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Elizabeth Boger (Betsy Blair), the daughter of an insurance broker, was born in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, on 11th December 1923. After leaving high school she became a model and dancer in New York City.
Betsy Blair married Gene Kelly in 1941. Soon afterwards she won the lead part in The Beautiful People, a play written by William Saroyan. During the Second World War she concentrated on theatre work and bringing up her daughter.
Blair appeared in The Guilt of Janet Ames (1947). This was followed by A Double Life (1947), Another Part of the Forest (1948) and The Snake Pit (1948). She was also active in the Screen Actors Guild and was a strong advocate of setting up an anti-discrimination committee.
In 1947 the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. The HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses". During their interviews they named several people who they accused of holding left-wing views.
One of those named, Bertolt Brecht, an emigrant playwright, gave evidence and then left for East Germany. Ten others: Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Alvah Bessie refused to answer any questions.
Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The House of Un-American Activities Committee and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were found guilty of contempt of congress and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison.
Roy Brewer, a close friend of Ronald Reagan was appointed to the Motion Picture Industry Council. Brewer commissioned a booklet entitled Red Channels. Published on 22nd June, 1950, and written by Theodore Kirkpatrick, a former FBI agent and Vincent Harnett, a right-wing television producer, it listed the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organisations before the Second World War but had not so far been blacklisted.
Betsy Blair, because of her support for the anti-discrimination committee and other progressive measures, was one of those named in Red Channels. A free copy was sent to those involved in employing people in the entertainment industry. All those people named in the pamphlet were blacklisted until they appeared in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and convinced its members they had completely renounced their radical past. Blair refused to do this and she was therefore unable to obtain employment in Hollywood.
With the active support of the screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, Blair broke the blacklist by appearing in the film Marty (1955). The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Blair was nominated as best supporting actress. She also won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival. Despite this success Blair received no more job offers in Hollywood and she decided to move to Europe.
Blair appeared in Rencontre à Paris (1956), Calle Mayor (1956), Il Grido (1957), Lies My Father Told Me (1960), I Delfini (1960), Senilità (1962) and All Night Long (1962). In 1963 she met and married the film director, Karl Reisz. Now based in London she concentrated on theatre work. Blair also appeared in several television plays.
In 1988, Costa-Gavras, the left-wing film director, persuaded her to return to Hollywood to appear in Betrayed. Her autobiography, The Memory of All That: Love and Politics in New York, Hollywood and Paris, was published in 2003.
Betsy Blair died on 13th March 2009.
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BOOKS OF THE TIMES Memories of a Hollywood Leftist Who Managed to Survive the Blacklist
When asked to cite the worst time in his professional life, the famously cryptic director Michelangelo Antonioni answered, ''The first two hours I spent with Betsy Blair.'' It seems that Ms. Blair, cast in a small role in his film ''Il Grido,'' was intent on asking what he meant by ''vague'' and 'ɽisconnected'' and determined to explore her character's motivation. Motivation was not exactly his middle name.
It's a good thing that Ms. Blair tells that story. Without such occasional embarrassments, her memoir would be sugary and then some. This author loves applesauce. She spent a lot of time playing Ping-Pong, charades and volleyball. ''Joy'' and 'ɻlissful'' are among her favorite words. Thinking back on her youth she writes: ''I remember those late afternoons in the golden haze of childhood, as soft and sweet as a toasted marshmallow and as thrilling as a sleigh ride.''
But she has a good deal else to write about in ''The Memory of All That.'' Ms. Blair was barely 16 when she landed a chorus girl's job at the Diamond Horseshoe, where Gene Kelly was the choreographer. Not long afterward, she became Kelly's child bride, and she followed him from Broadway to Hollywood. There she posed for studio promotional pictures wearing her housekeeper's apron and pretending to cook.
When she asked Kelly whether her real household skills were a disappointment, she says he answered: ''What I want is what I have -- you -- to pick flowers and read by the fireplace and sing around the house -- my little white dove with the burnished feathers that wakes up every morning smiling.'' The part about the feathers was a reference to her red hair.
Mr. Kelly, his wife and their daughter, Kerry, lived on Rodeo Drive and fraternized with Hollywood high rollers. (David O. Selznick once arrived for one of their charades ''with a prepared list of medical terms -- he was as fiercely competitive as we were.'') Ms. Blair enjoyed all this, but was also troubled by it. ''In Beverly Hills and Westwood we were like the British in Hong Kong, protected from the hardship and squalor just beyond our tree-lined streets,'' she writes.
In a book that thanks the F.B.I. for complying with the Freedom of Information Act and releasing her file, Ms. Blair also describes her experience with Marxism. Surely she was the only Diamond Horseshoe dancer who applied her thoughts about class exploitation to the labor conditions facing chorus girls. And she may have been the only one who spent time at a Marxist study group, reading ''The History of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union.''
In Beverly Hills she refused to have a swimming pool on principle. And she traveled by streetcar to downtown Los Angeles to support the Mexican neighborhood during the 1942 Zoot Suit riots. She worked for the Independent Political Party, and she was not alone. But she says she was the only registered I.P.P. voter in her electoral district.
