Gloria Grahame was an Oscar-winning Hollywood actress whose career peaked in the 1940's and 50's but whose popularity plummeted with revelations about her private life. She won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance in 1952's 'The Bad and the Beautiful'.
BiographyGloria Grahame was born Gloria Hallward on Nov. 28, 1923 in Los Angeles, California. Her family were comfortably middle class. Her father, Reginald, was an architect and her mother Jeanne, was an actress who performed under the name Jean Grahame. (Gloria's grandmother's maiden name was Grahame.) Gloria had an older sister, Joy Hallward, who also became an actress, and who married John Mitchum, the younger brother of actor, Robert Mitchum.
Her mother was an acting coach who taught her daughters acting and it seemed natural that Gloria should want to go on stage. After graduating from Hollywood High School, Gloria appeared in amateur productions in Los Angeles but soon made her professional debut as an actress in Chicago. Even at a young age the beautiful young girl exuded an earthy sensuality and she was soon in demand on the Broadway stage.
Her first Broadway stint was as an understudy to Miriam Hopkins (who, herself was a replacement for Tallulah Bankhead) in Thornton Wilder's 'The Skin of our Teeth' in 1942. Although Miriam Hopkins never missed a performance, it was an introduction to the upper echelons of a new world and Gloria was soon appearing in good roles in other plays.
She attracted a lot of attention and before long she was offered a movie contract by Louis B. Mayer of MGM. Although reluctant to leave the stage she realised that the money was in the movies and she returned to California. She made her film debut for MGM in the 1944 comedy 'Blonde Fever' but it was on loan to RKO in 1946 that she made her first major impact on the public.
'It's a Wonderful Life' 1946The classic movie starring James Stewart gave Gloria the memorable role of Violet Bick, the wickedly attractive town beauty whose life, we discover, would have been dramatically different but for George Bailey. We see Gloria's Violet change from a harmless flirt, besotted with George, into the harrowing trollop she might have become.
Gloria undoubtedly had star quality but she did not fit the MGM mold. She was loaned out again to RKO for the 1947 noir, 'Crossfire' for which she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination. RKO liked her performance as a fallen woman and purchased her contract from MGM. She appeared in the noir 'A Woman's Secret' in 1949 and she married, for the second time, to its director, Nicholas Ray. It was a marriage which would affect her life, but in a mainly negative way.(See 'Personal' below)
Hollywood StarIn 1950, on loan again, this time to Columbia, she appeared, to good reviews, with Humphrey Bogart in 'In a Lonely Place' which led to a number of high profile roles over the next few years. In 1952 she was nominated again for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 'The Bad and the Beautiful' and this time she won the award.
She was now a fully fledged Hollywood star and she appeared in three successful movies, 'The Big Heat' in 1953 and 'Human Desire' the following year, both directed by Fritz Lang and then, to great comic effect she sang "I'm Just a Girl who Can't Say No" as Ado Annie in 'Oklahoma' in 1955.
DeclineGloria was at the peak of her fame but, now that she was in the media spotlight, the problems in her private life became public knowledge and her popularity began to decline. The fact that she gave birth to her first child just five and a half months after marrying Nicholas Ray did not go unnoticed, in an era when Hollywood stars were supposed to live impeccable private lives. This was followed by the scandal of Ray finding her in bed with his 13 year old son from his first marriage.
Several affairs later she began some very public child-custody battles with her third husband, Cy Howard and the final straw was her fourth marriage in 1960 to Tony Ray, the son of her second husband. Too much scandal frightened away the big studios and throughout the 1960's Gloria made only one film appearance, a supporting role in a Western called 'Ride Beyond Vengeance' in 1966.
During this time she resumed her stage career as well as making frequent guest appearances on television shows such as General Electric Theater, Burke's Law, Iron Horse and The Name of the Game. Her movie career resumed and improved in the 1970's and she appeared in a series of films such as 'The Loners' in 1972, 'Mansion of the Doomed' in 1976 and 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' in 1979.
PersonalGloria had a busy and varied love life. She was married four times, firstly to actor Stanley Clements in 1945. They divorced in 1948 and the day following the divorce Gloria married her second husband, director Nicholas Ray.and bore him a son five and a half months later.
Gloria's third marriage was in 1954 to television producer and writer, Cy Howard. They had a daughter, Marianna Paulette in 1956 but Grahame filed for divorce in 1957. She retained custody of Marianna but went through an unpleasant child-custody battle with Cy Howard who maintained that his daughter had been beaten by Gloria's fourth husband, who was Anthony Ray the son of Nicholas Ray, her second husband. (Yes, its complicated.)
Gloria and Anthony Ray, who was 14 years her junior, had begun an affair when Gloria was still married to Anthony's father. They met up again in 1958 and got married in 1960. Because of the implications of incest (although they were not blood relations), news of the marriage was kept private but the tabloid press found out about it in 1962. Once it was public knowledge Gloria's movie career collapsed, and did not resurrect until the following decade. She and Tony Ray eventually divorced in 1974.
Gloria was a beautiful woman but as she got older she became increasingly worried about her physical appearance. In 1946 she began having cosmetic surgery on her upper lip, which she felt was too thin, and eventually she suffered nerve damage which made the lip immobile.
Gloria was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1980, but refused to have the necessary surgery. She travelled to England where she stayed at the Liverpool home of her lover, English actor, Peter Turner. Whilst there the cancer flared up again and she developed peritonitis after having her stomach drained. She was taken back to New York City, where she died on October 5, 1981. She was aged 57 years. She is buried in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery.
Gloria Grahame Academy AwardsOne Win
Best Supporting Actress ... The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Supporting Actress ... Crossfire (1947)
Gloria Grahame Filmography
Polka Dot Polka (Short)(uncredited)
My Heart Tells Me (Short) (uncredited)
It Happened in Brooklyn
Song of the Thin Man
Merton of the Movies
A Woman's Secret
In a Lonely Place
The Greatest Show on Earth
The Bad and the Beautiful
The Glass Wall
Man on a Tightrope
The Big Heat
Prisoners of the Casbah
The Good Die Young
Not as a Stranger
The Man Who Never Was
Ride Out for Revenge
Odds Against Tomorrow