Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Betty Grable

Betty Grable (December 18, 1916 – July 2, 1973) was an American actress, dancer and singer.
Her iconic bathing suit photo made her the number-one pin-up girl of the World War II era. It was later included in the LIFE magazine project "100 Photos that Changed the World". Grable was particularly noted for having the most beautiful legs in Hollywood and studio publicity widely dispersed photos featuring them. Hosiery specialists of the era often noted the ideal proportions of her legs as: thigh (18.5") calf (12"), and ankle (7.5"). Grable's legs were famously insured by her studio for $1,000,000 with Lloyds of London.

Early life

She was born Elizabeth Ruth Grable in St. Louis, Missouri to John Conn Grable (1883–1954) and Lillian Rose Hofmann (1889–1964). She was the youngest of three children.
Most of Grable's immediate ancestors were American, but her distant heritage was of Dutch, Irish, German and English stock. She was propelled into the acting profession by her mother. For her first role, as a chorus girl in the film Happy Days (1929), Grable was only 12 years old (legally underage for acting), but, because the chorus line performed in blackface, it was difficult to tell how old she was. Her mother soon gave her a make-over which included dyeing 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-winning The Gay Divorcee (1934), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, where she was prominently featured in the number "Let's K-nock K-nees".
In the late 1930s, Grable signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, starring in several B movies, mostly portraying co-eds. Despite playing leads, the typecasting proved to hurt her career more than it was helpful. In 1939, Grable appeared with her then husband, Jackie Coogan (married in 1937), in Million Dollar Legs, from which her nickname is taken. They divorced later that same year (October 1939). After small parts in over 50 Hollywood movies through the 1930s, Grable finally gained national attention for her stage role in the Cole Porter Broadway hit Du Barry Was a Lady (1939). When her contract at Paramount expired, Grable decided to quit acting, being fed up with appearing in college films.
In a 1940 interview, she said that she was "sick and tired" of show business and had decided to retire, but changed her mind - she received an unsolicited offer to go on a personal appearance tour, which she accepted and which led to Darryl F. Zanuck offering her a bigger contract, which she accepted, and which was followed by a part in Buddy DeSylva's Broadway show Du Barry Was a Lady and a part replacing the suddenly ill Alice Faye in Down Argentine Way. "If that's not luck I don't know what you'd call it" Grable said. "I've had contracts with four studios in 10 years and each time I left one or was dropped, I stepped into something better."
Grable's famous pin-up.
Grable became 20th Century Fox's top star during the decade. She appeared in 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. Mother Wore Tights (1947), her most popular film, was with her favorite costar, Dan Dailey.
It was during her reign as box office queen in 1943 that Grable posed for her famous 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. It was rumored that the particular pose and angle were chosen to hide the fact that Grable was pregnant at the time of the photo. In the stage play (1951) and motion picture (1953), of Stalag 17, Stanislas "Animal" Kasava, (Robert Strauss) is infatuated with her, spending his day staring at her photographs. "I seen all your pictures six times" he says "I would not even open the popcorn."
Starting in 1942, Grable was named in the top 10 box office draws for 10 consecutive years. For eight of those ten years, she was the top female-box office star. In 1943, she was named the #1 movie box office attraction. By the end of the 1940s Grable was the highest-paid female star in Hollywood, receiving $300,000 a year. During the 1940s and early 1950s, thirty Fox films were among the top ten highest grossing films of the year. Of those, ten were movies featuring Grable; eight of those movies were Fox's highest grossing pictures for their repesctive years.
Grable was even the heroine of a novel, Betty Grable and the House with the Iron Shutters, written by Kathryn Heisenfelt, published by Whitman Publishing Company in 1943. While the heroine is identified as the famous actress, the stories are entirely fictitious. The story was probably written for a young teenage audience and is reminiscent of the adventures of Nancy Drew. It is part of a series known as "Whitman Authorized Editions", 16 books published between 1941-1947 that featured a film actress as heroine.
Her postwar musicals included: That Lady in Ermine (1948) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948) again with Dailey, Wabash Avenue (1950) (a remake of Grable's own Coney Island) with Victor Mature, My Blue Heaven (1950), and Meet Me After the Show (1951). Studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck lavished his star with expensive Technicolor films, but also kept her busy — Grable made nearly 25 musicals and comedies in 13 years. Her last big hit for Fox was How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. Grable next starred in Three for the Show (1955) with Jack Lemmon; this film was one of her last musicals.
Grable's later career was marked by feuds with studio heads. At one point, in the middle of a fight with Zanuck, she tore up her contract and stormed out of his office. By 1953, Zanuck was grooming Marilyn Monroe to replace Grable as the Fox's resident sex symbol. Far from feeling threatened, on the set of How to Marry a Millionaire Grable famously said to Monroe, "go and get yours, honey! I've had mine". It was at this point that Grable lost her father 'Conn' Grable in 1954, at age 71.
Grable returned to the studio for one last film, How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955) with Sheree North. Following this, Grable hoped to secure the role of Miss Adelaide in the film version of the musical Guys and Dolls. However, when producer Samuel Goldwyn learned that Grable skipped a meeting with him because one of her dogs had taken ill, he became incensed and removed her from consideration. Vivian Blaine, who had originated the role on Broadway, was ultimately cast.
Having left movies entirely, she made the transition to television and starred in Las Vegas. It was in these transition years to stage, when Betty lost her mother Lillian in 1964, at age 75. By 1967, she took over the lead in the touring company of Hello, Dolly!. She starred in a 1969 musical called Belle Starr in London, but it was savaged by critics and soon folded.
Grable's last role was Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday, at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida in February 1973.

Personal life

In 1937, Grable married another famous former child actor, Jackie Coogan. He was under considerable stress from a lawsuit against his parents over his childhood earnings and the couple divorced in 1939.
In 1943, she married trumpeter Harry James. The couple had two daughters, Victoria and Jessica. They endured a tumultuous 22-year marriage that was plagued by alcoholism and infidelity. The couple divorced in 1965. Grable entered into a relationship with a dancer, Bob Remick, several years her junior. Though they did not marry, their romance lasted until the end of Grable's life.


Grable died July 2, 1973, of lung cancer at age 56 in Santa Monica, California. Her funeral was held July 5, 1973, 30 years to the day after her marriage to Harry James — who, in turn, died on what would have been his and Grable's 40th anniversary, July 5, 1983. She was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery, in Inglewood, California.
Among the lumunaries attending her funeral were her ex-husband Harry James, 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 haunting ballad from "Springtime in the Rockies," was played on the church organ. This song was introduced in the film by Helen Forrest.

Posthumous recognition

Grable has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6525 Hollywood Boulevard. She also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame, and was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in 2009.
Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy noted on National Public Radio's Morning Edition on April 23, 2007, in an interview with Terry Gross that Grable was his inspiration for founding the Playboy empire.


List of acting credits in film, with directors and principal cast members
Title↓ Year↓ Role↓ Director↓ Co-stars Notes
Happy Days 1929 Chorus Girl Stoloff, BenjaminBenjamin Stoloff Uncredited
Let's Go Places 1930 Chorine Strayer, Frank R.Frank R. Strayer Uncredited
New Movietone Follies of 1930 1930 Chorine Stoloff, BenjaminBenjamin Stoloff Uncredited
Whoopee! 1930 Goldwyn Girl Freeland, ThorntonThornton Freeland Uncredited
Kiki 1931 Goldwyn Girl Taylor, SamSam Taylor Mary Pickford Uncredited
Palmy Days 1931 Goldwyn Girl Sutherland, A. EdwardA. Edward Sutherland Uncredited
Greeks Had a Word for Them, TheThe Greeks Had a Word for Them 1932 Hat Check Girl Sherman, LowellLowell Sherman Uncredited
Probation 1932 Ruth Jarrett Thorpe, RichardRichard Thorpe Grable's first credited role
Age of Consent, TheThe Age of Consent 1932 Student at Dormitory La Cava, GregoryGregory La Cava Uncredited
Hold 'Em Jail 1932 Barbara Jones Taurog, NormanNorman Taurog
Kid from Spain, TheThe Kid from Spain 1932 Goldwyn Girl McCarey, LeoLeo McCarey Uncredited
Cavalcade 1933 Girl on couch Lloyd, FrankFrank Lloyd Uncredited
Child of Manhattan 1933 Lucy McGonegle Buzzell, EdwardEdward Buzzell
Melody Cruise 1933 First Stewardess Sandrich, MarkMark Sandrich Uncredited
What Price Innocence? 1933 Beverly Bennett Mack, WillardWillard Mack
Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, TheThe Sweetheart of Sigma Chi 1933 Band Singer with Ted Fio Rito Marin, Edwin L.Edwin L. Marin
Gay Divorcee, TheThe Gay Divorcee 1934 Dance Specialty Sandrich, MarkMark Sandrich
Student Tour 1934 Cayenne Reisner, CharlesCharles Reisner
By Your Leave 1934 Frances Gretchell Corrigan, LloydLloyd Corrigan
Nitwits, TheThe Nitwits 1935 Mary Roberts Stevens, GeorgeGeorge Stevens
Old Man Rhythm 1935 Sylvia Ludwig, EdwardEdward Ludwig
Collegiate 1936 Dorothy Murphy, RalphRalph Murphy
Follow the Fleet 1936 Trio Singer Sandrich, MarkMark Sandrich
Don't Turn 'em Loose 1936 Mildred Webster Stoloff, BenjaminBenjamin Stoloff
Pigskin Parade 1936 Laura Watson Butler, DavidDavid Butler
This Way Please 1937 Jane Morrow Florey, RobertRobert Florey Charles 'Buddy' Rogers
Thrill of a Lifetime 1937 Gwen Archainbaud, GeorgeGeorge Archainbaud The Yacht Club Boys
College Swing 1938 Betty Walsh, RaoulRaoul Walsh
Give Me a Sailor 1938 Nancy Larkin Nugent, ElliottElliott Nugent
