b. Ruth Elizabeth Grable, 18 December 1916, St. Louis Missouri, USA, d. 2 July 1973, Santa Monica, California, USA. An actress, singer and dancer in movie musicals of the 30s, 40s and early 50s. A beautiful blonde with a peaches-and-cream complexion, during World War II the famous picture of her wearing a white bathing suit displaying her shapely legs (which were reportedly insured for a million dollars) and looking over her right shoulder, was pinned up on servicemen’s lockers the world over. Encouraged by her mother, Grable began to take singing and dancing lessons while she was still very young, and she was part of the chorus in musical films such as Let’s Go Places, New Movietone Follies Of 1930, and Whoopee! while still in her early teens. During the 30s, sometimes under the name of Frances Dean, she played roles of varying importance (but never starring ones) in a several comedies such as Hold ’Em Jail and The Nitwits, and musicals which included Palmy Days, The Kid From Spain, Student Tour, The Gay Divorcee, Old Man Rhythm, Collegiate, Follow The Fleet, Pigskin Parade, This Way Please, College Swing, Give Me A Sailor, and Million Dollar Legs (1939). Also in 1939 she had a good role in the Broadway musical Du Barry Was A Lady in which she introduced Cole Porter’s famous song of ‘social scandal’, ‘Well, Did You Evah?’ with Charles Walters. In 1937 Grable had married former child star Jackie Coogan, and their divorce in 1940 coincided with her elevation to star status when she signed for 20th-Century Fox. After co-starring with Don Ameche in Down Argentine Way, she worked with several other handsome leading men of the day, such as John Payne, Victor Mature, Dan Dailey, George Montgomery, Cesar Romero, Robert Cummings, and Dick Haymes in a string of mostly entertaining and tuneful musicals such as Tin Pan Alley, Moon Over Miami, Footlight Serenade, Song Of The Islands, Springtime In The Rockies, Coney Island, Sweet Rosie O’Grady, Four Jills In A Jeep, Pin Up Girl, Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe, The Dolly Sister s, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, Mother Wore Tights, That Lady In Ermine, When My Baby Smiles At Me, The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend, Wabash Avenue, My Blue Heaven, Call Me Mister, Meet Me After The Show, The Farmer Takes A Wife, and Three For The Show (1955). Several of those were set at the turn of the century, and, by the late 50s, Grable’s kind of movie musical was itself a period piece. She played nightclubs, appeared on television, and also worked with her husband, band leader Harry James, before they divorced in 1964. In 1967 she took over the leading role from Carol Channing in the Broadway production of Hello, Dolly!, and subsequently headed a road tour of the show. In 1969 she travelled to London and appeared briefly in the spectacular flop American musical, Belle Starr, at the Palace Theatre. On her return to the USA, she continued to work on television and in provincial theatre until her death from cancer at the age of 56. In 1997 came the treat that fans had been waiting for - a collection of 48 original Grable songs from soundtracks dating back to 1930.
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