Barbara Bates

Barbara Bates (born Barbara Jane Bates; August 6, 1925 March 18, 1969) was an American singer and actress, who is known for her portrayal of Phoebe in the 1950 drama film All About Eve.

Barbara Bates
Born(1925-08-06)August 6, 1925
DiedMarch 18, 1969(1969-03-18) (aged 43)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Cause of deathSuicide by carbon monoxide poisoning
Resting placeCrown Hill Cemetery
Years active19451962
Cecil Coan
(m. 1945; died 1967)

William Reed (m. 1968)

Early life

The eldest of three daughters, Bates was born in Denver, Colorado. While growing up in Denver, she studied ballet and worked as a teen fashion model. The shy teen was persuaded to enter a local beauty contest and won, receiving two round-trip train tickets to Hollywood, California. Two days before returning to Denver, Bates met Cecil Coan (father of Margaret Riggs) a United Artists publicist, who would ultimately change the course of her life.[1]


In September 1944, 19 year old Bates signed a contract with Universal Pictures after Cecil Coan introduced her to producer Walter Wanger. Soon after, she was cast as one of the "Seven Salome Girls" in the 1945 drama, Salome Where She Danced starring Yvonne De Carlo. Around this time, she fell in love with Coan, who was married with two sons and two daughters. In March 1945, Coan divorced his wife Helen Coan and secretly married Bates days later. Bates spent the next few years as a stock actress, landing bit parts in movies and doing cheesecake layouts for magazines like Yank, the Army Weekly and Life. It was one of those photo sessions that caught the eye of executives at Warner Bros. who signed her in 1947. Warner Bros. highlighted her "girl-next-door" image and her acting career took off. She appeared with some of the biggest stars of the day including Bette Davis in June Bride and Danny Kaye in The Inspector General.[1]

In 1949, Bates's contract with Warner Bros. was terminated when she refused to go to New York City to promote The Inspector General. Despite being fired by Warner Brothers, she quickly signed a contract with 20th Century-Fox later that year.[1]

In late 1949, Bates auditioned for the small role of Phoebe in Fox's upcoming All About Eve. In competition for the part was Zsa Zsa Gabor and others, but Bates impressed the producers and was given the part. She made a short but important appearance as the devious schemer, Phoebe, at the end of the film. Bates's image is enshrined in the film's last scene, posing in front of a three-way mirror, while holding the award won by her idol Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter. This memorable final scene left critics and audiences intrigued by the young actress, who they thought would star in a sequel to All About Eve.[2] The Hollywood Reporter said of her performance, "Barbara Bates comes on the screen in the last few moments to more or less sum up the whole action and point of the story. It's odd that a bit should count for so much, and in the hands of Miss Bates all the required points are fulfilled."[3]

After her appearance in All About Eve, Bates co-starred in Cheaper by the Dozen, and its sequel Belles on Their Toes, with Jeanne Crain and Myrna Loy.[4] In 1951, she landed a role opposite MacDonald Carey and Claudette Colbert in the comedy Let's Make It Legal. She co-starred with Donna Reed as the love interests of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in the 1953 hit comedy The Caddy.


Despite a seemingly successful career, Bates's life, both on and off screen, started unravelling. She became a victim of extreme mood swings, insecurity, ill health, and chronic depression. In 1954, she won the role of Cathy on the NBC sitcom It's a Great Life, co-starring Frances Bavier as her mother, Amy Morgan, and James Dunn as her uncle, Earl Morgan.[5] After 26 episodes, she was written out of the show due to her erratic behavior, depression and instability. Bates tried to salvage her career and travelled to England to find work. She was signed on as a contract player with the Rank Organisation, only to be replaced in two leading roles before filming began. Bates continued to be too emotionally unstable to work and in 1957, her contract with the Rank Organisation was cancelled.[1]

Upon returning to the United States in 1957, Bates and her husband got an apartment in Beverly Hills. Later that year, Bates made her last film, Apache Territory, which was released in September 1958. She then appeared in two television commercials, one for floor wax and another endorsing a now unknown product with Buster Keaton.[6] In 1960, Bates's husband Cecil Coan was diagnosed with cancer. Bates put her career on hold to care for her ailing husband. The strain eventually became too much for her. She attempted suicide by slashing her wrists and was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where she soon recovered.[1] She made her final onscreen appearance in an episode of The Saint that aired in November 1962.[7]

