Betty Grable

Ruth Elizabeth Grable was born on December 18, 1916 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the youngest child of three. Betty’s mother was driven to see one of her daughters in show business and since Betty’s older sister didn’t succeed it was up to the youngest to make a go of things. To Betty’s advantage, she had talent and an interest in dancing and singing.

In 1929, Betty and her family vacationed in California. Her parents liked it so much that they stayed, as they wanted to try and get their daughter into the movies. Betty was enrolled in the Hollywood Professional School in addition to taking dancing and coaching lessons.

Shortly after her thirteenth birthday, she was accepted to play in the chorus in the film "Let’s Go Places." This movie was done black face so the producers at Fox didn’t know that Betty was not the legal acting age of fifteen. Betty’s mother was not satisfied with her daughter only being accepted for one role so she did what a lot of stage mothers did – she descended upon the powers that be until her daughter had a movie contract. Betty appeared in another film and this time, because this film was not done via black face, the producers of Fox Films saw the young Grable. They knew she was not of legal working age although she had false papers stating she was fifteen as opposed to thirteen, and they broke her contract. Betty’s mother then approached Samuel Goldwyn and Betty was signed to do the movie "Whoopee!" starring Eddie Cantor. Other than dancing, Betty had a few singing parts in the movie. She did bit parts until 1932 when she finally received billing in a movie. Although she did a lot of one-time deals, Betty worked continuously.

Between 1937 to 1939, Miss Grable made eighteen films. RKO liked her performance in the movie "The Gay Divorcee" and signed her to a contract.

In the summer of 1935, Betty married actor Jackie Coogan. The union of these two made Betty Grable a popular name. The couple was signed to a contract to appear in a touring show called "Hollywood Secrets." Betty’s career had a lot of bumps in it because the studios didn’t capitalize on her talents. The lack of publicity made it more difficult for this star to get anything above third billing in a show. Around 1939, her marriage was one of the bumps in the road as Jackie Coogan was in litigation to claim his share of his childhood earnings that he had been cheated out of. Their marriage didn’t last long because of the tension.

The turning point in Betty’s career was when she joined a two week variety act "The Golden Gate Exposition" that was run by Jack Healy.

She was known as the pin up girl because of the swimsuit poster that she posed for at the age of thirteen during World War II and quite a few United States service men owned this famous picture.

Daryl Zanuck was a talent scout for 20th Century-Fox Studios. Although he didn’t have anything in mind for Miss Grable, he knew that she had talent when he saw her films that she had made for Paramount Pictures and signed her to a contract. Her first work was in a musical, "Dubarry Was A Lady", which also starred Ethel Merman. Betty was really noticed for the first time and her career took off. Zanuck capitalized on Betty’s talents and cast her opposite his favorite actors. Betty Grable’s films became a box office draw.

In 1943, Betty Grable’s footprints became immortalized in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. In July of that year, Betty Grable married Harry James whom she had met earlier in the year. In March of the following year, Betty gave birth to a daughter. She was back on the set in August to make another film. Over the years, Zanuck worked Betty regardless of the fact that she was exhausted. She was suspended twice for refusing to act so she could rest. The third time she was suspended was when she wouldn’t allow Zanuck to loan her out to Columbia so in July of 1953, she walked out of Zanuck’s office, but not before tearing her contract up and telling him that she was leaving. She then went to work for Columbia. When Zanuck called her to make the movie "How to Be Very Popular" Miss Grable agreed to do it but only if she received top billing. It was released in July of 1955. By this time, Betty was fed up with Hollywood and making movies. After leaving films, she transitioned to television in the late 1950s and also appeared in nightclubs in Las Vegas playing opposite Dan Dailey.

In 1964, her marriage to Harry James was on the decline and they were divorced in October of 1965.

In 1972, Miss Grable was asked to come to the Academy Awards. It was while she was doing the show that she noticed that she had difficulty breathing. She went to the doctor and was diagnosed with lung cancer. After she recovered from having extensive treatments, she went back to work.

Miss Grable continued to work in the theatre from the mid 1960s until 1973 when she had recurring pains. She was back in the hospital and found that the cancer had come back but in a different location. After having cancer surgery, her health rapidly declined and on July 3, 1973, Betty Grable was no longer with us. She was buried on the fourth of July.

Betty Grable made over forty films and in 1943, Lloyds of London insured her legs for up to one million dollars this was the same year Miss Grable was Hollywood’s main attraction at the box office.