from my sketchbook: gloria grahame

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No one played the tramp like Gloria Grahame. After her 1944 film debut as trampy Sally Murfin in Blonde Fever, Gloria shot to stardom as trampy Violet in the Frank Capra holiday favorite It’s A Wonderful Life. She went on portray sluts, bad girls and tramps in a career that spanned five decades. With her pouty lips and heavy-lidded eyes, she came on to the likes of Glenn Ford, Dick Powell, Humphrey Bogart, Charlton Heston and many more of Hollywood’s leading men. Even in her turn as Ado Annie in the lively musical Oklahoma!,  her promiscuity was in question, as revealed in her delivery of “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No”. But Glorida’s private life made one wonder whether she was acting.

Gloria was married to character actor Stanley Clements for nearly three years. Her divorce from Clements came through on the same day she married director Nicholas Ray. When Ray was directing Gloria in In a Lonely Place  in 1950, the marriage was already suffering . But, it was over when Ray caught Gloria in bed with his 13-year-old son Anthony. Ray and Gloria separated and officially divorced two years later.

The 1950s were most productive for Gloria. She starred in eighteen films and won the  Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for The Bad and The Beautiful.  She married again in 1954 and gave birth to her second child. Near the end of the decade, just prior to starring in Oklahoma!,  Gloria opted for plastic surgery to correct her long-time concern over the appearance of her upper lip. As a result, her upper lip was rendered immobile from nerve damage and her speech was impaired. By the 1960s, her star began to fade along with her demand in films. She began appearing on the stage and in guest star roles on television. In a move that did not sit well with her Hollywood contemporaries or the press, Gloria married her stepson Anthony in 1960. That union produced two children.

In 1980, Gloria was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She refused treatment, insisting that she was not sick. In 1981 she traveled to England to perform in a play. While in England, she had fluid from her stomach drained, which resulted in a perforated bowel. After the procedure, she collapsed during rehearsals for the play. Some of her children came and brought her back to New York. Once back in the states, her health deteriorated quickly. Gloria died in October 1981 at the age of 57.

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