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Snapped Famed WWII Betty Grable Pinup : Photographer Frank Powolny Dies at 84

January 11, 1986|From the Associated Press

Frank Powolny, the 20th Century Fox studio photographer who snapped a famous World War II pinup picture of Betty Grable and took one of the last shots of Marilyn Monroe, has died of a heart attack.

The Austrian-born Powolny was 84 when he died Sunday in Valencia, said his wife of 46 years, Peggy. The Newbury Park resident had been visiting his daughter when he was stricken.

As chief portrait and still photographer at 20th Century Fox from 1923 to 1966, Powolny captured thousands of stars and starlets in studio and action photos that ended up in newspapers, magazines and theater lobbies worldwide.

Last Known Photo of Monroe

His subjects included Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Tom Mix, Warner Baxter, Shirley Temple, Alice Faye, Jeanne Crain, Lana Turner, Gene Tierney, Humphrey Bogart, Bing Crosby, Jennifer Jones, Joan Collins and Ann-Margret.

In 1962, Powolny took the last known still photographs of Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Something's Got to Give," a week before her death.

But he was best known for the pinup of Betty Grable that GIs carried into battle during World War II. The photo, showing Grable in swimsuit and pumps and peeking coyly over her shoulder, made Ripley's "Believe It or Not" after 5 million prints had been made.

During a 1982 interview, he recalled that it came about after a regular shooting session.

'Began to Clown Around'

"I asked Betty if she'd like to have a back shot, just to be different," he said. "She said, 'Yes,' and began to clown around. 'You want it like this?' she asked, posing. And I said, 'Yeah.'

"I made only two shots of that pose. It was the second shot that became famous."

Powolny immigrated to the United States when he was 13 and attended school in Clarkson, Neb.

During World War I, he served for a year as an artilleryman in the U.S. Army.

Survivors include his wife, a daughter, Martha Doane of Valencia, and two grandsons.

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