Best Bettys

Betty Comden: As one half of the legendary musical duo of Comden and Green, Betty Comden produced six decades' worth of Hollywood and Broadway hits. The duo penned screenplays and songs for some of the most beloved movie musicals, including Singin' in the Rain, The Band Wagon, and On the Town, which they'd also scored in its original Broadway production. Their other Broadway hits include Wonderful Town with Rosalind Russell, Bells Are Ringing with Judy Holliday, and the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan. In more recent years, Comden and Green scored big with The Will Rogers Follies in 1991. Betty Comden died of heart failure this past November at the age of 91.

Bette Davis: The queen of the silver screen began her acting career on the Broadway stage in the late 1920s, and nearly ended it there, too, when she returned in 1952 as star of the infamous Two's Company. In this notorious monstrosity, La Davis brayed a long list of songs, none of them on key, and also appeared in campy skits designed to show off her dubious comic talents. The show bombed, limping along on the strength of Davis' name for 90 performances. (Rumor has it that Davis was so embarrassed by her vocals on the original cast LP that she tried to buy up every last copy of the disc.) This flop didn't prevent Davis from trying Broadway two more times: in the original 1962 production of Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana, and in 1974's Miss Moffat (another musical, this one based on the 1945 Davis film The Corn is Green).

Betty Buckley: Lots of people remember Buckley as the mom on TV's Eight is Enough, but she's better known as one of musical theater's biggest international stars. Dubbed "The Voice of Broadway" by New York magazine, Buckley made her New York debut in 1969 in 1776, and really made a name for herself as the original Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, in which she sang "Memory." She won a Tony for that performance, and went on to more huge successes in Webber's Sunset Boulevard and Triumph of Love, for which she was Tony-nominated again. That she survived the infamy of Carrie: The Musical, long considered the worst Broadway tuner ever staged, is a testament to this Betty's talents.

Betty Garrett: Sure, she starred in Laverne and Shirley. But before she was Penny Marshall's TV landlady, she was a featured Broadway player in hits like Bells Are Ringing and Beg, Borrow or Steal, as well as in Call Me Mister, in which she sang "South America, Take It Away" and won a Donaldson Award, the forerunner of the Tony. Her reprisal of her stage role in Comden and Green's On the Town is captured forever in the film version; check it out.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela