This is a tribute to classic actresses, silent beauties, and forgotten starlets. We have tons of rare pictures, old Hollywood gossip, and vintage memorabilia. You will see some sexy photos and read a lot of scandalous stories because these ladies were not saints - they were legends!
Betty Grable was born Elizabeth Ruth Grable on December 18, 1916, in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the youngest of three children (her brother died before Betty was born). By the age of five she was taking tap dancing and saxophone lessons. Betty's mother was determined to make her a star. She took her to Hollywood when she was a teenager. Betty often had to lie about her age to get work. She beat out hundreds of other hopefuls to become one of the "Goldwyn Girls". Betty got small roles in movies like The Gay Divorcee and Pigskin Parade. Betty married former child star Jackie Coogan in November 1937. They divorced three years later. In 1939 she starred on Broadway in the musical DuBarry Was A Lady. Betty was offered a contract with 20th Century Fox. She landed the lead in the 1940 musical Down Argentine Way. It was a smash and she became one of Hollywood's hottest actresses. More hit films followed including Moon Over Miami, Pin-Up Girl, and The Dolly Sisters. Betty dated Victor Mature and Tyrone Power. She fell in love with bandleader Artie Shaw and was devastated when he eloped with nineteen-year old Lana Turner. To make matters worse Betty discovered she was pregnant and had an abortion. In 1941 she became engaged to actor George Raft but ended the relationship when he could not get a divorce from his wife.
With Jackie Coogan
Betty became the most popular sex symbol of World War 2 after a pin-up she posed for became world famous. As a publicity stunt Betty's legs were insured for one million dollars. She married bandleader Harry James in July 1943. They had two daughters - Victoria was born in 1944 and Jessica was born in 1947. Betty and Harry's favorite pastime was horse racing and they owned several horses. By 1948 Betty was the highest paid woman in America. Despite all of her success Betty was growing tired of Hollywood and decided to stop making movies. Her final film was the 1955 musical How To Be Very, Very Popular. Betty later worked in Las Vegas and on Broadway. She made occasional appearances on television shows like The Lucy Desi Comedy Hour. During the 1960s Betty appeared in commercials for Geritol and Playtex. After years of putting up with Harry's gambling and cheating she divorced him in 1965. She began a romance with a young dancer named Bob Remick. Betty was a heavy smoker who often smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. She died from lung cancer on July 2, 1973. Although she had once been a millionaire Betty was nearly broke when she passed away. She is buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.
~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2006
With her daughters
"I'm a song and dance girl. I can act enough to get by. But that's the limit of my talents." ~ Betty
Thelma Hill was born Thelma Hillerman in Emporia, Kansason December 12, 1906. When she was a teenager her family movedto California. They lived just a few blocks from the Mack Sennett studios.Thelma hung around by the gates trying to getting noticed and eventually caught the eye of a producer. She became one of Sennett's famous bathing beauties and appeared as an extra in dozens of his films. Her nickname was the "Mah Jongg Bathing Girl" because of the type of bathing suit she wore. When she wasn't posing for pictures sheworked as Mabel Normand's stand-in. Thelma starred alongside Ben Turpin a several comedy shorts including The Prodigal Bridegroom. In 1927 she landed a role opposite Marion Davies in The Fair Co-Ed. The following year she was chosen to play the lead in a series of short films based on the comic strip Toots And Casper.
With Marion Davies
Thelma seemed destined for stardom but her career stalled with the talkies. During the 1930s she made a few shorts and had a small role in Frank Capra's film The Miracle Woman. She married John Sinclair, a stunt double for W.C. Fields, and started a new life as as housewife. They moved into a housedown the street from the Sennett studio where she used to work. By this time Thelma was battling depression and aserious drinkingproblem. In the spring of 1938 she entered a sanitarium suffering from chronic alcoholism, a vitamin D deficiency, and malnutrition. Thelma died from a cerebral hemorage on May 11, 1938. She was only 31 years old. Her body was cremated but her husband never picked up her ashes. Today they are stored in a closet at Forest Lawn Memorial Parkin Glendale, California. ~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2012
Thelma (left) in Hoboken To Hollywood ~ Photo courtesy of Gwen Serna
"I was scared to death the first time I faced a microphone." ~ Thelma
Thelma (second from right) and other bathing beauties
Olive Thomas was born Oliveretta Elaine Duffy on October 20, 1894, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of three children. Olive's father died when she was a child. In April 1911 Olive married Bernard Krug Thomas. They divorced two years later. Olive moved to New York City and worked in a department store. After winning a beauty contest she started modeling and was offered a job in the Ziegfeld Follies. Olive had a romantic relationship with Ziegfeld Follies creator Florenz Ziegfeld, who was married to actress Billie Burke. In 1916 Olive made her film debut in Beatrice Fairfax. That same year she married actor Jack Pickford, brother of Mary Pickford. Olive was offered a lucrative contract with Selznick Pictures.
