Friday, November 14, 2008

Seven Brides Dancer Betty Carr, Age 79

As regular readers may be aware, my all-time favorite movie is SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. My favorite of the film's dancing brides is Sarah, played by Betty Carr.

Thus I was greatly saddened today to learn that Carr passed away at the end of August. A memorial service was held near her longtime Florida home in early October.

To my knowledge, Carr is the first of the film's seven brides to die. Of the original group of 14 brides and brothers, only Howard Keel, Jeff Richards, and Carr are no longer with us, despite the passage of over half a century since the film's release.

Carr was lifelong friends with Norma Doggett, who played Martha. I've also read that Doggett and Virginia Gibson, who played Liza, have remained in close contact.

Carr is seen at the very left of the cast photo at the top of this post, along with her dancing partner, Tommy Rall. I have a copy of this photo in my own collection of dozens of SEVEN BRIDES stills and lobby cards.

If you've never seen SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, be sure to check out the 2-Disc Special Edition, reviewed here by Glenn Erickson. The set contains two different filmings of the movie -- CinemaScope and "flat" -- and longtime fans can pick up subtle differences in the performances and line readings. (There are also two different versions of OKLAHOMA! which are similarly fascinating to compare; in that case even the lighting is different as location scenes were shot at different times of day.)

In addition to her role in SEVEN BRIDES, Carr appeared on Broadway in several productions in the mid to late '50s. She was married to Edward Burke, a tennis pro and businessman; they had one son, Edward Jr.

Here's a story from the Los Angeles Times via the Orlando Sentinel. I usually make it a point to check the Times' obituary pages but if this story was in the print edition, it got past me.

Betty Carr may not be a household name, but through her contribution to one of Hollywood's greatest musicals she brought joy to a great many people, this writer included.

7 Comments:

Blogger cpycock said...

I too, love the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I found out about Betty Carr just by accident while I was looking up information about the movie. It is also one of my all-time favourites. I know Betty Carr, like Norma Doggett and Virginia Gibson, worked on Broadway and that may be why t stayed in touch with each other. It is almost impossible to find out any information about her after she retired. Presumably, she had a family(?) The great thing is that we have Betty on film and she really does shine! Nice to have discovered your blog.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Welcome!

Betty did marry and have a son, according to her obituaries.

Always nice to hear from another fan of 7 BRIDES and Betty Carr. If you enjoy old movies, I hope you will visit again, as that's a regular topic of discussion here.

Best wishes,
Laura

12:20 AM  
Blogger netty said...

i just got into this movie. it is so fantastic. the dancing and the actors just everything about the movie has been done perfect. my fav bride was Julie Newmar she was just so tall and pretty.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

I grew up knowing Betty and her son Eddie.(Edward Jr.) I am from Central Florida and my mother became good friends with her through our local community theatre Ice House Players. Eddie is mentally retarded and had several other health issues but he was the light of Betty's eyes. I would play at her home with him as a child while my Mom visited with Betty. She was an incredible, sweet lady. Her talents were many and her love of life was like a beam of sunshine. She was widowed and never remarried. My mother talked to her about a week before her passing and when I got the news, my heart shattered. I am so happy to know she had such a wonderful fan base. She chose to retire for the love of her husband and son. But, her heart was always in the spotlight shining brightly for anyone who had the great fortune of knowing her. She is greatly missed and loved.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Susan, thank you so much for posting this lovely tribute to Betty Carr. As I mentioned in the original post, she was always my favorite "bride" in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, but I knew almost nothing about her despite trying to learn more over the years. I really appreciate you filling me in on her life after the movie. Thank you!!

Best wishes,
Laura

11:34 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Betty starred with Mickey Rooney in All Ashore. I have been trying for years to find the movie on VHS or DVD. She had a great love of stage and did several Broadway productions before moving to Florida. With her son's disabilites and her husband's health, the warm weather was better for them. She had to most amazing white baby grand piano. I could listen to her sing and play for hours. I don't know why I suddenly looked her name up online, but I'm glad I did. That's how I found your blog. She was an incredible cook also. I remember the smell of her cookies baking when we'd visit. And her laugh. Thank you for allowing me to share. I write this with tears in my eyes and an empty spot in my heart where she holds it in Heaven. And just to let you know, Howard Keel was as handsome in person in his elder age as he was in his movies. (And he sure smelled nice)He is missed also.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

How touching to read your comments. And how sadly coincidental yet heart-warming that Julie Newmar and Betty both had children with physical and mental disabilities and both cared for them with equal devotion. They were part of a golden generation when love and duty went hand in hand. I think that successive generations (my own included) have been self-centred in comparison. I enjoyed reading your account, Susan. What a fabulous person she was.

I'm writing from the UK where SEVEN BRIDES was as warmly received and loved through the years as in the US of A! 'June Bride' and 'Spring, Spring, Spring' always move me to tears. Such beauty. She and Norma sparkled alongside the others. Ruta Lee described the film as 'lusty'. Spot on. Jane Powell described her character as 'strong, tough and decisive'. Spot on. The film has nothing to do with rape, male chauvenism or indeed, sobbin' women! Its critics entirely miss the point. It's rooted in the pioneering era - young guys and gals who see what they want and go for it. It's a wonderful film, very exciting and moving with far more dramatic substance than usual in musicals of the period.

I don't know whether my comments will be of any interest, particularly five years after you first wrote. But I wanted to substantiate what you have said. You and Susan sound like my kind of people. Been collecting the autographs of the brides and brothers so that I can make a spectacular display. Betty, Norma and Nancy Kilgas are proving difficult to track down but I'm determined to find them!

So 'Greetings from the UK'. We love it too! And Betty will not be forgotten.

Best wishes. Roger Parsons.

11:38 AM  

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