Betty Grable

Betty Grable

in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) Born Elizabeth Ruth Grable
December 18, 1916(1916-12-18)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Died July 2, 1973 (aged 56)
Santa Monica, California, U.S. Other names Frances Dean Occupation Actress, dancer, singer Years active 1929–1956 Spouse Jackie Coogan (m. 1937–1939) «start: (1937)–end+1: (1940)»”Marriage: Jackie Coogan to Betty Grable” Location: (linkback: (divorced)
Harry James (m. 1943–1965) «start: (1943)–end+1: (1966)»”Marriage: Harry James to Betty Grable” Location: (linkback: (divorced) 2 children

Betty Grable (December 18, 1916 – July 2, 1973) was an American actress, dancer and singer.[1]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.


She was born Elizabeth Ruth Grable in St. Louis, Missouri to John Conn Grable (1883–1954) and Lillian Rose Hofmann (1889–1964).[2] 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.[3][4] 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 impossible 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.[5] 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:”I was sick and tired of it. I’d made up my mind to leave show business altogether. So I retired – and then came an offer, unsolicited, to go on a personal appearance tour. I went. Next thing I knew, Mr. Zanuck had seen my picture in the paper and offered me a contract at a lot more money. I took it. Then came Buddy DeSylva with a part in his Broadway show Du Barry Was a Lady. Mr. Zanuck said I could take it if I wanted to. I did. The show was successful. Then as if all this weren’t enough, Alice Faye fell ill just before Down Argentine Way was to start and I was drafted to fill her shoes. If that’s not luck I don’t know what you’d call it. But that’s how it’s been all my life. I’ve had contracts with four studios in 10 years and each time I left one or was dropped, I stepped into something better.”[6]

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.[7] 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.Starting in 1942, Grable was named in the top 10 box office draws for 10
onsecutive 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.[8]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.[9]

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, Inglewood, California, in the Mausoleum of the Golden West, Sanctuary of Dawn section, with her mother Lillian, alongside her father ‘Conn’ Grable. Sister Marjorie Grable-Arnold joined them in their family crypt upon her death at 71, in 1980.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 Betty introduced in “Springtime in the Rockies,” was played on the church organ.

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.

Year Title Role Director Co-stars Notes
1929 Happy Days Chorus Girl Benjamin Stoloff Charles Evans, Marjorie White, Richard Keene Uncredited
1930 Let’s Go Places Chorine Frank R. Strayer Joseph Wagstaff, Lola Lane Uncredited
New Movietone Follies of 1930 Chorine Benjamin Stoloff El Brendel, Marjorie White Uncredited
Whoopee! Goldwyn Girl Thornton Freeland Eddie Cantor, Ethel Shutta, Eleanor Hunt Uncredited
1931 Kiki Goldwyn Girl Sam Taylor Mary Pickford Uncredited
Palmy Days Goldwyn Girl A. Edward Sutherland Charlotte Greenwood, Barbara Weeks, Spencer Charters Uncredited
1932 The Greeks Had a Word for Them Hat Check Girl Lowell Sherman Joan Blondell, Madge Evans, Ina Claire Uncredited
Probation Ruth Jarrett Richard Thorpe John Darrow, Sally Blane Grable’s first credited role
The Age of Consent Student at Dormitory Gregory La Cava Dorothy Wilson, Arline Judge Uncredited
Hold ‘Em Jail Barbara Jones Norman Taurog Bert Wheeler, Edna May Oliver, Robert Armstrong
The Kid from Spain Goldwyn Girl Leo McCarey Eddie Cantor, Lyda Roberti, Robert Young Uncredited
1933 Cavalcade Girl on couch Frank Lloyd Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O’Connor Uncredited
Child of Manhattan Lucy McGonegle Edward Buzzell Nancy Carroll, John Boles
Melody Cruise First Stewardess Mark Sandrich Charles Ruggles, Phil Harris Uncredited
What Price Innocence? Bev

