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November 15, 1914
Miami, Florida, U.S.
|Died||June 20, 1989
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Other names||Rita Rio, Una Velon, Rita Shaw|
|Occupation||Actress, singer, dancer|
|Spouse(s)||William Travilla (1944-1989) (her death)|
|Children||Nia Novella Travilla (b. 1951)|
Dona Drake (born Eunice Westmoreland; November 15, 1914 – June 20, 1989) was an American singer, dancer and film actress in the 1930s and 1940s. She also toured in an all-girl orchestra in the early 1940s.
Entering show business in the 1930s, she used the names Una Velon, Rita Rio and Rita Shaw. She settled on the stage name Dona Drake in the early 1940s. Studio publicity during her heyday incorrectly stated that Drake was of Mexican origin and was born Rita Novella. (Novella was actually her mother's first name.) U.S Census reports of her family history show her grandparents were one Black couple and one couple that was Black/White.
Because of her features and dark curly hair, film makers often cast her when they needed to fill the role of an ethnic character that looked native, gypsy, or middle eastern. . She is perhaps best known for playing the American Indian maid of Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest. She also appeared as an Arab girl opposite Bob Hope in Road to Morocco in 1942. In 1944 she appeared in a B-movie titled Hot Rhythm as one of the leading characters, a big band singer. This movie featured Irene Ryan (Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies) as the ditsy secretary. She had a notable "non-ethnic" role as the second female lead in the 1949 comedy The Girl from Jones Beach, playing opposite Eddie Bracken. The year before she gave a memorable comic performance as the fortune hunting sister in So This Is New York.
In the early 1940s, Drake toured with an all-girl orchestra called "The Girl Friends" throughout the United States. Fellow actresses Marie Wilson, Toby Wing, and Faith Bacon were also part of the orchestra.
In 1936, Drake was questioned by the FBI about the murder of her then-boyfriend and known mobster, Louis Amberg. She claimed to only know him as "Mr. Cohen" and had no idea what he did for a living.
Drake married fashion designer William Travilla August 19, 1944. They were married until her death and had one daughter, Nia (b. August 16, 1951 - d. October 1, 2002). William Travilla appeared on the 24 March 1960 episode of "You Bet Your Life", hosted by Groucho Marx; he introduced his elegantly-dressed wife, Dona, to the audience.
|1935||Moonlight and Melody||Rita||credited as Rita Rio|
|1936||Strike Me Pink||Mademoiselle Fifi||credited as Rita Rio|
|1938||Sweet Shoe||Rita Rio||credited as Rita Rio|
|1938||Beautiful, But Dummies||Model||credited as Rita Ray|
|1939||Gals and Gallons||Orchestra Leader||credited as Rita Rio|
|1939||Rita Rio and Her Orchestra||Rita Rio||played self in this 10-minute short|
|1941||I Look at You||Rita Rio||With Alan Ladd.|
|1941||Fresh as a Freshman||Rita Rio|
|1941||Aloma of the South Seas||Nea||first film credit as Dona Drake|
|1942||Road to Morocco||Mihirmah||credited as Dona Drake|
|1943||Star Spangled Rhythm||herself||performs song "On the Swing Shift" with Marjorie Reynolds and Betty Jane Rhodes|
|1943||Salute for Three||Dona Drake and Her Girl Band||credited as Dona Drake|
|1943||Let's Face It||Muriel|
|1944||Hot Rhythm||Mary Adams|
|1946||Without Reservations||Dolores Ortega|
|1946||Dangerous Millions||Elena Valdez|
|1948||Another Part of the Forest||Laurette Sincee|
|1948||So This Is New York||Kate Goff|
|1949||The Doolins of Oklahoma||Cattle Annie|
|1949||The Girl from Jones Beach||Connie Martin|
|1949||Beyond the Forest||Jenny|
|1950||Fortunes of Captain Blood||Pepita Maria Rosados|
|1952||Kansas City Confidential||Teresa|
|1953||The Bandits of Corsica||Zelda|
|1953||Son of Belle Starr||Dolores|
|1953||Down Laredo Way||Narita|
|1953||Adventures of Superman||Joyce||episode 35 "The Dog Who Knew Superman" 9th episode of 1953; aired 14 November|
|1954||Superman Flies Again||Joyce||theatrical re-release of 3 episodes of the television series included episode 35|
|1954||Princess of the Nile||Mirva|
|1954||City Detective||Francesca||1 episode|
|1955||Soldiers of Fortune||Cheu||1 episode|
|1955||The Lone Wolf||Lee||1 episode|
- Dona Drake at the Internet Movie Database
- "Dona Drake - The Private Life and Times of Dona Drake. Dona Drake Pictures.". Retrieved 2014-05-01.
- "Dona Drake - The Private Life and Times of Dona Drake. Dona Drake Pictures.". Retrieved 2010-10-16.
- "Dona Drake IMDb Biography". Retrieved 2014-05-01.
- "Find a Grave: Dona Drake". Retrieved 2014-05-01.
- Rita Rio and Her Orchestra at the Internet Movie Database
- "Superman Flies Again > Cast - AllMovie". Retrieved 2010-10-16.
- Superman Flies Again (1954) at the Internet Movie Database
- Dona Drake at Find a Grave
- Dona Drake at the Internet Movie Database
- Dona Drake at AllMovie
- Dona Drake at the TCM Movie Database
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