She had grace and charm and often played femme fatales.

Perhaps overlooked is that she also proved to be an excellent comedienne who was not averse to taking a pie in the face. She proved the equal of Abbott and Costello, of all people.

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Brooke played opposite Bud and Lou in 1952’s Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kid, while at the same time appearing in the comedy duo’s tv show.  Given her aristocratic demeanor, she addressed Costello as “Louis.” (Who said beautiful women can’t do comedy?)

Many thought that with her monicker and regal bearing, Brooke must have been British.

Wrong!

She was born Beatrice Peterson in 1914 in the middle class residential area of Astoria in Queens, New York City. A graduate of Columbia Univ., she was a photographer’s model before appearing as a showgirl in her first movie, New Faces of 1937.  To further her career, she felt, she had to lose whatever vestiges of New Yorkese she spoke in favor of a upper class British accent.

She did, and it worked.

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A big help was the year she spent living in England in the mid 1930’s, which cemented her newly acquired accent and landed Brooke key supporting parts in some Sherlock Holmes outings. There certainly were a lot of roles in general; by the time her career wound down in 1960, Brooke had appeared in nearly 115 movie and tv credits.

A memorable film role was as Doris Day’s friend (named Jan Peterson) in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much.

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Then there was comedian Red Skelton’s 1938 vehicle, The Fuller Brush Man….

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and Bob Hope’s 1946 comedy, Monsieur Beaucaire

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Brooke died in 1999, at the age of 84.

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