episode #1.6
2006 The Loop Pilot episode
2015 Grace and Frankie Episode: "The Fall"

TV movies

Acting roles

YearTitleRoleDirector / creatorNotes
1976 Tunnel Vision Bridgit Bert Richards Neal Israel, Bradley R. Swirnoff
1976 Jackson County Jail WaitressMichael Miller
1976The Last Affair Henri Charr
1976 Chesty Anderson U.S. Navy Party Guest #1Ed Forsyth
1977 Dog and Cat WaitressBob Kelljan
1978 C.P.O. Sharkey Seaman Daley Aaron Ruben
1978 Outside Chance KatherineMichael Miller
1980 Used Cars Bunny Robert Zemeckis
1980 Loose Shoes Biker Chic #1Ira Miller
1981The Nashville GrabMaxine Pearce James L. Conway
1982 Twilight Theater Perry Rosemond
1982 Homework Reddogs SecretaryJames Beshears
1983When Your Lover LeavesMaude Jeff Bleckner
1985 ABC Afterschool Specials Dr. Mary LewisGuy Fraumeni
1987 Prison for Children Angela Brannon Larry Peerce
1981–1987 Hill Street Blues Sgt. Lucy Bates Steven Bochco, Michael Kozoll Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1985)
1989 The Tracey Ullman Show Miss Belts, Gym Teacher Ted Bessell, Art Wolff Segment titled "Francesca: A Physical Education"
1989 Troop Beverly Hills Velda Plendor Jeff Kanew
2018 Kidding Herself Michel Gondry Episode: "Green Means Go"

Related Research Articles

<i>Hill Street Blues</i> American serial police drama television series (1981–1987)

Hill Street Blues is an American serial police procedural television series that aired on NBC in prime-time from January 15, 1981, to May 12, 1987, for 146 episodes. The show chronicles the lives of the staff of a single police station located on Hill Street in an unnamed large city. The "blues" are the police officers in their blue uniforms. The show received critical acclaim, and its production innovations influenced many subsequent dramatic television series produced in the United States and Canada. In its debut season, the series won eight Emmy Awards, a debut season record later surpassed only by The West Wing. The show won a total of 26 Emmy Awards during its run, including four consecutive wins for Outstanding Drama Series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sally Field</span> American actress

Sally Margaret Field is an American actress. She has received many awards and nominations, including two Academy Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress, and nominations for a Tony Award and for two British Academy Film Awards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shelley Long</span> American actress and comedian (born 1949)

Shelley Lee Long is an American actress, singer and comedian. Long portrayed Diane Chambers on the hit sitcom Cheers, for which she received five Emmy nominations, winning in 1983 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She won two Golden Globe Awards for the role. Long reprised her role as Diane Chambers in three episodes of the spin-off Frasier, for which she received an additional guest star Emmy nomination. In 2009, she began playing a recurring role as DeDe Pritchett on the ABC comedy series Modern Family.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jean Smart</span> American actress

Jean Elizabeth Smart is an American actress. After beginning her career in regional theater in the Pacific Northwest, she appeared on Broadway in 1981 as Marlene Dietrich in the biographical play Piaf. Smart was later cast in a leading role as Charlene Frazier Stillfield on the CBS sitcom Designing Women, in which she starred from 1986 to 1991.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mimi Leder</span> American film/television director and producer

Miriam Leder is an American film and television director and producer noted for her action films and use of special effects. She was the first female graduate of the AFI Conservatory, in 1973.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">America Ferrera</span> American actress (born 1984)

America Georgina Ferrera is an American actress. Born in Los Angeles to Honduran parents, Ferrera developed an interest in acting at a young age, performing in several stage productions at her school. She made her feature film debut in 2002 with the comedy-drama Real Women Have Curves, earning praise for her performance. Ferrera has won many awards including an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award among others.

Helen Shaver is a Canadian actress and film and television director. She has received Emmy and Saturn Award nominations, among other honours.

Thomas Colbert Carter is an American film and television director, producer and actor, known for Swing Kids, Save the Last Dance and Coach Carter.

Gregory King Hoblit is an American film director, television director and television producer. He is best known for directing the films Primal Fear, Fallen, Frequency, Hart's War, Fracture, and Untraceable. He has won nine Primetime Emmy Awards for directing and producing Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, Hooperman and the television film Roe vs. Wade.

