She was just 15 when she first sang in a Hollywood film, and within a year was co-starring in two Jungle Jim movies, but in spite of her early start Betty Jane Rhodes had plenty of ups and downs over the course of her career. She managed to find spots in a number of films through the years and also introduced a classic wartime song on screen, but other singers had more success with it. She also had several highly-charted records, among them her biggest seller, “Buttons and Bows” — but even that was overshadowed by the better-known Dinah Shore version. She just never quite broke through to the next level.
A native of Rockford, Illinois, Rhodes came up via the radio route, making singing appearances from age eight and continuing on into her teens. By the mid-1930s she was embarking on her movie career and got off to a pretty good start. Sometimes billed as Betty Rhodes or Jane Rhodes, she also continued to work on radio as a featured singer and even had her own show for a while.
The early 1940s saw her best period of movie success, with featured parts in several Westerns and her notable performance in 1942’s Sweater Girl, which included her introduction of “I Don’t Want To Walk Without You,” a song that would become World War II classic. Unfortunately for her, Helen Forrest‘s recording with Harry James‘ band would become a #1 hit and is now remembered as the definitive version, but Rhodes continued to enjoy memorable parts in movies for the next few years.
During the post-war years and on into the 1950s, she found herself enjoying her biggest success as a recording star, although she also went through some lulls. Her successes included good-selling records on songs like “Rumors Are Flying,” “Tonight Be Tender to Me,” and her biggest, “Buttons and Bows.” Although her recording career wound down after that, her 1945 marriage to a TV network executive probably helped pave the way for her to further her career in that medium, and she was also a popular attraction in nightclubs before finally retiring for good. She was 90 when she died in 2011.