Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Remember Her Name

Or, more probably, hear it for the first time. Dona Drake may never have become a superstar, but she was an awfully busy gal. Born with the decidedly unglamorous name of Eunice Westmoreland, this vivacious beauty worked variously as Rita Rio, Reta Shaw, Una Velon, and finally, Dona Drake, as an orchestra leader (of Dona Drake & Her All Girl Band), a dancer, and an actress.

Drake's filmography is littered with titles like Aloma of the South Seas (1941), The Girl from Jones Beach (1949), and Princess of the Nile (1954), identifying her as strictly B-unit; most memorably, she appeared -- in "exotic" makeup and a fright wig -- as Bette Davis's surly Hindu maid in La Davis's Warner Bros. finale, Beyond the Forest (1949).

Married to 20th Century Fox costume designer (and future couturier) William Travilla, Dona Drake retired from show biz after a handful of television appearances in 1955. During the 1960's, she briefly returned to the public eye as a model in her husband's fashion shows; after that, she lived the comfortable life of a society wife, passing away in 1989 after a series of ailments. Never afraid to reinvent herself to suit her needs, Dona Drake was a feisty original. On behalf of all the drab Eunice's who transformed themselves into glamorous Rita's and Dona's, we pay respect.


  1. Just saw The Girl from Jones Beach on TCM.

    TCM is my crack.

  2. "Beyond the Forest" is set in Wisconsin. Jenny, Rosa Moline's surly maid, is *American* Indian, not Hindu Indian.