Lisa Gerritsen

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Lisa Gerritsen
Lisa Gerritsen Bess Lindstrom 1975.JPG
Gerritsen as Bess Lindstrom, 1975.
Born (1957-12-21) December 21, 1957 (age 57)
Los Angeles, California,
United States

Lisa Gerritsen (born December 21, 1957) is a former American child actress. She is most famous for her role as Bess, the independent-minded daughter of Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show; she later carried the role over into the spinoff Phyllis.

"During the 60's ... many ... roles were little more than vehicles for young actors to showcase their acting skills based on the hijinks of the "typical" child ... This formula worked well for most young actors. Lisa, however, tended to break this mold by portraying her characters with a unique mixture of emotional intelligence and honesty seldom found in most actors — child or adult. At a time when most young actors had only two or three emotions in their repertoire, Lisa was tackling roles that required a much broader range of emotions."

— Fan Web site[1]


She was born Lisa Orszag, and is the granddaughter of child actor and screenwriter True Boardman, and the great-granddaughter of silent film actors True Boardman and Virginia True Boardman. Her acting career began when she was eight years old. Encouraged by her mother and grandfather, and after running the gamut of numerous casting calls, she landed her first professional role in an episode of The Doris Day Show in 1968. After The Doris Day Show, Gerritsen had guest-star or cameo appearances in several television shows including The Odd Couple, Bonanza, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Virginian and Family Affair.

She was also cast in several episodes of Gunsmoke, one of which helped her to land a regular role in the 1969 NBC comedy series My World and Welcome to It, which starred William Windom and Joan Hotchkis. The show was based on the cartoons and comedy of author James Thurber.

On the December 28, 1970, Gunsmoke episode entitled "Jenny," Lisa played a 10-year-old who leaves St. Louis after the death of her mother to find her outlaw father, Lucas Pritchard, portrayed by Steve Ihnat.

In 1970, she was cast as Bess Lindstrom, daughter of landlord Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, for which she received critical acclaim. Bess was a precocious child whose mother believed in progressive parenting — Bess always called Phyllis by her first name, read Phyllis' books on child rearing, and was educated on sexuality, etc.[2] Gerritsen returned in the role in the spinoff series Phyllis (1975–1977).

In addition to her television roles, she also was cast in several movies. She made her first big-screen appearance in Airport, playing the role of Libby Bakersfeld. She also appeared as Linda in The War Between Men and Women, which starred Jack Lemmon and Barbara Harris. Lemmon's character was loosely based on the life of author James Thurber.[3]

She lives with her husband, John Rustan,[2] (married 2000) and son in northern California.

Television career[edit]

Main Filmography
Recurring roles:| My World and Welcome to It (1969) | Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970) | Phyllis (1975) | Guest star roles: Bonanza | The Courtship of Eddie's Father   | The Doris Day Show (1968) | Family Affair  | Gunsmoke | Harry O | The Virginian

Gerritsen's role as the cartoonist's daughter in the series My World and Welcome to It was a high point in her career. The show won several awards including Emmys, but was cancelled after only one season. Combining animation from Depatie-Freleng with live-action sit-com storylines involving cartoonist John Monroe, his wife, daughter and pets, the show was unlike anything ever done on TV, before or since. In addition to top writers, directors and guest-stars, (with the cartoons of James Thurber, and the producing brilliance of Sheldon Leonard) the show's unique brand of curmudgeonly family strife and social satire included an unconventional relationship between father and daughter. Her performance as the genius daughter of Monroe showed astonishing range and depth.

As Phyllis's daughter the following year, Lisa Gerritsen established her importance to the Mary Tyler Moore Show in its very first episode. Though she returned only sporadically for the next few years, she was always memorable, again, playing an off-beat, brainy, talented little girl. In the premiere episode, test audiences didn't like Rhoda, played by Valerie Harper. Harper eventually became one of the most popular stars on TV, but her initial change from antagonist of Mary (which the audience disliked, since Mary Tyler Moore was universally loved by viewers) occurred because of Bess (Gerritsen). Because Bess likes Rhoda and thinks she's funny, to the eternal consternation of Phyllis, the audience changed their opinion of her too, and by the second episode she was Mary's best friend.

Film career[edit]

Main Filmography
Airport (1970) | The War Between Men and Women (1972) | A Howling in the Woods (1971) | Locusts (1974) | Mixed Company (1974)


External links[edit]