erly Bennett

Willard Mack Jean Parker, Minna Gombell, Willard Mack
The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi Band Singer with Ted Fio Rito Edwin L. Marin Mary Carlisle, Buster Crabbe
1934 The Gay Divorcee Dance Specialty Mark Sandrich Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers
Student Tour Cayenne Charles Reisner Jimmy Durante, Charles Butterworth, Maxine Doyle
By Your Leave Frances Gretchell Lloyd Corrigan Frank Morgan, Genevieve Tobin
1935 The Nitwits Mary Roberts George Stevens Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey
Old Man Rhythm Sylvia Edward Ludwig Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, George Barbier
1936 Collegiate Dorothy Ralph Murphy Joe Penner, Jack Oakie, Ned Sparks
Follow the Fleet Trio Singer Mark Sandrich Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers
Don’t Turn ’em Loose Mildred Webster Benjamin Stoloff Lewis Stone, James Gleason, Bruce Cabot
Pigskin Parade Laura Watson David Butler Stuart Erwin, Patsy Kelly, Judy Garland The only film in which Grable appeared with Judy Garland.
1937 This Way Please Jane Morrow Robert Florey Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers
Thrill of a Lifetime Gwen George Archainbaud The Yacht Club Boys
1938 College Swing Betty Raoul Walsh George Burns, Gracie Allen, Martha Raye, Bob Hope, Edward Everett Horton
Give Me a Sailor Nancy Larkin Elliott Nugent Bob Hope, Jack Whiting, Martha Raye
Campus Confessions Joyce Gilmore George Archainbaud Eleanore Whitney, William Henry Grable received top billing for the first time
1939 Man About Town Susan Hayes Mark Sandrich Jack Benny, Dorothy Lamour
Million Dollar Legs Carol Parker Nick Grinde John Hartley, Donald O’Connor, Jackie Coogan, Dorothea Kent Co-starred Jackie Coogan who Grable was married to at the time
The Day the Bookies Wept Ina Firpo Leslie Goodwins Joe Penner

Year Title Role Director Co-stars Notes
1940 Down Argentine Way Glenda Crawford/Glenda Cunningham Irving Cummings Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda, Charlotte Greenwood Grable’s first leading role. Alice Faye was originally set to star in the film, but had to withdraw due to illness
Tin Pan Alley Lily Blane Walter Lang Alice Faye, John Payne, Jack Oakie The only time Grable and Faye co-starred together in a feature film
1941 Moon Over Miami Kathryn ‘Kay’ Latimer Walter Lang Don Ameche, Robert Cummings, Carole Landis
A Yank in the RAF Carol Brown Henry King Tyrone Power
I Wake Up Screaming Jill Lynn H. Bruce Humberstone Victor Mature, Carole Landis Grable’s only straight dramatic role
1942 Song of the Islands Eileen O’Brien Walter Lang Victor Mature, Jack Oakie
Footlight Serenade Pat Lambert Gregory Ratoff John Payne, Victor Mature, Jane Wyman
Springtime in the Rockies Vicky Lane Irving Cummings John Payne, Carmen Miranda, Cesar Romero, Harry James Grable’s future husband Harry James appeared in the cast
1943 Coney Island Kate Farley Walter Lang George Montgomery, Cesar Romero
Sweet Rosie O’Grady Madeline Marlowe/Rosie O’Grady Irving Cummings Robert Young, Adolphe Menjou
1944 Four Jills in a Jeep Herself William A. Seiter Kay Francis, Carole Landis, Alice Faye, Martha Raye, Carmen Miranda
Pin Up Girl Lorry Jones/Laura Lorraine H. Bruce Humberstone John Harvey, Martha Raye
1945 Diamond Horseshoe Bonnie Collins George Seaton Dick Haymes, Phil Silvers, William Gaxton
The Dolly Sisters Yansci ‘Jenny’ Dolly Irving Cummings John Payne, June Haver
1946 Do You Love Me Girl in Taxi (cameo) Gregory Ratoff Maureen O’Hara, Dick Haymes, Harry James Grable had a cameo as a fan of Harry James’s character
1947 The Shocking Miss Pilgrim Cynthia Pilgrim George Seaton Dick Haymes, Anne Revere
Mother Wore Tights Myrtle McKinley Burt Walter Lang Dan Dailey, Mona Freeman Grable’s most successful film at the time and her personal favourite
1948 That Lady in Ermine Francesca/Angelina Ernst Lubitsch, Otto Preminger (uncredited) Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cesar Romero Lubitsch died early into production. Preminger finished the film but insisted on Lubitsch receiving full credit
When My Baby Smiles at Me Bonny Kaye Walter Lang Dan Dailey, Jack Oakie, June Havoc Dailey received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor
1949 The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend Winifred Jones Preston Sturges Cesar Romero, Rudy Vallee
1950 Wabash Avenue Ruby Summers Henry Koster Victor Mature, Phil Harris Remake of Grable’s earlier hit ‘Coney Island’
My Blue Heaven Kitty Moran Henry Koster Dan Dailey, David Wayne, Jane Wyatt, Mitzi Gaynor
1951 Call Me Mister Kay Hudson Lloyd Bacon Dan Dailey, Danny Thomas Remake of Grable’s earlier hit ‘A Yank in the RAF’
Meet Me After the Show Delilah Lee Richard Sale Macdonald C

arey, Rory Calhoun, Eddie Albert

1953 The Farmer Takes a Wife Molly Larkins Henry Levin Dale Robertson, Thelma Ritter
How to Marry a Millionaire Loco Dempsey Jean Negulesco Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall Grable and Monroe’s only film together. Monroe would become the top star of Hollywood throughout the 1950s just as Grable had done in the previous decade.
1955 Three for the Show Julie Lowndes H.C. Potter Jack Lemmon, Marge Champion, Gower Champion
How to Be Very, Very Popular Stormy Tornado Nunnally Johnson Sheree North, Robert Cummings, Charles Coburn, Tommy Noonan Grable’s last film

  • 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)

The following table shows the box office attractions of each year from 1940 to 1951. Betty Grable appeared on this list every year except for 1946 as she had no films released that year. She topped the list 4 times in 1943, 1944, 1947 and 1948.

