Betsy Drake


Actor
Betsy Drake

About

Birth Place
Paris, FR
Born
September 11, 1923

Biography

During the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Betsy Drake played a unique role as a Hollywood leading lady. Unlike Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield (with whom she costarred in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957), she was not the blonde bombshell. Unlike Linda Darnell or Ava Gardner, hers was not a dark, sultry beauty. Betsy Drake had something more. She exuded intelligence, competence, ...

Family & Companions

Cary Grant
Husband
Actor. Married 1949, divorced.

Bibliography

"Children, You're Very Young"
Betsy Drake (1971)

Biography

During the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Betsy Drake played a unique role as a Hollywood leading lady. Unlike Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield (with whom she costarred in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957), she was not the blonde bombshell. Unlike Linda Darnell or Ava Gardner, hers was not a dark, sultry beauty. Betsy Drake had something more. She exuded intelligence, competence, and class.

She was born on September 11, 1923 in Paris, France, the daughter of Carlos Drake, whose family built the famous Drake and Blackstone Hotels in Chicago. At the age of six, just as The Great Depression was starting, the family moved back to the United States. The economic disaster saw the family?s fortune and her parents? marriage evaporate and young Betsy spent part of her childhood living with relatives. She would quit school at seventeen to become an actress. Her first job was as a model with the famous Conover agency, but for an intelligent woman, it was a boring job. Drake wanted something more and she got it when she landed a job on Broadway as an assistant stage manager and understudy in Only the Heart . This was followed by a role in The Moon and the Yellow River , and an understudy part for Eva Le Gallienne?s production of Therese , again on Broadway.

Like many young Broadway actors, Drake attracted the attention of Hollywood. In 1946, famed producer Hal Wallis brought her out to the Coast for a screen test, but did not offer her a contract. She returned to New York, where she got a part in the London run of a play about racial prejudice, Deep Are the Roots, directed by Elia Kazan, at Wyndham?s Theatre. When it was over, she sailed home to New York on the Queen Mary in September. Cary Grant was also aboard, and that voyage would change Betsy Drake?s life.

Grant had seen Drake performing in Deep Are the Roots and was surprised to find her on the ship. He asked Merle Oberon to introduce him and the two soon fell in love. Grant felt that Drake had talent and had her meet with agent Ray Stark, who was trying to get Grant as a client. Instead, he got Drake, who he called ?a lovely lady for whom I worked out a deal with [David O.] Selznick.? That deal led to Drake?s first film Every Girl Should Be Married (1948) costarring Grant, with whom she was now living in Beverly Hills.

On Christmas Day, 1949, Betsy Drake and Cary Grant were married. Despite the nineteen-year age difference, the couple seemed happy for a time. During her marriage to Grant, Drake often took time off to write, focus on her marriage, and work with homeless children in Los Angeles. She appeared sporadically in films like Dancing in the Dark (1949) with William Powell, The Second Woman (1950) with Robert Young, and Room for One More (1952), again with Grant. Drake?s interests extended well beyond acting; she was a voracious reader, deeply interested in psychology, yoga, and literature. She excelled as a writer, penning several episodes of the 1951 short-lived radio series Mr. and Mrs. Blandings , based on Grant?s film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948).

Despite being married to Cary Grant, Betsy Drake?s life was far from a Hollywood fairytale. In the summer of 1956, she went to Spain to stay with her husband while he was filming The Pride and the Passion (1957), and learned that he had fallen in love with his 20-year-old costar, Sophia Loren. Drake returned home on the passenger liner, S.S. Andrea Doria , which was struck by another vessel en route and sank off the coast of Nantucket, killing 52 people. Drake survived, but lost $200,000 in jewelry and her latest manuscript.

