Betty Furness

Elizabeth Mary Furness, better known as Betty Furness (January 3, 1916–April 2, 1994) was an American actress, consumer advocate and current affairs commentator.

Born in New York, New York, Furness began her professional career as a model before being signed to a film contract by RKO Studios. Her first film role was as the "Thirteenth Woman" in the 1932 film Thirteen Women but her scenes were deleted before the film's release. Over the next few years she appeared in several RKO films, and became a popular actress. Among her film successes were Magnificent Obsession (1935) and the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Swing Time (1936). By the end of the decade she had appeared in over forty films, but during the 1940s found it difficult to secure acting roles.

In 1948 she was performing in the television series Studio One which was broadcast live. She filled in for an actor to promote Westinghouse products during the advertisement break, and impressed the company with her easy and professional manner. They offered her a contract to promote their products and she subsequently became closely associated with them. In 1953 she appeared in her own television series Meet Betty Furness which was sponsored by Westinghouse and she remained a spokesperson for the company until 1960. She then attempted to move into a less commercialized role in television but found herself too closely associated with advertising to be taken seriously. During this time she worked on radio, and also on behalf of the Democratic Party.

In 1967 President Lyndon Baines Johnson, aware of her work for the Democrats contacted Furness and offered her a position as Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs. She accepted the assignment and continued in this role until the end of the Johnson administration in 1969. During her tenure she silenced her critics by applying herself studiously to her role and learning the issues relating to consumer rights. She headed the Consumer Affairs Departments of both New York City, and New York State from the late 1960s before returning to television.

Signed by WNBC in New York, Furness reported on consumer issues, and specifically targeted examples of consumer fraud. In 1976 she began an association with The Today Show filling in as anchor, and providing regular reports. In 1977 her program Buyline: Betty Furness won the Peabody Award.

In 1990 she was diagnosed with cancer. She continued working for The Today Show until she was released from her contract in 1992. Her dismissal was widely publicised and controversial and was viewed by many of Furness' supporters as ageism.

She had always expressed throughout her life that her philosophy was to never turn down a job, and she stated that it was this attitude that had allowed her to progress through such an unconventional series of professions. During her illness she stated that she wanted nothing more than to be able to work, but her health continued to deteriorate until her death in New York from stomach cancer.

Betty Furness has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution Motion Pictures, and to Television.


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Betty Furness has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution Motion Pictures, and to Television. She is sometime credited as Terri Garr, Terry Garr, or Terry Carr. During her illness she stated that she wanted nothing more than to be able to work, but her health continued to deteriorate until her death in New York from stomach cancer. She has suffered from multiple sclerosis since 1983 (diagnosed in 1999), although she has managed to continue her work. She had always expressed throughout her life that her philosophy was to never turn down a job, and she stated that it was this attitude that had allowed her to progress through such an unconventional series of professions. She played a recurring character in Friends, the estranged birth mother of Phoebe Buffay, in the late-1990s. Her dismissal was widely publicised and controversial and was viewed by many of Furness' supporters as ageism. She hosted Saturday Night Live on three occasions in the early and mid-1980s.

She continued working for The Today Show until she was released from her contract in 1992. She played a recurring character in McCloud and was also a regular on several variety shows in the mid-1970s. In 1990 she was diagnosed with cancer. A notable early appearance was in the Star Trek episode "Assignment: Earth" in 1968. In 1977 her program Buyline: Betty Furness won the Peabody Award. She has also appeared frequently on television. In 1976 she began an association with The Today Show filling in as anchor, and providing regular reports. She appeared as a damsel-in-distress in The Monkees film, Head.

Signed by WNBC in New York, Furness reported on consumer issues, and specifically targeted examples of consumer fraud. In her early career, she appeared in a number of Elvis Presley movies, usually in uncredited roles. She headed the Consumer Affairs Departments of both New York City, and New York State from the late 1960s before returning to television. Her movie debut was in the film A Swingin' Affair (1963). During her tenure she silenced her critics by applying herself studiously to her role and learning the issues relating to consumer rights. One of her best known roles was as Sandy in Tootsie, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress in 1982. She accepted the assignment and continued in this role until the end of the Johnson administration in 1969. Teri Garr (born December 11, 1949 in Lakewood, Ohio) is a United States actress.

In 1967 President Lyndon Baines Johnson, aware of her work for the Democrats contacted Furness and offered her a position as Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs. A Swingin' Affair (1963). During this time she worked on radio, and also on behalf of the Democratic Party. Head (1968). She then attempted to move into a less commercialized role in television but found herself too closely associated with advertising to be taken seriously. Young Frankenstein (1974). In 1953 she appeared in her own television series Meet Betty Furness which was sponsored by Westinghouse and she remained a spokesperson for the company until 1960. The Conversation (1974).

They offered her a contract to promote their products and she subsequently became closely associated with them. Oh God! (1977). She filled in for an actor to promote Westinghouse products during the advertisement break, and impressed the company with her easy and professional manner. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). In 1948 she was performing in the television series Studio One which was broadcast live. The Black Stallion (1979). By the end of the decade she had appeared in over forty films, but during the 1940s found it difficult to secure acting roles. Tootsie (1982).

Among her film successes were Magnificent Obsession (1935) and the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Swing Time (1936). One From the Heart (1982). Over the next few years she appeared in several RKO films, and became a popular actress. Mom (1983). Her first film role was as the "Thirteenth Woman" in the 1932 film Thirteen Women but her scenes were deleted before the film's release. Mr. Born in New York, New York, Furness began her professional career as a model before being signed to a film contract by RKO Studios.

Elizabeth Mary Furness, better known as Betty Furness (January 3, 1916–April 2, 1994) was an American actress, consumer advocate and current affairs commentator.

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