Nancy "Slim" Keith, Lady Keith

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Nancy "Slim" Keith, Lady Keith's Geni Profile

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Mary Raye Keith (Gross)

Also Known As: "Slim Keith", "Nancy Gross"
Birthdate: (72)
Birthplace: Salinas, CA, United States
Death: April 6, 1990 (72)
Manhattan, New York, United States (lung cancer)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Edward B. Gross and Ray Nell Gross
Ex-wife of Howard Winchester Hawks; William “Leland” Hayward II and Kenneth Alexander Keith, Baron Keith of Castleacre
Mother of Private
Sister of Theodora E Anderson

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Nancy "Slim" Keith, Lady Keith

Nancy "Slim" Gross was born Mary Raye Gross. Her mother changed her name to Nancy. Gross was a New York socialite and fashion icon during the 1950s and 1960s, exemplifying the American jet set. She is perhaps best known, along with her friend Babe Paley, as the thinly veiled inspiration for characters in Truman Capote's novel Answered Prayers.

Early life

Born Mary Raye Gross in Salinas, California (her mother changed her name to Nancy), by age 22, she had appeared on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. She graced the Best Dressed list almost annually, and in 1946 won a Neiman Marcus Fashion Award (as Mrs. Leland Hayward). She was also dubbed the original "California Girl", for her golden looks and athletic ability. She considered a career in opera, before deciding it was too demanding.

Personal life

When she was 16, Slim left school and moved to Death Valley where she met William Powell. Through Powell, she met William Randolph Hearst and his mistress Marion Davies. She thus became a Hollywood socialite, and was frequently seen at parties with Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. She was pursued by Clark Gable, as well as Ernest Hemingway. In 1938 she met Howard Hawks, the noted film director, who was immediately smitten with her, and did everything he could to persuade her to marry him, despite his long-standing marriage. Three years later (1941) they were married; however, Hawks was unable to remain faithful, and shortly after the birth of their daughter, Kitty Hawks, she moved to Havana to stay with Ernest Hemingway, where she met her second husband, Leland Hayward. Slim and Hayward divorced their respective spouses in order to marry, and they stayed together for 12 years. Although she was pursued by the likes of Clark Gable and Ernest Hemingway, she wrote that the one love of her life remained Hayward, who in turn left her for another socialite, Pamela Churchill. Her next and last husband was British banker Kenneth Keith, whom she left in 1972, after a 10-year marriage.

Keith banished Capote from her life when he used her as the unflattering model for the fictional Lady Coolbirth of his infamous and unfinished Answered Prayers. She never spoke to him again.


The last years of her life were spent pursuing travel and quiet social activities in New York. An inveterate smoker, she died of lung cancer.

Fictional portrayals

Slim Keith was portrayed in the film Infamous (2006) by Hope Davis.


"God blessed me with a happy spirit and many other gifts. What I was not blessed with I went out and got. Sometimes the price was too high, but I've never been much of a bargain hunter." from Slim: Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life (1991).

Birth date may be 7/15/1916. Needs to be checked.

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Nancy "Slim" Keith, Lady Keith's Timeline

July 15, 1917
Salinas, CA, United States
April 6, 1990
Age 72
Manhattan, New York, United States