from the film Every Girl Should Be Married (1948)
September 11, 1923 |
|Other names||Betsy Drake Grant|
|Education||Harvard University Graduate School of Education|
Early life and education
Drake, the eldest child of two American expatriates, was born in Paris, France. Although her grandfather, Tracy Drake, had built the Drake Hotel in Chicago Illinois, the Drakes lost their money in the 1929 stock-market crash when Drake was five years old. As a result, she was forced to return to the U.S. on the SS Île de France with her parents, brothers and a nanny. She grew up in Chicago; Westport, Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; Virginia, North Carolina; and New York City, New York.
She began looking for work as an actress in New York City, supporting herself by working as a Conover model. She met the playwright Horton Foote, who offered her a job as an understudy in his play Only the Heart, which enabled her to join the Actors' Equity Association and thus become a professional actress.
After coming to the attention of the producer Hal Wallis, Drake was pressured by her agent to sign a Hollywood contract. She hated Hollywood and managed to get herself released from the contract by declaring herself insane. She returned to New York City and, in 1947, read for the director Elia Kazan for the lead role in the London company of the play Deep are the Roots. Later that year, Drake was selected by Kazan as one of the founding members of the Actors Studio.
Cary Grant first spotted her in 1947 while she was performing in London. The two, who both happened to be returning to the U.S. on the RMS Queen Mary, struck up an instant rapport. At the insistence of Grant, Drake was subsequently signed to a film contract by RKO Pictures and David Selznick, where she appeared, opposite Grant, in her first film, the romantic comedy Every Girl Should Be Married (1948).
On Christmas Day 1949 Drake and Grant married in a private ceremony organized by Grant's best man, Howard Hughes, and deliberately chose a low-key, introspective private life. In 1954 they bought the "Las Palomas" estate in the Movie Colony neighborhood of Palm Springs, California. The couple co-starred in the radio series Mr. and Mrs. Blanding (1951). They appeared together in the comedy-drama film Room for One More (1952), and Drake appeared in a number of leading roles in England and the U.S., and a supporting role in the satiric comedy film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).
Drake subsequently gave up acting in order to focus on her other interests, such as writing. Using the name Betsy Drake Grant, her novel Children, You Are Very Little (1971) was published by Atheneum Books.
In July 1956, Drake survived the sinking of the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria. At the time, she had been visiting Grant in Spain and was returning to the United States. She boarded the Doria along with dozens of other wealthy travelers and tourists at Gibraltar, which was one of many stops the ship made between her home port of Genoa and her final destination of New York. She sailed as a First Class passenger, occupying a single cabin on the ship's Boat Deck. When the Doria collided with the Stockholm, Drake waited with the other passengers for rescue, as the ship's severe list rendered half the Doria's lifeboats useless. She was among more than 700 people rescued from the Doria by the famed French passenger liner Ile de France.
Grant and Drake separated in 1958, remaining friends, and divorced in 1962. Their marriage constituted his longest union. Grant credited her with broadening his interests beyond his career, and with introducing him to the then-legal LSD therapy, which he claimed helped him finally to achieve a degree of mental peace. Later, Drake took LSD as a way of recovering from the trauma of divorce.
Drake had no children with Grant but has two goddaughters:
- Tessa Dahl, an English author and daughter of Welsh author Roald Dahl and American actress Patricia Neal.
- Tracy Granger, a daughter of English-American actor Stewart Granger and English actress Jean Simmons.
- Every Girl Should Be Married (1948) as Anabel Sims
- Dancing in the Dark (1949) as Julie Clarke
- The Second Woman (1950) as Ellen Foster
- Pretty Baby (1950) as Patsy Douglas
- Room for One More (1952) as Anna Rose
- Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) as Jenny Wells
- General Electric Theater as Ellie (1 episode, 1958)
- Intent to Kill (1958) as Dr. Nancy Ferguson
- Next to No Time (1958) as Georgie Brant
- Wanted: Dead or Alive as Lucy Fremont in "The Spur" (1 episode, 1959)
- Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965) as Julie Harper
- Cary Grant: A Class Apart (2005) as herself
- List of American film actresses
- List of Harvard University people
- List of novelists from the United States
- List of old-time radio people
- List of women writers
- Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947-1950". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 52. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. "Among the original twenty-six actors that Kazan selected were Jocelyn Brando, Joan Copeland, Betsy Drake, Lou Gilbert, Julie Harris, Steven Hill, Cloris Leachman, Nehemiah Persoff, and James Whitmore."
- Wallace, David (2008). A City Comes Out: How Celebrities Made Palm Springs a Gay and Lesbian Paradise. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books. p. 192. ISBN 978-1569803493. LCCN 2008022210. OCLC 209646547.
- Beauchamp, Cari; Balaban, Judy (August 2010). "Cary in the Sky with Diamonds". Vanity Fair: 4. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
- Grant, Betsy Drake (1971). Children You Are Very Little. Atheneum Books (New York City). OCLC 192964.
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