A Tribute to Betty Grable
She went from chorus girl (one of the original “Goldwyn Girls”) and bit player in the 30s to one of America’s most popular stars in the 40s, known for her pinup shot that ended up on so many WWII soldiers’ lockers. She could sing, she could dance, and, despite what she once said, she could act, too!
Born December 18, 1916 in Saint Louis, Missouri to John C. and Lillian Grable, Elizabeth Ruth Grable was a talented kid who began dancing in movie chorus lines at the age of 14, appearing in the Eddie Cantor musical Whoopee! in 1930. Working under the name Frances Dean until 1932, she was finally recognized for her talent in a supporting role in Astaire-Rogers film The Gay Divorcee (1934).
She was briefly married to Jackie Coogan in 1937, appearing with him in College Swing and Million Dollar Legs. They were divorced in 1940. Her big break came that same year, after she signed with 20th Century Fox, when the replaced star Alice Faye in Down Argentine Way. Fox decided to give her the star treatment, building her up and putting her in a lot of films between 1941 and 1945, including Moon Over Miami, I Wake Up Screaming, A Yank in the R.A.F, Footlight Serenade, Song of the Islands, Springtime in the Rockies, Coney Island, Sweet Rosie O’Grady,Pin Up Girl, Diamond Horseshoe and The Dolly Sisters.
A photo of her in shorts that revealed her beautiful legs (reportedly insured by Lloyds of London for $250,000) became the number one pinup photo for soldiers during World War II, and she became the #1 Hollywood boxoffice star in 1943, as well as the highest paid woman in American in 1946-47. Betty was among the Top 10 Boxoffice stars for 10 years (1942 thru 1951 – the only star, female or male, ever to achieve that distinction). She also married bandleader Harry James that same year. (They were divorced in 1965, after producing two children.)
After Mother Wore Tights (1947) co-starring Dan Dailey, was a boxoffice success, it led to several more pairings of the two actors. However, beginning in 1952, after taking a year off to be with her family, she struggled, first with bad parts and then with her weight. After the studio made the decision to promote Monroe instead, she tore up her contract. How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and How to Be Very, Very Popular(1955) were her biggest successes after that. The latter proved to be her final movie, as she decided to retire from films. She continued to work in nightclubs and the theatre, including Hello, Dolly!, and on TV.
Betty died of cancer in 1973. She was only 56. She left behind some fun movies, a lot of great pinup shots, and a legion of fans who remember her fondly.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Books, Photos, Art and Posters