Eventually government attention would be directed at her activities when she gave a party for the N.A.A.C.P., she was being watched. ''I can understand the F.B.I. -- most of the reports on me were during the cold war,'' she writes. ''It's whoever was our guest and informed on us that I loathe the most.''
Blacklisting followed. Ms. Blair was able to land her best-known acting role, as Ernest Borgnine's co-star in ''Marty,'' only when Kelly threatened to stop shooting his own film if she didn't get the job. But she acknowledges that the plight of a cosseted Hollywood wife is not akin to what blacklisted breadwinners endured. ''I was always aware,'' she writes, ''that I was not as vulnerable as most.''
She was safe it was the marriage that was jeopardized. Eventually certain things began to bother her -- like the way Kelly made her leave the premiere of ''The Snake Pit,'' in which she had a role, before she could enjoy the ovation he was afraid he would be mobbed. She was a chrysalis within a cocoon, she says, and needed to burst out of Beverly Hills.
Ms. Blair had some early exposure to Europeans via Salka Viertel, the renowned hostess to a glittering group of émigrés. She met Bertold Brecht, who took her for a walk on the beach and asked, ''So tell me -- what is socialism?'' Helpfully Ms. Blair began explaining it to him, only to discover later that he had been flirting and that this was a favorite opening gambit of his. He was supposed to do the explaining.
In any case Ms. Blair left for Europe. And she was someone who would bring her own toilet paper and Kleenex when she traveled there. ''I felt brand-new,'' she writes, ''spickety-span brand-new.'' She had affairs, although it goes against her principles to name names. '➾sides,'' she writes, ''I never slept with Frank Sinatra, or Aly Khan or Laurence Olivier -- only with a few nice left-wing men who deserve their anonymity.'' She began to work in European films and in 1963 married the filmmaker Karel Reisz, with whom she spent much more of her life than she had with Kelly. Reisz died late last year after this book was completed.
In the end ''The Memory of All That'' is itself most memorable for illustrating the author's ongoing struggle between ambition and self-sacrifice. ''This is not the lament of an unfulfilled woman,'' she writes. But neither is it entirely reconciled to the course of her career or to its disappointments. (Orson Welles hired her as Desdemona in ''Othello,'' but she wound up being replaced, the second of three actresses he chose for the role.) Bliss filled as it is, her memoir is also wistful about what might have been.
Betsy Blair (born Elizabeth Winifred Boger  December 11, 1923 – March 13, 2009) was an American actress of film and stage, long based in London.
Blair pursued a career in entertainment from the age of eight, and as a child worked as an amateur dancer, performed on radio, and worked as a model, before joining the chorus of Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe in 1940. There she met Gene Kelly they were married the following year, when she was age 17 and divorced sixteen years later in 1957.
After work in the theatre, Blair began her film career playing supporting roles in films such as A Double Life (1947) and Another Part of the Forest (1948). Her interest in Marxism led to an investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and Blair was blacklisted for some time, but resumed her career with a critically acclaimed performance in Marty (1955) for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
She continued her career with regular theatre, film and television, mainly in Europe, work until the mid-1990s.
By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times
March 19, 2009
Betsy Blair, an actress best remembered for playing the shy, plain-Jane school teacher who meets Ernest Borgnine’s lonely Bronx butcher at the Stardust Ballroom in the 1955 movie “Marty,” has died. She was 85. (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)
Blair, who was blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950s while married to screen legend Gene Kelly and later was married to director Karel Reisz, died of cancer in a hospital in London on March 13, said her daughter, Kerry Kelly Novick.
The red-haired actress earned an Academy Award nomination as best actress in aAcad supporting role as Clara Snyder in “Marty,” which won the Academy Award for best picture — as well as Oscars for screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, director Delbert Mann and Borgnine.
Blair, Los Angeles Times movie critic Edwin Schallert wrote in his review, “shines right along with [Borgnine] as the gentle and understanding wallflower whom he meets in the dance hall, and with whom he finds deep and mutual understanding, because he seems to be such a bull in a china shop himself.”
Of the on-screen pairing of Borgnine and Blair in the film, in which “lonely boy meets lonely girl,” New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther wrote, “the two make an excellent team.”
Borgnine told The Times that he had just been thinking about Blair while signing autographs to be inserted into copies of his recently published autobiography for a promotional trip to London in April when he learned of her death.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘Gee, she was always on time, she was a wonderful woman, very quiet-spoken, and the nicest person you could ever want to meet,’ ” Borgnine said. “She carried herself well, and she knew her business. I thought she was deserving [of the Oscar], but other thoughts prevailed, I guess.”
Jo Van Fleet won for “East of Eden.”
Blair’s performance in “Marty,” Borgnine said, “was absolutely lovely. It was a pleasure working with her.”
Blair, however, almost didn’t get to play Clara, a role that Chayefsky had recommended her for: She had been blacklisted since 1950.
