Daughter of Bernard 'Bunny' Granville and Rosina Timponi, Bonita Granville was born into an acting family on 2 Febuary 1923, in New York, New York. It's not surprising that she herself became a child actor, first on the stage and, at the age of 9, debuting in movies in Westward Passage (1932). She was regularly cast as a naughty little girl, as in These Three (1936) where she played Mary, an obnoxious girl spreading lies about her teachers. Her performance left an impression on the audience, and she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award.
In 1938-39 came the movies she is now best remembered for -- playing the bright and feisty detective/reporter Nancy Drew in the Nancy Drew series. She also appeared with Mickey Rooney in a few Andy Hardy movies. She never really had a movie breakthrough, and after marrying oil millionaire and later producer Jack Wrather, she retired from acting in the middle of the 1950s, although she went on to produce the Lassie (1954) TV series.
After her marriage to oil millionaire Jack Wrather in 1947, she appeared in only three more movies. She became an executive in the Wrather Corp., and first associate producer, then executive producer of the Lassie (1954) TV series. After Wrather's death in 1984, she took over as chairman of the board. She was also involved in many civic and cultural groups, and she was chair of American Film Institute, trustee of John F. Kennedy Center, as well as other well known organizations and charities.
Walt Disney personally convinced the Wrathers to build the Disneyland Hotel when Disney could not raise the money to do so -- his credit was all tied up in building the theme park itself. After the phenomenal success of Disneyland, Disney attempted to buy the hotel; but the Wrathers steadfastly refused to sell. Long after Jack and Bonita Wrather's and Walt Disney's deaths, the Disney Company bought the Wrather Corporation. The Disney Company thus acquired the Disneyland Hotel, the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose attractions in Long Beach, California, the rights to The Lone Ranger (1949) TV series, as well as other properties.
Bonita Granville Rather died of cancer on 11 October 1988, in Santa Monica, California. She and Wrather had four children (two from Wrather's first marriage).