Sunday, November 06, 2011

America's Sweetheart Slasher

While we’re still… sorta, kinda… on the subjects of slasher movies and birthdays, to most of you Betsy Palmer is best known for being Jason’s mother in FRIDAY the 13th. She’s maybe the world’s most famous Hockey Mom.

But to us baby boomers Ms. Palmer is forever etched in our minds as a celebrity panelist on the I’VE GOT A SECRET game show from the 50s and 60s. And she was also playing Peter Pan in any dinner theater that could afford the flying apparatus.

So how does this cheery, chirpy pixie with a trademark smile and sixty teeth go from live game shows to blood splatter fests?

She needed to buy a car.

"What a piece of junk!” she said of the movie (not the car) in an early interview. “Nobody is ever going to see this piece of crap."

Any teenager who ever pissed in his (or her) pants knows that’s not true.

Betsy eventually embraced the franchise. And why not? No one ever became a cult figure asking contestants if their secret had anything to do with trampolines?

Betsy just turned 85. Happy Birthday. Your son is carving you a gift even as we speak.

19 comments:

normadesmond said...

we loved her in "queen bee" too.

Michael said...

I'd also like to say a nice word for those old panel shows. Could we now even find four people intelligent and witty enough to sit on a panel and guess someone's secret or occupation, or which of these three people is the real .... Watch the John O'Hurley-hosted version of To Tell the Truth (he did a good job) and weep.

Mike Schryver said...

I'm 52, and I didn't know she was in "Friday the 13th". I remember her from the panel shows.
I miss those shows, too. O'Hurley did do a good job on TTTT, but the overall production was lacking, I thought. I'll take the 1990 version, with the booming arrangement of the '70s theme and the elegant set. (I don't think Miss Palmer participated in that one, though.)

Corey said...

Who's her son?

Michael said...

Sorry, Mike, I have to go with Garry Moore--who, in an interesting connection to Ken's previous post, once had a staff writer named Andy Rooney. What's really interesting to me--I knew it then, but couldn't explain it--is how great Garry Moore was as a communicator, at talking to a camera and making you feel as though he was talking to you. Too few have that talent today.

Ray Barrington said...

It should be noted that during a time when Betsy couldn't guess a secret, the producers brought on a contestant who had carrots in his ears. (The secret was, of course, that he had carrots in his ears.) Betsy couldn't guess it. But she was cute and funny, which was more than enough.

Matt Patton said...

It's funny, even with a big knife in her hand, Ms. Palmer still doesn't look as scary as Joan Crawford did in the movie where Palmer co-starred with her. Can't remember the title, just Crawford barging about with a riding crop . . .

Charles Patrick Croghan said...

I like those shows, too, but I think if anyone's mourning for a time when American wit was defined by Betsy Palmer, Peggy Cass and Arlene Francis, they may need a refresher course in American wit.

Jake Mabe said...

Speaking of the panel shows, I've long thought that the most witty, civil, genteel and sophisticated 30 minutes on television were the original run of "What's My Line." I miss the re-runs terribly since GSN had the bad sense to stop running them a couple of years ago. (I also enjoyed, to a slightly lesser extent, its re-run of the original "To Tell the Truth.")

To Michael's point, you couldn't find four people intelligent and witty enough to do it now if you looked and looked, especially if you pooled from what passes for celebrities these days.

estiv said...

@Corey, her role in the original Friday the 13th was as (spoiler alert) the mother of the slasher, although we don't find that out until the end.

emily said...

Excuse me while I take Corey out back and spank him...

SPK said...

It's rare enough to have an impact on one generation, but that she'll be remembered across several for two such distinct contributions says it all.I know many look down on the genre, but the original Friday the 13th still holds up thirty years later and her performance is spot on - creepy as hell, but not over the top.
So heads off to you Ms. Palmer - er, hats off to you! Happy Birthday!

Matt said...

I prefer to think of Corey's comment as a very brief and disproportionately funny trolling. My hat is off to you, Corey.

Tink said...

freddie's mother,how sweet.. haha
@Corey: funny you dont know her son :)

Chris Holland said...

Betty White told a friend of mine working at game show network a great Betsy Palmer story many years ago. No one can confirm the story as White said it did not air, but the gist of it is as follows:

Betsy was on Password in the 60s and her word was 'Jerk'. She gave the clue 'Circle' to which everyone cracked up.

Paul Duca said...

I read in a book that Palmer also, when given the word "pigeon" said something that had to be bleeped.

TTTTs on a Boar-Hog said...

Betsy really did exhibit a great sense of humor on To Tell the Truth.

Love those panel shows, and I agree ... No Kardashian could ever hold my attention.

Paul Duca said...

I found this unusual dramatic portray by Betsy...


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9WA5I2t26w

Paul Duca said...

Sorry about that, Ken...I didn't realize you approved comments on older blogs. That's why I posted it twice--I'm used to having them show up immediately on current ones, so I assumed I made a mistake. You don't need to put it in twice.

That does answer my question on how many days back you go to read comments. After a certain time you set up the approval requirement. Nice to know that I can write something new about something old and you'll see it.

You don't have to post this one, either.