The actress, who had attended a weekly Marxist study group in New York City when she was 16, later came under the scrutiny of the FBI for her association with left-wing organizations such as the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, the Sleepy Lagoon Committee and the Civil Rights Congress.
But Blair’s ideals “had always been American, not Russian,” she wrote in her 2003 memoir, “The Memory of All That.” And her “battles and contribution — small as it may have been — were against racism, for strong unions, for the rights of women to put it simply, for democracy.”
It wasn’t until Blair had done three impressive readings for the role of Clara that the subject of the blacklist came up when producer Harold Hecht phoned her and apologetically asked her if she would write a letter that would “clear” her.
As Blair recounted in her memoir, Hecht told her that she didn’t have to “name names” — at least not names that hadn’t already been exposed.
She wanted the part so badly that she agreed to write a letter without names. In her letter, which she described as sounding “like a schoolgirl essay for civics class,” she expressed her love for her country and “went on about freedom of speech and the American Constitution and the secret ballot.”
But, she wrote in her book, “both Harold Hecht and I knew it wouldn’t pass muster. It didn’t come near what the Un-American Activities Committee wanted — no, demanded.”
Finally, husband Kelly — one of MGM’s biggest stars — intervened by asking studio head Dore Schary “to do something” to help his wife get the part or he’d stop shooting the movie he was working on.
“And Dore did,” Blair wrote. “He called the American Legion in Washington right there and then in front of Gene, and he vouched for me. And so I was in ‘Marty.’ “
In 1957, the year after she received her Oscar nomination, Blair and Kelly were divorced, and Blair moved to Paris.
“How could I have left Gene, this wonderful man, after 16 years of marriage?” Blair said in a 2003 interview with the New Yorker. “To this day, I can’t explain it.” Then she added: “It had nothing to do with sex. It was freedom.”
After moving to Europe, Blair went on to appear in Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Il Grido” and several other films over the next few years, including “Lies My Father Told Me,” “I Delfini,” “All Night Long” and “Sinilita.”
In 1963, after moving to London, she married Reisz. Their marriage lasted until his death in 2002.
Among Blair’s sporadic later credits are “A Delicate Balance” (1973), “Betrayed” (1988) and the 1994 TV mini-series “Scarlett.”
Born Elizabeth Winifred Boger on Dec. 11, 1923, in Cliffside Park, N.J., Blair took dance lessons as a child. By age 11, she was tap dancing in an amateur show that toured New Jersey and soon was working as a model with the John Robert Powers modeling agency.
She was barely 16 in 1940 when she auditioned for the chorus line in Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe, a Manhattan nightclub where 28-year-old Kelly was working as choreographer. They were married the next year.
Blair, who also danced in the chorus of the Broadway musical “Panama Hattie,” played the female lead in William Saroyan’s Broadway play “The Beautiful People” in 1941.
And late that year, in the wake of Kelly’s success in the hit Broadway musical “Pal Joey,” they moved to Hollywood to launch Kelly’s movie career.
Blair began acting in films in the late 1940s and had roles in several films at the time, including “The Guilt of Janet Ames,” “Another Part of the Forest,” “The Snake Pit” and “Kind Lady.”
In the late s, she earned a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy and worked for a couple of years as a speech therapist while continuing to act.
In addition to her daughter, Blair is survived by three stepsons, Matthew, Toby and Barney Reisz eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
A funeral service for Blair will be held in London on Friday.
This entry was posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2009 at 2:25 pm and is filed under Book/Film News, Obituaries - 2009. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
One Response to “Obit: Betsy Blair”
My condolences to the family. I loved her in the roles she played. Truly talented. Her career was cut short because she had the audacity to speak out about her true beliefs.
Betsy Blair American Actress
Betsy Blair was previously married to Karel Reisz (1963 - 2002) and Gene Kelly (1941 - 1957) .
Betsy Blair was in a relationship with Roger Pigaut (1957 - 1963) .
American Actress Betsy Blair was born Elizabeth Winifred Boger on 11th December, 1923 in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, USA and passed away on 13th Mar 2009 London, England, UK aged 85. She is most remembered for The Guilt Of Janet Ames (1947). Katie. Her zodiac sign is Sagittarius.
Help us build our profile of Betsy Blair! Login to add information, pictures and relationships, join in discussions and get credit for your contributions.
|Married||2||40 years, 11 months||29 years, 1 month||17 years, 3 months|
|Total||3||40 years, 11 months||21 years, 4 months||6 years|
|Full Name at Birth||Elizabeth Winifred Boger|
|Alternative Name||Betsy, Elizabeth Winifred Boger, Betsy Blair|
|Age||85 (age at death) years|
|Birthday||11th December, 1923|
|Birthplace||Cliffside Park, New Jersey, USA|
|Died||13th March, 2009|
|Place of Death||London, England, UK|
|Cause of Death||Cancer|
|Buried||Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend|
|Height||5' 6" (168 cm)|
|Eye Color||Brown - Dark|
|Hair Color||Brown - Light|
|Claim to Fame||The Guilt Of Janet Ames (1947) . Katie|
|Year(s) Active||1947, 1947|
|Father||William Kidd Boger|
|Family Member||Kerry Kelly (Daughter)|
Betsy Blair (born Elizabeth Winifred Boger, December 11, 1923 – March 13, 2009) was an American actress of film and stage, long based in London.
