One of the horde of models who descended to Hollywood after 1940s, Betty Underwood achieved bigger fame and success by dating famous men than her Hollywood career, but in the end, still has several roles to showcase.
Betty Marie Underwood was born in July 1925 to Ray C. Underwood and Gladys Griffith in Madison, Ohio. Her older siblings were Donald and Helen. The family moved to Mansfield, Ohio in the mid 1930s, and Betty grew up and graduated from high school there .
By 1944, Betty was in New York, working as a Powers model. Somehow she got to Hollywood in 1948.
Betty was signed by RKO in 1948. If there is a reason Betty will be known to anyone , it is her stock role in Leon Errol comedies. While time has not been especially kind tot this Australian comedian, he’s still far from forgotten and much of his work has been preserved on DVD and VHS. Errol made two short reels a year at RKO from 1936 all the way up to 1951 when he died. The short are basically variations of each other, with he same structure and often the same actors. Betty’s role was the second banana, supporting female role. It must not have been demanding, as the films lasted for only 20 minutes, but it did minimal service to her career. The shorts were Backstage Follies, Bachelor Blues, Oil’s Well That Ends Well, Bashful Romeo and High and Dizzy.
In 1949, she was loaned out to Warner Bros for The Girl from Jones Beach, a funny but ultimately forgettable, pedestrian comedy with Ronald Reagan and Virginia Mayo. Her next RKO movie, Strange Bargain , is a highly interesting B movie, a perfect case for gripping, intense films drowned in a sea of films with better names or marketing.
Betty had a more prominent part in A Dangerous Profession. The movie boasts two Hollywood giants, George Raft and Pat O’Brien, and has a sold and tried classical crime plot the two excelled in. This is a kind of movie that pushed young starlets into bigger and better things, but in Betty’s case, the standard formula failed for two reasons: both Raft ad O’Brien were yesterday’s news by 1949, both on the decline of their careers, and the plot is so generic and formulaic you could mistake it for a large number of other crime movies of the decade. Plus Betty is the female support (the lead is played by Ella Raines). Her one possible shot to stardom wasted, Betty was pushed to the bottom row for every working actor, low budget westerns. While they paid the bills, only a few managed to get out of the abyss once you fall into it. The movie was Storm Over Wyoming, Betty was again the second lead, and it led nowhere.
Betty knew how to turn heads of gents from both the East and West coast, and did it with style and ease for several years. Her first beau was Phil Amildown in 1947 in New York. Later in the year she started going out with Robert “Bob” Taplinger. The relationship turned serious soon and lasted for more than a year, but they broke up in cca December 1948. In April 1949, she started doing the town with Franchot Tone, and this caused a rift between her and actress Jean Wallace, Franchot’s former wife. They were at odds with each other, and publicity even casted them together in a movie that was never made (The Bail Mond Story).
By June the affair had fizzled into nothing, and next in line was the handsome actor, Scott Brady. Brady dated them all, mostly casually. Yet, for a time in late 1949, it seemed the two were serious contenders for higher things, but in December it was kaput once again.
In 1950, Betty meet her future husband, Lester Deutsch. Uninterested in the man, she spurned his advances and went on to date other, more interesting swains. Yet, the persistent Lester did not waver lightly, and continued his pursuit. By that time, Betty was over and done with Hollywood and went back to New York, hoping for a career on Broadway. No such luck, but she did score the best known of her beaus, Ronald Reagan. Divorced from Jane Wyman, Reagan was on a dating spree at the time, which lasted until he married Nancy Davis. Betty played Ronald like a fiddle, making him chase her all over the East Coast, from New York to Florida. It lasted until cca. March 1951.
After two years of hot pursuit, Betty finally said yes to Lester and the two started dating in mid 1952. They got engaged in December 1952, called it off in April 1953, but got together days after.
On May 27, 1953, Betty finally married the millionaire aeronautics pioneer, Lester Deutsch.
Their eldest daughter, Victoria, was born on April 29, 1954, their middle daughter, Alexis L, was born on June 20, 1956, and their youngest daughter, Gina E., was born on February 8, 1963. Betty acted as a philanthropist, giving off fund raisers and enjoying the high society on the West Coast.
Betty and Lester divorced sometime after 1980, and Lester started dating Katherine Andrews. Betty continued to be active in civic causes in California, donating both he money and spare time to organizations like KCET .
Betty is still alive in 2013.