Gloria Grahame (November 28, 1923 – October 5, 1981) was an American stage, film and television actress.
Grahame began her acting career in theatre, and in 1944 she made her first film for MGM. Despite a featured role in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), MGM did not believe she had the potential for major success, and sold her contract to RKO Studios.
Often cast in film noir projects, Grahame received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Crossfire (1947), and she won this award for her work in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).
She achieved her highest profile with Sudden Fear (1952), Human Desire (1953), The Big Heat (1953), and Oklahoma! (1955), but her film career began to wane soon afterwards.
She returned to work on the stage, but continued to appear in films and television productions, usually in supporting roles. In 1974, Grahame was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It went into remission less than a year later and Grahame returned to work. It returned in 1980 but she refused to accept the diagnosis or seek treatment. She chose to continue working and travelled to England to appear in a play.
Her health rapidly declined. She developed peritonitis after undergoing a procedure to remove fluid from her abdomen in September 1981. She returned to New York City, where she died in October 1981.
Grahame was born Gloria Grahame Hallward in Los Angeles, California. She was raised a Methodist. Reginald Michael Bloxam Hallward, her father, was an architect and author and her mother, Jeanne McDougall, who used the stage name Jean Grahame, was a British stage actress and acting teacher.
McDougall taught her younger daughter acting during her childhood and adolescence. The couple had another daughter, Joy Hallward (1911–2003), an actress who married John Mitchum (the younger brother of actor Robert Mitchum). Grahame attended Hollywood High School before dropping out to pursue acting.
Grahame was signed to a contract with MGM Studios under her professional name after Louis B. Mayer saw her performing on Broadway for several years.
Over the course of her career, Grahame became increasingly concerned with her physical appearance. She was particularly concerned with the appearance of her upper lip which she felt was too thin and had ridges that were too deep. To remedy this, Grahame began stuffing cotton or wads of tissues between her lip and teeth to give the appearance of fullness which she felt gave her a sexier look.
Several co-stars discovered this after filming kissing scenes with Grahame as the tissue or cotton would often transfer to their mouth.
In the mid-1940s, Grahame began undergoing small cosmetic procedures on her lips and face. According to her niece, Vicky Mitchum, Grahame’s obsession with her looks led her to undergo more cosmetic procedures that rendered her upper lip largely immobile because of nerve damage.
Mitchum said, “Over the years, she [Grahame] carved herself up, trying to make herself into an image of beauty she felt should exist but didn’t. Others saw her as a beautiful person but she never did, and crazy things spread from that.”
Grahame was married four times and had four children. Her first marriage was to actor Stanley Clements whom she married in August 1945. They divorced in June 1948.
The day after her divorce from Clements was finalized, Grahame married director Nicholas Ray. They had a son, Timothy, in November 1948. After several separations and reconciliations, Grahame and Ray divorced in 1952.
Grahame’s third marriage was to writer and television producer Cy Howard. They married in August 1954 and had a daughter, Marianna Paulette in 1956. Grahame filed for divorce from Howard in May 1957 citing mental cruelty. Their divorce was finalized in November 1957.
Grahame’s fourth and final marriage was to actor Anthony “Tony” Ray, the son of her second husband Nicholas Ray and his first wife Jean Evans; Anthony Ray was her former stepson. Their relationship reportedly began when Tony Ray was 13 years old and Grahame was still married to his father (which effectively ended the marriage when Nicholas Ray caught the two in bed together).
The two reconnected in 1958 and married in Tijuana, Mexico in May 1960. The couple would go on to have two children: Anthony, Jr. (born 1963) and James (born 1965).
News of the marriage was kept private until 1962. The marriage was written about in the tabloids and the ensuing scandal damaged Grahame’s reputation and affected her career. After learning of the marriage to Anthony Ray, Grahame’s third husband Cy Howard attempted to gain sole custody of the couple’s daughter Marianna. Howard claimed Grahame was an unfit mother and the two fought over custody of Marianna for years.
The stress of the scandal, her waning career and her custody battle with Howard took its toll on Grahame and she had a nervous breakdown. She later underwent electroshock therapy in 1964. Despite the surrounding scandal, Grahame’s marriage to Anthony Ray was her longest lasting union. They would later divorce in May 1974.
In March 1974, Grahame was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent radiation treatment, changed her diet, stopped smoking and drinking alcohol and also sought homeopathic remedies. In less than a year, the cancer went into remission.
The cancer returned in 1980, but Grahame refused to acknowledge her diagnosis or seek radiation treatment. Despite her failing health, Grahame continued working in stage productions in the United States and the United Kingdom, living for some time in Liverpool.
While working in London in September 1981, she underwent treatment to remove excess fluid from her abdomen. During the procedure, the doctor accidentally punctured her bowel. She soon developed peritonitis and was hospitalized.
After being notified of Grahame’s illness, two of her children, Timothy and Paulette, traveled to London and decided to take her back to the United States.
On October 5, 1981, Grahame returned to the United States, where she was admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City.
She died there a few hours later at the age of 57.
She is interred in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Gloria Grahame has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6522 Hollywood Boulevard.