Looking for Mrs Kelly
I was a blacklisted Hollywood fellow-traveller, a champagne socialist, a Pinko. Not that I wasn&rsquot serious about my ideas and ideals. I was as serious as a 17-year-old arriving on the Coast, newly and ecstatically married to the about-to-be movie star Gene Kelly, could possibly have been. That is to say, I was easily and happily serious, feeling good about myself, rebellious and righteous and pure. I was also being spied on by the FBI.
I was reminded of it all when 87 pages (out of &lsquo92 pages reviewed&rsquo) came at last, almost two years after I had asked to see my file. The 87 pages reveal about 30 per cent of what the file on me contains. Another 40 per cent is blacked out to &lsquoprotect their sources and foreign agencies&rsquo, and the rest is made up of inter-office communications &ndash New York, Washington, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Madrid &ndash and checklists of dates, number of copies sent to those offices and a reprimand or two when they arrived late. The hard information is pathetic.
On each page the word &lsquoconfidential&rsquo is crossed out in heavy black ink and marked &lsquoDeclassified on 11/4/97&rsquo. Page 1 reads:
Foreign Service of the United States of America
Paris 8, France.
Date: December 28, 1955
To: Director FBI
From: Legat, Paris
Subject: ELIZABETH WINIFRED B. KELLY
nee Boger, aka
Mrs Eugene Curran Kelly,
SECURITY MATTER &ndash C
Re: Bulet 12/8/55 captioned &ldquoBETSY
BLAIR, SECURITY MATTER &ndash C&rdquo
The rest of the page, three long paragraphs, is blacked out with some magic formula that covers it totally.
Page 2 would have been informative to any investigator who had somehow missed out on Time, Life, Photoplay, the Ladies&rsquo Home Journal, Picture Post, Paris Match, the NY Times, the New Yorker or any other newspaper or magazine:
It will be noted that EUGENE CURRAN KELLY, husband of ELIZABETH WINIFRED B. KELLY, is better known as GENE KELLY, the well-known motion picture actor. His wife, whose stage name is BETSY BLAIR, played the leading role in the recent motion picture MARTY.
A long blacked out paragraph follows, and then:
Upon receipt of additional data positively identifying BETSY BLAIR with ELIZABETH WINIFRED B. KELLY, a report will be submitted.
Finally, handwritten at the bottom of the page: &lsquoStill no ident. or background on Betsy Blair &ndash Mrs Eugene C. Kelly.&rsquo
On page 3, dated 17 January 1956, they admitted that I had &lsquonever attracted attention from a political point of view&rsquo. On page 4 they cite a report from the Herald Tribune (so someone did read newspapers):
&lsquoThe film director Juan Antonio Bardem was arrested in Spain on suspicion of having leftish tendencies, and as a result, Betsy Blair, star of the film &ldquoMarty&rdquo, has been sitting in her Madrid apartment doing nothing.&rsquo
For the information of the Madrid office, subject has been reported to have been associated with several C.P. (Communist Party) fronts.
On page 5, three sentences: &lsquoBetsy Blair (Mrs Gene Kelly) is in Cairo. She is involved in the Commy investigations. Kelly isn&rsquot.&rsquo Then a handwritten notation: &lsquoHoover, is this true?&rsquo The following page explains that the person asking the question was Walter Winchell. It&rsquos no longer a surprise that Winchell was a slimeball, but it&rsquos still a shock to see evidence of his familiar and direct contact with the FBI. That the page was not blacked out was probably an oversight on the part of today&rsquos FBI.
Eight pages state that they have &lsquonot yet positively identified BETSY BLAIR as MRS KELLY&rsquo. On two pages they wonder where I am. The Hollywood Reporter would have been an obvious source for this.
Several pages list the organisations with which I was associated that the FBI considered Communist fronts. Some may have been, but the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, the Congress of American Women, the Sleepy Lagoon Committee, the National Council of Arts, Sciences and Professions, and the Civil Rights Congress were widely based liberal-left organisations. There is a list of contributions I made in 1947, 49, 50. Modest contributions they were, too: the Civil Rights Congress, $40, $25 and $25 the Hollywood Ten Defence Committee &ndash more generously &ndash $250, $200, another $250 and, in August 1950, another $10. Several contributions of $10 to the Russian-American Club in 1944, when the Soviet Union was our ally and Uncle Joe was popular even in the Hearst press. They must have spent twenty times more in taxpayers&rsquo money just gathering and disseminating this information than I ever gave to their so-called Fronts.
