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Parks in 1950
|Born||Samuel Klausman Lawrence Parks
December 13, 1914
Olathe, Kansas, U.S.
|Died||April 13, 1975
Studio City, California, U.S.
(1944–75 (his death); 2 children
Larry Parks (December 13, 1914–April 13, 1975) was an American stage and movie actor. His career arced from bit player and supporting roles to top billing before his career was virtually ended when he admitted to having once been a member of a Communist party cell, which led to his blacklisting by all Hollywood studios. His best known role was Al Jolson, whom he portrayed in two films, The Jolson Story (1946), and Jolson Sings Again (1949).
Born Samuel Klausman Lawrence Parks, he grew up in Joliet, Illinois, graduating from Joliet Township High School in 1932. He attended the University of Illinois as a pre-med student, and played in stock companies for a few years before signing a movie contract with Columbia Pictures in 1941.
When Columbia was preparing a screen biography of Al Jolson, many big-name stars were considered for the title role, including James Cagney and Danny Thomas (both of whom turned it down), but resident contractee Larry Parks was reportedly the first actor to be interviewed. Parks impressed the producers and won the role. At the age of 31, his performance in The Jolson Story (1946) earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Now that Parks was a full-fledged star, Columbia kept him busy in elaborate productions (including a couple of costume epics) until he appeared in the sequel, Jolson Sings Again (1949), which was another huge box office hit. His co-star in the film, Barbara Hale, teamed with him again in the comedy feature Emergency Wedding.
In 1951 Parks was summoned to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, under threat of being blacklisted in the movie industry, but he begged not to be forced to testify. He eventually did so in tears, only to be blacklisted anyway. Larry Parks eventually gave up the names of his former colleagues and submitted to the HUAC. Following his admission before the committee, Columbia Pictures dropped him, and a romantic comedy he made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was shelved for three years. Parks made only a few more films, but continued to squeeze out a living acting on the stage and doing occasional television programs. He last appeared in a major role in a John Huston film, Freud the Secret Passion (1962).
Parks eventually left the film industry and formed a successful construction business, and eventually he and his wife Betty Garrett owned many apartment buildings scattered throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Rather than sell them upon completion, Parks decided to retain ownership and collect rents as a landlord, a decision that proved to be extremely profitable. During this period, the couple occasionally performed in Las Vegas showrooms, summer stock productions, and touring companies of Broadway shows.
Parks died of a heart attack at the age of 60. He was married to actress Betty Garrett in 1944. Garrett starred in Hollywood films such as On the Town and on television as Archie Bunker’s neighbor Irene Lorenzo on All in the Family and as landlady Edna Babish on Laverne and Shirley. Her career also faced turmoil as a result of her marriage to Parks, and the two spent much of the 1950s doing theatre and musical variety shows. Together they had two sons, actor Andrew Parks and composer Garrett Parks. He was also the godfather to actor Jeff Bridges.
- Supporting roles and B movies
- Mystery Ship (1941), Tommy Baker
- Harmon of Michigan (1941), Harvey
- You Belong to Me (1941), Blemish
- Three Girls About Town (1941), Reporter
- Sing for Your Supper (1941), Mickey
- Harvard, Here I Come! (1941), Eddie Spellman
- Blondie Goes to College (1942), Rusty Bryant
- Canal Zone (1942), Recruit Kincaid
- Alias Boston Blackie (1942), Joe Trilby
- North of the Rockies (1942), Jim Bailey
- Hello, Annapolis (1942), Paul Herbert
- Submarine Raider (1942), Sparksie
- They All Kissed the Bride (1942), Joe Krim
- Flight Lieutenant (1942), Cadet Sandy Roth
- Atlantic Convoy (1942), Gregory
- A Man's World (1942), Chick O'Driscoll
- The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942), Bill Layden
- You Were Never Lovelier (1942), Tony
- Power of the Press (1942), Jerry Purvis
- Reveille with Beverly (1943), Eddie Ross
- Redhead from Manhattan (1943), Flirt
- First Comes Courage (1943), Capt. Langdon
- Destroyer (1943), Ens. Johnson
- Is Everybody Happy? (1943), Jerry Stewart
- The Deerslayer (1943), Jingo-Good
- The Racket Man (1944), Larry Lake
- Hey, Rookie (1944), Jim Leighter
- Jam Session (1944), Actor at Superba Pictures
- The Black Parachute (1944), Michael Kaligor Lindley
- Stars on Parade (1944), Danny Davis
- Sergeant Mike (1944), Pvt. Tom Allen
- She's a Sweetheart (1944), Rocky Hill
- Counter-Attack (1945), Kirichenko
- Renegades (1946), Ben Dembrow (Ben Taylor)
- A-list stardom
- The Jolson Story (1946), Al Jolson
- Down to Earth (1947), Danny Miller
- The Swordsman (1948), Alexander MacArden
- The Gallant Blade (1948), Lt. David Picard
- Jolson Sings Again (1949), Al Jolson
- Emergency Wedding (1950), Peter Judson Kirk Jr.
- Love Is Better Than Ever (1952), Jud Parker
- Died: 13 April 1975 (1975-04-13). "Larry Parks | BFI | BFI". Explore.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- "Blackface to Blacklist: Al Jolson, Larry Parks, and "the Jolson Story" (9780810819658): Doug McClelland: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- "Illinois Alumni Magazine | UIAA | Illinois Alumni". UIAA. 1951-03-21. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- "A Star is Born: Larry Parks as Al Jolson | A Tribute to Al Jolson". Jolsonville.com. 2011-02-13. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- Ebert, Roger (1968-08-25). "Interview with Larry Parks | Interviews". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- "The Jolson Story". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- T. M. P. (1949-08-18). "Movie Review - Jolson Sings Again - THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; ' Jolson Sings Again,' in Opening at Loew's State, Calls for Some Lusty Cheering". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- Silverman, Stephen M. Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and his Movies. Alfred A. Knopf. 1996. p. 140.
- "Vaudeville old & new: an encyclopedia of variety performances in America - Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman, Donald McNeilly - Google Books". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- "Freud | BFI | BFI". Explore.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- Garrett, pp. 125-152.
- Garrett, pp. 169-171.
- "Biography for Larry Parks". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- "Betty Garrett". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- Rampell, Ed (2011-04-18). "Bridges brothers honor Hollywood "Red" Betty Garrett". peoplesworld. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
- Larry Parks at the Internet Movie Database
- Video: The Jolson Story compilation of film clips
- Larry Parks at Find a Grave
- Photographs and literature