Betty Luster

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Betty Luster
Born 27 April 1922
Died 25 May 2011
West Palm Beach, FL
Years active 1938–1956

Betty Luster (27 April 1922 – 25 May 2011)[1] was an American television actress, singer and dancer, whose career was active in the 1940s and 1950s. The role for which she is best remembered today was at one time her most obscure: her portrayal of Mr. B Natural in the short film of the same name, made famous after its inclusion in a 1991 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Career[edit]

Betty Luster was the winner of the first Miss Lake Mowhawk contest in 1937.[2]

Her earliest known stage performances were as a showgirl with the Dorchester Hale dance troupe in London in October 1938.[3] She made a series of appearances on BBC television in 1939.[4]

Later she was a dancing girl in the 1940 Broadway production of Irving Berlin's Louisiana Purchase.[5] and she was a chorus girl at the Beachcomber in Miami Beach in 1946 and/or 1947.[6] In the late 1940s, she performed on the operatic stage in Philadelphia.[7]

Luster served as co-hostess of the 1950 CBS game show Sing It Again, a progenitor to Name That Tune, wherein contestants would attempt to identify songs from just a few notes. Her other television appearance was as a regular on the 1951 NBC variety show Seven at Eleven.

Luster again appeared on Broadway as "Sebena" in a production of The Wayward Saint.[8] The show ran at the Cort Theatre from February 17 to March 6, 1955.

Mr. B Natural[edit]

In 1956, Luster took the title role in a film sponsored by the musical instrument manufacturer C.G. Conn to promote to schoolchildren an interest in music. Mr. B Natural told the story of a "hep pixie"[9] who helps junior high school student Buzz Turner awaken the "spirit of music" inside of him, through the purchase and practice on a Conn brand trumpet.

The short remained an obscure classroom reel until 1991 when it was brought to the attention of HBO, which was seeking content for its new cable network, Comedy Central.[10] Mr. B Natural was licensed for use by Best Brains' movie-spoofing vehicle Mystery Science Theater 3000, and was broadcast nationally on November 30, 1991 accompanying the feature War of the Colossal Beast. Due to this exposure, the short, and the Mr. B Natural character, have become recognized as kitsch icons.

Mr. B Natural is Luster's last known role. Luster retired from dancing after her marriage to Edmund Astley "Ned" Prentis, III (b. New York City, 12 September 1923, d. Delray, FL, 11 August 1997)[4][11][12][13] and she "joined him at becoming an expert in big-game fishing, big-game hunting and world-class croquet."[11]

Luster's last known sighting was on episode 7 of Michael Palin's 1989 series, Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days, on an Amtrak train heading east from Los Angeles, identifying herself as "Marna the Clown".

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Betty L. Prentis". tirbutes.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Donovan, Gewn (2010), Images of America: Sparta, Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, p. 110, ISBN 0-7385-7349-3 
  3. ^ Picture Post (22 Oct 1938), "A Glamour Girl's Day", Picture Post (138), "22nd October 1938: 16 year old American dancer Betty Luster, a showgirl with the Dorchester Hale dance troupe, shopping at a market in London."  It is therefore likely she was born sometime in the first ten months of 1922, but it is possible she was born in November or December of 1921.
  4. ^ a b "Television/radio age", Television/Radio Age 27, 1979: 112, retrieved 2 September 2011, "Betty Luster Prentis, Delray Beach Luster was for many years a well-known station programming consultant before her marriage to Ned Prentis. A former dancer, she was one of the first performers to appear on television in a series of programs on the BBC in 1939." 
  5. ^ Internet Broadway Database, Louisiana Purchase, retrieved 2007-05-29 
  6. ^ Life (March 3, 1947), "Life Tours the Nightclubs at Miami Beach", Life 
  7. ^ Hamilton, Frank (2006), Opera in Philadelphia: Performance Chronology 1925-1949 (PDF), retrieved 2007-05-27 
  8. ^ Internet Broadway Database, The Wayward Saint, retrieved 2007-05-27 
  9. ^ Prelinger, Rick (2006), The Field Guide to Sponsored Films (PDF), National Film Preservation Foundation, p. 65, ISBN 0-9747099-3-X 
  10. ^ Prelinger, Rick (2001-01-04), An Informal History of Prelinger Archives, retrieved 2007-05-28 
  11. ^ a b Maas, Jane (16 September 1985). "Jane Maas Perfects the Balancing Act of Career, Marriage and Home Life; "Put Your Career First," President of Muller Jordan Weiss Counsels Aspiring Women on the Move". Adweek. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  12. ^ "Edmund A. "Ned" Prentis, III". United States Croquet Association. 
  13. ^ "Funeral Notices". Palm Beach Post. 22 August 1997. p. 5B. 

External links[edit]

Images

  • Picture Post photos, October 22, 1938, at Getty Images: 1 2 3 4
Additionally, the girl at the right in each of these may be Luster: 5 6
  • Life, February 1, 1947
  • IMDb Photo of Luster with Seven at Eleven costar Jack Stanton
  • New York Public Library image of Luster from the Billy Rose Theatre Collection