Betty Grable

Betty Grable
20th Century Fox


Betty Grable
Film: North side of the 6500 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Actress | Dancer
Born Ruth Elizabeth Grable on Dec. 18, 1916 in St. Louis, MO
Died July 2, 1973 of lung cancer in St. John's Hospital, CA

Betty Grable was famed more for her shapely legs than for her acting and singing, as the star of dozens of Hollywood musicals was always ready to concede.

During World War II, GI locker doors and warship bulkheads from North Africa to Saipan were adorned with that familiar bathing suit photo in which she posed with hands on hips and an over-the-shoulder smile.

Though she was just 23 when she made 1940's "Down Argentine Way" — one of her best-known Technicolor films — Grable had been knocking around Hollywood for a decade, appearing in the chorus and in small roles in such films as 1930's "Whoopee!" and 1934's "The Gay Divorcee."

Alice Faye, Fox's reigning musical queen, was set to do "Down Argentine Way" but pulled out, citing exhaustion, and studio head Darryl Zanuck replaced Faye with Grable.

In 1943 — the year she married bandleader Harry James, whom she divorced 22 years later — Grable became the top moneymaking film star. Several times in the 1940s she was listed by the U.S. Treasury as the best-paid woman in America.

It was estimated that she earned more than $3 million during her career.

Grable got her first job in a Busby Berkeley chorus line in Eddie Cantor's "Whoopee." Her 42 films included "Follow the Fleet," "Million Dollar Legs," "Moon Over Miami," "Footlight Serenade" and "How to Marry a Millionaire."

More than once she turned down dramatic roles, explaining she had "no desire to become Sarah Bernhardt."

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