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Bonita Granville

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Bonita Granville
Granville c. 1946
Bonita Gloria Granville

(1923-02-02)February 2, 1923
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
DiedOctober 11, 1988(1988-10-11) (aged 65)
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery
Other namesBonita Granville Wrather
Years active1926–1981
(m. 1947; died 1984)

Bonita Gloria Granville Wrather (February 2, 1923 – October 11, 1988) was an American actress and producer. She was best known for playing Nancy Drew in a film series of the late 1930s and for her roles in These Three (1936), Merrily We Live (1938), H. M. Pulham, Esq. (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), Hitler's Children (1943), and Song of the Open Road (1944).

Granville began her career as a child actress on the stage at age three.[1][2] She then made her film debut in Westward Passage (1932) and rose to prominence for her role in These Three (1936), which earned her an Academy Award nomination at age fourteen. She continued to act regularly in films until marrying Jack Wrather in 1947. After that Granville appeared in only three films and made several guest appearances on television. She progressed to produce the long-running series Lassie (1959–1973). She was also a businesswoman and philanthropist.

In 1960, Granville received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to the film industry. She was appointed to the John F. Kennedy Center Board of Trustees by president Richard Nixon in 1972 and for another term by president Ronald Reagan in 1982.[1][3]

Early life

Granville was born on February 2, 1923 in Manhattan, New York City, the daughter of Rosina (née Timponi; 1892–1984)[4] and Bernard Granville (1888–1936). Both of her parents were stage performers.[2][5] She was raised Roman Catholic.[6]

She made her film debut at the age of nine in Westward Passage (1932), and appeared in a credited but nearly wordless supporting role as the young dancer Fanny Bridges in Cavalcade (1933), which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Over the next few years, she played uncredited supporting roles in such films as Little Women (1933) and Anne of Green Gables (1934). She next played the role of Mary Tilford in the 1936 film adaptation of Lillian Hellman's 1934 stage play The Children's Hour. Renamed These Three, the film told the story of three adults (played by Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon, and Joel McCrea) who find their lives almost destroyed by the malicious lies of an evil, attention-seeking child. For her role as that child, Granville was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, then the youngest person to be nominated for that award. Despite this success, and although she continued to work, the next few years brought her few opportunities to build her career.[citation needed]

In 1938, she starred as the saucy, mischievous daughter in the multiple Academy Award-nominated hit comedy film Merrily We Live and as girl detective Nancy Drew in the hit film Nancy Drew... Detective. The Nancy Drew film success led to Granville reprising the role in three sequels from 1938 to 1939, including Nancy Drew... Reporter (1939).

Later career

As a young adult, she was once again cast in supporting roles, often in prestigious films such as Now, Voyager (1942), as well as two Andy Hardy films with Mickey Rooney, Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble (1944) and Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946).[7] She is also remembered for her starring role in the World War II anti-Nazism film Hitler's Children (1943). Her career began to fade by the mid-1940s.

She was the heroine of the novel Bonita Granville and the Mystery of Star Island written by Kathryn Heisenfelt, published by Whitman Publishing Company in 1942. The novel's subtitle is "An original story featuring BONITA GRANVILLE famous motion-picture player as the heroine". The story was probably written for a young teenaged audience and is reminiscent of the adventures of Nancy Drew. It is part of a series known as "Whitman Authorized Editions", 16 books published between 1941 and 1947 that featured a film actress as heroine.[8]

On February 5, 1947 Granville married Jack Wrather at the Bel-Air Hotel.[9] He had produced some of her films. He formed the Wrather Corporation, and bought the rights to characters from both The Lone Ranger and Lassie.[citation needed] Granville worked as a producer for several film and television productions featuring these characters, including the 1954 TV series Lassie. She appeared in the film version of The Lone Ranger in 1956, and made her final screen appearance in a cameo role in The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981).[10] Their children are daughters Molly and Linda, and sons Jack and Christopher. Jack and Molly were from Wrather's previous marriage to Mollie O'Daniel, a daughter of Governor of Texas and U.S. Senator W. Lee O'Daniel. The marriage lasted until Wrather's death in 1984, shortly after release of the movie The Magic of Lassie, a movie co-produced by Granville and starring Wrather's pal James Stewart.

In 1949, she appeared with Rod Cameron in the comedy film Strike It Rich, filmed about Tyler, Kilgore, and Lindale in East Texas.

Bonita Granville's grave, next to that of her husband Jack Wrather, at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California
Bonita Granville's grave, next to that of her husband Jack Wrather, at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California


Granville died on October 11, 1988 of lung cancer at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 65.[1][2][3] She was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[11]


Bonita Granville has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6607 Hollywood Boulevard, for her contributions to motion pictures. She was honored at the Disneyland Hotel, which Jack Wrather owned until it was sold to the Walt Disney Company. The Bonita Tower and the Granville's Steak House were named in her honor.

Partial filmography

(As actress, unless otherwise specified)

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1945 Suspense Bank Holiday
1952 Family Theater The Promise[12]


  1. ^ a b c Folkart, Burt A. (October 12, 1988). "Bonita Granville Wrather Dies of Cancer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Flint, Peter B. (October 12, 1988). "Bonita G. Wrather, 65, an Actress and Executive". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  3. ^ a b De Atley, Richard (October 12, 1988). "Actress and Philanthropist Dies Of Cancer". AP News. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  4. ^ Granville marriage record accessed 8-3-2015
  5. ^ "Granville, Actor, Dies In Hollywood. Film Comedian Well Known on New York Stage for Many Years. Victim of Pneumonia. Discovered By Ziegfeld. Long Career Included Roles in Minstrel Shows, Circuses and Outstanding Plays" (PDF). The New York Times. October 7, 1936. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  6. ^ Rhea, Rosemary Filmore (2003). That's Just How My Spirit Travels: A Memoir. Unity. ISBN 978-0871592866.
  7. ^ "Andy's Girls". Archived from the original on August 1, 2017. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  8. ^ Whitman Authorized Editions for Girls
  9. ^ "Bonita Granville Becomes Bride". The New York Times. February 5, 1947. Retrieved January 30, 2015. Bonita Granville, motion-picture actress, was married here today to Jack D. Wrather, Jr. of Dallas, Texas, oilman and film producer. The wedding was at the Bel-Air Hotel. ...
  10. ^ "Bonita Granville – Biography – Movies & TV –". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2009. Archived from the original on September 10, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  11. ^ Hollywood: The Movie Lover's Guide
  12. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 2, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved May 28, 2015 – via access

Further reading

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Bonita Granville". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 104–106. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.
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