Bates in Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven (1948)
April 15, 1888
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
|Died||January 31, 1954 (aged 65)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Texas at Austin|
(m. 1909; div. 19)
William F. Jacoby
(m. 1929; died 1951)
Born in San Antonio, Texas, the second child of Jewish immigrants, Bates showed musical talent as a child, but a hand injury inhibited her from continuing her piano studies. In 1906, she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in mathematics, after which she taught school.
In 1909, she met and married her first husband and gave up her career to raise their daughter. When that marriage ended in divorce, she began to study law and, in 1914 at the age of 26, passed the bar examination. She was the first female lawyer in her home state and practiced law for four years in San Antonio.
After the death of her parents, Bates left the legal profession to help her sister operate their father's antique business. She became a bilingual (English-Spanish) radio commentator whose program was designed to foster good relations between the United States and Mexico. In 1929, following the stock market crash and the death of her sister, Florence closed the antique shop and married a wealthy businessman, William F. Jacoby. When he lost his fortune, the couple moved to Los Angeles and opened a bakery, which proved a successful venture. They sold it in the 1940s.
In the mid-1930s, Bates auditioned for and won the role of Miss Bates in a Pasadena Playhouse adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. When she decided to continue working with the theater group, she changed her professional name to that of the first character she played on stage. In 1939, she was introduced to Alfred Hitchcock, who cast her in her first major screen role, the widowed Mrs. Van Hopper, in Rebecca (1940).
Bates appeared in more than 60 films over the course of the next 13 years. Among her cinema credits are Kitty Foyle, Love Crazy, The Moon and Sixpence, Mr. Lucky, Heaven Can Wait, Lullaby of Broadway, Mister Big, Since You Went Away, Kismet, Saratoga Trunk, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Winter Meeting, I Remember Mama, Portrait of Jennie, A Letter to Three Wives, On the Town, and Les Misérables. In television, Bates had a regular role on The Hank McCune Show and made guest appearances on I Love Lucy, My Little Margie, I Married Joan  and Our Miss Brooks.