Betsy Palmer

Betsy Palmer (born Patricia Betsy Hrunek; November 1, 1926 – May 29, 2015) was an American actress, known as a regular supporting movie and Broadway actress and television guest star, as a panelist on the game show I've Got a Secret, and later for playing Jason Voorhees' mother, Pamela Voorhees, in the popular slasher film Friday the 13th (1980).

Betsy Palmer
Palmer in 1960.
Patricia Betsy Hrunek

(1926-11-01)November 1, 1926
DiedMay 29, 2015(2015-05-29) (aged 88)
EducationGoodman School of Drama, DePaul University
Years active1951–2007
Notable work
Friday the 13th
TelevisionI've Got a Secret,
anthology series,
game shows
Vincent J. Merendino
(m. 1954; div. 1971)
ChildrenMelissa b. 1962[1]
  • Rudolph Vincent Hrunek
  • Marie Love
RelativesJack (brother)[2]

Early life

Palmer was born Patricia Betsy Hrunek on November 1, 1926,[3] in East Chicago, Indiana, the daughter[4][5] of Marie (née Love), an adoptee, who launched the East Chicago Business College before she married,[6][7][8][1][9] and Rudolph Vincent Hrunek,[10][11] an industrial chemist who was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia,[12][13][14][15] who became a stay at home father.[16] They moved to Hessville and she attended Warren G Harding Elementary School in Hammond, Indiana.[16] She performed in school plays all through childhood.[16] She graduated from East Chicago's Roosevelt High School in 1944,[9] attended East Chicago Business College. She then worked as a stenographer and secretary for the car foreman on the RIP track of the B&O Railroad. She hated it, she said, because she was shut off from people.[17] Some time after Palmer took an aptitude test at the Chicago YWCA, which indicated a flair for The Arts, her father brought a coworker home for dinner, a former New York actor who recommended she study with David Itkin at DePaul University.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][19][26][17][16] Working days and commuting to night classes from East Chicago, she graduated from the Goodman School of Drama (now called The Theatre School) at DePaul University.[16][27][28][29]

Acting career

Palmer began working, in summer stock, in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, then winter stock at The Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, Illinois with Paul Newman, and then summer stock, in Chicago with Imogene Coca. Having saved $400 she told her parents she was changing her name to Betsy Palmer and moving to New York City with Sasha Igler, who had a job in advertising.

Palmer got her first television acting job in 1951 when she joined the cast of the 15-minute weekday television soap opera Miss Susan, which was produced in Philadelphia, and all actors traveled each day from New York City by train.[30][9] She was "discovered" for this role, by Norman Lessing, while attending a party in the apartment of actor Frank Sutton who was married to Toby Igler, the sister of Palmer's roommate, Sasha Igler. She had been in Manhattan less than one week.

A life member of The Actors Studio,[31] Palmer's stage work included a tour of South Pacific (as Nellie Forbush) and a summer-stock season in the title role in Maggie, the 1953 musicalization of What Every Woman Knows by William Roy and Hugh Thomas.

In 1953, she created the role of Virginia in the original teleplay version of Paddy Chayefsky's Marty. Also in 1953 she appeared in a Studio One television broadcast of Hound-Dog Man with Jackie Cooper and others.[32] She would become a familiar face on television as a news reporter on Today in 1958 (the Today Girl), and a long-running regular panelist on the quiz show I've Got a Secret. She joined the show's original run, replacing Faye Emerson in 1958 and remaining until the show's finale in 1967. She did not reprise her role in any of the various revivals of the show. Palmer was the last surviving member of the I've Got a Secret first version's cast.

Palmer appeared as Kitty Carter in The Long Gray Line (1955), starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara. She also played nurse Lt. Ann Girard (the main female character) in Mister Roberts (1955), starring beside Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney, and William Powell. In the same year she played Carol Lee Phillips in Queen Bee, which starred Joan Crawford.[30]

Palmer starred alongside Anthony Perkins and Fonda again in the Paramount production of The Tin Star (1957).[33]

In 1958, she played undercover agent Phyllis Carter/Lynn Stuart in the film The True Story of Lynn Stuart, co-starring Jack Lord and featuring Kim Spalding as her husband, Ralph Carter.

