Betty Grable was a beloved Hollywood actress that became an iconic pin-up model during World War II. Despite the actress’s popularity as a pin-up girl, she was able to maintain a wholesome image throughout her career, and died without ever creating much controversy in her life. Many may have assumed that the wholesome Betty Grable may have grown embarrassed about her days as a pin-up model once she became older, but her daughter has shared that she was always proud of the fact that her pin-ups helped boost the morale of soldiers during World War II. Join Facts Verse as Betty Grable’s daughter shares new details on pin-up career.
Betty Grable was born on December 18, 1916, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father was a stockbroker and her mother was a failed entertainer. These failed dreams of stardom made Betty’s mother push her to become a star. Betty’s mother and father separated when she was young, and her mother moved her out to California in the hopes of finding her a career as a child star. Betty’s mother had a solid plan for pushing her daughter into fame, which included intensive training as a dancer. This started when Betty was three.
Before her and her mother’s move out to California, Betty had become enrolled in a prestigious institution by the name of Clark’s Dancing School when she was only three years old. She had enrolled at the behest of her mother, who determined to make her a star. While training at Clark’s Dancing School, Betty trained in both tap dancing and ballet. She took this experience with her to California.
After arriving in California, Betty’s mother made the young girl continue studying the arts. Betty enrolled in the Hollywood Professional School in Hollywood, California, and studied there for a period of time. Eventually, Betty’s mother was able to get her some gigs as a chorus girl by lying about her age. Betty began performing as a chorus girl at the age of only 13 due to the lies of her mother. And could seen in such productions as 1929’s Happy Days and 1930’s Whoopee! In 1932, when Betty only 15 years old, she was given a contract with RKO Pictures. Over the ensuing years, Betty given several small roles in feature films.
It was in 1934, several years after Betty had signed her contract with RKO Pictures, that she was first given a notable part in a feature film. This feature film named By Your Leave. Although Betty’s part wasn’t huge, it was her first role in a feature film that didn’t see her relegated to the background. It wouldn’t be until 1938 that Betty would get her first truly big role. This role came in the feature College Swing, though the film wasn’t much of a success.
In 1937, Betty had married a former child star by the name of Jackie Coogan. Together, the two toured the country for a brief period of time, performing a vaudeville act. They proved moderately successful with their vaudeville act, but not as much so with their relationship. Their marriage only lasted for a few years, and they decided to get a divorce in 1940.
Betty may have felt that her career was over after divorcing from her first husband, having failed to find much success during her time in Hollywood and no longer having a vaudeville partner to tour with. However, the star’s brightest days were still ahead of her! Betty’s breakout turn came in the 1940 feature Down Argentine Way, in which Betty cast as Glenda Crawford. The role cemented Betty’s star status once and for all. And she would further capitalize on the attention it brought her with equally successful turns in such subsequent features as Sweet Rosie O’Grady and Coney Island, which both premiered in 1943.
By the time World War II came around, Betty Grable was a legitimate superstar on cinema screens. However, the war would see her become something else entirely in the eyes of soldiers, as Betty took it upon herself to become the official pin-up icon of the entire war. She famously posed for a pin-up that officially sanctioned by the military. And this pin-up wound up in the hands of nearly every soldier that fought during the war. Betty also took it upon herself to entertain the troops in other ways, including by returning every one of their fan letters. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
While many may have assumed that Betty Grable becoming a pin-up model during the height of her career would’ve hurt her wholesome image, her patriotism only made her that much more of a role model in the eyes of the public! Betty would come out of World War II a bigger star than ever before, and she had the cash to show for it. According to statistics, Betty was the highest-paid performer in the country in the days after the war. And with her said to have been making a sum of $300,000 a year. When adjusted for inflation, this is still a fairly impressive sum to this day.
Betty such a bankable superstar that 20th Century Fox famously allowed to insure the actress’s legs for the exuberant sum of $1 million. Betty had starred in a film called Million Dollar Legs alongside then-husband Jackie Coogan in 1939. And the name of the feature proved prophetic a decade later. The actress continued to be majorly successful in Hollywood until the 1950s. Her last feature film was 1955’s How to be Very, Very Popular.
After Betty’s final appearance in a feature film, she began spending all of her time performing on the stage. She could also seen performing in various nightclubs, and sometimes on Broadway. Musicals had started going out of fashion for a time in Hollywood. And Betty thought that she’d have better luck performing on the stage. In 1965, she got a divorce from her second husband, a bandleader by the name of Harry James. The two married in 1965 and had two daughters. In Betty’s later life, she focused more on her family than her career. Sadly, the actress died fairly young.
At the age of only 56, Betty Grable passed away from lung cancer. The death occurred on July 2, 1973. Notably, Betty’s death occurred only five days before the death of fellow actress Veronica Lake. While Veronica died in Connecticut, Betty passed away in Santa Monica, California. She later buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery. To this day, the actress is warmly remembered for her wholesome presence on the screen. As well as her iconic World War II pin-up.
Betty Grable’s iconic World War II pin-up, which featured the actress in a one-piece bathing suit. And has gone on to become one of the definitive pin-ups of the era. While it’s certainly not the most risqué, it has become famous for what it represented to troops during the time period. When it’s historical value is taken into consideration, there are few other pin-ups quite like it. For that matter, there were few other pin-up models quite like Betty Grable!
Betty one of many stars in the entertainment industry that was tasked in an official capacity with creating entertainment for soldiers during World War II. Betty was the epitome of the girl next door that every soldier dreamt about returning home to. And her pin-up gave soldiers the hope that they needed to excel on the battlefield. In addition to this, Betty took it upon herself to reply to each and every fan letter that she received from soldiers as a result of her pin-up. One can imagine that these letters got pretty racy!
Many may have assumed that Betty would later go on to regret her time as a pin-up model, like so many of her contemporaries. However, Betty always stood firm in her belief that what she had done was beneficial for the troops. Betty was glad to be of service in the war. While she didn’t have many skills when it came to combat. She did have legs that later officially deemed to be worth $1 million.
It has been suggested that around five million copies of Betty’s famous Word War II pin-up were circulated amongst American soldiers during the days of the war. The actress proved so ubiquitously popular amongst soldiers that her name was used as a code word to determine whether or not someone was a real American soldier or a German spy. Betty remained proud of the fact that her appearance inspired so many American soldiers. According to Betty’s daughter, Victoria Colucci. And her mother thought that inspiring American troops during World War II was the greatest accomplishment of her entire career. Given that Betty was the highest paid star of her day, that’s really saying something! At the end of the day, Betty was a true patriot.
Betty’s influence over the American military would live on past the days of World War II. In 1953, America was conducting atomic bomb tests in the desert of Nevada. One of the bombs set off during these tests was dubbed “Grable”, named after none other than Betty Grable herself.
While Betty Grable may have graced one of the most iconic pin-ups of her era, she was much more than just a pin-up girl. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Betty Grable responded to every fan letter sent to her by soldiers during World War II, or did you think that her support of the troops was relegated to just her iconic pin-up? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!