Gloria Hallward, an acting pupil of her mother (stage actress and teacher Jean Grahame), acted professionally while still in high school. In 1944 Louis B. Mayer saw her on Broadway and gave her an MGM contract under the name Gloria Grahame. Her debut in the title role of Blonde Fever (1944) was auspicious, but her first public recognition came on loan-out in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Though her talent and sex appeal were of star quality, she did not fit the star pattern at MGM, who sold her contract to RKO in 1947. Here the same problem resurfaced; her best film in these years was made on loan-out, In a Lonely Place (1950). Soon after, she left RKO. The 1950s, her best period, brought Gloria a supporting actress Oscar and typecast her as shady, inimitably sultry ladies in seven well-known film-noir classics.
Rumors of being difficult to work with on the set of Oklahoma! (1955) sidelined her film career from 1956 onward. She also suffered from marital and child-custody troubles. Eight years after divorce from Nicholas Ray, who was 12 years her senior (and reportedly had discovered her in bed with his 13 year old son), and after a subsequent marriage to Cy Howard ended in divorce, in 1960 she married her former stepson Anthony Ray who was almost 14 years younger than her. This led Nicholas Ray and Cy Howard to each sue for custody of each’s child by Grahame, putting gossip columnists and scandal sheets into overdrive.
In 1960 she resumed stage acting, combined with TV work and, from 1970, some mostly inferior films. Gloria was described as a serious, skillful actress; spontaneous, honest, and strong-willed; imaginative and curious; incredibly sexy but insecure about her looks (prompting plastic surgery on her famous lips); loving appreciative male company; “a bit loony.” Her busiest period of British and American stage work ended abruptly in 1981 when she collapsed from cancer symptoms during a rehearsal. She returned to New York a few hours before she succumbed on October 5, 1981 at age 57.
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