Betsy Palmer

Betsy Palmer

Palmer in 1960
Born Patricia Betsy Hrunek
(1926-11-01)November 1, 1926
East Chicago, Indiana, U.S.
Died May 29, 2015(2015-05-29) (aged 88)
Danbury, Connecticut, U.S.
Education DePaul University, Goodman School of Drama
Occupation Actress
Years active 1951–2007
Notable work Various films and Broadway shows
Television I've Got a Secret, and numerous other television shows
Spouse(s) Vincent J. Merendino,M.D. (m. 1954–71)
Children 1
Parent(s) Rudolph Vincent Hrunek (father)
Marie Love (mother)

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.

Early life

Betsy Palmer was born on Monday, November 1, 1926, as Patricia Betsy Hrunek in East Chicago, Indiana, the daughter of Marie (née Love), who launched the Chicago Business College, and Rudolph Vincent Hrunek,[1] an industrial chemist who was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia.[2][3][4][5] She graduated from the Goodman School of Drama at DePaul University, (now, The Theatre School at DePaul University) where she studied theater.[6]

Acting career

Palmer got her first acting job in 1951 when she joined the cast of the 15-minute weekday television soap opera Miss Susan, which was produced in Philadelphia. She was "discovered" for this role while attending a party in the apartment of actor Frank Sutton. She had been in Manhattan less than one week.

A life member of The Actors Studio,[7] 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. 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.[8] 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.

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.

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

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.[9]

Palmer's need to replace her defunct car 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."[10] 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, and appeared in the 2006 documentary, Betsy Palmer: Scream Queen Legend. Palmer was asked to reprise her role as Mrs. Voorhees in Freddy vs. Jason in 2003 but turned down the role.

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 2005, at around 79 years old, she appeared as Trudie Tredwell in the horror short Penny Dreadful,[11] and in 2007, at 81, as the older version of the title character in Waltzing Anna.[12] She also provided the voice of the title character, the ghost of a witch, in the 2007 horror film Bell Witch: The Movie.

Personal life

Betsy Palmer married Vincent J. Merendino, an obstetrics and gynecology medical doctor, in 1954, divorcing him in 1971. They had one child.

Palmer died of natural causes on May 29, 2015, at a hospice care center in Danbury, Connecticut.[13]


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)
Year Film Role Notes
1955 Death Tide Gloria
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 Louse Tina Adams Television film
The Last Angry Man Anna Thrasher
1968 A Punt, a Pass, and a Prayer Nancy Television film
1980 Friday the 13th Pamela Voorhees
1981 Friday the 13th Part 2 Pamela Voorhees
Isabel's Choice Ellie Fineman Television film
1988 Windmills of the Gods Mrs. Hart Brisbane Television film
Goddess of Love Hera Television film
1992 Still Not Quite Human Aunt Mildred Television film
1994 Unveiled Eva
1999 The Fear: Resurrection Grandmother
2006 Waltzing Anna Anna Rhoades
2007 Bell Witch: The Movie Bell Witch

Television appearances

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


Award Category Work Result
Fantasporto Film Festival Special Career Award Penny Dreadful Won
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Actress Friday the 13th Nominated
New England Theatre Conference 2005 Major Award Award for Stage Work[14] Various Won


  1. Shanley, J.P. (1956-07-08). "REALISTIC ACTRESS; Betsy Palmer Discusses Her Work on TV". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  2. "The name is Betsy Palmer". The Lima News. 1960-05-03.
  3. Betsy Palmer Biography
  5. Friday the 13th Reunion Panel, from the Friday the 13th Deluxe Edition DVD (Paramount Home Video)
  6. Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  7. "Hound-Dog Man (1953)"., Inc. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  8. "Betsy Palmer". IBDB: The Official Source For Broadway Information. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  9. Orange, B. Alan. "EXCLUSIVE: Betsy Palmer Is Friday the 13th's Mrs. Pamela Voorhees!". MovieWeb. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  10. "Penny Dreadful (2005)". Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  11. "Waltzing Anna (2006)". Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  12. Palmer obituary from Associated Press
  13. "NETC Online". NETC Online. Retrieved 2013-04-03.

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