Born Ella Wallace Raines near Snoqualmie Falls, Washington, Ella Raines studied drama at the University of Washington and was appearing in a play there when she was seen by Director Howard Hawks. She became the first actor signed to the new production company he had formed with the actor Charles Boyer, "B-H Productions," and made her film debut in Corvette K-225 in 1943.
Raines appeared on the cover of Life magazine twice, once in 1944 for her work in Phantom Lady and once in 1947 for Brute Force.
Soon, she began appearing in such films as 1945's The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry with Geraldine Fitzgerald and George Sanders and the 1947 thriller The Web. With the exception of Brute Force, in which Raines appeared with Burt Lancaster, none of her later films were nearly as successful as her previous movies and her career began to decline.
On February 6, 1947, Raines married fighter pilot Robin Olds, who eventually became promoted to United States Air Force Brigadier General; the couple had two children. They separated in 1975 and divorced in 1976.
In 1954 and 1955 she starred in the television series Janet Dean, Registered Nurse. She also appeared in such television series as Robert Montgomery Presents, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents, Lights Out, Pulitzer Prize Playhouse and The Christophers.
She retired from acting in 1957, but made one further screen appearance with a guest role in the series Matt Houston in 1984.
She died from throat cancer in Sherman Oaks, California in 1988, aged 67.