Born: 9 September 1924 (Washington, District of Columbia, USA)
Died: 24 August 2001 (Los Angeles, California, USA)
Cause of Death: Cancer
Film and TV Appearances: 49+
Years Active: 1945 - 1996
Bettejane Greer was born in 1924 (along with twin brother Donne) to father Charles and mother Elizabeth (who wrote a column for a Florida newspaper in the early 1930s). From the age of five, she competed in a number of singing and dancing talent quests at the urging of her mother. By the time she was 12 she had also worked as a child model.
When she was 15 years, Bettejane was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy which caused partial facial paralysis the left side of her face and she had to undergo intensive physical therapy. The treatment she received would prove useful in her acting career as it taught her about facial expressions and how to use them to display emotions.
After graduating from Western High School in Washington D.C. she turned her attention to singing. She eventually joined Ralph Hawkins' band, where she earned $100 per week singing. Later on, she sang Latin American songs and performed rhumbas with Enric Madriguero's Orchestra even though she couldn't speak a word of Spanish.
In the early days of World War Two, she appeared on a WAC recruitment poster in uniform. The poster was reprinted in Life Magazine where it was seen by Howard Hughes who immediately decided to bring her out to Hollywood and put on her contract. However when she arrived in 1942 (with her mother) she was put on hold by Hughes for six months.
Tired of the treatment she had been given by Hughes, she decided to join Rudy Vallee (whom she had met a few years earlier) on his radio show and touring with his Coast Guard Band. In 1943 she married Vallee but eventually divorced him in 1944. It was also at this time she got herself out of her contract with Hughes and signed with RKO.
I'd always wanted to be an actress, and suddenly I knew that learning to control my facial muscles was one of the best assets I could have as a performer.— Jane Greer
Greer made her film debut in an uncredited role in Pan-Americana (1945). She was credited as Bettejane Greer in her first two credited roles but then dropped the first part of her name to suit the kind of roles she was playing.
Some of the films she appeared in were Two O'Clock Courage (1945); Sinbad, the Sailor (1947); You're in the Navy Now (1951); The Prisoner of Zenda (1952); The Clown (1953); Run for the Sun (1956); Man of a Thousand Faces (1957); Where Love has Gone (1964); Billie (1965); The Outfit (1973); Against All Odds (1984); Just Between Friends (1986); Immediate Family (1989); and Perfect Mate (1996).
Her film career took a nosedive in the early 1950s after she rejected the advances of Howard Hughes (who was still obsessed with her).
Out of the Past (1947)
Jane Greer appeared in a number of significant detective and film noir films during her time at RKO playing seductive women who were bad. These films included Splitface (1945); The Falcon's Alibi (1946); Out of the Past (1947); Station West (1948); The Big Steal (1949); and The Company She Keeps (1951). Due to her numerous appearances in these films in the late 1940s, she was given the title of "Queen of Film Noir". She was also known as "the girl with the Mona Lisa smile".
It was her role in Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past (which some consider one of the best examples of film noir) that gained her the most fame. She returned to movies in 1984 to play the mother of her original character in the remake Against All Odds.
I didn't want the children to grow up and, when asked what their mother did, say, 'Oh, Mom's a gun moll in the movies.'— Jane Greer
Greer debut on television in 1953 in an episode of The Revlon Mirror Theatre entitled "Summer Dance" and over the years continued to make sporadic appearances until 1990.
She appeared in two made for television movies: A Christmas for Boomer (1979) and The Shadow Riders (1982).
TV shows she appeared in were Celebrity Playhouse; The Ford Television Theatre; Suspicion; Playhouse 90; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; The Zane Grey Theater; Stagecoach West; Thriller; Burke's Law; Columbo; Quincy M.E.; The Law and Harry McGraw; Saturday Night Live; Murder, She Wrote; and Heartbeat.
Late in her acting career, she guest-starred on a number episodes of the following shows...
- Falcon Crest - as Charlotte Pershing in six episodes of season 4 (1984-1985).
- Twin Peaks - as Vivian Smythe Niles in three episodes of season 2 (1990).
In 1947 she married attorney Howard Lasker (they were divorced in 1963) and had three sons. From 1953 onwards, Greer's roles on film and television became infrequent as motherhood, health (she had a heart operation in 1955) and later age took their toll.
She received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 1960 for her work in Motion Pictures (located at 1634 Vine Street). During her later years, she devoted herself to charity work especially those involved with helping retarded children.
Jane Greer died from cancer on 24 August 2001. She is buried in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.