Like Sonja Henie and Vera Ralston, the creature known as Belita (Maria Belita Jepson-Turner, 1923-2005) found her way to movie stardom by being a world renowned ice skater. Like Ralston, she had skated in the 1936 Olympics, in her own case on behalf of the U.K. She was also trained in ballet, which was another useful skill she brought to the table.
In 1937 Belita appeared in a live show called Opera on Ice that whet her appetite for art. Her first two pictures, Ice-Capades (1941) and Silver Skates (1943) are self explanatory. Her next was the musical Lady, Let’s Dance (1944). For a short time Belita was one of Monogram’s highest paid stars, and she transitioned into bona fide acting roles in Suspense (1946), The Gangster (1947) and The Hunted (1948). She then moved to smaller roles at bigger studios, in films like The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949), and Never Let Me Go (1953). She got to work with Gene Kelly in Invitation to the Dance (1956) and Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings (1957). In 1958 she appeared in the off-Broadway play Ulysses in Nighttown with Zero Mostel. She retired from the show biz a short time after that.
|For more on show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous|