BETTY GRABLE Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


Biography » theater opera and movie personalities » betty grable


Ruth Elizabeth “Betty” Grable (December 18, 1916 - July 3, 1973) was an American actress, singer and pin-up girl, whose famous bathing suit poster was an icon of the World War II era. Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, she was propelled into acting by her mother, who insisted that one of her daughters become a star. For her first role, as a chorus girl in the film Let’s Go Places (1930) Grable was legally under the age to act, but because the chorus line performed in blackface, it was impossible to tell how old she was.


For her next film, her mother tried to get her to sign a contract using false I.D., but when this was discovered, she was fired. It was at this time that she was photographed in the pin-up poster that was so popular among American GIs ten years later. Grable finally obtained a role in Whoopee!, starring Eddie Cantor and eventually played in some twenty films by 1939, including the Academy Award-nominated The Gay Divorcee, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.


In 1937, she married another famous child actor, Jackie Coogan, but Coogan was under considerable stress due to his lawsuit against his parents over his earnings, and they divorced in 1940.


In 1943, she married jazz trumpeter and big band leader Harry James. They divorced in 1965.


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 Darryl F. 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.


Betty Grable died of lung cancer in 1973 at the age of only 56 and was interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.