Filled Under: Dona Drake
Dona Drake (November 15, 1914 – June 20, 1989) was an American singer, dancer and film actress in the 1930s and 1940s. She was born Eunice Westmoreland on November 15, 1914 in Miami, Florida. Studio publicity during her heyday incorrectly stated that Drake was of Mexican origin and was born Rita Novella. (Novella was actually her mother’s first name.) Entering show business in the 1930s, she used the names Una Velon, Rita Rio and Rita Shaw. As Rita Rio, she was the bandleader of an all-girl orchestra and girls singing group, The Girl Friends, in the early 1930s. In early 1940 she toured, still as Rita Rio, with her “All Girl Orchestra” and actresses Marie Wilson, Toby Wing, and Faith Bacon (from the Earl Carroll Vanities) across the United States. The actresses made numerous appearances for the Infantile Paralysis Fund and Tuberculosis campaign during the tour.
Drake settled on the stage name Dona Drake in the early 1940s. Because of her dark hair and Latin-looking features, Drake generally played Latin or other “ethnic” types. Her first role in a major film was as Nea in “Aloma of the South Seas” (1941) which starred Dorothy Lamour and Jon Hall. She is probably best remembered for playing the American Indian maid of Bette Davis in “Beyond the Forest” (1949). She also appeared as an Arab girl opposite Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in “Road to Morocco” in 1942. Her biggest “non-ethnic” role was the second female lead in the 1949 comedy “The Girl from Jones Beach”, playing opposite Eddie Bracken. Drake’s last film was “Princess Of The Nile” with Debra Padget in 1954. From 1953 to 1955 she appeared in several television shows including, “Adventures of Superman” in 1953 and “Soldiers Of Fortune” in 1955. Drake retired from film and television in 1955.
In 1944 Drake married William Travilla who was an American costume designer for theatre, film, and television. They had one child together and remained married until her death in 1989.
Dona Drake died on June 20, 1989 in Los Angelas, California.