Arlene Sanford is an American film and television director.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Susan Olsen</span> American actress

Susan Marie Olsen is an American actress and former radio host. Olsen is known for her role as Cindy Brady, the youngest Brady child in the sitcom The Brady Bunch for the full run of the show, from 1969 to 1974.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ann B. Davis</span> American actress (1926-2014)

Ann Bradford Davis was an American actress. She achieved prominence for her role in the NBC situation comedy The Bob Cummings Show (1955–1959), for which she twice won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, but she was best known for playing the part of Alice Nelson, the housekeeper in ABC's The Brady Bunch (1969–1974).

Jennifer Elise Cox is an American actress known for her satirical portrayal of Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel.

Henriette Mantel is an American writer, actress, producer, director, and stand-up comic from Vermont.

Jonathan Pontell is a television director, producer and editor.

Neema Barnette is an American film director and producer, and the first African-American woman to direct a primetime sitcom. Barnette was the first African-American woman to get a three-picture deal with Sony. Since then, she accumulated a number of awards, including a Peabody, an Emmy and NAACP Image Award.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jennifer Yuh Nelson</span> American film director

Jennifer Yuh Nelson is a South Korean-born American story artist, character designer, television director, illustrator, and film director. She is best known for directing the films Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct and the first Asian American to direct a major American animated film, and has been recognized as a commercially successful Asian American director.

"Hill Street Station" is the first episode of the first season of the American serial police drama Hill Street Blues. "Hill Street Station" originally aired in the United States on NBC on Thursday January 15, 1981, at 10:00 pm Eastern Time as part of a two-week five-episode limited-run pilot airing on Thursdays and Saturdays. The episode won numerous Primetime Emmy Awards, a Directors Guild of America Award, a Writers Guild of America Award, and an Edgar Award as well as Emmy Award nominations for film editing, music composition, and art direction. The episode was directed by Robert Butler and written by Michael Kozoll and Steven Bochco.

<i>The Golden Girls</i> (season 1) Season of television series

The first season of the American television comedy series The Golden Girls originally aired on NBC in the United States between September 14, 1985, and May 10, 1986. Created by television writer Susan Harris, the series was produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions and ABC Studios It starred Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White, and Estelle Getty as the main characters Dorothy Zbornak, Blanche Devereaux, Rose Nylund, and Sophia Petrillo. The series revolves around the lives of four older women living together in a house in Miami.

First, You Cry is a 1978 American made-for-television biographical drama film starring Mary Tyler Moore, Anthony Perkins, Jennifer Warren, Richard Dysart and Don Johnson, directed by George Schaefer. It is based on the 1976 autobiography First, You Cry written by NBC News correspondent Betty Rollin in which she recalls her battle with breast cancer. The film was broadcast on CBS on November 8, 1978.

References

  1. 1 2 Taylor, Gemma. "Trying To Change The Colour!".
  2. "Nancy Nienhauser Obituary - MO | St. Louis Post-Dispatch". www.legacy.com.
  3. "About Betty Thomas". Turner Classic Movies . Retrieved August 5, 2022.
  4. 1 2 "Betty Thomas". Hill Street Blues. Paley Center for Media. Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  5. "10 Highest-Grossing Movies Directed by Women, From 'What Women Want' to 'Captain Marvel' (Photos)". TheWrap. 2019-11-15. Retrieved 2019-12-28.
  6. Bean, Travis. "Box Office: The 25 Highest-Grossing Movies Ever Directed By Women". Forbes.
  7. "STLtoday.com". Nl.newsbank.com. 1995-02-16. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
  8. "Nancy Brown Nienhauser obituary at". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
  9. "Betty Thomas biodata at". Tribute.ca. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  10. 1 2 "Betty Thomas biography at". Yahoo Movies. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  11. "Betty Thomas" . Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  12. "The Thaumaturgy Department". Tumblr. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  13. "Corpus Christi Caller-Times from Corpus Christi, Texas on March 6, 1983 · 116". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2022-11-15.
  14. "The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky on March 6, 1983 · Page 397". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2022-11-15.
  15. 1 2 "Betty Thomas Awards". IMDb . Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  16. 1 2 "Betty Thomas". CelebrityNooz. 2011. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  17. "Betty Thomas" . Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  18. Rausch, Andrew (2008). Dequina, Michael (ed.). Fifty Filmmakers: Conversations with Directors from Roger Avary to Steven Zaillian. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 239.
  19. Weinstein, Steve (January 2, 1992). "A Long Way From 'Hill Street's' Beat: Betty Thomas Struts Her Comic Side in Directing First Feature, 'Only You'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  20. Young, John (March 12, 2010). "Betty Thomas: Highest-grossing female director". Entertainment Weekly.
  21. "Director Thomas finds passion project online". May 17, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-05-17.
  22. Lorber, Danny (1998-09-23). "Tall Trees grow at Col". Variety. Retrieved 2020-11-15.