She appeared in many successful silent films including Madcap Madge, Youthful Folly, and The Flapper. Olive and Jack had a tumultuous marriage. Jack was an alcoholic and they spent a lot of time apart. There are also rumors that Olive was having an affair with producer Myron Selznick. In 1920 Olive and Jack took a trip to Europe. On the night of September 6 Olive went in to her bathroom and swallowed some mercury bichloride (a drug that had been prescribed to treat Jack's syphilis). She died four days later. Olive was just twenty-five years old. Her death was ruled an accident but some believe she committed suicide. Olive was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York. Since Olive's death many people claim to have seen her ghost in the New Amsterdam Theatre where she began her career as a Ziegfeld girl.
~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2006
"I don't think you can change anything that is going to happen to you any more than you can change anything that has happened to you." ~ Olive
Isabel Jewell was a character actress known for her blonde hair and tough-talking personality. She was usually cast in supporting roles and had a small part in Gone With The Wind. Following two failed marriages she moved to Las Vegas where she was arrested several times. Sadly in 1972 Isabel was found dead in her home from unknown causes. She was later awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
With Janet Gaynor
"When I went on stage and discovered that high voices were most unusual I deliberately abandoned my low tones and made a specialty of high voiced comedy roles." ~ Isabel
Marie Wilson was a popular wartime pin-up who became famous playing dumb blondes. Her biggest success came when she starred in the movie and television series My Friend Irma. After two failed marriages she found happness with her third husband producer Robert Fallon. She continued to act occasionally until her untimely death from cancer at age fifty-six. Marie is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
"Show business has been very good to me and I'm not complaining, but someday I just wish someone would offer me a different kind of role." ~ Marie
Marie's costume from the 1950 play School For Scandal
Ann Rutherford became Hollywood's girl next door when she was cast as Mickey Rooney's girlfriend in the Andy Hardy movies. She appeared inmore than fifty films including a smallrole in Gone With The Wind. After marrying her second husbandshe stepped away from the spotlight. Ann passed away in 2012 at the age of ninety-four. She was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for moviesand television.
"There was a quality about Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that was so special - it was just the most exciting studio in the world." ~ Ann
Ann (left) in Gone With The Wind
From The New York Daily News:
Ann Rutherford, who played Andy Hardy’s girlfriend and Scarlett O’Hara’s younger sister, then six decades later turned down a role in “Titanic,” died Monday in Beverly Hills. She was 94 and had been in declining health from heart problems. Born in British Columbia, Canada, Rutherford graduated from radio to the movies in the 1930s and acted in dozens of films. She regularly appeared as Polly Benedict, Mickey Rooney’s girlfriend in the “Andy Hardy” series.In 1939, she was cast as Scarlett O’Hara’s sister Careen in “Gone With the Wind.” Studio head Louis B. Mayer wanted her to turn down the part, which he considered insignificant, but Rutherford insisted that because she was a fan of the novel, she wanted to be in the film. Her movie career continued into the 1940s with films like “Pride and Prejudice.” By the end of the decade, she retired to raise her family. She returned in the 1970s to make a few more movies, but was better known for playing Suzanne Pleshette’s mother on “The Bob Newhart Show.” She turned down the role of Rose Calvert in James Cameron's 1997 film “Titanic,” leaving it to Gloria Stuart. She made a number of appearances at “Gone With the Wind” anniversary events over the years. Her death leaves just two major players from the film still alive: Olivia De Havilland, 95, who played Melanie Wilkes, and Alicia Rhett, 97, who played Melanie’s sister India.
Lucille Desiree Ball was born on August 3, 1911, in Jamestown, New York. Her father died when she was three years old. Lucille began her career as a model. She briefly used the stage name Diane Belmont. Lucille decided to try acting and was chosen by producer Sam Goldwyn to be one of his "Goldwyn Girls". She got small roles in movies like Stage Door and Room Service. While making the comedy Too Many Girls she met bandleader Desi Arnaz. They were married in November 1940. To get more attention in Hollywood Lucille dyed her brown hair red. In 1943 Lucille signed a contract with MGM. Lucille worked with Bob Hope in Fancy Pants and with Esther Williams in Easy To Wed. She was nicknamed "Technicolor Tessie". In 1951 Lucille teamed up with Desi to star in and produce the television series I Love Lucy.
