Saturday, January 27, 2007
larry parks

I said I was going to do a post about my dear friend Larry Parks and so, my dear's, here it is....! Many many years ago....almost 61 years to be exact....I saw a film called "The Jolson Story" at one of the then two movie theatres in Great Neck, where I grew up. I was blown away.....! The film was about one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century, Al Jolson. At the time of the making of this film, Jolson's career was pretty much on the downhill side....but, this movie and it's sequel, "Jolson Sings Again", revived Jolson's career and introduced him to a whole new generation of people through the embodiment of the actor who played Jolson in these films, Larry Parks.I fell in love with both Larry Parks and Jolson right then and there. So along with two friends of mine who also became Larry Parks-Al Jolson "groupies", we went back to the Squire Theatre on the Saturday of that week when the theatre opened at 11 A.M. in the morning, and we carried in bags of sandwiches to sustain us for the day. (They didn't sell actual "food" food back then in movie theatre's....just candy, popcorn and soft drinks) We stayed in the theatre all day long and into the evening, leaving only when the theatre closed down for the night just after midnight.....(you could do that in those days...you could go in any time and stay as long as you liked for 25 cents....and people did this all the time.)

What is it the Larry Parks had? Well, aside from the fact that he was gorgeous, he had a sweetness about him that made you feel he was like the boy next door who also just happened to have the chops to become a big 'movie star'. Now, Al Jolson was a larger-than-life performer and Larry had to "be" Jolson without just doing an imitation....This was a new form of movie back then....they hadn't made too many Biographical films of famous performers who were still alive, back then....Jolson did his own singing for the film and Larry 'lip synched' the songs, and did it brilliantly, too.

The war had ended just the year before and Columbia Pictures had all these wonderful young talented people under contract. Larry Parks was one of those people. You believed he was Al Jolson, and especially if you were too young to have acrually seen Jolson perform. Larry received a Nomination for an Academy Award for his great great performance of Al Jolson that year....I tell you, this film was a stunner. More people went into show business because of this film than you can possibly imagine. And this was such a popular picture that there was a sequel, "Jolson Sings Again"....and it was as popular as the first picture. For a studio to do a sequel back in the late 1940's was practically unheard of....I know, that's hard to believe isn't it, when everything has a sequel or two or three, these days...., but, indeed, it was the 'unusual' back then...and because "Jolson Sings Again" was as big a hit as the first film, this further established Larry Parks as an A-list Star at Columbia Pictures....until the dark days came....I won't go into the details of what happened next because to really understand about it you need read Betty Garrett's book,
"Betty Garrett And Other Songs", in which she tells what happened from the most personal and factual viewpoint---the only time, no doubt, too---as Betty and Larry were married in 1944 and stayed married until his untimely death at 60 years of age, in April of 1975. Her book is a wonderful 'read' and you won't be sorry....So, suffice it to say, Larry was Blacklisted in the early 1950's durimg that horrible ugly McCarthy-Witch-Hunt period, and his career as a film star, never really recovered....Though he continued to perform on stage in plays and tour with Betty in a nightclub act, he only made two more feature films after that, and appeared in a few television shows, too, but his very last film was in 1960. It was "Freud" starring Montgomery Clift as Freud, and Directed by John Houston.


When I joined Theatre West in 1962, (it's first year of existance) Betty was there having been a founding member of this wonderful theatre group. It was a very very small group back then...maybe 25 people....And I had fallen in love with Betty about the same time I discovered Larry.
She was starring on Broadway in a show called "Call Me Mister" and she had "it"....Yes, the famous "it" factor was up there on that stage on Broadway....And MGM Studios thought so too and put her under contract. The Parks had met in 1943-44 and on their first date Larry knew this was the girl he wanted to marry....And marry they did. On September 8th, 1944, Betty and Larry were married in this lovely church on Hollywood Blvd., right here in Los Angeles....In 1974 they had their 30th Wedding Anniversary....
That is the fast background. The thing that has always amazed me about Betty and Larry is that these two people had been so important to me before I ever met them and then after meeting them and working with Betty in "Spoon River" and living in the same hotel for those almost 5 months back when we were on Broadway---(And Larry was doing a play on Broadway at that same time....) we got to be truly good and close friends and they became even more important to me in a "real" flesh and blood way.

This friendship continues to this day and extends to their two sons, Garrett Parks and his wife Karen and their daughter Maddie, and to Andrew Parks, (called Andy) and his wife Katy....In fact in my capacity as a minister, I married both of 'the boys'---they will always be called 'the boys', I think....Garret and Karen in November 1991 and Andy & Katy in September, 2002.

