Betsy Blair

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Name Betsy Blair
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Betsy Blair was born in Cliffside, New Jersey, a child model before finding work as a chorus dancer at the early age of 15. She received her first mini-break on Broadway in “Panama Hattie” in 1940 delivering a single line, but by the next year she had copped the ingénue lead in William Saroyan’s “The Beautiful People.” At around the same time, she met dancer extraordinaire Gene Kelly and married him in 1940. Despite her background in dance, Betsy was admittedly not in the same league as a Vera-Ellen, Cyd Charisse, or Ann Miller, so she was never afforded the opportunity to glide with Gene in films. Moreover, she never even appeared in a musical film.

She made her large screen debut in 1947 and, for the next couple of years, appeared in a number of above-average dramas such as The Guilt of Janet Ames (1947), A Double Life (1947) starring Ronald Colman, The Snake Pit (1948), wherein she played a demented inmate alongside Olivia de Havilland, and a shining role in Another Part of the Forest (1948). After such promise, things came to a halt. Betsy had been involved in SAG politics as early as 1946 proposing the formation of the first Anti-Discrimination committee. Within a year the House Un-American Activities Committe began to investigate Betsy and others in the motion picture industry and what they considered left-wing extremist viewpoints. Her name appeared in the “Red Channels” and that was that. Her career was undone. By the early 1950s, all film offers had dried up. The only reason Betsy won the female lead in the 1955 cinematic classic Marty (1955) was because her husband threatened to stop shooting at MGM if they didn’t let her work despite the blacklist. It would be the role of a lifetime for Betsy. As the touching plain-Jane girlfriend of Ernest Borgnine’s title butcher, Betsy won the Cannes Film and British Film acting awards, not to mention an Oscar nomination. It did not help her overcome the blacklist, however.

By 1957, she was divorced from Kelly and had moved to Europe to avoid the Hollywood shun. Shortly thereafter, she lived with French actor Roger Pigaut. In 1963, she married producer/director Karel Reisz. They would remain together for almost 40 years until his death in London of a blood disorder in 2002. Betsy later published her memoirs and discussed quite candidly her life on Broadway, life with Gene Kelly, and life amid the blacklisting. She continued to live in England before passing away from cancer on 13th March, 2009. She was 85 years old.


  • Birthname: Elizabeth Winifred Boger
  • Born: December 11, 1923
  • Born Place: Cliffside Park, New Jersey, USA
  • Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
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