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Sam Klusman Lawrence Parks was born in Olathe, Kansas, on December 13, 1914, but grew up in Joliet, Illinois. He graduated from Joliet Township High School in 1932 and majored in science at University of Illinois. He originally planned on being a doctor, but became interested in dramatics while in college.
Having caught the acting bug, Parks appeared in touring shows before making the move to New York, where he initially worked as usher an at Carnegie Hall and tour guide at Radio City Music Hall. He made his Broadway debut in 1937 with a minor role in "Golden Boy," and was just beginning to gain critical attention when his father's death forced a return to Illinois. He subsequently spent a few years working as a Pullman inspector on the New York Central Railroad in Chicago before being offered a possible film deal in Los Angeles. The film deal fell through, but Parks decided to stay in Los Angeles, where he worked construction while awaiting his big break. He married musical actress Betty Garrett in 1944; the couple had two children, Andrew and Garrett.
Parks was signed by Columbia in 1941, but he spent his first years playing minor roles in major films and major roles in obscure films. He finally hit the big time when he was cast to play the title role in The Jolson Story (1946), for which he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. Unfortunately for Parks, Columbia failed to take advantage of his fame and, aside from Jolson Sings Again (1949), he was never again cast in a role that showcased his talent. To maintain his creativity and spirits, Parks worked summer stock and he and his wife created a vaudeville act that toured nationally.
In 1951, Parks was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee after being accused of having Communist sympathies. The only Hollywood actor to appear before the committee, Parks admitted to having once been a member of the Communist Party. Although he refused to name anyone else in Hollywood with possible Communist ties, he was dropped b Columbia and blacklisted by the movie industry. His movie career all but over, Parks continued to perform on stage and in nightclubs both in the U.S. and abroad. He supplemented his income by becoming a successful businessman, including the building of apartment complexes. His wife's career was also damaged, but she was able to revitalize it on television with regular roles on All in the Family (as neighbor Irene Lorenzo) and Laverne and Shirley (as landlady Edna Babish).
Larry Parks died in Studio City, California, on April 13, 1975.
Mystery Ship (1941)
Link of Interest
Internet Movie Database www.imdb.com
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This page was last updated on 12/13/2018.