Pubdate: Sat, 21 Nov 2015
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Adam Bernstein, Washington Post
Page: D7


Writer starred in films with movie legend and took up causes to help

Betsy Drake, an actress and writer who in the 1950s introduced her
then-husband, Cary Grant, to the hallucinogen LSD, endured his
infatuation with Italian screen siren Sophia Loren and survived the
sinking of the Andrea Doria ocean liner, died Oct. 27 at her home in
London. She was 92.

Her death was confirmed by a friend, Michael Schreiber, who did not
cite a specific cause.

Drake, whose grandfather helped build the landmark Drake and
Blackstone hotels in Chicago, described a life of glittering highs and
shattering lows. She spent her earliest years in Paris, where her U.S.
expatriate parents embraced the roar of the Roaring '20s.

The stock market plunge of 1929 ended the frivolity and their
marriage, and Drake was shuffled among relatives along the East Coast.
She took to acting first as a balm and gradually as a career.

By the time she left the all-girls Madeira School in McLean, Va., at
17, she had begun to draw attention for her good looks and rumba
skills. She attended a theatre school in Washington and found work in
New York as a Conover model and Broadway understudy.

She won a movie studio contract in 1946 but grew so restless and bored
that she feigned mental illness to break the arrangement.

The next year, she landed a leading role in the London production of
Deep Are the Roots, a drama about race relations directed by Elia Kazan.

Grant - 19 years her senior, twice divorced and a captivating movie
star - saw the play and was struck by Drake's charm and low-voiced
allure. By chance, they met aboard the Queen Mary on a trip to New
York and shared an intense shipboard attraction. She soon moved into
his Los Angeles home.

With Grant's pull, she won a contract at RKO studios and debuted
opposite her future husband in a confection called Every Girl Should
Be Married (1948) as a resourceful woman in romantic pursuit of a
bachelor pediatrician. New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther
called her "foxily amusing."

Drake followed that film with starring roles in trifles such as
Dancing in the Dark (1949) with William Powell, Pretty Baby (1950)
with Dennis Morgan and Room for One More (1952) with Grant. Rejecting
a lavish buildup, she pulled back from her career to focus on her home

She and Grant had married on Christmas Day 1949, with industrialist
Howard Hughes as best man. In an account she later gave to Vanity
Fair, she cooked Grant's meals, greeted him at breakfast each day with
a poem and studied hypnosis in an effort to wean them both off
cigarettes and hard alcohol.

She persuaded Grant to retire - briefly - but could not interest him
in fatherhood. They delved into transcendentalism, mysticism and yoga.
She became a writer and took up causes, including the plight of
homeless children in Los Angeles.

Grant was lured back to work by director Alfred Hitchcock for To Catch
a Thief (1955), co-starring Grace Kelly.

The marriage began to deteriorate and was mostly fallow by the time
Grant left for Spain to film The Pride and the Passion, a Napoleonic
drama released in 1957.

Grant became infatuated with co-star Loren and proposed to her. A
visit to the set by Drake did not go well, but events took an ever
more dramatic turn when she boarded the doomed Andrea Doria on her way
back to the United States.

The ship, which had more than 1,700 passengers and crew, collided with
the ocean liner Stockholm on July 25, 1956, amid heavy fog off
Nantucket, Mass. Dozens were killed. Drake, who lost more than
US$200,000 worth of jewelry and a manuscript for a novel, was
uninjured. Grant stayed in Spain.

Drake made a handful more movies, including the comedy Will Success
Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), in which she played Tony Randall's fiancee.
She wrote an early script for Houseboat (1958), a romantic comedy she
hoped would be a vehicle for her and Grant. In a humiliating twist,
the script was reworked, and she was replaced by Loren.

The Grants separated but remained on companionable

Searching for understanding of her troubled childhood and marriage,
Drake began seeing a Hollywood therapist who administered LSD, a drug
that was then legal.

Grant also called on the therapist, initially out of concern about the
revelations his wife might make and their potential impact on his
cultivated image. Born in England as Archibald Leach, he had escaped a
childhood of desperate poverty, with an alcoholic father and a mother
who had been institutionalized.

He savoured the LSD-driven therapy sessions and promoted the treatment
in major magazines.

He and Drake eventually divorced.

Betsy Gordon Drake was born near Paris on Sept. 11, 1923. In the
1960s, she deepened her interest in mental health issues and joined
the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute as a director of psychodrama
therapy, in which patients act out their pent-up feelings.

Drake eventually settled in England and formed a tight social circle
with friends including writer Martha Gellhorn and painter Bernard
Perlin. Survivors include a brother, Carlos Drake of York, Pa.

Grant spoke admiringly of Drake, telling the Times in 1973, "Betsy was
a delightful comedienne, but I don't think that Hollywood was ever
really her milieu. She wanted to help humanity, to help others help
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