In October 1956, a report entitled &lsquoResidence and Employment&rsquo states: &lsquoAn agent of the F.B.I. determined through a suitable pretext on Oct. 12 that ELIZABETH KELLY returned to the US from Europe about Sept 10th, and is currently residing at 725 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Calif.&rsquo &ndash where we had lived since 1945. &lsquoInformation was also developed during this pretext interview that she is currently unemployed, and is considering several motion picture offers at the present time.&rsquo
When the thick envelope arrived I was gleeful. Democracy was alive and well: I would finally see it all. As I started to read I felt weird, as if I were a historical character. As I read on, I got angrier: the manhours, the money that was wasted, the pettiness, self-importance and stupidity. Why should they have established a file on me? Of what importance to the US Government was my personal, political or professional life?
Well, as they eventually seem to have found out, I was of no importance to them at all. And perhaps the most ludicrous thing is that for all their bureaucratic, repetitive and boring reports, they didn&rsquot begin to know the half of it. The Freedom of Information Act works, in that they did send my file. But there is nothing in it &ndash or almost nothing. I probably made the day of the agent who found my photograph in L&rsquoHumanité, the official paper of the French CP, with a New Year greeting to its readers. Can you imagine his joy?
Today, they don&rsquot need to set up fake interviews or have a spy on the set of a film being made in Spain. They cannot lose track of my whereabouts if I have a mobile phone or a credit card. My date of birth, my various names &ndash family, professional, married, divorced, remarried &ndash my employment record and address are all on the Internet, available to anyone. Even an FBI agent must know that.
The Internet is of course about as reliable as the FBI was sure-footed. Although I&rsquove been living in London for 35 years, happily married to Karel Reisz, on the Internet it seems we were married from 1963 to 1969, and I am now married to an Italian psychoanalyst and living in Rome. Misinformation? Disinformation? Who cares. I quite like having something completely wrong about me on the Internet.
I don&rsquot, however, like the feeling I have had since my file arrived: I don&rsquot like to think about the violation of my privacy that lasted almost twenty years and I don&rsquot like the fact that I am now filled with suspicion without knowing who to suspect. Who did spy on me &ndash in my own house, on movie sets, in hotels and airports? Most of all, I loathe the informers. So I guess it&rsquos a good thing their names are blacked out. There can be no repercussions as there were when the Stasi files were opened, no discoveries of best friends, or teachers, or lovers, or neighbours. I&rsquom beginning to realise that the whole episode &ndash requesting the file, waiting for it, receiving it &ndash is a comedy, of sorts. I plan to laugh a lot later.
A&E examines history behind Tennessee's Bell Witch
Hank Batts and his daughter, Kaytee Batts-Owens, will be featured in an A&E series, “Cursed: The Bell Witch,” that will explore the legend a famous Tennessee haunting. (Photo: Tim Adkins, The Tennessean)
ADAMS, Tenn. — The first in a five-part series featuring the legend of the Bell Witch debuts on the A&E television network next week.
The show, titled Cursed: The Bell Witch, follows a Bell family descendant as he investigates the Bell Witch curse, according to the cable TV network's website. The show premieres at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT Monday.
A film crew visited Adams — with a population of less than 650 people — regularly from February through August to shoot footage for the new series, according to Mayor Mary Mantooth.
Production was handled by a Maryland-based entertainment company, Sirens Media. When reached by telephone last week, a representative of Sirens Media declined to comment for this story.
'Blair Witch Project': Still a legend 15 years later
The series features interviews with Bob Bell, a descendant of the Bell family and owner of Austin and Bell Funeral Home Roy Porter, a present-day neighbor of the Bell farm author Sue Clifton and Mississippi clairvoyant Sara Leigh, who has said she communicates with youngest daughter of the Bell family that was haunted by the Bell Witch, Betsy, according to Adams historian Tim Henson. Henson also was interviewed and said he helped set up some of the TV crews' interviews for the series.
Henson has researched the Bell Witch legend for 20 years and has been the city's historian since 1995. The Bell family farm, about a mile north of downtown Adams, is now a tourist attraction that offers tours of the Bell Witch cave and the grounds with special festivities during the Halloween season.
Entrance to Bell Witch cave in Adams, Tenn., reportedly where the witch that haunted the Bell family for three to four years starting in 1817 retreated to after the disturbances ceased. (Photo: Rick Perry, The Tennessean)
Tales passed down for almost 200 years say that the Bell Witch began tormenting the real-life pioneer family of John Bell Sr. and his wife, Lucy, in 1817. At first, the family heard noises in their modest log cabin and on the grounds of their farm. Then the noises grew into taunting words
Then the spectral Bell Witch began attacking Betsy Bell, a child of about 11 when it began, pulling her hair, hitting her and slapping her until she was bruised. Her father died three years later in 1820 at about age 70 it was said the Bell Witch took credit for poisoning him and continued to torment Betsy Bell until the next year.
At first, Henson said he was reluctant to tackle the legend of the Bell Witch as part of his historical research. But soon he discovered that about 80% of Adams' visitors wanted to know all about the tale, and as the city's historian, he said he felt it was his duty to inform them.
As the legend has been told and retold — perfect for a scary night around a campfire — more phenomena have been attributed to the Bell Witch and much of what might have been true has been lost to the ages.
