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Barbara Bates
Born August 6, 1925(1925-08-06)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Died March 18, 1969 (aged 43)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1945–1962
Spouse(s) Cecil Coan (m. 1945–1967) «start: (1945)–end+1: (1968)»"Marriage: Cecil Coan to Barbara Bates" Location: (linkback:
William Reed (m. 1968–1969) «start: (1968)–end+1: (1970)»"Marriage: William Reed to Barbara Bates" Location: (linkback:

Barbara Bates (August 6, 1925 – March 18, 1969) was an American actress best known for her role as Phoebe in the 1950 drama, All About Eve.


Early life

The eldest of three daughters, Bates was born in Denver, Colorado. While growing up in Denver, she studied ballet and worked as a teen fashion model. The shy teen was persuaded to enter a local beauty contest and won, receiving two round-trip train tickets to Hollywood, California. Two days before returning to Denver, Bates met Cecil Coan, a United Artists publicist, who would ultimately change the course of her life.[1]


In September 1944, Bates signed a contract with Universal Pictures after Cecil Coan introduced her to producer Walter Wanger. Soon after, she was cast as one of the "Seven Salome Girls" in the 1945 drama, Salome, Where She Danced starring Yvonne De Carlo. Around this time, she fell in love with Coan, who was married with three sons. In March 1945, Coan divorced his wife and secretly married Bates days later. Bates spent the next few years as a stock actress, landing bit parts in movies and doing cheesecake layouts for magazines like Yank, the Army Weekly and Life. It was one of those photo sessions that caught the eye of executives at Warner Bros. who signed her in 1947. Warner Bros. highlighted her "girl-next-door" image and her acting career took off. She appeared with some of the biggest stars of the day including Bette Davis in June Bride and Danny Kaye in The Inspector General.[1]

In 1949, Bates' contract with Warner Bros. was terminated when she refused to go to New York to promote The Inspector General. Despite being fired by Warner Bros., she quickly signed a contract with 20th Century Fox later that year.[1] In 1950, she landed her most memorable role in All About Eve. She made a short but important appearance as the devious schemer, Phoebe. Bates' image is enshrined in the film's last scene, posing in front of a three-way mirror, while holding the award won by her idol Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). This memorable final scene left critics and audiences intrigued by the young actress.[2]

After her appearance in All About Eve, Bates co-starred in Cheaper by the Dozen, and its sequel Belles on Their Toes, with Jeanne Crain and Myrna Loy.[3] In 1951, she landed a role opposite MacDonald Carey and Claudette Colbert in the comedy, Let's Make It Legal.


Despite a seemingly successful career, Bates' life, both on and off screen, started unraveling. She became a victim of extreme mood swings, insecurity, ill health, and chronic depression. In 1954, she landed the role of Cathy on the NBC sitcom, It's a Great Life. After only 7 episodes, she was written out of the show due to her erratic behavior and depression. Bates tried to salvage her career and traveled to England to find work. She was signed on as a contract player with the Rank Organisation, only to drop out of two leading roles in one month. Bates continued to be too emotionally unstable to work and in 1957, her contract with the Rank Organisation was canceled.[1] Her last onscreen appearance would come in an episode of The Saint that aired in November 1962.[4]

In 1960, Bates and her husband moved back to the United States and got an apartment in Beverly Hills. Later that year, Coan was diagnosed with cancer. Bates remained devoted to her husband and rarely left his bedside, but the strain was too much for her. She attempted suicide by slashing her wrists and was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where she soon recovered.[1]


In January 1967, Bates' husband, Cecil Coan, died of cancer. She was devastated by his death and fell apart. Her depression worsened and she again became suicidal. Later that year, she retreated back to Denver and fell out of public view. For a time, Bates worked as a secretary, a dental assistant, and as a hospital aide. In December 1968, she married for the second time to a childhood friend, sportscaster William Reed. Despite her new marriage and location, she remained increasingly despondent and depressed.[1]

On March 18, 1969, just months after her marriage to Reed, Barbara Bates committed suicide in her mother's garage by carbon monoxide poisoning. She was 43 years old.[5]


Year Film Role Notes
1945 Strange Holiday Peggy Lee Stevenson Alternative titles: Terror on Main Street
The Day After Tomorrow
Salome Where She Danced Salmone girl Uncredited
Lady On a Train Hat Check Girl Uncredited
This Love of Ours Mrs. Dailey Uncredited
The Crimson Canary Girl Uncredited
1946 A Night In Paradise Palace Maiden Uncredited
1947 The Fabulous Joe Debbie Terkel
The Hal Roach Comedy Carnival Debbie Terkle, in Fabulous Joe
Always Together Ticket Seller Uncredited
1948 April Showers Secretary Uncredited
Romance On the High Seas Stewardess Uncredited
Alternative title: It's Magic
Johnny Belinda Gracie Anderson Uncredited
June Bride Jeanne Brinker
Adventures of Don Juan Uncredited
Alternative title: The New Adventures of Don Juan
1949 One Last Fling June Payton
The House Across the Street Beth Roberts
The Inspector General Leza
1950 Quicksand Helen Calder
Cheaper by the Dozen Ernestine Gilbreth
All About Eve Phoebe
1951 I'd Climb the Highest Mountain Jenny Brock
The Secret of Convict Lake Barbara Purcell
Let's Make It Legal Barbara Denham
1952 Belles on Their Toes Ernestine Gilbreth
The Outcasts of Poker Flat Piney Wilson
1953 All Ashore Jane Stanton
The Caddy Lisa Anthony
1954 Rhapsody Effie Cahill
1956 House of Secrets Judy Anderson Alternative title: Triple Deception
1957 Town on Trial Elizabeth Fenner
1958 Apache Territory Jennifer Fair
Year Title Role Notes
1953 The Revlon Mirror Theater 1 episode
1954-1955 It's a Great Life Cathy "Katy" Morgan 26 episodes
1955 The Millionaire Marian Curtis 1 episode
Studio 57 Elaine Hilton 1 episode
1962 The Saint Helen Ravenna 1 episode


  1. ^ a b c d e f Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen: Barbara Bates
  2. ^ Carr, Jay (2002). The A List: The National Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films.. Da Capo Press. p. 14. ISBN 0-306-81096-4.  
  3. ^ Barbara Bates at Allmovie
  4. ^ The Saint at the Internet Movie Database, Original air date
  5. ^ Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. pp. 258. ISBN 0-764-15858-9.  

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