Palmer appeared in seven Broadway shows. All the original productions had short runs, but she replaced other actresses in long-run shows, notably Lauren Bacall in Cactus Flower in 1967, and Ellen Burstyn in Same Time Next Year in 1977. In 1976 Palmer was the actress whom Tennessee Williams chose to embody the frustrated lead, Alma Winemiller, in his The Eccentricities of a Nightingale.[34]

Palmer's Mercedes-Benz stopped working on the highway to her home in Connecticut after a performance in New York City, arriving home at five o'clock in the morning, so she resolved to replace her car, and later, her daughter suggested that the Volkswagen Scirocco was a cute car and it was $10,000. The offer of $1000 a day for ten days work on location at a Boy Scout camp in New Jersey, to fund the car purchase, was a reason for taking her most famous recent role, Friday the 13th. She recounted, in an interview, that her initial reaction to the experience was: "What a piece of shit! Nobody is ever going to see this thing."[35] Despite her distaste for the film, she reluctantly consented to a cameo appearance in Friday the 13th Part 2. She ultimately came to accept and celebrate her participation in the franchise, as it made her more famous rather than infamous. Palmer was asked to reprise her role as Mrs. Voorhees in Freddy vs. Jason in 2003 and agreed to return, but ultimately turned down the role after being offered a surprisingly low salary.[36]

In 1982 Palmer created the role of "Suzanne Becker" on the CBS daytime soap opera As the World Turns. From 1989 to 1990, the actress appeared on Knots Landing as Virginia "Ginny" Bullock, the aunt of Valene Ewing (played by series star Joan Van Ark). Palmer acted in a Mayfield Dinner Theatre production of On Golden Pond in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1997.

In 2002, Palmer provided the voice of the title character, the ghost of a witch, for the horror film Bell Witch: The Movie, released in 2007.

In 2005, at around 79 years old, she appeared as Trudie Tredwell in the horror short Penny Dreadful,[37] and in 2007, at 81, as the older version of the title character in Waltzing Anna.[38]

Palmer appeared in the 2006 documentary, Betsy Palmer: Scream Queen Legend,[16] as part of the publicity for the 2007 release of Bell Witch: The Movie.[39][40]

Personal life

Palmer dated James Dean;[30] the two met while working on an episode of Studio One television series.


Palmer married Vincent J. Merendino, an obstetrician-gynecologist, in 1954, whom she met in New York on a blind date.[41] They divorced in 1971, after 17 years of marriage. They had one child, a daughter Melissa born in 1962.


Palmer died on May 29, 2015, at a hospice care center in Danbury, Connecticut.[42] She was 88.


Year Title Role Notes
1955Death TideGloria
The Long Gray LineKitty Carter
Mister RobertsLt. Ann Girard
Queen BeeCarol Lee Phillips
1957The Tin StarNona Mayfield
1958The True Story of Lynn StuartPhyllis Carter / Lynn Stuart
1959It Happened to JaneHerself (panelist)
The Ballad of Louie the LouseTina AdamsTV movie
The Last Angry ManAnna Thrasher
1968A Punt, a Pass, and a PrayerNancyTV movie
1980Friday the 13thPamela Voorhees
1981Friday the 13th Part 2
Isabel's ChoiceEllie FinemanTV Movie
1988Windmills of the GodsMrs. Hart BrisbaneTV movie
Goddess of LoveHeraTV movie
1992Still Not Quite HumanAunt MildredTV movie
1999The Fear: ResurrectionGrandmother
2005Penny DreadfulTrudie Tredwell
2006Waltzing AnnaAnna Rhoades(final film performance)
2006Betsy Palmer: Scream Queen LegendSelfdocumentary
2007Bell Witch: The MovieBell Witch(final film release)

Television appearances

From 1953 to 2001, Palmer was a guest star on 73 television programs, including (in no particular order):


Award Category Work Result
Fantasporto Film Festival Special Career Award Penny Dreadful Won
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Supporting Actress Friday the 13th Nominated
New England Theatre Conference 2005 Major Award Award for Stage Work[43] Various Won


