Betsy von Furstenberg

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Betsy von Furstenberg
Born Elizabeth Caroline Maria Agatha Felicitas Therese, Freiin von Fürstenberg-Herdringen
(1931-08-16)16 August 1931
Arnsberg, Germany
Died 21 April 2015(2015-04-21) (aged 83)
New York City, U.S.
Education Gardner School
Hewitt School
Occupation Actress
Spouse(s) Guy Vincent
(m. 1954; div. 1966)

John J. Reynolds
(m. 1984; d. 1994)
Children Glyn Douglas Vincent
Gay Caroline Vincent
Parent(s) Franz-Egon von Fürstenberg-Herdringen
Elizabeth Foster Johnson
Relatives Dolores Guinness (half-sister)
Gloria Rubio (step-mother)

Elizabeth Caroline Maria Agatha Felicitas Therese von Fürstenberg-Herdringen (August 16, 1931 – April 21, 2015), known professionally as Betsy von Furstenberg, was a German-born American actress who starred in several Broadway plays, films, and TV series in the mid-20th century.[1][2]

In 1988, she published Mirror, Mirror, a novel centered on an heiress pursuing love among Europe's elite social circles.[3]

Early life[edit]

Elizabeth Caroline Maria Agatha Felicitas Therese, Freiin von Fürstenberg-Herdringen was born in Arnsberg, Germany. Her parents were Franz-Egon, Graf (Count) von Fürstenberg-Herdringen (1896–1975) and his first wife, Elizabeth Foster Johnson (1899–1961), a native of Memphis, Tennessee.[4] Her stepmothers were Gloria Rubio, Clara Ghyczy and Joan Siegel[5] (not be confused with Joanne Siegel). She had two half-siblings from her father's marriage to Gloria Rubio: Franz-Egon, Freiherr von Fürstenberg-Herdringen (b. 1939), and Dolores Maria Agatha Wilhelmine Luise Freiin von Fürstenberg-Herdringen (1936–2012), who married Patrick Guinness.[6]

Born in Westphalia, von Furstenberg left Germany with her parents for New York. She was tutored in dance starting from when she was four years old, and by age seven she was already performing with the American Ballet Theatre. When she was 14, she began working as a fashion model. Von Furstenberg received her early formal education at private schools in New York City, attending the Gardner School there and later graduating from the Hewitt School.[2][4]


Although some published sources have described Betsy von Furstenberg as a countess, she is in fact a Freiin (baroness) by birth, according to the last published issue of the Almanach de Gotha. Children of the counts von Fürstenberg-Herdringen are known as Freiherr (baron) or Freiin (baroness), and the sons only move up in rank to Graf (count) if they inherit the primary title. With regard to Betsy von Furstenberg's acting career, she opted not to use her full, hyphenated dual surname. She elected to use only "von Furstenberg" and without the umlaut. She also chose to use "Betsy", the nickname or familiar form of Elizabeth, in her professional credits and in publicity about her work.[citation needed]



Von Furstenberg, who studied acting in New York at the Neighborhood Playhouse under the renowned teacher Sanford Meisner, performed in a wide range of productions on Broadway for 25 years.[7] She debuted there in 1951 in Philip Barry's Second Threshold, a performance that resulted in her being featured on the cover of Life magazine and being publicized as "the most promising young actress of the year".[8] She went on to star or co-star in Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1953), The Chalk Garden (1956), Child of Fortune (1956), Nature's Way (1957), The Making of Moo (1958), Step on a Crack (1962), The Frog Pond (1965), The Paisley Convertible (1967), Avanti! (1968), The Gingerbread Lady (1970), and Does Anybody Here Do the Peabody? (1976).[1][9]


On American television, von Furstenberg appeared in more than two dozen weekly series and made-for-TV movies between 1951 and 1980.[10] In 1958 she memorably starred opposite Robert Horton on the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, portraying a double-crossing young widow in "The Disappearing Trick", an episode directed by Arthur Hiller.[11] Earlier that same year, she also appeared in the Have Gun - Will Travel episode "Girl from Piccadilly".[12] Much later, in 1980, von Furstenberg performed the role of Lisa Grimaldi on the popular soap opera As the World Turns, serving for months as a replacement for actress Eileen Fulton, who had left the daytime drama reportedly due to illness.[13] As the World Turns was not the only soap opera in which von Furstenberg appeared. She was also cast in the role of Niele Neeves on The Secret Storm and as "The Duchess of Essex" in Another World.[8]

Personal life and death[edit]

In September 1951, von Furstenberg announced her engagement to Conrad Hilton Jr., whose divorce from Elizabeth Taylor was due to become final the following January.[14] She did not, however, marry Hilton; instead, on June 16,1954, she married Guy Vincent Chastenet de la Maisonneuve, a French-born mining engineer, who simplified and changed his name to Guy Vincent.[15] Before their divorce in 1966, the couple had two children, a daughter and a son:[1]