"I've never found two accounts that were the same," Henson said. He has written five books, and The Black Patch Bells is devoted entirely to the Bell family and the Bell Witch legend.
"It is so daggone addictive, not just the spirit side, but the history of it all," Henson said. "I have stacks of information. I could literally write another book," Henson said.
He spent about four hours on video for the A&E series, he said. All of his interviews dealt with Frederick and Kate Batts.
The Best Caves in Tennessee
Kate is the name some in the past gave to the ghostly Bell Witch, in part because they thought that long-ago neighbor Kate Batts and perhaps her husband, Frederick, were behind the incidents.
"People always think that Kate Batts is the witch from the legend," Henson said. "But what people usually don't know is that Kate Batts was related to the Bell family. She was Lucy Bell's niece."
Two of the Batts' descendants — Hank Batts of Ashland City, Tenn., and his daughter, Kaytee Batts-Owens — also were interviewed for the series. Hank Batts said his seventh great-grandmother is Kate Batts, an eccentric woman who may have put the curse on the Bell family.
“They told us they needed someone from the Batts family to talk to,” Hank Batts said. “I am glad they are going to get the Batts side out there instead of just the Bell side.”
The father and daughter said they have had some fun through the years with their connection to Kate Batts and it’s always been a good conversation piece.
While growing up, Batts-Owens said she would often joke with her friends about being related to Kate Batts.
“I would tell them they better watch out because I am kin to her,” she said with a laugh.
As part of Henson's on-camera segment, he and the film crew spent time searching for Kate Batts' grave. They did not find it, Henson said.
Haunted Houses by Clarksville, Tennessee
"We didn't find it because no one really knows where it is," he said. "I think I may know the general location of it, but there's no headstone or marker. I think someone took off with it a long time ago."
Since he became Adams' historian, Henson has been involved in 16 different shows and movies detailing the legend, he said.
"I hope it does Robertson County some good," he said. "They were here filming for a very long time, and they obviously put a lot of effort into it."
Gene Kelly American Actor
Gene Kelly was previously married to Patricia Ward (1990 - 1996) , Jeanne Coyne (1960 - 1973) and Betsy Blair (1941 - 1957) .
American Actor Gene Kelly was born Eugene Curran Kelly on 23rd August, 1912 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA and passed away on 2nd Feb 1996 Beverly Hills, California, USA aged 83. He is most remembered for For Me and My Gal. His zodiac sign is Leo.
Gene Kelly was in 18 on-screen matchups, including Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain (1952) , Barbara Laage in The Happy Road (1957) , Cyd Charisse in Singin' in the Rain (1952) , Deanna Durbin in Christmas Holiday (1944) and Esther Williams in Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) .
Help us build our profile of Gene Kelly! Login to add information, pictures and relationships, join in discussions and get credit for your contributions.
|Dating||6||4 years||8 months, 3 days||-|
|Married||3||17 years, 3 months||12 years, 10 months||7 years, 1 month|
|Total||9||17 years, 3 months||4 years, 9 months||4 years|
|Full Name at Birth||Eugene Curran Kelly|
|Age||83 (age at death) years|
|Birthday||23rd August, 1912|
|Birthplace||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA|
|Died||2nd February, 1996|
|Place of Death||Beverly Hills, California, USA|
|Cause of Death||Stroke|
|Height||5' 8" (173 cm)|
|Eye Color||Brown - Dark|
|Distinctive Feature||Known for his Innovative, Athletic style of Dancing., Scar on The Left Side of His Face|
|High School||Peabody High School|
|University||University of Pittsburgh|
|Occupation Text||Actor, Singer, Miscellaneous Crew|
|Claim to Fame||For Me and My Gal|
|Year(s) Active||1938, 1938|
|Music Style||Show Tunes|
|Father||James Patrick Joseph Kelly (Al Jolson's road manager in the 1920s)|
|Brother||James Kelly, Fred Kelly|
|Sister||Harriet Joan Kelly, Louise Kelly Bailey|
|Family Member||Kerry Kelly (Daughter), Bridget Kelly (Daughter), Tim Kelly (Son)|
|Friend||Ben Blue, Fred Astaire, Stanley Donen, David O. Selznick, Ronald Reagan, Rags Ragland, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Errol Flynn, Rita Hayworth, Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Lena Horne|
|Associated People||Fred Astaire, Donald O'Connor|
Eugene Curran Kelly (August 23, 1912 – February 2, 1996) was an American actor, dancer, singer, filmmaker, comedian and choreographer. He was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks, and the likable characters that he played on screen.
How ‘Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies’ exposes Hollywood’s naked ambition
Director Danny Wolf says the most shocking thing about his new documentary on the history of nudity in cinema might be that no one had already thought to make that film.
“We’re talking,” Wolf says of himself and producers Paul Fishbein and Jim McBride. “And we said, ‘Do you believe no one’s done a documentary? A definitive documentary on the history of nudity in the movies?’
“Not something exploitive, and not a ‘breast-fest’ or anything,” Wolf says. “But a real good, you know, in-depth look at the whole history.”
