Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Betty Grable
1916 - 1973

Inglewood Park Cemetery

Actress Betty Grable will forever be known as the World War II pin-up girl with the "million dollar legs."

Grable's mother, Lillian, was determined to have one of her daughters in show business. When her oldest child, Marjorie, exhibited neither the talent nor the inclination, Lillian turned her efforts to her next child. Grable began her training at an early age, taking dance, voice and saxophone lessons. She appeared as a dancer in several films while she was still a teenager, making her screen debut in "Let's Go Places" (1930). Grable spoke her first words on screen in the Eddie Cantor comedy "Whoopee!" (1930), which was also Busby Berkeley's first film as a choreographer. Grable appeared in small parts in several more musicals and comedies during the early 1930s, including a brief appearance as a party guest in "The Gay Divorcee" (1934) and a singer in a trio in "Follow the Fleet" (1936), both films starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. To supplement her acting income during this time, Grable also worked as a band singer.

Since Grable was just barely out of her teens, she was young enough to be believable in a series of "campus films," including "Sweetheart of Sigma Chi" (1933), "Student Tour" (1934), "Collegiate" (1936), "Pigskin Parade" (1936), "Campus Confessions" (1938) and "College Swing" (1938). In 1937, while still a struggling actress, Grable married former child star Jackie Coogan, who was still a popular performer, and the marriage helped to give Grable's career a needed boost. Grable got her big break with a starring role in "Million Dollar Legs" (1939) -- even though the title refers to a horse, Grable ended up with the nickname for the rest of her career.

Darryl Zanuck brought Grable to Fox studios in the early 1940s, and she starred in a series of musicals that highlighted her impressive limbs, and also featured the studio's new Technicolor process -- "Down Argentine Way" (1940), "Tin Pan Alley" (1940), "Moon Over Miami" (1941), "Song of the Islands" (1942), "Springtime in the Rockies" (1942), "Coney Island" (1943), "Sweet Rosie O'Grady" (1943), "Pin-Up Girl" (1944) and "The Dolly Sisters" (1945).

In 1942, Grable was ranked eighth on the list of the top 10 box-office attractions; the following year, she was number one, and she remained on the list until 1951. In 1947, the U.S. Treasury Department reported that Grable's annual salary of $300,000 made her the highest-paid woman in the country. Fox studios even insured her legs for $1 million with Lloyd's of London, making that popular nickname official.

During World War II, Grable was the favorite of U.S. servicemen. The classic pin-up photograph of her in high heels and a one-piece white bathing suit, looking back over her shoulder, was posted in countless military barracks around the world. After the war, Grable starred in "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" (1946), a musical comedy set in the 1800s. But the biggest shock to Grable's fans was the lack of screen time for her legs, and they flooded the studio with letters of complaint. Grable returned to her previous form in "Mother Wore Tights" (1947), and her fans were happy again. She kept to the successful formula with "When My Baby Smiles at Me" (1948), "The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend" (1949) and "Wabash Avenue" (1950) -- a re-make of "Coney Island" -- "My Blue Heaven" (1950), "Call Me Mister" (1951) and "Meet Me After the Show" (1951). By the time Grable appeared in "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953), co-starring with Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall, her star was fading, and Zanuck was focusing the studio's attention on new performers. Her last film was "How to Be Very, Very Popular" (1955).

When her film career ended, Grable appeared often on television, in nightclubs and on stages across the country. She starred in performances of "Guys and Dolls," "Hello, Dolly" and other musicals through the 1960s.

Grable is buried with her mother, Lillian Grable (1889 - 1964), and near her father, Conn Grable (1883 - 1954), and sister, Marjorie Grable Arnold (1909 - 1980).

Grable was married to actor Jackie Coogan from 1937 to 1940, and to bandleader Harry James from 1943 to 1965. The name on her crypt is "Betty Grable James." Although Harry James, who died in 1983, is buried in Las Vegas, NV, his father, Everette James (1884 - 1955), is buried in the crypt next to Grable.

Grable was born Elizabeth Ruth Grable on Dec. 18, 1916, in St. Louis, MO. She died on July 2, 1973, in Santa Monica, CA.

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