Who? Ella Raines…
You know, the bright Hollywood actress who graced the cover of the Feb. 28, 1944 issue of Life magazine — the first of two times she made the cover of the that top-of-the-publicity mountain at the time.
Ok, ok, you don’t remember her. Can’t blame you. Her career was short — less than 30 movie and tv credits spanning from 1943 to 1984, four years before she died in 1988 at age 67. But she made her mark in high profile fashion. She even starred in a tv series in the Fifties.
Raines, a product of Washington state, studied drama at the Univ. of Washington before migrating cross country to New York and the Broadway stage. Producer-director Howard Hawks spotted her, and signed her to a deal with his new production company formed with actor Charles Boyer. Her big screen debut came in 1943’s Corvette K-225 as Randolph Scott’s romantic interest.
Over the next seven years she appeared in nearly 20 titles, a broad range of dramas, comedies and westerns. Raines’ career peaked in the Forties. She snagged her second Life cover in 1947 in conjunction with her role in the superb prison drama, Brute Force, produced by Mark Hellinger and directed by Jules Dassin. She plays in flashback one of the indulged girlfriends of a grizzled inmate. (Her initial Life cover promoted her appearance in 1944’s Phantom Lady, a mystery-supenser in which Raines puts in an ecstatic performance opposite leading man Franchot Tone).
She made pictures and got top billing with other leading men — John Wayne in 1944’s Tall In The Saddle; Charles Laughton in 1945’s Suspect; William Powell in the 1947 satire The Senator Was Indiscreet; and Brian Donlevy in 1949’s Impact (she plays a spunky garage owner). She was directed by Preston Sturges in 1944’s Hail The Conquering Hero opposite Eddie Bracken (see below).
Raines made her mark in television with the starring role in Janet Dean, Registered Nurse, a syndicated, half-hour series that began its run on stations across America in March 1954 (39 episodes were produced.) Ella’s character is a private duty nurse for hire by hospitals and doctors’ offices, who also performed the duties of psychiatrist and private detective.
Raines was married and divorced twice — both to Air Force officers — and at the end of her career considered herself more military wife than Hollywood actress. Her last film was 1957’s The Man in the Road, a minor British spy thriller that Republic Pictures released in the U.S. She is good in it.