Jane Greer was born Bettejane Greer on Sept. 9 1924 in Washington DC and she came into this world destined for success.
Groomed from childhood to feel at home in the spotlight, she took part in childhood beauty contests and talent shows. At 15 she was afflicted with Bell’s Palsy, which paralyzed one side of her face. But Jane worked tirelessly on facial exercises and was able to overcome her disability. She was a very determined young lady! Left high school in her senior year to sing in club bands, continued to model and dreamed of a career in acting. At age 18 she was chosen to model the army’s new WAC uniform which was featured in Life Magazine. There she caught the eye of Howard Hughes. Hughes was captivated and had little trouble convincing the aspiring actress to come to Los Angeles. There her screen career began. Hughes was an unbalanced man, emboldened by wealth and driven by jealous obsession. When Greer made it clear to him that she intended to have a life of her own he retaliated both emotionally and professionally. Their struggle was bitter and it hindered her career but she was eventually able to sever the ties.
Despite the road blocks that Hughes threw her way, Jane Greer managed to become an accomplished actress. The 1940s brought us some of Hollywood’s most powerful female screen characters and none is more riveting than the part she played as Kathie Moffat in Out of the Past (1947). In this acclaimed film noir, Greer masterfully reveals the cold dark heart of her character while the audience remains mesmerized by her beguiling beauty and poised demeanor. Greer was a dedicated professional who understood the nuances of facial expression. RKO promoted her as “the woman with the Mona Lisa smile.”
Her Kathie was never over the top… a whisper of a smile as she worked her charms, soft beseeching eyes while she boldly lied and, most frightening of all, that cold glint of excitement just before she pulls the trigger. Pure genius! The camera loved her polished glamour. She had a drop dead figure that made everything she wore seem fit for a fashion magazine. Edward Stevenson, Hollywood costume designer for films such as Citizen Cane, It’s a Wonderful Life and a favorite designer of Lucille Ball, created Greer’s wardrobe for Out of the Past and The Big Steal.
Her opening scene outfit for Out of the Past was elegant innocence… The cut of the dress skimmed the actresses form, modestly highlighting every curve. It had a sweetheart decollete and youthful capped sleeves. She wore a matching portrait hat set back on the head. No hint of the lethal character to come. In The Big Steal (1949), Greer plays Joan Graham, a gutsy gal in pursuit of a thieving boyfriend. On the theater poster she wields a pistol, dressed in a bombshell halter gown which Stevenson designed to show off her pin up curves. Certainly not a dame to be messed with!
Greer is best known for her 1940s film characters. However her acting career, although not prolific, continued into the 90s. Outside of her profession she lead a full life. In 1942 she married Rudy Vallee but they divorced just one year later. In 1947 she married Edward Lasker. With him she had three sons. She found great joy in raising her children and later became dedicated to charity work. Time was kind to Ms. Greer, she remained a beauty all her days and will forever hold a place of honor in film noir.