Later years and death

In January 1967, Bates's husband Cecil Coan died of cancer. Devastated by his death, Bates's depression worsened and she again became suicidal. Later that year, she returned to Denver and fell out of public view. For a time, Bates worked as a secretary, as a dental assistant, and as a hospital aide. In December 1968 she married for the second time: to a childhood friend, sportscaster William Reed. Despite her new marriage and location, Bates remained increasingly despondent and depressed.[1]

On March 18, 1969, just months after her marriage to Reed, Barbara Bates committed suicide in her mother's garage by carbon monoxide poisoning. She was 43 years old.[8] She is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Jefferson County, Colorado.[9]


Year Title Role Notes
1945 Strange Holiday Peggy Lee Stevenson Alternative titles: Terror on Main Street
The Day After Tomorrow
1945 Salome Where She Danced Salome girl Uncredited
1945 Lady on a Train Hat Check Girl Uncredited
1945 This Love of Ours Mrs. Dailey Uncredited
1945 The Crimson Canary Girl Uncredited
1946 Night in Paradise Palace Maiden Uncredited
1947 The Fabulous Joe Debbie Terkel
1947 The Hal Roach Comedy Carnival Debbie Terkle, in Fabulous Joe
1947 Always Together Ticket Seller Uncredited
1948 April Showers Secretary Uncredited
1948 Romance on the High Seas Stewardess Uncredited
Alternative title: It's Magic
1948 Johnny Belinda Gracie Anderson Uncredited
1948 June Bride Jeanne Brinker
1948 Adventures of Don Juan Uncredited
Alternative title: The New Adventures of Don Juan
1949 One Last Fling June Payton
1949 The House Across the Street Beth Roberts
1949 The Inspector General Leza
1950 Quicksand Helen Calder
1950 Cheaper by the Dozen Ernestine Gilbreth
1950 All About Eve Phoebe
1951 I'd Climb the Highest Mountain Jenny Brock
1951 The Secret of Convict Lake Barbara Purcell
1951 Let's Make It Legal Barbara Denham
1952 Belles on Their Toes Ernestine Gilbreth
1952 The Outcasts of Poker Flat Piney Wilson
1953 All Ashore Jane Stanton
1953 The Caddy Lisa Anthony
1954 Rhapsody Effie Cahill
1956 House of Secrets Judy Anderson Alternative title: Triple Deception
1957 Town on Trial Elizabeth Fenner
1958 Apache Territory Jennifer Fair
Year Title Role Notes
1953 The Revlon Mirror Theater Episode: "Summer Dance"
1954–1955 It's a Great Life Cathy "Katy" Morgan 26 episodes
1955 The Millionaire Marian Curtis Episode: "The Uncle Robby Story"
1955 Studio 57 Elaine Hilton Episode: "Night Tune"
1962 The Saint Helen Ravenna Episode: "The Loaded Tourist"

See also


  1. Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen: Barbara Bates
  2. Carr, Jay (2002). The A List: The National Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films. Da Capo Press. p. 14. ISBN 0-306-81096-4.
  3. Staggs, Sam (2001). All About All About Eve: The Complete Behind-the-Scenes Story of the Bitchiest Film Ever Made!. Macmillan. pp. 147–148. ISBN 1-466-83043-3.
  4. Barbara Bates at AllMovie
  5. Tucker, David C. (2010). Lost Laughs of '50S and '60S Television: Thirty Sitcoms That Faded Off Screen. McFarland. p. 84. ISBN 0-786-45582-9.
  6. Staggs 2002 p.148
  7. Barer, Burl (2003). The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television of Leslie Charteris' Robin Hood of Modern Crime, Simon Templar, 1928-1992. McFarland. p. 293. ISBN 0-786-41680-7.
  8. Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. p. 258. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9.
  9. Parrish, James Robert (2001). The Hollywood Book Of Death: The Bizarre, Often Sordid, Passings Of More Than 125 American Movie and TV Idols. Contemporary Books. p. 388. ISBN 0-809-22227-2.
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