By Dr. Zaius
Monday, June 1st, 2015 at 8:00 am
“You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday.”
With those words, an actress in her mid 50s became an icon, and would carry the legacy of a cheap summer horror flick for the rest of her wonderful life. Betsy Palmer, aka Pamela Voorhees, died Friday, at the age of 88 of natural causes at a hospice facility in Connecticut.
Palmer, born during the Coolidge administration in 1926, was a veteran character actress appearing in many films, and alongside many big time Hollywood stars. She starred with Henry Fonda and Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts, and Joan Crawford in Queen Bee, both in 1955. Two years later she starred with Fonda again, and soon-to-be horror legend Anthony (Psycho) Perkins, in The Tin Star. She was a regular on television as well.
When she accepted the role of Pamela Voorhees in 1980’s Friday the 13th, she never imagined that THAT would be her most memorable and historic performance. She also helped provide for one of the greatest surprise endings in the genre. As nubile camp counselors are killed off one at a time at Camp Crystal Lake, we assume some hulking killer is behind it. When former camp cook Pamela shows up to help Alice (Adrienne King) at the end, audiences were shocked when SHE was revealed as the killer, taking vengeance on the counselors responsible for not saving her drowning son Jason. The famed “Friday” score from Harry Manfredini, thought to be “Ch Ch Ch, Ah, Ah, Ah” is actually “Ki Ki Ki, Ma, Ma, Ma” after Palmer’s crazed ramblings. Before there was a Jason, a hockey mask, or an epic body count… there was just Mama Voorhees.
Palmer became a staple of horror movie conventions in the last few decades. I’ve been to more than 10 Monster-Mania cons, and had the privilege of meeting her several years back. She always seemed genuinely enthused to be there, and relished taking photos and having legitimate conversations with adoring fans. It’s funny that a role she questioned taking because it was just a silly horror movie, would become her enduring legacy. The horror community, and the world, lost a great actress today. I’d like to think of Betsy Palmer watching over the waters in Heaven, making sure no little boys and girls drown.
RIP Betsy Palmer – 11/1/1926 – 5/29/2015
Friday the 13th (5/10) Movie CLIP – His Name Was Jason (1980) HD