Hollywood playboy Cary Grant’s third wife Betsy Drake died at the age of 92, two weeks ago on October 27 in the comfort of her home in London. Drake is perhaps best remembered for introducing her then-husband to LSD therapy.
Cary married Betsy in the middle of his five wives. Grant was immediately attracted to Drake. The couple first met after Cary became enamored with Betsy after seeing her onstage in London in Elia Kazan’s Deep Are The Roots. On the way back to New York City by boat, Grant twisted the arm of fellow Hollywood actress Merle Oberon to arrange a meeting.
After landing in New York City, Drake went off on her own, but a smitten Cary continued to pursue her until she was convinced to come join in him in Los Angeles to work in the Hollywood film industry. As Grant was perhaps at his career peak at the time, his romance with Drake was front page gossip news, with many wondering when she would become his wife.
Capitalizing on the press that their relationship attracted, Cary and Betsy appeared in 1948 comedy Every Girl Should Have a Husband together. The formula was a success: the film was one of studio RKO’s most successful of the year — pulling in around $775,000.
After the film, attention on the Grant-Drake pairing began to attract an even larger wave of attention. By the time the pair decided to marry a year after the film’s release, Cary sought a private ceremony through the influence of his friend Howard Hughes — an American business tycoon and one of the richest men on earth at the time.
At a secluded Arizona ranch, Drake became Grant’s third wife at the of 26. Cary was 45 at the time, something that was criticized by members of the Hollywood press, notes Marc Eliot in his book Cary Grant: A Biography. One such naysayer was notorious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
“When a man of forty falls in love with a girl of twenty, it isn’t her youth he is seeking but his own.”
After appearing in a handful of productions, Betsy set her focus on being a housewife. She developed a deep level of trust with Cary and was even able to get both of them to stop smoking at a time when the practice was rampant in Hollywood. Unfortunately for Drake, that commitment was not able to prevent Grant’s gaze from straying.
While he was working on the film The Pride and the Passion in 1954, Betsy decided to pay a visit to Cary on set. What she found there was a suggestive relationship between Grant and his co-star Sophia Loren that struck her with sadness. Devastated by what she saw as the end of her marriage, Drake took the advice of a friend and began to therapeutically take LSD.
Once Cary heard how much his wife was benefitting from the therapy, he went to make sure that Betsy wasn’t leaking out anything that could hurt his carefully coiffed image. Soon after ending his marriage with Drake, Grant began to take LSD frequently and for at least several years afterward. It was even one of the main reasons his next marriage to Dyan Cannon failed, according to an excerpt of her memoir in Express.
Years later, Betsy still maintained that LSD therapy had been extremely pertinent to her own life, according to Vanity Fair story about use of the drug within the Hollywood elite. Drake even crediting the drug with giving her the courage to finally stand up to Cary, one morning finally telling him to “Go f**k himself.”
“[The human mind] is like a vast ocean. You don’t know where you are going to go. There is no past, present, and future—all time is now. The amazing thing about the drug is the things you see. The palm trees look different. Everything looks different, and it teaches you so much.”
In total, Cary Grant starred in two movies and a television series with his third wife Betsy Drake before he died in 1986.
[Image via A.W. Cox/Getty Images and Hulton Archive]