Betty Thomas

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Betty Thomas
Betty Thomas (cropped).jpg
Thomas at the Emmy Awards Governors Ball, 1994
Born Betty Lucille Nienhauser
(1948-07-27) July 27, 1948 (age 66)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Occupation Actress, film director, television director
Years active 1975–present

Betty Thomas (born July 27, 1948)[1] is an American actress, director of television, and motion pictures. She is known for her Emmy-award winning role as Lucy Bates on the television series Hill Street Blues.[2]

Early life[edit]

Thomas was born Betty Lucille Nienhauser in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1948 to Nancy (née Brown) and William H. Nienhauser, Sr.[3][4] She graduated from South High School, Willoughby, Ohio, in 1965. After high school Thomas attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Upon graduating Thomas worked as an artist and taught high school before becoming a part of The Second City Chicago premiere source for improvisational theater.[5] She took her professional surname from her marriage to Douglas Thomas.[4]

Second City[edit]

Thomas came to her entertainment career by a circuitous route. While working as an artist and school teacher she became a waitress at The Second City to earn extra cash for a trip abroad. While waiting tables Thomas was encouraged to try out for the troupe, and subsequently joined the company.[6] She was praised for her brassy and outspoken performances; she also worked with several up and coming Second City alumni, most notably Bill Murray.[7] When The Second City opened a Los Angeles branch, Thomas moved west.

Career[edit]

Acting career[edit]

Upon her arrival in Los Angeles Thomas received many bit parts in low-budget films like Chesty Anderson, USN (1976), the Robert Zemeckis film Used Cars (1980) as well as sketch comedy films like Tunnel Vision (1975), and Loose Shoes (1980) the latter of which featuring Second City classmate Bill Murray.[6] She has also appeared in the 1989 film Troop Beverly Hills, starring Shelley Long.

While Thomas had been building her career in comedy, her breakthrough role as an actress came when she was cast in the dramatic role of police officer (later Sergeant) Lucille Bates on the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981–87). Over the course of the series her character goes from inexperienced rookie to confident sergeant and earned her seven Emmy nominations for best supporting actress, taking home the award for the 1984–1985 season.[8]

Directing career[edit]

After making several other acting appearances Thomas was given the chance to direct episodes of Hooperman and the premiere episodes of Doogie Howser, M.D. in 1989. She went on to direct episodes of Arresting Behavior and several episodes of the HBO series Dream On, the latter of which earned her an Emmy for best director.[8]

In 1992 Thomas took the next step in her directing career with her feature debut Only You. A slight, playful romantic comedy; Only You was a departure from Thomas's experience on Hill Street Blues or her subsequent television directing. Some said that Thomas was chosen to direct due in part to the film's plot in which a man is on a hapless quest to find the perfect woman would be considered inherently sexist without a female director.[9]

Three years following the release of Only You Thomas followed her feature debut with The Brady Bunch Movie (1995). A more humorous, satirical, and witty vision of the 1970s television series The Brady Bunch. The Brady Bunch Movie was a box office hit with $46,576,136 nearly quadrupling its $12,000,000 budget. The Brady Bunch Movie remains one of the highest grossing films directed by a woman.[2]

She followed the The Brady Bunch Movie with other successes, including Private Parts (1997), Dr. Dolittle (1998), 28 Days (2000), and John Tucker Must Die (2006). 2009's Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel became the first female-directed picture to gross more than $200 million and made her the most successful woman director ever at the box office.[10] In 2012, Thomas began directing a low-budget online series, called Audrey, for the WIGS YouTube channel.

Filmography[edit]

Actress[edit]

Year Film Role Director / creator Notes
1976 Tunnel Vision Bridgit Bert Richards Neal Israel, Bradley R. Swirnoff
1976 Jackson County Jail Waitress Michael Miller
1976 The Last Affair Henri Charr
1976 Chest Anderson U.S. Navy Party Guest #1 Ed Forsyth
1977 Dog and Cat Waitress Bob Kelljan
1978 C.P.O. Sharkey Seaman Daley Aaron Ruben
1978 Outside Chance Katherine Michael Miller
1980 Used Cars Bunny Robert Zemeckis
1980 Loose Shoes Biker Chic #1 Ira Miller
1981 The Nashville Grab Maxine Pearce James L. Conway
1982 Twilight Theater Perry Rosemond
1982 Homework Reddogs Secretary James Beshears
1983 When Your Lover Leaves Maude Jeff Bleckner
1985 ABC Afterschool Specials Dr. Mary Lewis Guy Fraumeni
1987 Prison for Children Angela Brannon Larry Peerce
1981–87 Hill Street Blues Sgt. Lucy Bates Steven Bochco, Michael Kozoll Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, 1985
1989 The Tracey Ullman Show Miss Belts, Gym Teacher Ted Bessell, Art Wolff
1989 Troop Beverly Hills Velda Plendor Jeff Kanew

Directing for television[edit]

Year Series Role Notes
1989 Hooperman Director Episodes: "Goodnight, Sweet Hooperman", "Dog Day Afternoon", "Morning and Night", "In the Still of My Pants"
1989 Doogie Howser, M.D. Director Episodes: "Doogie The Red-Nosed Reindeer", "The Ice Queen Cometh"
1990 Mancuso, FBI Director Episodes: "Night of the Living Shred", "Shiva Me Timbers", "Murder of Pearl"
1990 Parenthood Director Episodes: "Thanksgiving with a T that Rhymes with B that Stands for Basketball", "I Never Invested for My Father"
1991 Sons and Daughters Director TV series
1991 Midnight Caller Director Episode: "Her Dirty Little Secret"
1991 Shannon's Deal Director Episode: "Matrimony"
1992 On the Air Director TV Mini-series: Episode #1.6
1994 My Breast Director TV film
1994 Couples Director TV film
1996 The Late Shift Director TV film
1990–96 Dream On Director Directed 18 episodes, Won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, 1993
2001 Silicon Follies Director TV film
2003 Senor White Director TV film
2006 That Guy Director TV film
2006 The Loop Director Pilot episode
2007 Dash 4 Cash Director TV film

Directing feature films[edit]

Year Series Role Notes
1992 Only You Director Feature film debut
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie Director One of the highest grossing films directed by a woman
1997 Private Parts Director adaptation of the Howard Stern's autobiography
1998 Dr. Dolittle Director $144 million in box office gross
2000 28 Days Director
2002 I Spy Director
2006 John Tucker Must Die Director
2009 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Director $219 million in box office gross

References[edit]

  1. ^ Born 1947 per familysearch.org; accessed May 14, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Betty Thomas". Hill Street Blues. Paley Center for Media. Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ "STLtoday.com". Nl.newsbank.com. 1995-02-16. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  4. ^ a b "Nancy Brown Nienhauser obituary at". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  5. ^ "Betty Thomas bio at". Tribute.ca. Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Betty Thomas biography at". Yahoo Movies. Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Thaumaturgy Department". Tumblr. Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Betty Thomas". CelebrityNooz. 2011. Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ Weinstein, Steve (January 2, 1992). "A Long Way From 'Hill Street's' Beat: Betty Thomas Struts Her Comic Side in Directing First Feature, 'Only You'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 15, 2012. 
  10. ^ Young, John (March 12, 2010). "Betty Thomas: Highest-grossing female director". Entertainment Weekly. 

External links[edit]