While Jean Paul Getty didn’t manage to catch his ride on the Andrea Doria, the actress Betsy Drake did. While she escaped with her life, she lost a small fortune in jewellery, all of which had been given to her by her husband, Hollywood legend Cary Grant. However, Grant himself might not have been in a position to buy his lady fine jewels had history taken a different path. In fact, he may not have lived to meet Betty Drake at all had he not changed his plans to fly on the ill-fated ‘Yankee’ in February 1943.
In all, 24 passengers and crew died when the Pan Am Clipper crash-landed in Lisbon. The aging plane had flown across the Atlantic and was attempting to land at the Cabo Ruivo Seaplane Base, in the heart of the Portuguese city, when disaster struck. It hit the water hard, breaking up and killing dozens outright, among them the prominent American author Benjamin Robertson. The American singer and actress Jane Froman was also on board the doomed Yankee, but she managed to escape with her life, though she did emerge from the wreck with serious injuries.
Silver screen icon Grant got a lucky break. Along with his fellow actor George Murphy, he changed his travel schedule at the very last minute. And, while the Lisbon crash may not have been the most dramatic aviation disasters of the twentieth century, with other incidents claiming far greater losses of life, it did go on to become one of the most infamous. Two of its survivors would make sure of it. When a film biopic of actress Freeman was released in 1952, the crash was placed front and center. Similarly, when Murphy, who left acting to pursue a career in politics, wrote his own memoirs, he made note of his and Grant’s brush with death.
In the end, Grant lived to a fine old age. He retired from the movie business in the 1960s and enjoyed his family life, as well as indulging his love of art into old age. He died in 1986 at the age of 82. Grant’s ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California, a fate far more fitting to a film icon than a premature death in the cold waters of the Atlantic.