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 was made a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1975 . 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 won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1958 for the film Separate Tables. 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 was nominated again in 1966 for A Man for All Seasons. Her dismissal was widely publicised and controversial and was viewed by many of Furness' supporters as ageism. She was nominated for an Oscar in 1938 for her first major film role in Pygmalion.

She continued working for The Today Show until she was released from her contract in 1992. Her performance in Love on the Dole attracted the attention of George Bernard Shaw, and he cast her in several of his plays, including Saint Joan, Pygmalion and Major Barbara. In 1990 she was diagnosed with cancer. She first found success in the stage version of Love on the Dole, and in 1936 married the author Ronald Gow. In 1977 her program Buyline: Betty Furness won the Peabody Award. Her professional debut as an actress was in repertory at Manchester. In 1976 she began an association with The Today Show filling in as anchor, and providing regular reports. She was born Wendy Margaret Hiller in Cheshire in England, daughter of Frank Watkin Hiller and Marie Stone.

Signed by WNBC in New York, Furness reported on consumer issues, and specifically targeted examples of consumer fraud. Dame Wendy Hiller (August 15, 1912 - May 14, 2003) was an English film and stage actress. She headed the Consumer Affairs Departments of both New York City, and New York State from the late 1960s before returning to television. The Countess Alice (1992). During her tenure she silenced her critics by applying herself studiously to her role and learning the issues relating to consumer rights. The Best Of Friends (1991). She accepted the assignment and continued in this role until the end of the Johnson administration in 1969. Ending Up (1989).

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. Anne Of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987). During this time she worked on radio, and also on behalf of the Democratic Party. All Passion Spent (1986). She then attempted to move into a less commercialized role in television but found herself too closely associated with advertising to be taken seriously. The Importance of Being Earnest (1985). 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 Kingfisher (1982).

They offered her a contract to promote their products and she subsequently became closely associated with them. Miss Morison's Ghosts (1981). She filled in for an actor to promote Westinghouse products during the advertisement break, and impressed the company with her easy and professional manner. Country (1981). In 1948 she was performing in the television series Studio One which was broadcast live. Clochemerle (1972). By the end of the decade she had appeared in over forty films, but during the 1940s found it difficult to secure acting roles. David Copperfield (1969).

Among her film successes were Magnificent Obsession (1935) and the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Swing Time (1936). The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987). Over the next few years she appeared in several RKO films, and became a popular actress. Attracta (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. Making Love (1982). Born in New York, New York, Furness began her professional career as a model before being signed to a film contract by RKO Studios. The Elephant Man (1980).

Elizabeth Mary Furness, better known as Betty Furness (January 3, 1916–April 2, 1994) was an American actress, consumer advocate and current affairs commentator. The Cat and The Canary (1978). Voyage of the Damned (1976). Murder on the Orient Express (1974). A Man for All Seasons (1966).

Toys in the Attic (1963). Sons and Lovers (1960). Separate Tables (1958). Something of Value (1957).

How to Murder a Rich Uncle (1957). Single-Handed (USA: Sailor of the King) (1953). Outcast of the Islands (1952). I Know Where I'm Going! (1945).

Major Barbara (1941). Pygmalion (1938). Lancashire Luck (1937).

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