How to Marry a Millionaire

Betty Grable - The Master

Betty Grable's famous pin-up

Betty Grable's famous pin-up

QUESTION:  In 1939, the 21 year-old Betty Grable married Jackie Coogan, whose professional acting career began when he was seven, in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. What tv sitcom character did Coogan claim as his own as an adult?
A)  The Skipper on Gilligan's Island
B)  Uncle Fester on The Addams Family
C)  Grandpa on The Munsters
D)  Buck Rogers on Buck Rogers

Where were we?  Oh right.  Yesterday's blog described Betty Grable's rise to becoming the number one box office draw in the United States at the dawn on World War Two. Betty was truly on top as American boys traveled overseas to fight for democracy. Wanting to take an easy-to-carry memento of home with them, many soldiers took pictures of their favorite actresses and pinned them in their bunks, hence the word pin-up. Rita Hayworth lost the title of number one pin-up girl to Betty halfway into the war, with her "million dollar legs," which were insured for that price by the studio for good measure. Meanwhile, her film career was at its peak. She enjoyed making formulaic, frothy boy-meets-girl dancing and singing spectaculars during the war, a distraction from the horrors going on in the world. The 1940's were a great time for Betty Grable, but all stars descend, and the fifties proved increasingly challenging for her. She found it extremely difficult to break out of the typecast she helped to create for herself, and her studio wasn't interested.

In 1953, Grable co-starred with Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire, which would prove to be her last high-profile film. Rumors of tension between Grable and Monroe circulated, but word on the set is the the two got along famously, Grable even going so far as telling Monroe to "Go get yours honey!  I've had mine!" She retired from film two years later, returned to the stage and performed in Las Vegas for a number of years.  She was only 56 years old when she died of lung cancer in 1973, but she will live on through her films and through her famous pin-up picture - regarded as one of the most influential images ever in a Time Magazine study.

ANSWER:  B)  Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.  He shaved his head for the audition, he wanted the roll so badly.

Betty Grable - The Rise

QUESTION:  Who was considered the first true pin-up queen?
A)  Betty Grable
B)  Fernande Barrey
C)  Florence Lawrence
D)  Lauren Bacall

Betty Grable. The most popular, highest paid American actress at the end of World War II, Betty Grable's films during the 1930's and the 1940's earned well over one hundred million dollars. We realize that does not sound like much today, considering that the newest addition to the Star Wars franchise earned over eight hundred million alone during the 2016 holiday season, but it was substantial in its day, and Grable was a hugely popular actress and pin-up girl.  We will get back to that.

The St. Louis, Missouri native Elizabeth Ruth Grable was born in 1916 to a stockbroker father and an ambitious mother who wanted her youngest daughter to get in front of the limelight and make her lots of money. In 1929, the senior Grable took Betty to Hollywood and told film producers her pretty twelve year-old daughter was in her late-teens and convinced them to sign her on as a contract player. She got somewhat typecast as a ditsy blond, and the roles came few and far between. Betty, married by 21 to another "aging:" child star, Jackie Coogan, decided to give Broadway a chance then call it quits. DuBarry Was a Lady was the vehicle, and she virtually outshone Ethel Merman on stage. That was in 1939, and she finally became the star  her mom had intended for her to become all along. Within four years, of her 'discovery,' Grable was the number one box office draw over the likes of Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, and Greer Garson!

ANSWER:  B)  Fernande Barrey.  Ever heard of her?  We hadn't either. She was a French model who became a popular source of inspiration for soldiers fighting on both sides of the Great War - that's World War One if you were unsure. We would include an image of her, but this is a family blog, thank you very much.

How to Marry a Millionaire

QUESTION:  How to Marry a Millionaire was the first film ever shot in the magic of CinemaScope, but it was not the first released.  What movie was completed after …Millionaire but released first?
A)  The Robe
B)  Shane
C)  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
D)  House of Wax

As we stay in the Music Room here at the American Treasure Tour blog, we would like to recognize a film not only honored with photographs hanging from the walls, but that was the second biggest money-making film of 1953: How to Marry a Millionaire. It had all the ingredients a movie needed for success:  Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe.  Oh sure, there are likely other ingredients that may have helped make the movie a success, but really. Bacall, Grable and Monroe?  What else matters?  The film is a comedy about gold digging, which is to say about beautiful women whose ambitions in life are to marry … um … millionaires. Schatze (played by Lauren Bacall) is the practical one, Loco (Grable) is the perky one, and Monroe is typecast again as the simplistic blonde who never puts on her glasses for fear of looking unappealing. Because of her nearsightedness, she finds herself accidentally flying to Kansas City when she was trying to get to Atlantic City.

The film, with its beautiful leading ladies in pursuit of the riches of William Powell's J.D. Hanley, Eben played by Rory Calhoun (who is, tragically, not wealthy), and Fred Clark's Waldo Brewster. We confess we're simplifying the story, but we don't want to spoil anything for you. The comedy proved to be a huge hit and 20th Century Fox's first foray into CinemaScope - a widescreen extraveganza developed to challenge the threat of television. Eight years later, it would become the first CinemaScope film to air on television. Of course, it was presented in pan-and-scan format, not the widescreen seen in the theater. Tune in tomorrow as we learn about the stars of the film...

ANSWER:  A)  The Robe, although all five films (including …Millionaire were released in 1953)