It was Betsy Drake who wrote an early draft of the screenplay for Houseboat (1958), intending to star in the film with her husband, but Grant, now very much in love with Loren, arranged to have Loren replace Drake. The Drake-Grant marriage did not survive his infatuation with Loren; they separated in 1958 and divorced in 1962, yet remained friends. Grant would later say, ?I owe a lot to Betsy. [?] Without imposition or demand, she patiently led me toward an appreciation for better books, better literature. Her cautious but steadily penetrative seeking in the labyrinths of the subconscious gradually provoked my interest. Just as she no doubt intended. The seeking is, of course, endless, but, I thankfully acknowledge, of constantly growing benefit.?

Drake continued to act in film and on television until her retirement in 1965. She later became a director of psychodrama therapy at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, before moving to London, where she continued to write under the name Betsy Drake Grant. Her novel Children, You Are Very Little was published in 1971 to excellent reviews. Drake?s last appearance on film was in a documentary, Cary Grant: A Class Apart (2005). Betsy Drake died on October 27, 2015 at her home in London, at the age of 92.

By Lorraine LoBianco

SOURCES:

Bernstein, Adam ?Betsy Drake, Actress and Writer Who Married Cary Grant, Dies at 92 ? The Washington Post 11 Nov 15.
Goldstein, Richard Desperate Hours: The Epic Rescue of the Andrea Doria
Guglielmi, Jodi ?Actress Betsy Drake, Third Wife of Cary Grant, Dies at 92? People 11 Nov 15
The Internet Movie Database
McCann, Graham Cary Grant: A Class Apart
Nelson, Nancy Evenings With Cary Grant: Recollections In His Own Words And By Those Who Knew Him Best

Life Events

1948

Made film debut in romantic comedy "Every Girl Should Be Married"; married co-star Cary Grant the following year.

Photo Collections

Every Girl Should Be Married - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Every Girl Should Be Married (1948), starring Cary Grant and Betsy Drake. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Clarence, The Cross-Eyed Lion (1965) - Call It Internal Strabismus First appearance for Betsy Drake, in her last movie before her retirement, as a Dian Fossey-inspired character, wildlife photographer-researcher Julie, who soon proceeds to the compound where friends “Marsh” Tracy (Marshall Thompson) and daughter (Cheryl Miller) have recently adopted the title character, in Clarence, The Cross-Eyed Lion, 1965.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) - All My Lovers And I Are Just Friends Bombshell Rita (Jayne Mansfield) arrives in New York, fan club officer April (Lili Gentle) attends, her ad-man uncle Rock (Tony Randall) is inspired, as he tells girlfriend Jenny (Betsy Drake), in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, 1957.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) - Open, Fine Print Tony Randall as himself in the audacious opening of Frank Tashlin's advertising industry spoof Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, 1957, also starring Jayne Mansfield and Betsy Drake.
Pretty Baby (1950) - Chicken-Hearted Ad agency underling Patsy (Betsy Drake) on the subway using her fake infant to get a seat, attracts a fellow rider (Dorothy Vaughn) then, unknowingly, baby-food magnate Baxter (Edmund Gwenn), who has caused uproar at her office, in Pretty Baby, 1950.
Room For One More (1952) - I'm A Disturbed Adult Strapped dad George "Poppy" Rose (Cary Grant) rousing wife Anna (Betsy Drake), who forgot to tell him about her visit to the adoption agency, young Jane (Iris Mann, her first scene) and Miss Kenyon (Lurene Tuttle) waiting downstairs, early in Room For One More, 1952.
Room For One More (1952) - Kindness Of Others Happy at breakfast, foster child Jane (Iris Mann) with the other Rose kids (George Winslow, Gay Gordon et al) when the call comes from the adoption agency, mom Anna (Betsy Drake) and dad George (Cary Grant) bearing up, in Norman Taurog's Room For One More, 1952.
Pretty Baby (1950) - Guaranteed For Life Patsy (Betsy Drake) on her first assignment as fill-in secretary to ad agency boss Sam (Dennis Morgan), already panicked when his partner Barry (Zachary Scott) arrives with bad news, in Pretty Baby, 1950.

Companions

Cary Grant
Husband
Actor. Married 1949, divorced.

Bibliography

"Children, You're Very Young"
Betsy Drake (1971)