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Subject: ARCHIVE: April 1, 1975 ~ Larry Parks dies at 60

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Date Posted: Monday, April 13, 11:21:07am

Larry Parks, Actor, Is Dead; Won Acclaim for ‘Jolson Story’

The New York Times
April 15, 1975

Larry Parks, the actor who reached Hollywood stardom with his forceful performance in “The Jolson Story” in 1946 but whose acting career all but came to a halt in 1951 when he admitted past membership in the Communist party, died Sunday night of a heart attack in his home in Studio City, Calif. He was 60 years old.

With his acting career in decline after he became the first movie star to admit he had been a Communist, in an appearance before. the House Committee on Un‐American Activities, Mr. Parks found occasional stage, and film work, but in recent years had made his living in real estate.

His wife, the actress Betty Garrett, whose career was also adversely affected by her husband's tearful admission that he had been a Communist from 1941 to 1945, although she was in no way connected with the party, is now seen regularly as Archie Bunker's neighbor Irene in television's “All in the Family” series.

Ushered at Carnegie

Mr. Parks was horn Dec. 3, 1914, in Olathe, Kan. Two childhood illnesses left him with a weakened heart and one leg slightly shorter than the other, but movie audiences were unaware of the latter defect because he wore special shoes.

The doctors who guided his recovery to good health inspired Mr. Parks to study medicine at the University of Illinois, but the acting bug bit him there and he wound up in New York, working as an usher at Carnegie Hall and a uniformed guide in Radio City while looking for work in the theater.

Mr. Parks became associated with the old Group Theater in the nineteen‐thirties, playing small roles, and toured hi summer stock. With the aid of the late John Garfield, he was signed on as a low‐paid contract player at Columbia Pictures, where, beginning with “Mystery Ship” in 1941, he appeared in some 30 low‐budget “B” pictures, with such forgettable titles as “The Boogie Man. Will Get You,” “Hello Mom,” “Atlantic Convoy” and “Sergeant Mike.”

How the hard‐working Mr. Parks won the plum role in the Jolson biography reads like one of those stereotyped Hollywood star‐is‐born stories. It is said that Columbia interviewed and tested dozens of actors and Jolson‐imitators for the Al Jolson role, and ended up finding the right man right there at Columbia.

In any event, the movie, in which Mr. Jolson did the actual singing of some two dozen songs “lip‐synched” by Mr. Parks, was an enormous hit when it was released, and the new Columbia star was put immediately into “Down to Earth” opposite the studio's reigning queen of the lot, Rita Hayworth. And, following a protracted legal battle with Columbia over the money terms of his contract, Mr. Parks made the popular sequel “Jolson Sings Again” in 1948.

After his film carer went into eclipse following his “'confession,” Mr. Parks appeared in few pictures made abroad, including his last, John Huston's “Freud,” in 1963, in which he had a feature role.

Besides Miss Garrett, whom he married in 1944, Mr. Parks is survived by two sons, Garrett Christopher and Andrew Lawrence.


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He was married to actress Betty Garrett from 1944 until his death in 1975. (NT)She never remarried, and died in 2011 at age 91.Monday, April 13, 11:35:18am

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