Mariel Hemingway is seen here in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies,” a film in which she talks about her roles that required nudity including the films “Personal Best” and “Star 80.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actress Linda Blair might still be best known for her role in “The Exorcist” but in the s she also appeared in “Chained Heat,” a women-in-prison movie that required nudity. She’s seen here in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Kristanna Loken played T-X in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” a role that required her to appear on screen nude. She’s seen here in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Early in his career actor Malcolm McDowell often appeared nude on screeen in films such as “… If” and “A Clockwork Orange.” He’s seen here in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Kristine DeBell played Alice in an erotic musical version of “Alice In Wonderland” — yes, the s were that weird — a role that required nudity of her part. She’s seen here in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Mamie Van Doren occasionally appeared nude in her films in the s. The longtime Newport Beach resident is seen here in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actor John Cameron Mitchell starred in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” which required some nude scenes. He’s seen here being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Joan Graves served as senior vice president Motion Picture Association of America and chair of its Classification and Ratings Administration until May 2019. She’s seen here being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actor Ken Davitian appeared as Azamat, Borat’s producer in the movie “Borat,” which required him to act in a lengthy nude scene. He’s seen here being interviewed in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actor Eric Roberts is seen here talking about his role in “Star 80” for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” With him is director Danny Wolf. (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Director Joe Dante directed such movies as “The Howling” and “Gremlins,” and before that worked for low-budget film king Roger Corman. He’s seen here being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Director Kevin Smith’s films, such as “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” often include nudity. He’s seen here being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Jim McBride is the founder of Mr.Skin, a website that collects nude scenes from mainstream movies. Here he’s seen in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies,” for which he was executive producer as well as an interviewee. He’s seen here with director Danny Wolf. (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actor Eric Roberts is seen here talking about his role in “Star 80” for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actress Erica Gavin starred in the title role of the 1968 movie “Vixen!” which required numerous nude scenes. Here she’s seen being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actress Diane Franklin was 19 when she shot her debut movie, “The Last American Virgin,” which was released in 1982. It required her to appear nude on camera. Here she’s interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actress E.G. Daily’s role in “Valley Girl” required her to appear in a nude scene. Here she’s being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actress Betsy Russell starred in movies including “Private School,” which required nudity in some scenes. She’s seen here being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Scream queen Brinke Stevens starred in scores of horror movies, many of which required nudity in some scenes. She’s seen here being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Actor Bruce Davison’s film debut came in the 1969 film “Last Summer,” which required he appear nude in some scenes. He’s seen here being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Camille Keaton starred in the 1978 horror thriller “I Spit On Your Grave” which required her to perform many scenes nude. She’s seen here being interviewed for the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” ((Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Alicia Rodis works as an intimacy coordinator on HBO series such as “The Deuce” and “Crashing.” The job, a new role in the movie business, is to oversee the shooting of intimate scenes on set. She’s seen here being interviewed in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Cerina Vincent made her film debut in the 2001 teen-sex comedy parody “Not Another Teen Movie,” which required her to work nude in nearly every scene in which she appeared. She’s seen here being interviewed in the new documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
Director Amy Heckerling is seen here talking about her movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in the new documentary, “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.” (Photo by Benjamin Hoffman)
“Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies,” which premieres on streaming services Tuesday, Aug. 18, delivers exactly what it says in the title. A largely chronological story, “Skin” traces the fascination of filmmakers and fans with nudity on screen from the earliest days of Hollywood to the present, mixing film clips from the Silent Era to the present and interviews with actors, directors, producers, and critics.
Some of it is quite highbrow. Directors including Peter Bogdanovich (“The Last Picture Show”), Amy Heckerling (“Fast Times At Ridgemont High”) and Martha Coolidge (“Valley Girl”) talk about the importance of the nudity in those films.
Actors such as Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”), Mariel Hemingway (“Star 80”) and Sean Young (“No Way Out”) are interviewed about their decisions to bare all on screen. Film critics and historians offer insights into the cultural landscape in which the movies were made.
And yes, there is a whole lot of flesh onscreen — you probably got that from the title, no? But whether it’s mainstream or art fare such as “Midnight Cowboy” and “Last Tango In Paris,” or trashier drive-in fodder like “Vixen!” and “I Spit On Your Grave,” over the course of the documentary’s two-hour runtime the scale tilts more toward educational than erotic.
“Documentaries today, everything’s being done or has been done already,” says Wolf, whose credits include the “Time Warp” trilogy of documentaries about cult movies. “We jumped at it as quickly as we could and said, ‘Let’s put this thing together.’
“And we just found if we do it chronologically we’d have something pretty cool we could be proud of,” he says. “Something that maybe could be shown in cinema classes at universities or whatever. That could be fun, entertaining, have a lot of nudity, but also be really informative.
“I think that’s what we came up with.”
Actress Diane Franklin is featured prominently in “Skin.” As a 19-year-old, she shot her feature film debut as the star of the 1982 teen sex comedy “The Last American Virgin,” a role that required nudity for a love scene shot in the press box overlooking a high school football film.
