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Betsy Blair (1923 - 2009)

A photo of Betsy Blair
Betsy Blair
1923 - 2009
Born
December 11, 1923
Cliffside Park, New Jersey, United States
Death
March 13, 2009
London, England, United Kingdom
Other Names
Elizabeth Winifred Boger - at birth.
Summary
Betsy Blair was born on December 11, 1923 in Cliffside Park, New Jersey United States. She was married to Gene Kelly on September 22, 1941 and they later divorced on April 3, 1957. She had a child Kerry Kelly. Betsy Blair died at age 85 years old on March 13, 2009 in London, England United Kingdom, and was buried on March 16, 2009 at England. Cremated and ashes given to daughter Kerry Kelly..
Updated: January 25, 2023
Biography ID: 192797161

Betsy Blair's Biography

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About Betsy

Introduction

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Betsy Blair
Most commonly known as
Betsy Blair
Full legal name
Elizabeth Winifred Boger - at birth.
Other names or aliases

Name & aliases

England.
Last place lived

Last residence

December 11, 1923
Birthday
Cliffside Park, New Jersey United States
Birth location

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Ethnicity & Family History

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Nationality & Locations

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Education

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Religion

dd/mm/yyyy
Baptism date
Unknown
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Professions

Betsy Blair Born December 11, 1923, in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, USA Died March 13, 2009, in London, England, UK Birth Name Elizabeth Winifred Boger Height 5' 6" (1.68 m) 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 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 a 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 Committee 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 that 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. Family (2) Spouse Karel Reisz (3 September 1963 - 25 November 2002) (his death) Gene Kelly (22 September 1941 - 3 April 1957) (divorced) (1 child) Parents William Kidd Boger and Frederica Ammon Blacklisted because of her left-wing sympathies, although she never actually joined the Communist Party. Nonetheless, she was blacklisted despite an Academy Award nomination for Marty (1955). She later transplanted herself to England for a long period. Played Polly Draper's character's mother on Thirtysomething (1987) originally, but Lois Smith took over the role later for unknown reasons. Played "Old Laura Brown" in The Hours (2002). The director and producer believed that people would not recognize the character. Julianne Moore, who played "Young Laura Brown", re-shot her scenes with age makeup. Gave birth to her only child at age 18, a daughter Kerry Kelly on October 16, 1942. Kerry's father was her 1st husband, Gene Kelly. Chose a book of song lyrics and an ice cream maker as her book and luxury, respectively, as a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs (broadcast 17 June 2005). Her records included Gene Kelly's "I Got Rhythm," Jimmy Durante's "Someone To Love," and a song from "Porgy and Bess." Member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1980. Fluent in French. Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Actors Branch). Upon her death she was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium in London, England. Her ashes are currently in the possession of her daughter. Lived with actor and director Roger Pigaut in Paris (her favorite city) in between her marriages to Gene Kelly in the U.S. and director Karel Reisz in England. Personal Quotes (3) Recalling the Blacklist era: "To sit out the McCarthy era in a house on Rodeo Drive as Mrs. Gene Kelly is not so bad. But the atmosphere that prevailed eventually destroyed my marriage. My ideas ran against the political currents of the time. By 1957 we were divorced." It certainly wasn't much of a career. For all my ambitions, I think my life was more important to me.

Personal Life

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Military Service

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March 13, 2009
Death date
Unknown
Cause of death
London, England United Kingdom
Death location

Death details

March 16, 2009
Funeral date
England. Cremated and ashes given to daughter Kerry Kelly.
Burial location

Gravesite & burial

Obituary

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Betsy Blair passed away at age 85 years old on March 13, 2009 in London, England United Kingdom, and was buried on March 16, 2009 at England. Cremated and ashes given to daughter Kerry Kelly.. Betsy Blair was born on December 11, 1923 in Cliffside Park, New Jersey United States. She was married to Gene Kelly on September 22, 1941 and they later divorced on April 3, 1957. Betsy Blair had a child Kerry Kelly.

Average Age & Life Expectancy

Betsy Blair lived 14 years longer than the average Blair family member when she died at the age of 85.
The average age of a Blair family member is 71.
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Memories: Stories & Photos

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Betsy Blair and Ernest Borgnine in MARTY.
This was a major starring role for both Betsy Blair and Ernest Borgnine.
She wanted Blacks to be treated better in the movies and she was immediately blacklisted by the right-wing racists
ruling Hollywood and Betsy had to go to England for work.
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Betsy Blair
Movie Star.
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Betsy Blair - Character Actress
Marty and The Snakepit.
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Olivia de Havilland (This is the way Olivia spelled her name) and Betsy Blair
In The Snakepit
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Betsy Blair
Star.
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Betsy Blair and husband Gene Kelly and daughter Kerry Kelly.
She lived in London for many years. I met him in London and it was a very memorable night.
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Betsy and Gene Kelly in color.
He married 2 more times after her.
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Betsy Blair
Character Actress.
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Family Tree & Friends

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Betsy's Family Tree

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Parent
Betsy Blair Betsy Blair
Partner
Child
Partner
Child
Sibling

Relationships

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Gene Kelly

&

Betsy Blair

Married: September 22, 1941 - April 3, 1957
Cause of Separation: Divorce
Married at: United States
Divorced at: United States
Betsy Blair Betsy Blair
Child

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1923 - 2009 World Events

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In 1923, in the year that Betsy Blair was born, on August 2, President Warren G. Harding died in office, apparently of a heart attack. He was staying at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco after completing a nationwide tour. Suffering from cramps, indigestion, a fever and shortness of breath, his doctor thought he had food poisoning. After several days of being ill, he suddenly shuddered, slumped over, and died. There were rumors of foul play (some thought that his wife had poisoned him because of his affairs) but no evidence has ever been found.

In 1941, by the time she was 18 years old, on December 7th, the Japanese attacked the military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise aerial attack damaged 8 U.S. battleships (6 later returned to service), including the USS Arizona, and destroyed 188 aircraft. 2,402 American citizens died and 1,178 wounded were wounded. On December 8th, the U.S. declared war on Japan and on December 11th, Germany and Italy (allies of Japan) declared war on the United States. World War II was in full swing.

In 1962, when she was 39 years old, lasting from October 16th - 28th, the Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest that the United States and the Soviet Union came to nuclear war. The Soviet Union had been installing a nuclear missile base in Cuba. The United States established a blockade to stop the base from being completed. Through secret negotiations, war was averted: the Soviet Union agreed to dismantle their weapons in Cuba and the United States agreed to never invade Cuba and to dismantle weapons in Turkey and Italy.

In 1983, Betsy was 60 years old when on August 30th, the Soviet Union claimed that a South Korean Boeing 747 jetliner (Flight 007), bound for Seoul from New York City, had strayed into Soviet airspace. Saying that they believed it to be a U.S. spy plane, the passenger jet was shot down by a Soviet SU-15 fighter - after it had tracked the airliner for two hours. All 269 passengers (including a U.S. Representative from Georgia) and crew were killed.

In 1993, at the age of 70 years old, Betsy was alive when on January 20th, William J. Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States. He beat incumbent George H.W. Bush who was seeking his second term. Clinton won 43.01% of the popular vote to Bush's 37.45%. An independent candidate, Ross Perot, won 18.91% - the most votes for an independent candidate since Teddy Roosevelt's run for President in 1912.

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