A blog about classic television, movies, and radio, by the author of "Joan Davis: America's Queen of Film, Radio and Television Comedy," among others.
Monday, June 1, 2015
Why We Remember
The recent passing of two veteran performers made me think about the generational divide between people my age (late-era Baby Boomers) and those who are younger. If you asked me to name three reasons to know Anne Meara (1929-2015), I might say, "Half of the Stiller and Meara comedy team ... Veronica on Archie Bunker's Place," and then what? Valerie Harper's pal on Rhoda?Star of Kate McShane? Panelist on Match Game? Give me a few more tries, and maybe I'd add, "Ben Stiller's mother." But it wouldn't be her claim to fame in my book, as it was seemingly was for many obituary writers in recent days.
On the other hand, I will admit that, yes, mention the name of Betsy Palmer (1926-2015), who died last Friday, and I do get an image of her as Mrs. Voorhees in Friday the 13th (1980). But I also know her for a supporting role in Joan Crawford's Queen Bee (1955), as a panelist on game shows (notably I've Got a Secret), and for her role on the prime-time soap Knots Landing.
Maybe there's something to be said for actresses so versatile that no one of their roles stands out when their careers are assessed. And for surviving so long in a tough industry that you have multiple opportunities to redefine yourself as time passes. RIP, ladies.