Betty Thomas

Betty Thomas

Birth name: Betty Lucille Nienhauser
Born: July 27, 1947
Age: 75
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
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Betty Thomas (born Betty Lucille Nienhauser, July 27, 1947)[1] is an American actress and director of television and motion pictures. She is known for her Emmy-award winning role as Lucy Bates on the television series Hill Street Blues.[2] As of March 2018, Thomas is one of just two directors (and the only solo director) to have multiple films on the list of seventeen highest-US-grossing female-directed films.[3]

Thomas was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1947 to Nancy (née Brown) and William H. Nienhauser, Sr.[4][5] She graduated from Willoughby South High School, Willoughby, Ohio, in 1965. After high school Thomas attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Upon graduating Thomas worked as an artist and taught high school before becoming a part of The Second City Chicago premiere source for improvisational theater.[6] She took her professional surname from her marriage to Douglas Thomas.[5]


Second City

Thomas came to her entertainment career by a circuitous route. While working as an artist and school teacher she became a waitress at The Second City to earn extra cash for a trip abroad. While waiting tables Thomas was encouraged to try out for the troupe, and subsequently joined the company.[7] She was praised for her brassy and outspoken performances; she also worked with several up and coming Second City alumni, most notably Bill Murray.[8] When The Second City opened a Los Angeles branch, Thomas moved west.


Acting career

Upon her arrival in Los Angeles, Thomas received many bit parts in low-budget films like Chesty Anderson, USN (1976), the Robert Zemeckis film Used Cars (1980) as well as sketch comedy films like Tunnel Vision (1975), and Loose Shoes (1980) the latter of which featuring Second City classmate Bill Murray.[7] She appeared in the 1989 film Troop Beverly Hills, starring Shelley Long.[citation needed]

While Thomas had been building her career in comedy, her breakthrough role as an actress came when she was cast in the dramatic role of police officer (later Sergeant) Lucille Bates on the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981-87). Over the course of the series her character goes from inexperienced rookie to confident sergeant. She received seven Emmy nominations for best supporting actress, and took home the award for the 1984-85 season.[9]

Directing career

After making several other acting appearances, Thomas began directing episodes of Hooperman in addition to the premiere episodes of Doogie Howser, M.D. in 1989. She went on to direct episodes of Arresting Behavior and several episodes of the HBO series Dream On, the latter of which earned her an Emmy for best director.[9]

In 1992 Thomas took the next step in her directing career with her feature debut Only You. A slight, playful romantic comedy; Only You was a departure from Thomas's experience on Hill Street Blues or her subsequent television directing. Wayne Rice, the film's producer and screenwriter, said that Thomas was chosen to direct due in part to the film's plot in which a man is on a hapless quest to find the perfect woman would be considered inherently sexist without a female director.[10]

Three years following the release of Only You Thomas directed The Brady Bunch Movie (1995). A satirical vision of the 1970s television series The Brady Bunch. The Brady Bunch Movie was a box office hit with domestic ticket sales of $46,576,136, nearly quadrupling its $12,000,000 budget and making it at the time one of the highest-grossing films directed by a woman.[2]

She followed The Brady Bunch Movie with other successes, including Private Parts (1997), Dr. Dolittle (1998), 28 Days (2000), and John Tucker Must Die (2006). 2009's Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel became the first female-directed picture to gross more than $200 million and made her the most successful woman director to that time at the box office.[11] In 2012, Thomas directed a low-budget online series called Audrey for the WIGS YouTube channel.[12]



Year Film Role Director / creator Notes
1976 Tunnel Vision Bridgit Bert Richards Neal Israel, Bradley R. Swirnoff
1976 Jackson County Jail Waitress Michael Miller
1976 The Last Affair Henri Charr
1976 Chest Anderson U.S. Navy Party Guest #1 Ed Forsyth
1977 Dog and Cat Waitress Bob Kelljan
1978 C.P.O. Sharkey Seaman Daley Aaron Ruben
1978 Outside Chance Katherine Michael Miller
1980 Used Cars Bunny Robert Zemeckis
1980 Loose Shoes Biker Chic #1 Ira Miller
1981 The Nashville Grab Maxine Pearce James L. Conway
1982 Twilight Theater Perry Rosemond
1982 Homework Reddogs Secretary James Beshears
1983 When Your Lover Leaves Maude Jeff Bleckner
1985 ABC Afterschool Specials Dr. Mary Lewis Guy Fraumeni
1987 Prison for Children Angela Brannon Larry Peerce
1981-87 Hill Street Blues Sgt. Lucy Bates Steven Bochco, Michael Kozoll Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, 1985
1989 The Tracey Ullman Show Miss Belts, Gym Teacher Ted Bessell, Art Wolff Segment titled "Francesca: A Physical Education"
1989 Troop Beverly Hills Velda Plendor Jeff Kanew
2018 Kidding Michel Gondry

Directing for television

Year Series Role Notes
1989 Hooperman Director Episodes: "Goodnight, Sweet Hooperman", "Dog Day Afternoon", "Morning and Night", "In the Still of My Pants"
1989 Doogie Howser, M.D. Director Episodes: "Doogie The Red-Nosed Reindeer", "The Ice Queen Cometh"
1990 Mancuso, FBI Director Episodes: "Night of the Living Shred", "Shiva Me Timbers", "Murder of Pearl"
1990 Parenthood Director Episodes: "Thanksgiving with a T that Rhymes with B that Stands for Basketball", "I Never Invested for My Father"
1991 Sons and Daughters Director TV series
1991 Midnight Caller Director Episode: "Her Dirty Little Secret"
1991 Shannon's Deal Director Episode: "Matrimony"
1992 On the Air Director TV Mini-series: Episode #1.6
1994 My Breast Director TV film
1994 Couples Director TV film
1996 The Late Shift Director TV film
1990-96 Dream On Director Directed 18 episodes, Won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, 1993
2001 Silicon Follies Director TV film
2003 Senor White Director TV film
2006 That Guy Director TV film
2006 The Loop Director Pilot episode
2007 Dash 4 Cash Director TV film

Directing feature films

Year Series Role Notes
1992 Only You Director Feature film debut
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie Director One of the highest-grossing films directed by a woman
1997 Private Parts Director adaptation of Howard Stern's autobiography
1998 Dr. Dolittle Director $294 million in box office gross
2000 28 Days Director
2002 I Spy Director
2006 John Tucker Must Die Director
2009 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Director $443 million in box office gross

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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