Tragic Story behind 'It's a Great Life' Star Barbara Bates Who Took Her Own Life

Razia Meer
May 04, 2019
06:21 A.M.
Share this pen

American singer, and actress, Barbara Bates rocked the silver screen way back in the 1940s and 50s until her passing in the 60s from a long battle with depression that she never won.


Barbara Bates, born in 1925 in Denver, Colorado, was an American model, singer, and actress. She studied ballet and worked as a fashion model as a teenager.

After winning a local beauty contest, the shy girl met Cecil Coan, a United Artists publicist. Bates sign a contract with Universal Pictures that changed her life completely.

Barbara Bates as a pin up. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.


Coan, who was two decades older than her and married with two sons and two daughters, divorced his wife and secretly married Bates, who he promised to make a star. 

Warner Bros. signed her in 1947 and this "girl-next-door" appeared with some of the biggest stars including Bette Davis in "June Bride" and Danny Kaye in "The Inspector General."

Barbara's on-and-off-screen life started unraveling with her succumbing to mental health issues such as extreme mood shifts, insecurities, ill health, and chronic depression.

Barbara Bates in "Apache Territory." | Source: YouTube/Saturday's World


After her appearance in "All About Eve," got critical acclaim, Bates co-starred in "Cheaper by the Dozen," and its sequel "Belles on Their Toes."

By the time she was 30, she had already been fired by Warner Bros. and was considered washed up in Hollywood. Coen, who was still running her career, tried to salvage it in England.

The Rank Organization picked her up and cast her in two movies, but they both turned out to be mediocre and so she was released once again and returned home.

Barbara Bates in "Apache Territory." | Source: YouTube/Saturday's World


The couple tried their luck in Hollywood again and in 1958 and Rory Calhoun, a friend, cast Bates in a picture he was producing called "Apache Territory." 

Barbara, a woman who battled with her insecurities and shyness all through childhood, eventually relented and abandoned her acting career completely, except for an appearance in "The Saint" in 1962, starring Roger Moore.

It is believed that Barbara returned to her home town and for the next several years worked various small jobs as a secretary, dental assistant, and hospital aide.

Coen was diagnosed with cancer in the 60s and Barbara remained with him, volunteering at a Church. When she later attempted suicide by slashing her wrists, she was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital.


Barbara Bates and Mickey Rooney in "Quicksand." | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Coen lost his battle with cancer in 1967 and Bates remarried in 1968. Her new husband was an old childhood friend, William Reed.


The following year, news about Barbara's untimely death rocked the world. She was found dead in her car after committing suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning. She was reportedly pregnant at the time.

What might have been if the naturally shy girl had not been groomed into being a big Hollywood star and was allowed to simply live a quiet, small-town life, as she wanted? Rest in peace, Barbara Bates.


The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, and images contained on, or available through is for general information purposes only. does not take responsibility for any action taken as a result of reading this article. Before undertaking any course of treatment please consult with your healthcare provider.