  1. "Actress Bestsy Palmer, killer cook in 'Friday the 13th,' dies". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. 219.852.4327, Philip Potempa,. "OFFBEAT: Readers sharing their memories, mementos of Betsy Palmer visits". Retrieved 26 April 2018.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  3. "Betsy Palmer dies at 88; was killer summer-camp cook in 'Friday the 13th'". 2015-06-01. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  4. "Betsy Palmer is shown in 1934 at age 7, photographed while visiting East Chicago neighbor and friend Camillia Plaga". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  5. 852-4327, Philip Potempa, (219). "Betsy Palmer". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  6. "San Bernardino Sun". 17 April 1960. Retrieved 25 April 2018 via California Digital Newspaper Collection Her mother founded the East Chicago Business College 36 years ago ("even before she met daddy") and she still runs it and teaches
  7. "The Times from Hammond, Indiana · Page 5". January 15, 1957. Retrieved 25 April 2018. Mrs. R. V. Hrunek, 4329 Baring Ave., director of the East Chicago Business College and mother of actress Betsy Palmer was appointed to the library board
  8. "South Shore Legends Class of 2013". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  9. Spivak, Diane. "Betsy Palmer, Edward A. Rumely Honored as South Shore Legends". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  10. "The Kansas City Times from Kansas City, Missouri on January 8, 1969 · Page 3". Retrieved 26 April 2018. (AP)—Rudolf V. Hrunek, y*, a reared chemist and father of Betsy Palmer, a television personality, died at his home Monday after a long illness. A native of Prak, Czechoslovakia, he also is survived by his wife, Mrs. Marie Hrunek, and a son, Jack Hrunek of St. John, Ind. sition when he said, "This is one bill we are going to
  11. Smith, David Lee (2006). Hoosiers in Hollywood. Indiana Historical Society. ISBN 978-0871951946.
  12. Shanley, J.P. (1956-07-08). "REALISTIC ACTRESS; Betsy Palmer Discusses Her Work on TV". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
  13. "The name is Betsy Palmer". The Lima News. 1960-05-03.
  14. "Betsy Palmer Biography (1929-)". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  15. Potempa, Philip (December 15, 2013). "Wall to Wall Smile: Actress Betsy Palmer inducted this week for South Shore Wall of Legends". The Times of Northwest Indiana.
  16. "Betsy Palmer: A Scream Queen Legend". 15 August 2006. Retrieved 26 April 2018 via
  17. Jason Rhode (June 18, 2015). "Remember Betsy Palmer: A True Renaissance Woman". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  18. "Our History - Goodman Theatre". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  19. "University of Michigan Official Publication". UM Libraries. 26 April 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018 via Google Books.
  20. "Guide to Bella Itkin Papers". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  21. Desk, BWW News. "DePaul University's Bella Konrath-Itkin Dies at 90". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  22. "Bella Itkin and Court Theatre to be Honored at Nov. 1 Jeff Awards - Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  23. "Goodman Theatre Archive, Production History Files, Part 1". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  24. Gordon, Mel (23 October 2009). "Stanislavsky in America: An Actor's Workbook". Routledge. Retrieved 26 April 2018 via Google Books.
  25. "David Itkin - Teacher - Goodman Theater - Chicago - The Art Institute of Chicago". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  26. "The Craft". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  27. "East Chicago, Indiana to DePaul University". Google Maps. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  28. Friday the 13th Reunion Panel, from the Friday the 13th Deluxe Edition DVD (Paramount Home Video)
  29. "Roosevelt High School, East Chicago, Indiana, Alumni List". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  30. Nesteroff, Kliph (10 August 2011). "Classic Television Showbiz: An Interview with Betsy Palmer". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  31. Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  32. Hound-Dog Man (1953) on IMDb
  33. "Actress Betsy Palmer the Czech 'All American Girl' Who Charmed Audiences for 5 Decades". 25 February 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  34. "Betsy Palmer". IBDB: The Official Source For Broadway Information. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  35. Orange, B. Alan. "EXCLUSIVE: Betsy Palmer Is Friday the 13th's Mrs. Pamela Voorhees!". MovieWeb. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  36. "Betsy Palmer interview". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  37. Penny Dreadful (2005) on IMDb
  38. Waltzing Anna (2006) on IMDb
  39. "Big River Pictures". Big River Pictures. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  40. "High Definition 1080i Commercial Video Production for Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Knoxville covering corporate training & marketing videos, broadcast commercials local and national, streaming video encoding". Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  41. Niagara Falls Gazette, November 1, 1959
  42. Weber, Bruce (June 1, 2015). "Betsy Palmer, 88, Dies; From TV Panelist to 'Friday the 13th' Villainess". The New York Times. p. B19.
  43. "NETC Online". NETC Online. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
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