We have shared so very many important times together, some very joyous times and some deeply sad times, too. The milestones of long term friendships just cannot be replaced by 'new' things.
Not that the 'new' aren't important---they certainly are and I am grateful for all the new friendships and experiences I still encounter. But at my age, to be close to people still, who knew both my parents and my siblings and my significant others, is a great gift. And these things cannot be replaced nor can they ever happen anymore...certainly not with my parents. All this is by way of saying that The Parks and I shared a lot over the years.


Larry made many many films during his career before the dark days happened....Click on his name and it will take you to The Internet Movie Data Base where you can see his body of film work. It is very very impressive. Larry Parks deserves a "star" on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk Of Fame. He still doesn't have one. Many people feel that the stumbling block is The Blacklist. It certainly can't have anything to do with his credits in films and theatre....he has those, including his Academy Award nomination, and if he had done nothing else but "The Jolson Story" and "Jolson Sings Again", these two films alone should have assured him having a 'star' on The Walk Of Fame, but as you will see if you click on his name, there is so much more. And it's not the cost....because the money would be found one way or another....that is not the problem. The only other stumbling block is that they only give one star a year, postumously. But here is what is truly distressing: That someone like Donald Trump gets a "star" on The Walk Of Fame, and Larry Parks still doesn't have one...well....there is something wrong with this picture.

You know, in the early days of this Walk Of Fame Project some people would have more than one 'star'....like Gene Autrey. Because his career covered films, records, radio and television...he has four stars. Bob Hope, at least three stars, maybe four....Bing Crosby, Milton Berle, etc....Because of space on the streets of Hollywood, now people who's careers span Films, TV, Records, etc....get just one star.
Well, that's all we want for Larry Parks. One star. One Star on The Walk Of Fame, please. Betty has hers, Thank God....and now, Larry should get his.


Years ago---almost twenty years now, I began this campaign to try to get Larry a star...it was almost a 'crusade'...And it was an amazing thing that happened....I distributed a Petition through the good graces and generosity of Milton Goldman, who was a big big entertainment lawyer in New York who's client list and friends read like a Who's Who of show business. He circulated his copy to as many people as possible and the got all these fantastic people to sign it. Big stars of the day who's names should have carried a lot of weight, like Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Kitty Carlysle, Maureen Stapleton, to name just three...I cannot find my copy of this petition---it is somewhere, but I don't know where, The point is, with over one hundred (100) BIG names on this petition, and it didn't happen.

There is someone right now today who may have some 'clout' with the Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce, because maybe that is what it is going to take, and the hope is that this person can convince them that the time is 'now' for Larry Parks to finally receive his "star"....I hope and pray that this will happen, and soon. It would be so wonderful for Betty to have this happen in her lifetime---it is her dearest wish, you know. If you want to help, please write the Walk People: info@hollywoodchamber.net. It certainly can't hurt and who knows, if enough people from all over this country and the world bombard them with LARRY PARKS' name.....maybe, just maybe this will finally finally happen.

Larry was a dear sweet man who was a good friend and was always supportive of anything you were doing. If you appreared on some show on tv, you would hear from him the next morning telling you how wonderful you were---no matter the size of the part. He was a good man, a wonderful husband, and a devoted father....He is still so very missed by all who knew him and loved him, including his legion of fans all over the world. Check out Larry's 'tribute' page....it is a joy!



I am going to leave this post up for a little longer than usual because it is a little longer than usual and I'd like as many people as possible to see it...But not to worry, I will put up something 'new', before you know it....thanks for understanding.



More To Come.....







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44 Comments:
had this to say:

Hi Naomi.. how about a little information on what should be said when we write a letter to the Chamber?... You KNOW I'll write one lol.. but it might be helpful to give an idea of what to say for those who never did anything like this before....

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 6:02:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

He certainly does deserve a star far, far, far MORE than Donald Trump. DT is not an actor for pete's sake. I just don't get it.
I will write them a letter!!

Larry Parks sure was a good looking fellow! I can see why Betty fell for him!

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 7:37:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I sent them the letter!

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 7:41:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I sent an email. I hope your email campaign works!

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 7:48:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, so glad to read this great post about Larry. What an amazing guy he was and it's an outrage he doesn't have a star on Hollywood Blvd. I'm all for restarting that crusade—count me and Kendall in!

