PAULETTE GODDARD Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Paulette Goddard                                                                     
Birth name: Marion Pauline Levy                                                           
Born: 3 June 1910 Whitestone Landing, Queens, New York, U.S.                               
Died: 23 April 1990 Ronco sopra Ascona, Ticino, Switzerland                               
Paulette Goddard (June 3, 1910 - April 23, 1990) was an Oscar-nominated                   
American film and theatre actress. A former child fashion model and in several             
Broadway productions as Ziegfeld Girl, she was a major star of the Paramount               
Studio in the 1940s. Her exceptional beauty and fame led to several marriages to           
notable men, including Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith, and Erich Maria                 
Remarque, although she never had any children.                                             
Paulette Goddard was born Marion Pauline Levy. She was an only child, born in             
Whitestone Landing, Queens, Long Island, New York. Her father, Joseph Russell             
Levy, was Jewish, and her mother, Alta Mae Goddard, was Episcopalian. Her                 
parents divorced while she was young, and she was raised by her mother. Her               
father virtually vanished from her life, only later to resurface in the 1940s             
after she became a star. At first, their relationship seemed genial as she used           
to take him to her film premieres, but then he sued her over a magazine article           
that claimed he abandoned her when she was young. They were never to reconcile             
and upon his death, he left her just one dollar in his will. Goddard offered to           
pay for his funeral expenses. She and her mother struggled those early years,             
with her uncle, Charles Goddard (her mother's brother) lending a hand.                     
It was Charles Goddard who helped his niece to find jobs as a fashion model, and           
with the Ziegfeld Follies as a teen in 1924. She attended Washington Irving High           
School in Manhattan at the same time as Claire Wemlinger, who would become                 
acclaimed Oscar-winning actress Claire Trevor.                                             
Her stage debut was in the Ziegfeld revue production No Foolin in 1926. The next           
year she made her stage acting debut in The Unconquerable Male. She also changed           
her first name to Paulette and took her mother's maiden name (which also                   
happened to be her favorite uncle Charles' last name) as her own last name. She           
married an older, wealthy businessman, lumber tycoon Edgar James, in 1926 or               
1927 and moved to North Carolina to be a socialite, but divorced him in 1930 and           
received a huge divorce settlement.                                                       
Goddard in Dramatic School (1938)                                                         
In 1929 she came to Hollywood with her mother after signing a contract with Hal           
Roach Studios, and appeared in small parts of several films over the next few             
years, starting with Laurel & Hardy short subjects.                                       
At Samuel Goldwyn Productions, she also joined other such future notables as               
Betty Grable, Lucille Ball, Ann Dvorak and Jane Wyman as "Goldwyn Girls" with             
Eddie Cantor in films such as The Kid from Spain, Roman Scandals and Kid                   
In 1932, she met Charlie Chaplin and began an eight-year personal and cinematic           
relationship with him. Chaplin bought Goddard's contract from Roach Studios and           
cast her as a street urchin opposite his Tramp character in the 1936 film Modern           
Times, which made Goddard a star. During this time she lived with Chaplin in his           
Beverly Hills home.                                                                       
Their actual marital status was and has remained a source of controversy and               
speculation. During most of their time together, both remained silent on the               
matter. At the premier of The Great Dictator in 1940, Chaplin first introduced             
Goddard as his wife. The couple split amicably soon afterward, and Goddard                 
allegedly obtained a divorce in Mexico in 1942, with Chaplin agreeing to a                 
generous settlement. For years afterward, Chaplin stated that they were                   
married in China in 1936, but to private associates and family, he claimed they           
were never legally married, except in common law. It is almost certain that               
Chaplin was attempting to limit further damage to Goddard's career by making               
this claim.                                                                               
Goddard began gaining star status after appearing in The Young in Heart (1938),           
Dramatic School (1938), and a strong supporting role in The Women (1939) which             
starred Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Rosalind Russell.                                 
During filming of The Women, Goddard was considered as a finalist for the role             
of Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, but after many auditions           
and a Technicolor screen test, lost the part to Vivien Leigh. It has been                 
suggested that questions regarding her marital status with Chaplin, in that era           
of morals clauses, may have cost her the role.                                             
Nonetheless, in 1939, Goddard signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and her           
next film The Cat and the Canary (1939) with Bob Hope, was a turning point in             
the careers of both actors.                                                               
Goddard starred with Chaplin again in his 1940 film classic The Great Dictator,           
and then was Fred Astaire's leading lady in the musical Second Chorus (1940),             
where she met Burgess Meredith. One of her best-remembered film appearances was           
in the variety musical Star Spangled Rhythm (1943) in which she sang a comic               
number "A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peekaboo Bang" with contemporary sex symbols,           
Dorothy Lamour, and Veronica Lake.                                                         
She received her only Academy Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actress, in           
1944 for So Proudly We Hail! (1943). Her most successful film was Kitty (1945),           
where she played the title role. In The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946), she                 
starred opposite Meredith, by then her husband.                                           
Her career faded in the late 1940s. In 1947 she made An Ideal Husband in Britain           
for Korda films, being accompanied on a publicity trip to Brussels by Clarissa             
Churchill, niece of Sir Winston and future wife of Prime Minister Anthony Eden.           
In 1949, she formed Monterey Pictures with John Steinbeck. Her last starring               
roles were the English production A Stranger Came Home (known as The Unholy Four           
in the USA), and Charge of the Lancers in 1954. She also acted in summer stock             
and on television, including in the 1955 television remake of The Women, playing           
a different character than she played in the 1939 feature film. In 1964, she               
attempted a comeback in films with a supporting role in the Italian film Time of           
Indifference, but that turned out to be her last feature film. Her last acting             
role was in The Snoop Sisters (1972) for television.                                       
Goddard was married to actor Burgess Meredith from 1944 to 1949. She suffered a           
miscarriage while married to him. She had no children. In 1958 she married the             
author Erich Maria Remarque. They remained married until his death in 1970.               
Goddard was treated for breast cancer, apparently successfully, although the               
surgery was very invasive and the doctor had to remove several ribs. She later             
settled in Ronco sopra Ascona, Switzerland, where she died a few months before             
her 80th birthday, following a short battle with emphysema. She is buried in               
Ronco cemetery, next to Remarque and her mother.                                           
In her will, she left US$20 million to New York University (NYU), in recognition           
of her friendship with the Indiana-born politician and former NYU President John           
Brademas. Goddard Hall, an NYU freshman residence hall on Washington Square, is           
named in her honor.                                                                       
There is much inconsistency among published sources regarding Goddard's birth             
year, largely due the documents recording her death incorrectly reporting a               
birth year of 1905. However, U.S. Census documents dated April 15, 1910, show             
her parents living in Manhattan and childless. January 1, 1920 Census documents           
show Pauline G. Levy, age 9, living with her parents in Kansas City, Missouri.