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Jane Greer

Jane Greer

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Also Known As: Bettejane Greer, Bettejane Greer Died: August 24, 2001
Born: September 9, 1924 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: Washington, Washington D.C., USA Profession: actor, singer, model

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One day in 1940 a pretty 15-year-old girl who had worked as a child model was asked by her party date why she was pulling such a funny face. Checking in the mirror, she was appalled to find that the muscles on the left side of her face had gone totally slack and were paralyzed that way. Diagnosed with Bell's palsy, a rare neurological disorder from which people at the time generally did not recover, the aspiring actress had for a time to close her left eye with her hand when she went to sleep and had to push the left corner of her mouth up into a frozen smile before she went off to school each day. The painstaking therapy she performed on her face not only peaked her ambition to act but also dispelled the disfigurement almost entirely, though one wonders if it may have contributed to the patented look important in making Jane Greer one of the most intriguing performers of her day--a calm, quizzical gaze and an enigmatic expression that led RKO to promote her as "the woman with the Mona Lisa smile". Although her appearance as a WAC model in LIFE led to several screen tests, studios like Paramount dismissed the lovely young ingenue as being identical to many already under contract, and quirky...

One day in 1940 a pretty 15-year-old girl who had worked as a child model was asked by her party date why she was pulling such a funny face. Checking in the mirror, she was appalled to find that the muscles on the left side of her face had gone totally slack and were paralyzed that way. Diagnosed with Bell's palsy, a rare neurological disorder from which people at the time generally did not recover, the aspiring actress had for a time to close her left eye with her hand when she went to sleep and had to push the left corner of her mouth up into a frozen smile before she went off to school each day. The painstaking therapy she performed on her face not only peaked her ambition to act but also dispelled the disfigurement almost entirely, though one wonders if it may have contributed to the patented look important in making Jane Greer one of the most intriguing performers of her day--a calm, quizzical gaze and an enigmatic expression that led RKO to promote her as "the woman with the Mona Lisa smile".

Although her appearance as a WAC model in LIFE led to several screen tests, studios like Paramount dismissed the lovely young ingenue as being identical to many already under contract, and quirky billionaire and dabbler in film Howard Hughes seemed in no rush to get Greer onscreen. Aided by ex-husband but still-ardent admirer Rudy Vallee, Greer took the bull by the horns and landed a contract with RKO. Making a modest impression in several slinky villainous parts led to her sympathetic starring role in "They Won't Believe Me" (1947) opposite Susan Hayward and an atypically caddish Robert Young. The role that really put Greer on top, however, was her Kathie Moffett in "Out of the Past" (1947), now recognized as one of the greatest entries in the film noir cycle. Portraying a seemingly innocent woman on the run from her gangster lover who turns hard-as-nails as she manipulates a feckless detective, eventually killing them both, Greer used her beautifully modulated alto voice and understated intensity to manage the considerable feat of stealing the film from Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas.

Greer enjoyed good starring roles in several other RKO films of the period ("Station West" 1948, "The Big Steal" 1949), but after Hughes bought the studio, the quantity and quality of its output declined sharply. Restless, Greer moved to MGM, but it, too, unsettled after the ouster of Louis B. Mayer, the loss of its theatre chain and the competition of TV, did not seem to know what to do with her. She demonstrated a light, sympathetic comedy touch in the too-mild "You for Me" (1952) and dramatic sensitivity in the sometimes bathetic "The Clown" (1953), but director Richard Thorpe insisted she copy exactly Mary Astor's marvelous turn in "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1937) for the studio's scene-for-scene 1952 remake, leaving her a lovely but less-than-vital aristocrat. By this point, however, the ambition that had gotten Greer started had also diminished as she came to love new roles as mother and homemaker.

