"There are two reasons why I'm in show business, and I'm standing on both of them." (Betty Grable)
"I've had a lot of unhappiness in my life - and a lot of happiness. Who doesn't?" (Rita Hayworth)
No history of American pop culture in the 1940s would be complete without mention of Betty Grable, the most popular pinup girl of the World War II era. Grable possessed the outstanding fortune of not only having an ideal body, but of arriving at the most fortuitous time imaginable. The famous pin-up photo of her, taken by Frank Powolny, made her the highest-earning actress in Hollywood from 1943 to 1951. Indeed, it was not hyperbole that earned Grable the nickname of "the girl with the million dollar legs" - not only were her legs famously adored by American soldiers fighting overseas, they were actually insured to the tune of one million dollars. Grable was the banner actress for the era before the advent of Playboy and other publications designed to satisfy the lust of the heterosexual male, an era that objectified women, but in a more wholesome, less pornographic way, which was designed to reinforce all-American values.
However, if Grable was, monetarily speaking, the most successful actress of the 1940s, there is a major gulf between her commercial success and the critical appraisal of her acting talents. Grable never won an Academy Award, and the swift demise of her Hollywood status testifies to her inability to sustain her career.
Meanwhile, Rita Hayworth's life and career remain fascinating to both the general public and avid movie fans alike. Even people with just a casual interest in movies appreciate her performances in films such as Gilda (1946), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), and Salome (1953).