Your memories make me want to see "The Jolson Story" again immediately. I also can't help but wonder what kind of films Larry would have continued to make had there been no HUAC laying waste to good people's careers.

Wish I'd had the chance to meet Larry Parks but Kendall has fond memories of him, as you know. And, as I've mentioned, my mom was crazy in love with him when she was a teenager and introduced me to Larry and Betty's wonderful movies at an early age.

Meet me in Hollywood with a jackhammer and we can get rid of Donald Trump's appalling "tribute" on the boulevard!

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 8:00:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I hope that Larry will get his star. Thank you for the link that enables us to help.
Hugs dear and thanks for sharing your world with us. Thank you for sharing the beautiful people who have traveled through your life with you.
I appreciate your passion and compassion for humanity and it touches me deeply.
Hugs

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 8:31:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Lyn M.
had this to say:

Thank You Naomi for today's post on Larry Parks, beloved husband and father, forever missed by his family and dear friends and his ever growing fan base all over the world. I'll write to anyone's ears I can reach to ask for their help in assuring that if only one posthumous star is chosen each year, this year it will be Larry.
There is no actor, now or ever before, who is more deserving of a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The fans and I are impatiently waiting to celebrate the day when his Star will be presented to Betty, his wife of 30 years and our favorite Lady.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 8:38:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

This must be one of your most wonderful and passionate posts. He truly does deserve a star and I will email for it - as you say it cannot hurt. It must be that awful blacklist that is the stumbling block.

What wonderful friends the Parks have been to you. It is indeed a wonderful thing to have friends like that.

I worked on the stage production of the Jolson Story btw :-)

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 8:45:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, your posts are always wonderful reading, and your biographical posts are really great because they show us a side of someone we would never otherwise know. What a handsome couple Betty and Larry were. I hope he does get his star, and soon. It truly isn't fair that someone like Trump would have one, and Larry doesn't.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 9:11:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

sent an email... just fyi you don't have to post that i sent it lol..

it would be wonderful if it helped!!

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 2:40:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I came to discover Larry Parks through my Mum, who is a HUGE Al Jolson and Larry Parks fan from way back when. I love his films.

I am just on my way out, but just wanted to say two things quickly, firstly I will be writing too because God knows Larry Parks deserves a star more than just about anyone, and b/I hope that the Betty Garrett bio is still in print because now I know there is one, I *have* to read it!!!

Take Care!!

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 5:21:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

PS: I reckon you should start a dedicated "Get Larry Parks a Star" campaing in the blogosphere - maybe something that everyone can permanently post on their blogs with a link to the email so people can write. I for one would definately have it on my blog!!!

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 5:23:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a lovely tribute! To be honest, I've never heard of him though I do know Betty Garrett from "All in the Family".

I'll keep an eye for her book and will also write that email!

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 7:12:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

yes, please leave it up for awhile, i have just skimmed it and enjoyed looking at the photos, but i am too tired to read it in its entirity.

have not connected with Blog much lately, so am just now catching up.

cheers for now,
pj

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 9:34:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a fabulous post Naomi- there is nothing more precious than our old friends. Such a loving tribute to Larry. Love the pictures. Hugs to you.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 9:45:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

You covered an amazing range of material in this post, Naomi. Until reading about Larry Parks in your various mentions of him in your blog, I'd not ever heard of him. With his body of work it is amazing that he doesn't have more official recognition.

It's weird how you can get inaccurate perceptions of an era when you didn't live through it. Due largely to the Andy Hardy movies I'd always thought of the 40s as quite the "sequel driven" time period. My bad.

Michele sent me over, Naomi. Good luck to the Larry Park's cause...

Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 11:05:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

As I read this, I was thinking, "it must have been so hard for you to see this happen to a good person." But even now, I can feel your heartache over this injustice.
I'd like to write them a letter, but being that I didn't know about him, I'm not sure what to say.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 1:45:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Good luck with your campaign. And thanks for dropping by today - I notice your comment about Jacques Brel. If you pop back again, you may find a nice surprize, if you scroll down, slightly!

Best.

rashbre

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 4:27:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Michele sent me to see you, so I thought I'd answer your question about the stage production of the Jolson Story.

I worked as a lighting technician on the musical when it was first produced in the UK in Plymouth, before it went to the West End. I was a rigger adn then once we entered technical rehearsals and for the running of the show, I worked as the head follow spot. Jolson was quite a demanding show and the follow spot work was quite skileed (even if I say so myself) and was one of the hardest shows I have worked. The follow spot even had a part where Jolson spoke to the light and then he swept it up adn put it in a bag to take away with him. This required precision work from the back of the upper circle using a small dot of light. It made me nervous every night!