Through the 50s and early 60s Greer maintained a modest career workload mostly on TV, though she did appear in two fine films, the adventure "Run for the Sun" (1956) and the Lon Chaney biopic "Man of a Thousand Faces" (1957), for which star James Cagney had requested her. (Unfortunately, her virtuous second wife role suffered by comparison with Dorothy Malone's neurotic ex.) Illness and a lack of roles kept Greer inactive for a time, but in the 80s, silver-haired and still attractive, she cropped up intermittently on series TV and in several feature films, generally in kindly mother roles. Occasionally, however, the old vodka-in-the-OJ edge was allowed to shine through, most notably in "Against All Odds" (1984), a steamy but inferior makeover of "Out of the Past" in which Greer still managed to steal the spotlight as Rachel Ward's nasty mother.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Perfect Mate (1997)
3.
 Immediate Family (1989) Michael'S Mother
4.
 Just Between Friends (1986) Ruth Chadwick
5.
 Against All Odds (1984) Mrs Wyler
6.
 Shadow Riders, The (1982) Ma Traven
7.
 The Outfit (1974) Alma
8.
 Billie (1965) Agnes Carol
9.
 Where Love Has Gone (1964) Marian Spicer
10.
 Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) Hazel Bennet Chaney
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1936:
Worked for a period as a child model
1940:
Diagnosed with Bell's palsy at age 15, which caused a degree of facial paralysis
:
Worked as a band singer with Ralph Hawkins's band; later sang with Enric Madriguera's orchestra at the Club Del Rio in Washington, DC
1942:
Featured in a recruitment poster and a "Life" magazine photo spread for the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women's Army Corps)
1942:
Optioned by Paramount for 30 days as a result of appearance in "Life"; option dropped because studio claimed to have "so many of her type" already
1942:
Contacted by Rudy Vallee, who expressed personal and professional interest in Greer; offers rejected
1942:
Made screen test for David O. Selznick in New York; Selznick uninterested, but Howard Hughes signed her to a contract
1943:
Arrived with her mother in Hollywood
1943:
Became reacquainted with Vallee; sang at several of his Coast Guard band's appearances
1944:
Became restless to make a screen appearance; ended contractual agreement with Hughes
1944:
Signed with RKO for $100 a week; made film debut in "Two O'Clock Courage" (released 1945), billed seventh, as 'Bettejane Greer'
1945:
First screen credit as 'Jane Greer' in "Dick Tracy"
1946:
Sang two songs for her role in "The Falcon's Alibi"
:
Was earning $500/week in 1946 and $750/week in 1947
1947:
Acted in first color feature, "Sinbad the Sailor"
1947:
First received star billing above the title in "They Won't Believe Me"
1947:
Contract renegotiated to $1000/week after success in "Out of the Past"
1949:
Made radio debut opposite Tyrone Power and David Niven in "The Bishop's Wife" on "Lux Radio Theater"
1950:
Loaned out to 20th Century-Fox for two films
:
Husband Edward Lasker negotiated a settlement to Greer's contract with RKO (now owned by Howard Hughes); signed short-term agreement with MGM
1953:
Appeared in her last film for three years, "The Clown", opposite Red Skelton
1953:
Made TV debut on an episode of NBC's "Ford Theatre" entitled "Look for Tomorrow"
1956:
Returned to films to appear in the adventure, "Run for the Sun"
1963:
Underwent a heart operation; had her pericardium (the sac around the heart) removed; spent a year recuperating
1964:
Acted in first film for seven years, "Where Love Has Gone"
1973:
Retured to films for "The Outfit"
:
Acted during the 1980s in recurring roles on the TV series "Falcon Crest", "thirtysomething" and "Twin Peaks"
1984:
Had featured role in "Against All Odds", a remake of "Out of the Past"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Western High School: Washington , Washington D.C. -

Notes

She headed the GI Gift Lift for the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce, which supplied Christmas present for United Nations peacekeeping forces stationed in Korea (1949).

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Rudy Vallee. Singer, actor. Married on December 2, 1943; separated in March 1944; divorced in June 1944; born on July 28, 1901; previously married to Fay Webb and Leonia Cauchers; crooning idol of the late 1920s and early 30s; later became a comic actor in films from "The Palm Beach Story" (1942) to "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (1967).
husband:
Edward Lasker. Attorney, producer. Married on August 21, 1947; divorced on November 6, 1963; had met in New York in 1945; at one time an associate of Walter Wanger.
companion:
Frank London. Acting coach. Died in January 2001.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Charles Greer. Salesman, inventor. Died August, 1963.
mother:
Bettejane Greer. Newspaper columnist. Wrote the "Aunt Bettie's" column for a Sarasota, Florida newspaper 1932-34; later had a minor job with the War Department during WWII; died in July 1964.
brother:
Donne Greer. Greer's twin.
son:
Albert Lasker. Screenwriter. Born on June 23, 1948; attended the UCLA film school.
son:
Lawrence Lasker. Screenwriter, producer. Born on October 7, 1949; studied journalism at Yale; wrote "WarGames" (1983); wrote and produced "Awakenings" (1990) and "Sneakers" (1992).
son:
Steven Lasker. Music historian, audio engineer. Born on May 9, 1954.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Contributions

RSteiner ( 2006-02-10 )

Source: The Rko Gals

Greer was orginally set to have a larger role opposite James Warren in RKO's "Sunset Pass" (1946), directed by William Burke, but was relegated to a very minor role due to the flu. Quote "I was literally hysterical in the part. Not realizing I had the flu, 102 degree temperature. I ruined more takes laughing at myself. They took me off the picture."

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