Betsy Palmer was born Patricia Betsy Hrunek in East Chicago, Indiana. She studied theatre at DePaul University in Chicago before moving to New York City to pursue a career in acting. She had only been in New York City for less than a week when she was offered her first job, appearing in the television soap opera Miss Susan, at a party held by fellow actor Frank Sutton (who would later become famous as Sgt. Carter on Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.) in 1951.
Miss Palmer would appear frequently on television in the Fifties. She was one of the hosts of the game show Wheel of Fortune from 1952 to 1953 (here it must be pointed that this game show bears no relation to Merv Griffin's later game show of the same name). She served as an assistant on the game show I'll Buy That. She joined the panel of I've Got a Secret in 1958, replacing original panellist Faye Emerson. Miss Palmer remained with the show until the end of its original run in 1967. She was also a regular on The Today Show from 1958 to 1959. Throughout the Fifties Betsy Palmer guest starred on such television shows as Danger, Inner Sanctum, The Web, Lux Video Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, Goodyear Playhouse, Studio One, Kraft Theatre, Playhouse 90, and The United States Steel Hour. She appeared on such game shows and talk shows as Masquerade Party, What's It For, What's My Line, and The Tonight Show.
In the Fifties Betsy Palmer also had a thriving film career. She made her film career in Death Tide in 1955. That same year she appeared as Kitty Carter in The Thin Grey Line, Lt. Ann Girard in Mister Roberts, and Carol Lee Phillips in Queen Bee. In the late Fifties Miss Palmer starred in such films as The Tin Star (1957), The True Story of Lynn Stuart (1958), It Happened to Jane (1959), and The Last Angry Man (1959). Miss Palmer also had a career on Broadway in the Fifties. She appeared in the productions The Grand Prize and Affair of Honour.
In the Sixties Betsy Palmer continued her stint as a panellist on I've Got a Secret. She also appeared on such game shows, talk shows, variety shows, and reality shows as The Price is Right, Password, Th Ed Sullivan Show, Candid Camera, The Tonight Show, The Joey Bishop Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and Girls Talk. She starred in the 1968 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation "A Punt, a Pass, and a Prayer". She appeared in Broadway in Roar Like a Dove and Cactus Flower.
In the Seventies Betsy Palmer was the co-host of The New Candid Camera. She had a regular role on the soap opera Number 96. She appeared on the game show The $25,000 Pyramid. She guest starred on Love, American Style; Ryan's Hope; and CHiPs. She appeared on Broadway in Same Time, Next Year and The Eccentricities of a Nightingale. She appeared in the movie Friday the 13th (1980).
In the Eighties Betsy Palmer had a regular role on the night-time soap opera Knot's Landing. She guest starred on The Love Boat; Maggie; T. J. Hooker; Charles in Charge; Newhart; Out of This World; and Murder, She Wrote. She appeared in the TV movies Windmills of the Gods and Goddess of Love. She appeared on the game show Family Feud.
In the Nineties Betsy Palmer guest starred on the shows Columbo, Just Shoot Me, and Hang Time. She appeared in the films The Fear: Resurrection (1999). In the Naughts she appeared in the films Penny Dreadful (2005), Waltzing Anna (2006), and Bell Witch: The Movie (2007).
I have to admit that I have always had a bit of a crush on Betsy Palmer. In her many game show appearances she always seemed so beautiful, intelligent, witty, funny, and charming. There is little wonder why she was on I've Got a Secret for most of its run and she was in so much demand for appearances on other panel shows and game shows. In many ways Betsy Palmer was the perfect television personality.
Of course, while Betsy Palmer may be best known for her long stint on I've Got a Secret, it must be kept in mind that she was also an actress, and a fairly good one at that. She played the nurse Lt. Girard, the lead female character in Mister Roberts. That same year she played the ill-fated Carol in the movie Queen Bee. She played the lead role of a housewife turned undercover narcotics agent in The True Story of Lynn Stuart. While Miss Palmer appeared in many notable films in the Fifties, she also had a thriving career on television in the many anthology shows during the decade. As an actress Betsy Palmer was versatile and played a variety of different roles, particularly on television. Indeed, in the Fifties television dramas she played everything from Marty Piletti' cousin-in-law (in the classic teleplay "Marty") to a prostitute (in the teleplay "The Time of Your Life"). Whether as a witty panellist on game shows or an actress in films and television shows, there is a good deal for which Miss Palmer will be remembered.