The show ran for a while in the West End but was never a big hit which was a shame. It was a fun show to work on and highly entertaining. Brian Conley played Jolson adn he was very good which was a surprise as he was an awful television comedian. The end of the show saw a full bans fly in on stage and then Jolson would enter down a centre stair way and do many numbers. The people that went to see it always seemed to love it.

I hope Larry Parks gets his star. I am outraged that Donald Trump should get one and I still can't understand why!!!!

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 4:30:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

A very moving and interesting post. I hope he gets his well deserved star.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 4:42:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

As you know, Naomi, I purchased Betty's book and I was thrilled with it. SO for all of you Naomi readers that might not have it...do yourself a favor and get it. Very enjoyable, informative and down to earth.
As for Larry....of course he deserves his star and it's even more terrible that he doesn't have one when Trump gets one. And how great it would be for this to occur in Betty's lifetime.
So I'm off to send that email. Hey.....there's strength in numbers and I'll add my number to that list. Great post, Naomi. After reading the book, I "feel" like I also know Betty and Larry.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 6:39:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

As a journalist, the basic concepts of freedom and justice are part of my basic DNA. Studying McCarthyism, I have always been stunned at how the basic core values of a free and just society were simply set aside. Worse, these wrongs were never set right.

I'll be sending in an e-mail of my own. You are a dear friend with a heart that knows no bounds.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 6:58:00 AM PST 

Blogger T.
had this to say:

Just thought I would check in on you Naomi, and see how you are doing. I'm glad I did. That was a wonderfl post about Larry Parks. My dad is a huge fan! I didn't realize he didn't have a star yet.

What a shame. I will most certainly send an email. I hope your campaign works and his wife gets to see his name shine permanently.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 10:02:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Larry Parks was a very handsome man. I am so glad Betty and he found each other. I wish he had not been taken from her and those who loved him so soon. He DOES deserve a star!
I love all the photos of he and Betty. I see you sneeked one of you and Larry in there too!! :)
Betty has found a great treasure in your friendship.
I'm sure she cherishes you very much and appreciates all the kind words you posted here about her beloved hubby.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 10:10:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Lyn M..
had this to say:

F.Y.I....ABOUT BETTY'S BOOK,
"BETTY GARRETT AND OTHER SONGS", IT'S AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM
PLEASE GET IT AND READ IT...YOU WON'T WANT IT TO END. I HAVE READ MY COPY TILL THE PAGES ARE NOW WORN.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 2:07:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a wonderful and interesting post! I enjoy those old photos too.
Here via Michele's, glad I stopped by!

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 2:16:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Good luck with your petition. I am glad to help you in any way. This was a very interesting post. I learned a lot about Larry Parks. Certainly sounds like he deserves a star. I had no idea Donald Trump had one, that's pretty sad.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 2:41:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Great!Great! Post Naomi, your love for Larry and the Family shines through. I Have run Larry's Tribute WebSite for some years now so i hope all those wanting to see more of Larry will Pay us a visit http://www.geocities.com/janess51/index.html
or just go to Google and look for us .. Larry Parks Tribute Site...
Also,to 'deslily' you can just say 'I would like to see a Star for Larry Parks on the Walk of Fame' or write a few lines Praising Larry's Great and Unforgettable Performance in The Jolson Movies and the fact that this is Still Thrilling people to this day deserves a Star on the Hollywood Walk of fame.
We also have the Link where to write up on the site and hopefully with all our efforts we can get some attention. Thanks Naomi, and Take Care. Jan

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 7:00:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

You have such interesting stories to tell. I love them. Larry was such a handsome fellow! I don't think that is very fair about the star....I didn't think Donald deserved one period.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 7:03:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I hope he gets his star as that blacklist was a black eye in this country. So many innocent people got tarred by it for reasons nobody can explain now. It's a blessing the friendship you all shared. Those long term friendships are better than gold.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 8:50:00 PM PST 

Blogger Lee
had this to say:

All the very best with your campaign. What a wonderful post this is. It was so sad what happened to Larry Parks' movie career. I read, also somewhere, that his portrayal of Jolson (I saw both movies) was so brilliant it affected everything else he was to do. I'm not sure if this is correct, but I can understand if it is. I know about the 'witch-hunt'...those were very bleak days.

Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 10:02:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi, great post! I think this is another amazing chapter of your book! I hope that Larry Parks will get his star very soon!

Monday, January 29, 2007 at 2:37:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Every time I read, I want so much to send my mother as I know she would get such a kick out of your stories, but that would mean she would find mine, and well, you know that can't happen! LOL

Great tribute! :)

Monday, January 29, 2007 at 4:23:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I have actually SEEN the Al Jolson Story -- back when I was a kid -- it played on TV a couple times a year and I always watched it! Never paid any attention to "who" the fella was that was "playing" Jolson -- but I loved the movie! Gosh, I haven't seen it in probably 30 years or more! How fascinating this story was! And I AM going to read Betty's book -- and I'm going to write a letter too! No problem at all! As far as I'M concerned, he can HAVE "the Donald's" star! (gag me!)

Monday, January 29, 2007 at 5:28:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

OH YEA! I never knew you were a MINISTER! Every time I come here I learn more and more FUN stuff about you!

Monday, January 29, 2007 at 5:29:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Very touching read. I also didn't know you were a minister. :)

I think it's funny how on the newspaper article about their wedding his "stubble" was mentioned and explained. Heh. People just aren't concerned about stubble these days, I guess. :)

Monday, January 29, 2007 at 8:08:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, you have such a diverse and interesting background. A minister, wow!! Just before writing this I sent an email requesting a star for Larry. He sooo deserves it over Donald Trump!! What on earth did Donald get a star for?

You are a wonderful friend and I know Larry and his family truly appreciate your tireless efforts in getting him his deserved star. I hope he finally gets it.

Betty :)

Monday, January 29, 2007 at 10:29:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

This was a wonderfully moving tribute and an education too. Isn't it intresting how destiny lines up? You were meant to all be a part of each others lives and there seem to be a draw to that even before it happens!

I sent an email and I think great performers who were so affected by that dark time should be recognized...and apologized to!

Thanks Naomi! I really appreciate you and am glad you're in the world!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 6:21:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi,
I just got an email back from my nomination email. It's a lot more complicated then just sending an email.

They require a form filled out with the following info: When nominating an individual or group, the sponsor must submit a photo, a bio and the nominee’s qualifications as well as a list of contributions to the community and civic-oriented participation. A letter of agreement from the nominee or his/her management must be included with the application.

Yikes!!! It looks like the ordinary citizen can't do this.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 10:03:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I'm glad you had this on for a longer time as it was a great read and well documented - thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 1:34:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

BAH to the Donald yuck, Larry absolutely should have a star.
I just rushed over here to tell you I was channel surfing today and TCM was playing Take me out to the Ball Game !
I sat and watched the whole thing :)
I always seem to find Bettys movies by happy accident.
Anyway I have just emailed you as well.
I am still alive and kicking lol.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 5:03:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I remember "The Jolson Story" quite well, and how terrific Larry Parks was in the movie.

As I have noted in other areas than just the "Hollywood Walk of Fame," there apparently comes a day when the "oldtimers" are bypassed if they haven't already been honored, and the recognition goes to the current names, which to some extent is fine, if it's deserving. The tragedy is that some of the current ones may not even belong there, so have to wonder what goes on behind the scenes that finds them so honored. However, that doesn't justify forgetting the older performers.

I hadn't realized Larry P. was married to Betty G. Her book sounds like an interesting read.

I surely do hope Larry Parks gets a star as he is one performer to deserves to be there.

Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 3:10:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Patricia
had this to say:

Hi from Australia,

I am presently reading Betty Garrett's book, kindly sent to me by my dear friend Lyn Masterman. It is an amazing book and I'm enjoying it immensely.

I agree that Larry Parks deserves a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame if only for his performances in The Jolson Story and Jolson Sings Again. No other actor could have captured Jolson so well, even bringing him back into the limelight after so many years.

Those are two of my favourite movies and I watch them often.

I have written supporting the request for a Star for Larry Parks and have asked other Australian fans to do the same.

Patricia

Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 4:41:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I have purchased Betty Garrett's book and can't wait to get it and start reading - both her and Larry Parks were wonderful performers - I remember Betty on the Archie Bunker Show and on Laverne and Shirley - and I have tape 1 and 2 of the Jolson Story with Larry Parks - I watch over and over again. Thank you Naomi for your webpage and let me know too where I can write to the Chamber. Stay healthy my darling and in touch with us.
Eileen

Monday, July 30, 2007 at 3:28:00 PM PDT 

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