Betsy Drake, Actress and Third Wife of Cary Grant, Dies at 92

Courtesy of Photofest
Betsy Drake with Cary Grant in the 1948 film "Every Girl Should Be Married."

She met him aboard the Queen Mary, starred opposite the legendary actor in two comedies and introduced him to LSD.

Betsy Drake, the vivacious actress who starred opposite her husband Cary Grant in the comedies Every Girl Should Be Married and Room for One More, has died. She was 92.

Drake, who was the third of Grant’s five wives, died Oct. 27 in her London home, her friend, Michael Schreiber, said. She had lived in the city for many years after retiring from films shortly after her 1962 divorce from the actor.

Drake met Grant in August 1947 when both were aboard the Queen Mary on a trip back to the U.S. from England. Grant, 20 years her senior, had seen her in London as the lead in a production of Elia Kazan’s Deep Are the Roots, and he asked actress Merle Oberon to arrange an introduction. (Elizabeth Taylor and her mother also were on the boat at the time.)

They were married on Christmas Day 1949 in an Arizona farmhouse in a ceremony that was arranged by Grant’s best man, millionaire Howard Hughes.

Grant, a big star at RKO Radio Pictures, asked the studio to put Drake under contract, and she was his leading lady in Every Girl Should Be Married (1948) and Room for One More (1952).

Drake later wrote the screenplay for Houseboat (1958), which starred Grant. She was supposed to be the female lead in that romantic comedy, but by then Grant was having an affair with actress Sophia Loren (the two had met on the set of 1957’s The Pride and the Passion). Drake’s script was rewritten, and Loren replaced her in the movie.

Grant and Drake separated in 1958 and were said to remain friends until his death in November 1986. She introduced him to LSD therapy, which was legal until 1966.

In a September 1959 issue of Look magazine, Grant said, "at last, I am close to happiness" because of his LSD treatments. The magazine praised him for "courageously permitting himself to be one of the subjects of a psychiatric experiment with a drug that eventually may become an important tool in psychotherapy," Vanity Fair reported in a 2010 story.

Grant also was married to actress Virginia Cherrill from 1934-35, to heiress Barbara Hutton from 1942-46, to actress Dyan Cannon from 1965-68 and to PR exec Barbara Harris from 1981 until his death. The first three unions ended in divorce.

Drake was born in Paris in 1923 to wealthy parents — her grandfather had built Chicago’s Drake Hotel — but the 1929 stock market crash sent the family reeling, and she spent her childhood being shuttled among relatives on the East Coast.

She took up acting, and Kazan selected her as one of the founding members of the Actors Studio in New York.

Drake also appeared in such films as Dancing in the Dark (1949), The Second Woman (1950), Pretty Baby (1950), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) and Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965).

In 1956, Drake and actress Ruth Roman were among the passengers rescued from the sinking Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

Updated at 10:55 a.m. on Nov. 11 to include details of Grant's fifth wife and the year he and Grant first met.

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