Florence Bates in Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven
April 15, 1888
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
|Died||January 31, 1954
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Spouse(s)||William F. Jacoby
(m.1929–1951; his death)
(1909–19??; divorced); 1 daughter
Born Florence Rabe in San Antonio, Texas, the second child of Jewish immigrants, Bates showed musical talent as a child, but a hand injury inhibited her from continuing her piano studies. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Mathematics in 1906, after which she taught school.
In 1909 she met and married her first husband and gave up her career to raise their daughter. When that marriage ended in divorce, she began to study law and passed the bar in 1914, becoming at the age of 26 the first female lawyer in her home state. She practiced law for four years in San Antonio.
After the death of her parents, Bates left the legal profession to help her sister operate their father's antique business. She became a bilingual (English-Spanish) radio commentator whose program was designed to foster good relations between the United States and Mexico. In 1929, following the stock market crash and the death of her sister, Florence closed the antique shop and married a wealthy businessman, William F. Jacoby. When he lost his fortune, the couple moved to Los Angeles and opened a bakery, which proved a successful venture until they sold it in the 1940s.
In the mid-1930s, Bates auditioned for and won the role of Miss Bates in a Pasadena Playhouse adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. When she decided to continue working with the theatre group, she changed her professional name to that of the first character she played on stage. In 1939 she was introduced to Alfred Hitchcock, who cast her in her first major screen role, the vain dowager Mrs. Van Hopper, in Rebecca.
Bates appeared in more than sixty films over the course of the next thirteen years. Among her credits are Kitty Foyle, Love Crazy, The Moon and Sixpence, Mr. Lucky, Heaven Can Wait, Mister Big, Since You Went Away, Kismet, Saratoga Trunk, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Winter Meeting, I Remember Mama, Portrait of Jennie, A Letter to Three Wives, On the Town, and Les Misérables. Bates had a regular role on The Hank McCune Show and made guest appearances on I Love Lucy, My Little Margie, and Our Miss Brooks.
- Rebecca (1940)
- Strange Alibi (1941)
- The Moon and Sixpence (1942)
- The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)
- Tonight and Every Night (1945)
- Out of This World (1945)
- A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
- County Fair (1950)
- Belle of Old Mexico (1950)
- Havana Rose (1951)
- Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, "JACOBY, FLORENCE RABE", Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fjact), accessed August 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- Florence Bates at the Internet Movie Database