  • Gay Caroline Vincent, who married William Farish Gerry (b. 1955), the son of Martha F. Gerry (1918–2007) and a grandson of William Stamps Farish II (1881–1942), the president of Standard Oil from 1937 to 1942, in 1988.[16][17]
  • Glyn Douglas Vincent, who married Anastasia Cole Goodman, a leading authority on pre-Columbian art and the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Edmund N. Goodman in 1989.[18][19]

The combination of being an actor and a parent proved to be frustrating at times for von Furstenberg, who believed that the two roles sometimes blended together in daily life and posed special challenges both in and outside the home. In 1972, six years after her divorce from Guy Vincent, she expressed her views on the subject in a personal essay titled "Actors Are Not the Only Ones Who Act", which was published in The New York Times on September 24, 1972.[20] In one portion of her essay she shares the following:

...I have gotten my way by 'acting' in some very significant moments in my life when perhaps in the long run it would have been better if I hadn't gotten my way...One of the most frustrating drawbacks of being an actor‐parent is to have your children accuse you of acting when you're being perfectly sincere. Of course, they've seen you being 'perfectly sincere' on stage so for the poor things I guess the better you are the more confusing it is for them (and how do you explain that both are real and yet not the same?). Ultimately your actions must bear out the truth of what you say to them.[20]

After a prolonged period of being single, von Furstenberg finally married for the second time in 1984, then to New York real-estate broker John J. Reynolds. They remained together until his death in 1994.[21][22] She lived another twenty-one years. On April 21, 2015, von Furstenberg died at her home in Manhattan at the age of 83 from complications attributed to Alzheimer's disease.[7]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Betsy von Fursternberg, German-Born Broadway Actress, Dies at 83 | Playbill". Playbill. April 30, 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Sam (29 April 2015). "Betsy von Furstenberg, Baroness and Versatile Actress, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  3. ^ Barnes, Mike (April 30, 2015). "Betsy von Furstenberg, Broadway Star and Soap Opera Actress, Dies at 83". The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 May 2018. 
  4. ^ a b "Countess Engaged to Peter S. Howard; Caroline E. von Furstenberg-Herdringen to Be Bride of Late Turfman's Grandson." The New York Times, November 7, 1950.
  5. ^ Count Franz-Egon Maria Meinhard Engelbert Pius Aloysius Kaspar Ferdinand Dietrich von Fürstenberg-Herdringen's Genealogy,
  6. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Freiherrliche Häuser, Band XV, S. 135–177, Band 69 der Gesamtreihe, C. A. Starke Verlag, Limburg (Lahn) 1989.
  7. ^ a b Dagan, Carmel (2015). "Betsy von Furstenberg, Actress and Aristocrat, Dies at 83", Variety, April 30, 2015. Penske Media Corporation, Los Angeles, California. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Mulcahy Jr., Kevin (2015). "Betsy von Furstenberg Dead at 83", obituary on We Love Soaps, April 30, 2015. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  9. ^ "Betsy von Furstenberg: Shows". Playbill. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  10. ^ "Betsy von Furstenberg", filmography. Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a subsidiary of Amazon, Seattle, Washington. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  11. ^ "The Disappearing Trick", an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (S03E27) originally broadcast April 6, 1958. IMDb. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  12. ^ "Girl from Piccadilly", an episode of Have Gun - Will Travel (S01E24) originally broadcast February 22, 1958. IMDb. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  13. ^ "Soap star will resume role". The San Bernardino County Sun. California, San Bernardino. Associated Press. July 19, 1980. p. 2. Retrieved May 8, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read. It should be noted that the newspaper incorrectly identifies Fulton's character in the cited article as "Lisa Colman" instead of Lisa Grimaldi, the role Fulton played on As the World Turns for a half century, from 1960 to 2010.
  14. ^ "Noble Starlet To Wed Hilton". Ogden Standard-Examiner. Utah, Ogden. p. 1. Retrieved May 8, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read
  15. ^ "Betsy von Furstenberg Marries", The New York Times, 14 November 1954, p. 893
  16. ^ 174 Years of Historic Houston: Who's Who - William Stamps Farish
  17. ^ "Miss Vincent to Wed William F. Gerry", The New York Times, May 15, 1988
  18. ^ Brubach, Holly (April 22, 2015). "Sister Act". W Magazine. Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  19. ^ "Miss Goodman Becomes Bride of Glyn Vincent", The New York Times, June 11, 1989
  20. ^ a b Von Fursten[burg], Betsy (1972). "Actors Are Not the Only Ones Who Act", The New York Times, September 24, 1972. New York Times Archives. Retrieved August 9, 2017. It should be noted that The New York Times in its archived copy credits von Furstenberg's essay to "Betsy von Furstenburg".
  21. ^ Marvine Howe, "Chronicle", The New York Times, September 3, 1992
  22. ^ Eric Pace, "John J. Reynolds, 61, New York Real-Estate Broker", The New York Times, February 8, 1994

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