See vintage pin-up Betty Grable and her famous legs

See vintage pin-up Betty Grable and her famous legs

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Betty Grable’s legs: They have now achieved the stature of a major Hollywood landmark

LIFE – June 7, 1943

No one since Paavo Nurmi has traveled farther on a pair of legs than Betty Grable. Other actresses with handsome legs have also gone far, but Betty has made the leg her private trademark. 

Model actress Betty Grable

Hollywood has created many such trademarks, and sentimentally preserves the most famous of them with impressions in concrete at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Betty’s legs gained this honor just last February. Among the trademarks at Grauman’s are Joe E. Brown’s mouth, Eddie Cantor’s eyes, Bob Hope’s nose and the late John Barrymore’s profile.

None of these is a commonplace feature. All are deviations from the norm of mouths, eyes, noses and profiles. Betty Grable’s legs, however, have not attained fame by being unusual. They are The Great Average American Legs: straight, perfectly rounded and shaped, but withal judged by the same standards as millions of others.

1943 - Betty Grable's legs achieved the stature of a major Hollywood landmark

Although Betty’s legs have been pillars of her career, they have sometimes obstructed its progress. When she first reached Hollywood, they were so apparent that she was used only for publicity stills or in productions which needed legs for assistance.

But after her success in the Broadway musical “Du Barry Was a Lady,” Hollywood made a better adjustment between the use of Betty’s legs and her other talents.

Betty enjoys the fame of her legs, but with modesty. She says, “They seem to get me around the lot [20th Century-Fox) all right,” or, “They are fine for pushing the foot pedals in my car.” She is more pleased with her 4B foot, a shoe size easy to obtain because it is generally used for samples.

Looking back (and front) at Betty Grable’s legs

Betty Grable's famous legs story in LIFE Jun 7, 1943 (6)

Betty models a coat of her own design which features decorations of Army corps and rank insignia. Betty is one of the biggest pin-up favorites of servicemen everywhere.

Betty Grable's famous legs story in LIFE Jun 7, 1943 (7)

Betty Grable's famous legs story in LIFE Jun 7, 1943 (8)

Betty Grable's famous legs story in LIFE Jun 7, 1943 (4)

Betty Grable's famous legs story in LIFE Jun 7, 1943 (5)

In the course of a day, Betty’s legs walk, climb stairs, dance and are generally flexed like other legs.

Betty Grable's famous legs story in LIFE Jun 7, 1943 (1)

At a soda fountain during the day, Betty allows her legs to fend for themselves. A veteran trouper, she appeared in her first movie in 1930. Still she is only 26 years old.

Betty Grable's famous legs story in LIFE Jun 7, 1943 (2)

Betty Grable's famous legs story in LIFE Jun 7, 1943 (3)

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El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) Dec 12, 1943

Jackie Coogan – Artie Shaw — Harry James — all of the men in pin-up girl Betty Grable’s life have been jazz musicians

Any gentlemen who want to attract the notice of a girl like Betty Grable had better start practicing their harmonica playing, or otherwise brushing up on their musical abilities. Because Miss Grable, whether she knows it or not, seems to be drawn to men with musical talent.

The beautiful Betty Grable

Take a look at the record. Miss Grable’s first hubby was Jackie Coogan, an actor by profession but an amateur expert on the drums. Then after she and Jackie parted, Betty was for a time “that way,” as the saving goes, about Artie Shaw, an eminent bandleader and musician in his own right.

And when Miss Grable remarried, she chose Harry James. Even the non-musical know that Bandleader James blows a trumpet that rates only a little below Gabriel’s for taking jitterbugs out of the world.

There you are. Coogan — Shaw — James. What’s the common denominator? Music!

Betty Grable Her heart beats in jive time (1943)

This discovery may come as a blow to many of Miss Grable’s male fans who don’t know a sharp from a flat. Or perhaps they won’t care. Probably they will just go on admiring her at a distance for reasons quite unconnected with music.

An enterprising press agent has figured that one out of every 15 men in the armed services of the United States belongs to a camp, regiment, company or other unit which has elected Miss Grable its mascot, dream girl, honorary commander or to some similar position.

Half of the rest just keep her picture around someplace without bothering to elect her to anything. It is fairly safe to say that Miss Grable’s legs, not her musical ear, are responsible for this. Legs have taken Betty Grable farther and to richer rewards than they have any other woman of our time.

The most famous Betty Grable picture by Frank Powolny

“People talk about my legs as if I were a centipede,” she mourns now. “But my legs would never have taken me anyplace without years of training in dancing, drama and music.”

She resents the over-emphasis on her legs, and says: “People seem to have forgotten that I have a face, a form, and perhaps some ability as an actress. I’d like them to forget my legs.”

But it’s pretty hard to forget Betty Grable’s legs. They’re the only legs immortalized in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. More photographs have been taken of them than of any other legs in history. Whole motion pictures have been produced which, to the hasty observer, seemed to be devoted to displaying the glamorous Grable limbs.

That kind of publicity is difficult to live down. But just the same, if you ever meet Miss Grable and want to make a hit with her, don’t mention her legs. Sit down at the piano instead and dash off a bit of boogie-woogie, a trifle of Chopin, a little something from Stravinsky. That ought to do the trick.

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Betty Grable dance

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Pinup & actress Betty Grable for Lux (1950)

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