Tuesday, 18 December 2012
Betty Grable born 18 December 1916
Betty Grable (December 18, 1916 – July 2, 1973) was an American dancer, singer, and actress. Her iconic bathing suit photo became the number-one pin-up girl of the World War II era. It was later included in Life 100 Photos that Changed the World. Grable's legs were famously insured by her studio for $1,000,000 per leg at Lloyds of London.
She was born Elizabeth Ruth Grable in St. Louis, Missouri to John C. Grable (1883-1954) and Lillian Rose Hofmann (1889-1964). She was the youngest of three children.
Most of Grable's recent ancestors were American, but her distant heritage included Dutch, Irish, German and English. She was propelled into acting by her mother. For her first role, as a chorus girl in the film Happy Days (1929), Grable
was only 13 years old (legally underage for acting), but, because the chorus line performed in blackface, it was impossible to tell how old she was. Her mother soon gave her a make-over which included dying her hair platinum blonde.
For her next film, her mother got her a contract using a false identification. When this deception was discovered, however, Grable was fired. Grable finally obtained a role as a 'Goldwyn Girl' in Whoopee! (1930), starring Eddie Cantor. Though Grable received no billing, she led the opening number, "Cowboys." Grable then worked in small roles at different studios for the rest of the decade, including the Academy Award-nominated The Gay Divorcee (1934), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
In the 1940s – after small parts in over 50 Hollywood movies throughout the 1930s – Grable finally gained national attention on stage for her role in the Cole Porter Broadway hit Du Barry Was a Lady (1939). In 1940, Grable obtained a contract with 20th Century Fox, becoming their top star throughout the decade, with Technicolor movies such as Down Argentine Way (1940), Moon Over Miami (1941) (both with Don Ameche), Springtime in The Rockies (1942), Coney Island (1943) with George Montgomery , Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943) with Robert Young, Pin Up Girl (1944), Diamond Horseshoe (1945) with Dick Haymes, The Dolly Sisters (1945) with John Payne and June Haver, and her most popular film Mother Wore Tights (1947), with favorite costar Dan Dailey.
Here's Betty accompanied by Harry James & His Orchestra with a 1945 recording of "I Can't Begin To Tell You".
It was during her reign as box office champ (in 1943) that Grable posed for her iconic pinup photo, which (along with
her movies) soon became escapist fare among GIs fighting in World War II. The image was taken by studio photographer Frank Powolny, who died in 1986. Despite solid competition from Rita Hayworth, Dorothy Lamour, Veronica Lake, Carole Landis and Lana Turner, Grable was indisputably the number one pinup girl for American soldiers. She was wildly popular at home as well, placing in the top 10 box office draws each year for 10 years. By the end of the 1940s Grable was the highest-paid female star in Hollywood. She performed in many post war musicals, her last big hit for Fox was How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe.
Grable's later career was marked by feuds with studio heads, who worked her to exhaustion. At one point, in the middle of a fight with Daryl Zanuck, she tore up her contract with him and stormed out of his office. Gradually leaving movies entirely, she made the transition to television, and starred in Las Vegas. In 1965, she divorced band leader Harry James, whom she had wed in 1943.
Grable discovered she had lung cancer in 1972,and died from the disease a year later at the age of 56 in Santa Monica, California. Her funeral was held two days later and attended by her ex-husband Harry James and Hollywood stars Dorothy Lamour, Shirley Booth, Mitzi Gaynor, Johnnie Ray, Don Ameche, Cesar Romero, George Raft, Alice Faye and Dan Dailey. "I Had the Craziest Dream," the ballad from Springtime in the Rockies, was played on the church organ. Grable was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery, in Inglewood, California. (info mainly from Wikipedia)
There's a good selection of film cips on You Tube, so here's Betty singing "The Story Of The Very Merry Widow" from the 1944 musical comedy "The Pin Up Girl".