– 1940 – – 1941 – – 1942 – – 1943 – – 1944 – – 1945 –
# Actor # Actor # Actor # Actor # Actor # Actor
1 Errol Flynn 1 Errol Flynn 1 Errol Flynn 1 Betty Grable 1 Betty Grable 1 Ingrid Bergman
2 Clark Gable 2 Clark Gable 2 Betty Grable 2 Gary Cooper 2 Humphrey Bogart 2 Betty Grable
3 Cary Grant 3 Gary Cooper 3 Greer Garson 3 Humphrey Bogart 3 Bing Crosby 3 Bing Crosby
4 Joan Crawford 4 Betty Grable 4 Veronica Lake 4 Ingrid Bergman 4 Ingrid Bergman 4 Gene Kelly
5 Gary Cooper 5 Lana Turner 5 Clark Gable 5 Jean Arthur 5 Cary Grant 5 Gene Tierney
6 Spencer Tracy 6 Tyrone Power 6 Gary Cooper 6 Cary Grant 6 Judy Garland 6 Joan Crawford
7 Ginger Rogers 7 Cary Grant 7 Lana Turner 7 Alice Faye 7 Gene Tierney 7 Gary Cooper
8 Alice Faye 8 Barbara Stanwyck 8 Robert Taylor 8 Greer Garson 8 Gary Cooper 8 Alan Ladd
9 Betty Grable 9 Fred Astaire 9 Cary Grant 9 Veronica Lake 9 Rita Hayworth 9 Dana Andrews
10 Tyrone Power 10 Veronica Lake 10 James Cagney 10 Henry Fonda 10 John Wayne 10 Rita Hayworth
– 1946 – – 1947 – – 1948 – – 1949 – – 1950 – – 1951 –
# Actor # Actor # Actor # Actor # Actor # Actor
1 Bing Crosby 1 Betty Grable 1 Betty Grable 1 Bob Hope 1 John Wayne 1 John Wayne
2 Lana Turner 2 Lana Turner 2 Humphrey Bogart 2 Bing Crosby 2 Betty Grable 2 Gene Kelly
3 Bob Hope 3 Cary Grant 3 Lana Turner 3 Betty Grable 3 Bob Hope 3 Betty Grable
4 John Garfield 4 Bob Hope 4 John Wayne 4 John Wayne 4 Bing Crosby 4 Humphrey Bogart
5 Cary Grant 5 Gary Cooper 5 Gene Kelly 5 Hedy Lamarr 5 James Stewart 5 Ava Gardner
6 Ingrid Bergman 6 Bing Crosby 6 Cary Grant 6 Humphrey Bogart 6 Spencer Tracy 6 Montgomery Clift
7 Joan Crawford 7 Gene Tierney 7 Clark Gable 7 Gene Kelly 7 Gregory Peck 7 Bob Hope
8 Gene Tierney 8 John Garfield 8 Judy Garland 8 Cary Grant 8 Betty Hutton 8 Gary Cooper
9 Rita Hayworth 9 Loretta Young 9 Ingrid Bergman 9 Gary Cooper 9 Hedy Lamarr 9 Doris Day
10 Humphrey Bogart 10 Linda Darnell 10 Bing Crosby 10 Spencer Tracy 10 William Holden 10 Marlon Brando

  • ^ Obituary Variety, July 4, 1973, page 63.
  • ^ “The Girl with the Million Dollar Legs”. A Betty Grable Biography. Betty Grable Inc.. 2008.
  • ^
  • ^
  • ^ “Hollywood Overlooks a Best Bet In Betty Grable; Others Don’t” by Jimmie Fidler, St. Petersburg Times, August 2, 1940, p. 13
  • ^ “Betty Grable Says She’s ‘Plain Lucky'”, Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 29, 1940, p. 16
  • ^ “Frank Powolny”. New York Times. AP (Valencia). 1986-01-11. “(Powolny) was best known for the pin-up of Miss Grable that many G.I.’s carried during World War II. The photo showed the actress in swimsuit and pumps, peeking coyly over her shoulder.” 
  • ^ Whitman Authorized Editions for Girls
  • ^ Alhambra Dinner Theatre website: Inside scoop
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