Betty Grable


  1. Charlotte Henry, Alice In Wonderland, 1932.    Mary Pickford had earlier planned  to  be Alice with animation items made in Disney! Now it was Paramount trying to save its sinking ship with as most of  its contracted stars (Cary Grant as Mock Turtle!).   Didn’t work. Their costuming hid who they were! Apart from the nine Alice possibilities (from 7,000 hopefuls).  Marge Champion, 16; Betty Gable, 23;  Anne Shirley, 15; and two real kiddiwinks: Sue Kellog and the stunning six-year-old Marilyn Knowlden.  London  offered Paulette Goddard, 23; Ida Lupino, 15,  and Pearl  Hay, 12.  And the winner was Charlotte Henry, 19, from New York and eventually 31 other movies
  2. Joan Fontaine, A Damsel In Distress, 1937.    Fred Astaire  was searching for his new  Ginger.  He checked Betty Grable, Ruby Keeler, Carole Lombard  Jessie Matthews, the bra-less wonder of UK filmusicals for Lady Alyce Marshmorton. Fred chose  Fontaine , insisting that no one would believe in Keeler as a member of the UK aristocracy – which Fred knew well. (His sister, Adele, wed Lord Charles Cavendish, second son of the ninth Duke of Devonshire). Fontaine later joked that the musical “set my career back four years.” She just couldn’t dance!
  3. Dorothy Lamour, Man About Town, 1938. Due opposite Jackl Benny (and his radio “butler,” Edde ‘Rochester’ Anderson), Grable was struck down with appendicitis. She later managed one song with Phil Harris. Her next gig kicked her Million Dollar Legs to fame and fortune including 22 specials at Fox, where she dethroned Harris’ wife, Alice Faye, before losing her own crown to a certain Marilyn Monroe.
  4. Rita Hayworth, Blood and Sand, 1940.    The Fox favourite was pinned up  for the studio’s sexiest role of the year – the manipulative socialite vamp, Doña Sol,  toying with Tyrone Power’s poor matador in the re-hash of Rudolph Valentino’s 1921 silent classic. Also considered: Lynn Bari, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour, Carole Landis, Mona Maris, Maria Montez, Jane Russell and Gene Tierney.  And Ava Gardner?  Not synonymous with bullfighters until the 50s! 
  5. Carole Landis, Cadet Girl, 1940.  Musical  propaganda programmer from Fox with George Montgomery falling for Alice Faye… no, Betty Grable… no, finally, Carole Landis, as the singer with his brother Shepperd Strudwick’s band. Cue: loud s(w)inging of “It won’t be fun, But it’s got to be done / It’s a fight for the U.S.A. And the U.S. way!”
  6. Virginia Gilmore, Tall, Dark and Handsome, 1940. Almost Damon Runyon Goes To Chicago, the mobster comedy is stolen by & 6 an unrecognisably terrific Cesar Romero as head hood, future Dick Van Dyke Show producer Sheldon Leonard being far funnier than the over-rated Milton Berle and poor Gilmore trying to keep her charm above water.
  7. Rita Hayworth, Blood and Sand, 1941.  When Fox decided to take over Paramount’s idea of  re-making Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 silent classic with Tyrone Power, the suits ran through ten possibilities for the matador’s lady, Doña Sol (refused by Tallulah Bankhead in the 30s). Those interviewed and/or tested were  Betty Grable, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour, Carole Landis, Mona Maris, Maria Montez, Jane Russell, Gene Tierney  – and Lynn Bari, who was rewarded woth the support role of Encarnacion).  Finally, this became Rita Hayworth’s first Technicolor film… even if her singing had to be dubbed by Mercedes Ruffino.  Another re-tread in 1957 for, almost obviously, Sophia Loren,  never happened.
  8. Anne Baxter, The Razor’s Edge, 1946.       Nothing had changed in the four years that Tyrone Power had been away in WWII.  Anne Baxter was still among his co-stars as in his last film before enlisting in  the US Marines: Crash Dive, 1942.  Indeed, Baxter won a support Oscar as Sophie on March 13, 1947 – in a role rejected by Grable and Judy Garland as “too depressing.”
  9. Betsy Drake, Dancing in the Dark, 1949.    Three years earlier, Grable had been the Fox choice for the discovery of ex-movie idol William Powell Instead, inexplicably, Julie became Betsy… the very epitome of… can’t dance, can’t sing. 
  10. Betty Hutton, Annie Get Your Gun, 1950.        A Betty battle… “I bought it [for an unprecedented $700,000] to give Judy a kick,” said producer Arthur Freed. “That’s when she  got sick… I had to take her out. The girl just couldn’t function.”  The second director, Charles Walters, immediately suggested Grable. However, her Fox studio  refused permission.  Betty Hutton beat Betty Garrett – after won after Judy Canova, Doris Day, Betty Garrett, Ethel Merman (Broadway’s 1946  Annie) and Ginger Rogers were shot  down at the pass.

  11. Shelley Winters, Night of the Hunter, 1951.     The Girl With The Million Dollar Legs was just too scared of such a breakaway role  – and of Charles Laughton’s trust in  her. 
  12. Jean Peters, Pickup On South Street, 1952.   Betty, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe and Shelley Winters… Maverick auteur  – and “tabloid philosopher”! – Samuel  Fuller, who invariably spoke in CAPITALS, was offered a  jolie brochette to choose his Candy. “Betty was the HIGHET PAID WOMAN IN THE WORLD –  not actress, WOMAN.  AND SHE WANTED A DANCE NUMBER in the film.”  (A classic thriller).   Head Fox Darryl Zanujck sorted that mess out. And all Bettys were off.
  13. Marilyn Monroe, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,  19523.     Having been made by everyone else, poor Marilyn was finally made by Hollywood as Grable’s star slipped. From the very first image, one critic said,  Marilyn “came on like Tinker Belle on heat.” She earned $18,000 compared  to Grable’s usual $150,000.
  14. Shelley Winters, Night Of The Hunter,  1954.      In  his one and only – and classic – directing assignment. Charles Laughton was full of surprises.  Choosing Robert Mitchum as a hymn-singing, widow-slaying psycho with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles – then discussing the docile Willa with both the pin-up queen and the  non -pin-up Teresa Wright. 
  15. Vivian Blaine, Guys and Dolls, 1955.    Ill-health. Of her dog… Buried  by Monroe’s arrival, Grable needed a comeback.  And yet, she never took her meeting with producer Samuel Goldwyn about joining  such other antiques as   Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Jane Rusell because her dog was sick. Director Joseph Mankiewicz did not mind.  “I don’t direct tits.”
  16. Ginger Rogers, Teenage Rebel, 1956.    At Fox since 1939, Grable ended her contract three years early when she started being offered mothers! Here, the lousy title might also had had much to do with it. Rather than a James Dean, the rebel was a sensitive girl dealing with divorced parents. As per Edith Summer’s Broadway play, A Roomful of Roses. Unfortunately, Grable returned to the Fox mill in 1954 for the excruciating How To Be Very, Very Popular – from which Marilyn had fled, giving birth to Sheree North.

 Birth year: 1916Death year: 1973Other name: Casting Calls:  15