Campus Confessions 1938 Joyce Gilmore Archainbaud, GeorgeGeorge Archainbaud Grable received top billing for the first time
Man About Town 1939 Susan Hayes Sandrich, MarkMark Sandrich
Million Dollar Legs 1939 Carol Parker Grinde, NickNick Grinde
Day the Bookies Wept, TheThe Day the Bookies Wept 1939 Ina Firpo Goodwins, LeslieLeslie Goodwins Joe Penner
Down Argentine Way 1940
  • Glenda Crawford
  • Glenda Cunningham
Cummings, IrvingIrving Cummings
Tin Pan Alley 1940 Lily Blane Lang, WalterWalter Lang
Moon Over Miami 1941 Kathryn 'Kay' Latimer Lang, WalterWalter Lang
Yank in the RAF, AA Yank in the RAF 1941 Carol Brown King, HenryHenry King Tyrone Power
I Wake Up Screaming 1941 Jill Lynn Humberstone, H. BruceH. Bruce Humberstone Grable's only straight dramatic role
Song of the Islands 1942 Eileen O'Brien Lang, WalterWalter Lang
Footlight Serenade 1942 Pat Lambert Ratoff, GregoryGregory Ratoff
Springtime in the Rockies 1942 Vicky Lane Cummings, IrvingIrving Cummings
Coney Island 1943 Kate Farley Lang, WalterWalter Lang
Sweet Rosie O'Grady 1943
  • Madeline Marlowe
  • Rosie O'Grady
Cummings, IrvingIrving Cummings
Four Jills in a Jeep 1944 Herself Seiter, William A.William A. Seiter
Pin Up Girl 1944
  • Lorry Jones
  • Laura Lorraine
Humberstone, H. BruceH. Bruce Humberstone
Diamond Horseshoe 1945 Bonnie Collins Seaton, GeorgeGeorge Seaton
Dolly Sisters, TheThe Dolly Sisters 1945 Yansci 'Jenny' Dolly Cummings, IrvingIrving Cummings
Do You Love Me 1946 Girl in Taxi (cameo) Ratoff, GregoryGregory Ratoff Grable had a cameo as a fan of Harry James's character
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim 1947 Cynthia Pilgrim Seaton, GeorgeGeorge Seaton
Mother Wore Tights 1947 Myrtle McKinley Burt Lang, WalterWalter Lang
Lady in Ermine, ThatThat Lady in Ermine 1948
  • Francesca
  • Angelina
  • Lubitsch died early into production.
  • Preminger finished the film but insisted on Lubitsch receiving full credit.
When My Baby Smiles at Me 1948 Bonny Kaye Lang, WalterWalter Lang
Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, TheThe Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend 1949 Winifred Jones Sturges, PrestonPreston Sturges
Wabash Avenue 1950 Ruby Summers Koster, HenryHenry Koster Remake of Grable's earlier hit Coney Island
My Blue Heaven 1950 Kitty Moran Koster, HenryHenry Koster
Call Me Mister 1951 Kay Hudson Bacon, LloydLloyd Bacon Remake of Grable's earlier hit A Yank in the RAF
Meet Me After the Show 1951 Delilah Lee Sale, RichardRichard Sale
Farmer Takes a Wife, TheThe Farmer Takes a Wife 1953 Molly Larkins Levin, HenryHenry Levin
How to Marry a Millionaire 1953 Loco Dempsey Negulesco, JeanJean Negulesco
Three for the Show 1955 Julie Lowndes Potter, H.C.H.C. Potter
How to Be Very, Very Popular 1955 Stormy Tornado Johnson, NunnallyNunnally Johnson

Short subjects

  • Crashing Hollywood (1931)
  • Ex-Sweeties (1931)
  • Once a Hero (1931)
  • Lady! Please! (1932)
  • Hollywood Luck (1932)
  • The Flirty Sleepwalker (1932)
  • Hollywood Lights (1932)
  • Over the Counter (1932)
  • Air Tonic (1933)
  • School for Romance (1934)
  • Love Detectives (1934)
  • Elmer Steps Out (1934)
  • Business Is a Pleasure (1934)
  • Susie's Affairs (1934)
  • Ferry-Go-Round (1934)
  • This Band Age (1935)
  • The Spirit of 1976 (1935)
  • A Night at the Biltmore Bowl (1935)
  • Drawing Rumors (1935)
  • A Quiet Fourth (1935)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 15, No. 11 (1936)
  • Sunkist Stars at Palm Springs (1936)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 7 (1937)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 10 (1937)
  • Screen Snapshots Series 18, No. 4 (1938)
  • Hedda Hopper's Hollywood No. 1 (1941)
  • The All-Star Bond Rally (1945)
  • Hollywood Park (1946)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Shower of Stars (1955)


  1. I would have had her pinned up on my locker too! Right next to my 8 x 10 of Loulou!

    Thank you, Loulou :)

    - Glenn

  2. lollll she was indeed a great pin up thank you Glenn!