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Dona Drake
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    (November 15, 1914-June 20, 1989)
    Born in Jacksonville, Florida
    Birth name was Eunice Westmoreland
    Actress, singer and dancer
    Appeared on Broadway in Earl Carroll's Vanities (1933)
    Appeared in the films 'Strike Me Pink' (1936), 'Aloma of the South Seas' (1941), 'The Road to Morocco' (1942), 'So This Is New York' (1948), 'The Girl from Jones Beach' (1949), 'Beyond the Forest' (1949), 'Valentino' (1951), 'Kansas City Confidential' (1952), 'Son of Belle Starr' (1953), and 'Princess of the Nile' (1954)
    Before settling on Dona Drake, she used the stage names Una Novella, Rita Novella, Rita Rio, Una Velon, and Rita Shaw.
    She presented herself as a Mexican, probably to cover up that she was three-quarters black.
    Paramount's publicity department shaved six years off her age.
    She was usually cast in exotic/ethnic roles, such as Native Americans ('Beyond the Forest'), Arabs ('The Road to Morocco') and Pacific Islanders ('Aloma of the South Seas').
    She dated mobster Louis 'Pretty' Amberg; when questioned by the FBI after his death, she claimed to have known him only as 'Mr. Cohen' and to have no idea what he did for a living.
    She married designer Billy Travilla just ten days after being first introduced to him.
    She was good friends with Dorothy Lamour, who helped her get a contract with Paramount.
    She led the Girl Friends, an all-girl orchestra that included fellow actresses Toby Wing and Marie Wilson, on fundraising tours to benefit polio and tuberculosis research.
    When her acting talent was questioned, she replied, 'You know perfectly well that you don't have to be an actress to go over in pictures.'
    Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at Emory College named her 'the girl we'd most like to have in the back seat of a car, without gas.' (1943)
    She retired from films in the mid-50s after she began suffering epileptic seizures.

Credit: C. Fishel

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