1. Elizabeth Ruth Grable was born on December 18, 1916, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother Lillian was a stubborn and materialistic woman who was determined to make her daughter a star. Elizabeth, who later became Betty, was enrolled in Clark's Dancing School at the age of three. With her mother's guidance, Betty studied ballet and tap dancing. At 13, Betty and her mother set out for Hollywood with the hopes of stardom. Lillian lied about her daughter's age, and Ruth landed several minor parts in films in 1930, such as Whoopee! (1930), New Movietone Follies of 1930 (1930), Happy Days (1929/I) and Let's Go Places (1930).
2. When her contract at Paramount expired, Grable decided to quit acting, being fed up with appearing in college films. In a 1940 interview, she said: "I was sick and tired of it. I'd made up my mind to leave show business altogether. So I retired - and then came an offer, unsolicited, to go on a personal appearance tour. I went. Next thing I knew, Mr. Zanuck had seen my picture in the paper and offered me a contract at a lot more money. I took it. Then came Buddy DeSylva with a part in his Broadway show Du Barry Was a Lady. Mr. Zanuck said I could take it if I wanted to. I did. The show was successful. Then as if all this weren't enough, Alice Faye fell ill just before Down Argentine Way was to start and I was drafted to fill her shoes. If that's not luck I don't know what you'd call it. But that's how it's been all my life. I've had contracts with four studios in 10 years and each time I left one or was dropped, I stepped into something better."
3. It was during her reign as box office queen in 1943 that Grable posed for her famous pinup photo, which (along with her movies) soon became escapist fare among GIs fighting in World War II. The image was taken by studio photographer Frank Powolny. It was rumored that the particular pose and angle were chosen to hide the fact that Grable was pregnant at the time of the photo.
4. In 1943, she married trumpeter Harry James. The couple had two daughters, Victoria and Jessica. They endured a tumultuous 22-year marriage that was plagued by alcoholism and infidelity. The couple divorced in 1965.
5. Grable died July 2, 1973, of lung cancer at age 56 in Santa Monica, California. Her funeral was held July 5, 1973, 30 years to the day after her marriage to Harry James — who, in turn, died on what would have been his and Grable's 40th anniversary, July 5, 1983. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6525 Hollywood Boulevard. She also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame, and was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in 2009.