Watching her own movie was the first time Franklin saw any kind of nudity in a film, she says early in “Skin,” and she laughs describing how she almost didn’t get to see even that when the ticket-taker at the cinema didn’t believe she was old enough to watch an R-rated movie.
“I was raised with a more open mind about nudity, that it was beautiful,” Franklin says by phone from her Los Angeles home. Her parents were both European and older and though her initial concern about the nudity required in the script was for how it might affect them, they left the decision to her.
“They were very supportive, and sort of said, ‘This is your life and your decision,’” she says.
Initially, she didn’t want to do it, but she eventually changed her mind.
“This is a big thing with actresses,” Franklin says. “We get to a place where we’re like, ‘Do we need to nudity in order to get an acting job?’ I think it happens still today. But then there was a part of me that said, no, I can make this great, and it is an integral part of the story.”
That’s a key point she and many others make throughout “Skin,” a distinction between nudity that advances the story or expands a character and that simply there to titillate. And ultimately, Franklin says, the actor should feel good about the decision she or he makes to disrobe or not.
“It was one of the reasons why I decided to do (the documentary),” she says. “I wanted the public to know and I wanted other actors to know that there comes a time in your life where it’s up to you, and you walk through that door.
“And when you walk through the door you need to be happy with yourself at the end of the day.”
Fleshing out the story
Wolf says it quickly became apparent that the film worked best in chronological order.
“It really did because when film was invented in the late 1880s, that’s when ‘bodies in motion’ was filmed by Eadweard Muybridge,” he says. “Nudity was captured on film when film was invented, so it’s easy to move along from decade to decade”
For those early eras of silent movies and the first talkies, film historians and critics flesh out the cultural landscape in “Skin.”
“We wanted to emphasize the political and artistic social changes that predicated a more liberal attitude to nudity as well,” Wolf says.
When big stars such as Claudette Colbert started to appear even briefly nude in big movies such as Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Sign of the Cross,” detractors, which included the Catholic Church, pressured Hollywood to create the production code which eliminated nudity on film until the dawn of the s. (To be fair, it was probably not Colbert’s scene in a milk bath that upset people, but one involving a nude actress being menaced by a gorilla.)
“Then you have these outlaw filmmakers like Russ Meyer making these ‘nudie cuties’ and ‘monster nudies,’ these underground-type movies,” Wolf says.
By the end of the s, the Motion Picture Association of America had instituted its rating system, which led to “Midnight Cowboy” becoming the first and only X-rated movie ever to win the Oscar for best picture.
“Now you started to get major studios making major movies with stars and nudity was now male and female,” Wolf says. ‘So we kind of hit on what are the seminal movies you can’t leave out, like ‘Last Tango In Paris.”
“You want to hit the movies that have the first female nudity, the first male nudity, and then you go what are the genres?” he says. “Well, the ‘women in prison’ films in the s were exploitation but very important. And in the early s the teen sex comedies and the horror films.
“And that took us all the way up through today where mainstream actresses like Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”) and Anne Hathaway (“Brokeback Mountain”), they’re doing nudity and they’re winning Oscars or getting nominated.”
The naked truth
Wolf says that when he interviewed actors for the film, he also asked them how doing nude scenes on screen impacted their lives, a question he says provided some of the most unexpected answers of the interviews.
Erica Gavin, who starred in the title role of the 1968 Russ Meyer flick “Vixen!” tells him in “Skin” how seeing herself naked caused her to become so critical of her body that she nearly died of anorexia.
Mariel Hemingway talked about getting breast enhancement surgery between her nude appearances as a track star in “Personal Best” and as the murdered Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratton in “Star 80.”
Cerina Vincent, who made her film debut as an always-nude foreign exchange student in the 2001 teen-sex comedy spoof “Not Another Teen Movie,” learned that her fans from her previous TV role as Maya the Yellow Power Ranger were not all happy to see so much of her.
“She’s saying, ‘When I was a Power Ranger, kids sent me fan letters,’” Wolf says. “‘Once she did ‘Not Another Teen Movie,’ these same kids were sending hate letters like, ‘How could you do this, you’re a Power Ranger, you let us down!’”
Wolf mentions in Franklin, who in “Skin” talks about fearing she’d become typecast as “the girl who just does nudity,” but both Wolf and Franklin say they don’t think that modern-day Hollywood gets away with that kind of exploitation or pressure as it did in decades past.
“The #MeToo movement has absolutely impacted movies,” Wolf says. “Like immediately, we’re not going to have the exploitive take-off-your-top-just-for-the-sake-of-taking-off-your-top like we saw in horror films. Exploitation and gratuitous nudity is done.”
Franklin agrees, saying one of the reasons she wanted to talk about nudity in “Skin” was because the times feel so historic today as how actors in Hollywood are winning the fights over how they want to use their own bodies.
“I’m glad this documentary is coming out because I think that young women or young people will be able to better determine what works for them and not feel pressured into (nudity),” she says.
“Your body is like gold. So don’t give it away so easily, and know that you have a choice.”