The show was a big success and Lucille became one of the most popular women on television. She won two Emmy Awards for her work on I Love Lucy. Lucille and Desi also costarred in the hit 1954 film The Long, Long Trailer. They had two children together - Lucie in 1951 and Desi Jr in 1953. Lucille and Desi's marriage was tumultuous. Desi had a drinking problem and he was unfaithful. She divorced him and married comedian Gary Morton in 1961. Lucille continued to work in movies and on television for the next three decades. She also starred on Broadway in the musical Wildcat. Lucille died on April 26, 1989 from an aortic aneurysm. She was cremated and her ashes were buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. In 2002 Lucille's family moved her ashes to Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown, New York.
~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2006
"I'm not funny, what I am is brave." - Lucille Ball
Peggy Shannon was a red-headed starlet who was supposed to be the next Clara Bow. Although she got some good roles her movie career never took off. In 1941 Peggy was married to her second husband and suffering health problems due to her drinking. She died of a heart attack at the young age of thirty-four. Peggy is buried at Hollywood Forever in California with the epitaph "That Red Headed Girl".
"I am as much like Clara Bow as onion soup is like a fine day." ~ Peggy
Chili Williams was the World War 2 pin-upknown as "The Polka-Dot Girl". After her photo appeared in Life magazine she received more than 100,000 fan letters. She landed a movie contract and had bit parts in movies like Having Wonderful Crime. Chile was involved in several scandals including being caught breaking into an apartment. She eventually stopped acting and stayed out of the spotlight until her death in 2003.
"I run around the house in as little as possible." ~ Chili
Thelma Todd was a bubbly comedic actress nicknamed "The Ice-Cream Blonde". After winning a beauty contest she came to Hollywood where she landed a contract with Hal Roach. She appeared in a series of successful shorts and proved to be a savvy businesswoman by opening "Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe". In 1935 twenty-nine year old Thelma was found dead in her car from carbon monoxide poisoning. Although her death was officially ruled an accident rumor persist that she committed suicide or was murdered.
"Life isn’t worth the candle. While we’re here we should laugh, be gay and have fun." ~ Thelma
Betty Hutton was born Elizabeth June Thornburg on February 26, 1921, in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was the youngest of two daughters. Betty's father abandoned them and her mother struggled with alcoholism. To help support the family Betty began singing professionally when she was thirteen. She moved to New York and appeared in several Broadway plays. After signing with Paramount in 1942 she made her film debut in the musical The Fleet's In. It was a hit and Betty became one of Hollywood's most sought-after actresses. Her success continued with starring roles The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The Perils of Pauline, and Let's Face It. Meanwhile her older sister, Marion Hutton, became a popular big band singer. In 1945 Betty married Ted Briskin, a camera manufacturer. They had two daughters - Candy and Lindsay. Betty divorced him and married choreographer Charles O'Curran in 1952. That same year she played a circus performer in The Greatest Show on Earth. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Betty was now earning five thousand dollars a week. She wanted her husband to direct her next film but when Paramount refused she walked out on her contract. Betty was labeled a temperamental diva and her marriage to Charles ended.
Her last film was the 1957 drama Spring Reunion. She made occasional guest appearances on television shows like "What's My Line?" and "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show". Her 1959 television series "The Betty Hutton Show" was canceled after only one season. Betty's third marriage, to producer Alan Livingston, lasted five years. She married musician Peter Candoli in 1960 and had a daughter named Caroline. Betty found work singing in nightclubs and in Las Vegas. She and Peter divorced in 1967. By this time Betty had a serious addiction to prescription drugs. She suffered a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. Financial problems forced her to take a job cleaning at a church in Rhode Island. Eventually she was able get off drugs and turn her life around. During the 1970s she earned a bachelors degree from Salve Regina University and starting teaching theater. Betty spent her final years living in Palm Springs. In 2000 she made a rare television appearance on Turner Classic Movie's "Private Screenings". She passed away on January 25, 2007 after being diagnosed with colon cancer. She was buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. None of her children attended her funeral.
~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2013
"Some kind of fun lasts longer than others." ~ Betty