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Betty Thomas

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Years active  1975–present
Education  Ohio University
Spouse  Douglas Thomas
Role  Actress
Name  Betty Thomas

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Full Name  Betty Lucille Nienhauser
Born  July 27, 1948 (age 67) (1948-07-27) St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Occupation  Actress, film director, television director
Parents  William H. Nienhauser, Sr., Nancy Nienhauser
Awards  Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Movies and TV shows  Alvin and the Chipmun, John Tucker Must Die, Hill Street Blues, Dr Dolittle, I Spy

Similar  Ed Marinaro, Charles Haid, Bruce Weitz

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Betty Thomas (born July 27, 1947) is an American actress and a 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.


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Early life

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Thomas was born Betty Lucille Nienhauser in St. Louis, Missouri in 1947 to Nancy (née Brown) and William H. Nienhauser, Sr. She graduated from 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. She took her professional surname from her marriage to Douglas Thomas.

Second City

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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. She was praised for her brassy and outspoken performances; she also worked with several up and coming Second City alumni, most notably Bill Murray. When The Second City opened a Los Angeles branch, Thomas moved west.

Acting career

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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. She appeared in the 1989 film Troop Beverly Hills, starring Shelley Long.

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 1984–1985 season.

Directing career

After making several other acting appearances Thomas was given the chance to direct episodes of Hooperman and 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.

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. Some 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.

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 $46,576,136, nearly quadrupling its $12,000,000 budget. The Brady Bunch Movie remains one of the highest-grossing films directed by a woman.

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. In 2012, Thomas directed a low-budget online series called Audrey for the WIGS YouTube channel.


Betty Thomas Wikipedia