Betty Ann Bobbitt
Betty Ann Bobbitt (7 February 1939 – 30 November 2020) was an American actress, director, singer, and playwright based in Australia, with a career that spanned over 60 years emcompassing theatre, television and film.
She was best known for her small screen role as lesbian motherly character Judy Bryant in cult series Prisoner (also known in the UK and US as Prisoner: Cell Block H and Canada as Caged Women) from 1980 and 1985, through 430 episodes, she was the second actress to portray a lesbian character in the series after Carol Burns, who played original character Franky Doyle. Bobbitt was the series second-longest serving actor after original Elspeth Ballantyne, who played Officer Meg Jackson (later Morris), who featured in the entire 692 series run.
On film she had cameo roles appearing opposite Paul Hogan, in several of the Crocodile Dundee series including Crocodile Dundee II (1988), Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001), and the direct-to-videoThe Very Excellent Mr. Dundee (2020).
Bobbitt died on 30 November 2020, aged 81, following a stroke.
Early career in the United States and Australia
Moving at aged 18 to Los Angeles for a production of Auntie Mame, she was approached by an Australian television producer who asked her if she “wanted to come to Australia and be funny”. She was contracted for six months and appeared as a regular on a Melbourne television variety show, Daly at Night, as “a female Victor Borge, singing off-key and just plain acting like a dumb brunette”. She was known in Australia in the early 1960s as “Betty Bobbitt from Big Bear”, referencing a fictitious place ostensibly in Pennsylvania.
She subsequently married an Australian artist, Robin Hill, and had a son, Christopher, in England. Returning to Melbourne, Australia, she appeared in many theatre productions with the Melbourne Theatre Company.
Early Australian television productions
Bobbitt was a fixture on Australian television from the mid-1960s with guest roles in serials including Matlock Police, Homicide, A Country Practice, The Flying Doctors, All Saints, Marshall Law, and Blue Heelers.
Prisoner: Cell Block H
She became best known for her portrayal of lesbian character Judy Bryant, a series regular on the popular Australian television program Prisoner. She first appeared in the series in February 1980. After it started to gain a cult status in the US, billed as Prisoner: Cell Block H, an American actress was suggested by producers as a nod to local audiences. Her character was intended only for a short-term 13 episode appearance, but she became immensely popular, and was retained in the series. Bobbitt continued in the role until May 1985, making her the show’s second-longest serving actor, at 429 episodes, second only to Elspeth Ballantyne as officer Meg Jackson Morris, an original who appeared at the series’ inception. After Prisoner, she continued in theatre roles and made guest appearance in television and film
During her time in Prisoner Bobbitt performed with fellow Prisoner cast members Jane Clifton and Colette Mann in a three-woman troupe named “The Mini Busettes” in the 1980s. They performed around Australia in RSL and similar clubs.
Bobbitt appeared in a guest role in TV series Neighbours in 2019, to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Prisoner, she featured alongside fellow stars Jane Clifton, Jentah Sobott and Jenny Lovell, who arrive in Erinsborough to attend Sheila’s Bookclub, in doing so she was reunited with other Prisoner co-stars who now star in the series, Colette Mann, who plays regular Sheila Canning and Jackie Woodburne who has long played Susan Kennedy.
She has had cameo roles in the Crocodile Dundee franchise starring Paul Hogan including Crocodile Dundee II and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (a.k.a.Crocodile Dundee III) and The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee.
She appeared in the Melbourne Theatre Company‘s production of Cruel & Tender by Martin Crimp.
Other television and film
|1988||Crocodile Dundee II||Tourist (Meg)|
|1991||Edens Lost||Mabel||Television film|
|1992||Survive the Savage Sea||Mrs. Haines||Television film|
|1997||Doing Time for Patsy Cline||Connie|
|2001||Crocodile Dundee III||American Lady|
|2003||The Cadet||The Addict||Short film|
|2020||The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee||Betty|
|Homicide||Vicki Franklin, Blossom, Customs Officer||3 episodes|
|1975||Matlock Police||Mrs. Nelson, Valerie Praitt||2 episodes|
|1980–1985||Prisoner||Judy Bryant||429 episodes|
|1981||Prisoner in Concert||Judy Bryant||Television special|
|1984||Special Squad||Daisy||Episode: “Until Death”|
|1986||A Country Practice||Ellen Dainty||2 episodes|
|1991||The Flying Doctors||Jo Magee||Episode: “Johnno Be Good”|
|1998–1999||All Saints||Olivia McCreadie||2 episodes|
|2000||The Games||Betty, Media Liaison||Episode: “The End”|
|2002||Marshall Law||Wanda||Episode: “The Samovar”|
|2000||Blue Heelers||Madge Harcourt||2 episodes|
|2019||Neighbours||Erica King||Episode: “Episode #1.8048”|
- “Prisoner’s Betty Bobbitt Dies”. Star Observer. 30 November 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
- Laura Lippstone, “Life in the Land of Oz”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9 November 1986 p. 31.
- “Unpredictable Bobbitt recalls other TV days”, The Age (Melbourne), 17 March 1966, p. 26.
- Neil Jillett, ‘Repertoire Rounded Off in a Small Way’, Melbourne Age, 30 March 1978 p. 8