Thursday, February 02, 2023

A Centennial Tribute to Bonita Granville

Actress-TV producer-entrepreneur Bonita Granville was born in Chicago February 2, 1923.

Bonita, born in a show business family, began her film career as a child actress in 1932. By 1936, she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for William Wyler's THESE THREE (1936), in which she played a malevolent student. She's seen here with Merle Oberon.

I particularly love her in the screwball comedy MERRILY WE LIVE (1938), where she has a pair of dogs named "Get Off the Rug" and "You, Too!" She's seen here with Billie Burke as her mother and Constance Bennett as her older sister.

Bonita was particularly known for the four-film NANCY DREW movie series (1938-39).

As she became a young woman, Bonita's memorable supporting roles included playing Bette Davis's initially unpleasant niece in NOW, VOYAGER (1942), seen here with Ilka Chase:

One of her last feature film roles was a wonderful opportunity, playing good and bad identical twins in THE GUILTY (1947), seen here with Don Castle.

Bonita married Jack Wrather, the producer of THE GUILTY, the same year the movie was released. It was a happy marriage which would last until his passing in 1984.

Jack Wrather, originally an oilman, was an entrepreneur with a variety of interests. In 1955, a few weeks after the July 17th opening of Disneyland, the Wrathers opened the Disneyland Hotel, seen here on the cover of one of a couple marvelous books on the hotel's history:

A couple decades after opening, the Wrathers built a new wing called the Bonita Tower. The hotel also had a steakhouse known as Granville's. While those tributes to Bonita are now gone and the Wrather Corp., including the hotel, was sold to Disney in 1988, this tribute to the Wrathers remains in a Disneyland Hotel corridor:

Bonita was posthumously accorded Disney's highest honor and named a Disney Legend in 2011, along with her late husband Jack.

Like movie actresses Loretta Young, Lucille Ball, and Gail Patrick before her, Bonita would find television to provide a new career opportunity, as coproducer of the long-running LASSIE (1960-72) along with her husband.

The Wrathers also operated the Queen Mary tourist attraction and hotel in Long Beach for years. Bonita's many civic contributions included serving on the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees and at one point she was the chairman of the American Film Institute.

Bonita Granville Wrather had a busy, multifaceted life which also had at its center raising two children and two stepchildren, seen here with their parents at the Disneyland Hotel:

The Flicker Alley Blu-ray/DVD release of THE GUILTY (1947) and HIGH TIDE (1947) has a wonderful documentary on Jack Wrather, which naturally also sheds additional light on Bonita's interesting life.

Bonita Granville Wrather died in Santa Monica October 11, 1988. She is buried next to her husband at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.

Bonita Granville films reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: BEAUTY FOR SALE (1933), LITTLE WOMEN (1933), MAID OF SALEM (1937), CALL IT A DAY (1937), MERRILY WE LIVE (1938) (also here), HARD TO GET (1938) (also here), THE MORTAL STORM (1940), GALLANT SONS (1940), THE PEOPLE VS. DR. KILDARE (1941), THE GLASS KEY (1942) (also here), NOW, VOYAGER (1942), SEVEN MILES FROM ALCATRAZ (1942), HITLER'S CHILDREN (1943), SUSPENSE (1946), THE GUILTY (1947) (also here).


Anonymous Barry Lane said...

I have the Flicker Alley Blu-ray of The Guilty and High Tide, both of which, but especially the first, I found of great interest, with nothign but admiration for Granville and Wrather, but my motivation was for the work of Don Castle. I had seen him in Stampede, and he was wonderful. Clark Gable-like. I am unaware if he ever got another chance like that again, but he always had something.

If Stampede is new to you, doubtful, it has Rod Cameron and Johnny Mack Brown co-starred with Gale Storm, but Don dominates for the first thirty minutes, Its superiority comes from well-known places. Lesley Selander directed and Blake Edwards, wrote, co-produced, and played in it.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Tony Wendice said...

I think I've told this story before but I knew the Wrathers for many years without ever knowing that she had been an actress. She was Mrs. Jack Wrather at the time. They were one of Los Angeles' power couples. I met them through the Reagans. Watching Now, Voyager one night with Nancy I commented on the "mean" sister and wondered what else she had done. Nancy said "that's Bonita Wrather." I was dumbstruck. I had no idea. She had an entire other life years earlier. Anyway, she was such a lovely woman always doing things for others. It was sad that she died well before her time.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barry, I loved STAMPEDE and would like to revisit it. It's been a number of years. I had completely forgotten Don Castle was in it. I find him likeable and am now even more curious to see STAMPEDGE again.

Tony, what a great story! That's quite fun that you hadn't made that connection -- despite your other connections! It's wonderful to get a bit more insight into what she was like as a person. She seems to have been a wonderful lady.

Best wishes,

11:16 PM  

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