All About Barbara Bates

Day 315 of Colourisation Project – March 18

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Hollywood seems to produce more drama off screen than on. Today’s colourisation subject is another story of a ‘Hollywood tragic,’ whose mental illness derailed her career, while Hollywood paved the way for the next one.

Best remembered for her small but significant role as Phoebe in the 1950 Oscar winning drama,  All About Eve, Colorado born, American beauty, Barbara Bates was plagued by a history of depression and mental illness from an early age. She suffered from extreme mood swings, insecurities and chronic depression. Tragically it began to unravel, both on and off screen, as she was trying to make it in Hollywood.

Barbara Bates

Photographer: Bert Six ~ Barbara Bates 1947 ~ Colourised by Loredana Crupi

Once a promising starlet, who co-starred alongside Danny Kaye, Mickey Rooney, Bette Davis and Jerry Lewis, her erratic behavior and emotional instability saw her become virtually unemployable after the mid 1950s. Hollywood showed little sympathy and was ill equipped to deal with mental health issues. She was written out of the 1954 NBC sitcom, It’s a Great Life, after 26 episodes and in 1957 her contract with Rank Organisation was canceled for the same reasons.

In 1960, Bates’ husband, Cecil Coan was diagnosed with cancer. Putting her career on hold she rarely left his side. However finding it all too difficult, she sought death by slashing her wrists in 1962. Rushed to hospital in time, she survived this suicide attempt and after recovery went on to make her final onscreen appearance in an episode of The Saint in November 1962.

Five years later her husband passed away. Devastated, Bates once again spiraled into depression, surfacing just in time to marry childhood friend and sportscaster William Reed, the following year. Her new marriage however, provided little relief for Bates, who was still overcome with grief for her first husband of 22 years, and a non-abiding depression.

On this day, March 18, 1969, just three months into her marriage to Reed, Barbara Bates successfully carried out her suicide wish. Her mother found her lifeless body on the front seat of her Volkswagen in the sealed garage of their suburban Denver home. Reportedly pregnant, her death was ruled a suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

At the age of 43, hers was just another sad but predictable ending for a promising Hollywood actress.


“I have no illusions about being a star. Every time I did something really important, they ended up cutting it.”   ~   Barbara Bates

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, Hollywood, Photography, Television, USA, Women, Women in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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