Elizabeth Ruth Grable was an American actress, pin-up girl, dancer, model, and singer. Her 42 films during the 1930s and 1940s grossed more than $100 million, for 10 consecutive years (1942-1951) she reigned in the Quigley Poll's Top 10 box office stars ( a feat only matched by Doris Day and Barbra Streisand).
Grable began her film career in 1929 at age 12, after which she was fired from a contract when it was learned she signed up under false identification. She had contracts with RKO and Paramount Pictures during the 1930s, and appeared in a string of B movies, mostly portraying college students. Grable came to prominence in the Broadway musical DuBarry Was a Lady, which brought her to the attention of 20th Century-Fox.
She replaced Alice Faye in Down Argentine Way, her first major Hollywood film, and became Fox's biggest film star throughout the remaining decade. Fox cast Grable in a succession of Technicolor musicals during the decade that were immensely popular, co-starring with such leading men as Victor Mature, Don Ameche, John Payne, and Tyrone Power.
In 1943, she was the number-one box-office draw in the world and, in 1947, she was the highest-paid entertainer in the United States. Two of her biggest film successes were the musical Mother Wore Tights and the comedy How to Marry a Millionaire, one of her last films.
Grable retired from screen acting in 1955 after she withdrew from her Fox contract, although she continued to perform on the stage and on television.
Throughout her career, Grable was a celebrated sex symbol. Her bathing suit poster made her the number-one pin-up girl of World War II, surpassing Rita Hayworth. It was later included in the Life magazine project "100 Photographs That Changed the World".
Hosiery specialists of the era often noted the ideal proportions of her legs as thigh (18.5 in (47 cm)), calf (12 in (30 cm)), and ankle (7.5 in (19 cm)). Grable's legs were insured by her studio for $1 million as a publicity stunt. Describing her film career, Grable said "I became a star for two reasons, and I'm standing on them."
Betty continued to be popular until the mid-1950s, when musicals went into a decline. Her last film was How to Be Very, Very Popular. She then concentrated on Broadway and nightclubs.
The U.S. Treasury Department in 1946 and 1947 listed her as the highest-salaried American woman; she earned more than $3 million during her career. Betty Grable died at age 56 of lung cancer on July 2, 1973.