She was part of the Ziegfeld Follies by the age of thirteen and she gained fame in the show as the girl on the prop crescent moon. After marrying a millionaire at the age of 16, she then married three famous men, Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith and Erich Maria Remarque. She was also a well known actress in her own right. In the early 1940's she was one of Hollywood's top stars She is best known as part of the all-star, all female cast of 'The Women' in 1939 and as Bob Hope's co-star in the comedies 'The Cat and the Canary' in 1939 and 'The Ghost Breakers' in 1940.
In 1943 she received an Academy nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her sensitive performance as an Army nurse in 'So Proudly We Hail!'.
BiographyPaulette Goddard was born Marion Pauline Levy in Queens, Long Island, in June, 1910 (although some sources give other years between 1904 and 1910). She was an only child. Her parents were divorced when she was still a baby, and she was raised by her mother to whom she remained very close all through her life. She lost contact with her father who only re-appeared when she became famous.
Early YearsShe was a beautiful young girl and easily found work as a child fashion model for large department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Hattie Carnegie. Her introduction to show business was through her great-uncle, prominent businessman, Charles Goddard. When she was just thirteen years old, he introduced her to theater impresario Florenz Ziegfeld and she made her debut with the Ziegfeld "Follies" performing for three years as the girl on the crescent moon.
The Young Movie ActressShe was an extremely ambitious young girl and she determined on a career in movies, changing her name to Paulette, and using her mother's maiden name, Goddard, as her surname. Her first marriage was at 17 in 1927 to wealthy lumber industrialist, Edgar James, but the marriage foundered and they separated two years later and got divorced in 1932 with Goddard receiving a large settlement.
She began appearing in films in 1929, with a bit part in 'Berth Marks' with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. After the separation from her first husband in 1931 she moved permanently to Hollywood and signed a contract with the Hal Roach Studios. She appeared more or less as a beautiful ornament in 'The Girl Habit' in 1931, and 'The Mouthpiece' and 'Young Ironsides' the following year. She then had a larger role as an anonymous blonde "Goldwyn Girl" in the Busby Berkeley chorus of the Eddie Cantor musical 'The Kid from Spain' also in 1932 as well as in 'Roman Scandals' in 1933.
Charlie ChaplinPaulette met Hollywood superstar, Charles Chaplin, in 1931 when she had a small role in his masterpiece, 'City Lights'. She and Chaplin became romantically involved and in 1932 Chaplin bought her contract from Hal Roach Studios and gave her the female lead in the movie he was planning which came out in 1936, another masterpiece, called 'Modern Times'. Before this she appeared in 'Kid Millions' in 1934 for Samuel Goldwyn Productions.
Hollywood StarA solid spot in the all-female cast of the successful 1939 movie 'The Women' led to more rewarding leads as Paulette began to be regarded as a star in her own right. She was sweet and glamorous opposite Bob Hope in 'The Cat and the Canary', also in 1939, and her performance won her a ten year contract with Paramount Pictures. Her second Chaplin movie, 'The Great Dictator', was released in 1940 to great acclaim. In it she was required only to look pretty and keep out of the way while Chaplin was being funny, but it helped increase her star status in the process.
She teamed up with Hope again in 'The Ghost Breakers' in 1940, and was a fetching Cecil B. DeMille adventure heroine in 'North West Mounted Police' also in 1940. Her successes continued with Pot O'Gold in 1941 with Jimmy Stewart and in 1942 'The Lady Has Plans' and 'Reap the Wild Wind' after which she was regarded as one of Hollywood's top-drawing stars.
One of her most popular appearances was in 1943 in the musical 'Star Spangled Rhythm' when she accompanied Dorothy Lamour and Veronica Lake in "A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peekaboo Bang". Her role as a war nurse in 'So Proudly We Hail!' in 1943 won her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and represented the peak of her popularity.
Career DeclinePaulette continued making movies throughout the 1940's, including 'The Crystal Ball' in 1943 and 'Standing Room Only' the following year with Fred McMurray. She made 'Kitty' in 1945, then with her new husband, Burgess Meredith, appeared in 'The Diary of a Chambermaid' the following year, and 'Unconquered' in 1947 with Gary Cooper. Towards the end of the decade her popularity was starting to noticeably fade and after several poor films including 'Bride of Vengeance' in 1949, she was dropped by Paramount.
She continued making movies for several years, mainly low-budget fare such as the 'B' movies 'Babes in Bagdad' in 1952 'Vice Squad' the following year, A Stranger Came Home' produced in England, and 'Charge of the Lancers', both in 1954.
Ten years later, in 1964, Paulette unsuccessfully tried a movie comeback with a supporting role in the Italian film 'Gli indifferenti', but it was her last big screen appearance. She reappeared briefly as the murder victim in the extremely forgettable TV pilot 'The Snoop Sisters' in 1972.
PersonalPaulette was energetic, articulate and intelligent and had close friendships with a wide range of creative artists, including the composer George Gershwin, the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and the artist Andy Warhol.
She married four times, firstly to lumber tycoon Edgar James on June 28, 1927. They separated in 1929 and divorced in 1932.
Her second husband was Charles Chaplin. Paulette and Chaplin were supposedly married in secret aboard ship off Canton, China in 1936, while vacationing in the Orient. This has always been disputed and no marriage contract was ever seen. Chaplin always maintained privately that they were only ever married in common law. Paulette was granted a Mexican divorce in 1942.The lack of proof of marriage backfired badly on her in 1940 when she was being considered for the sought-after role of Scarlett O'Hara in the forthcoming blockbuster,'Gone With the Wind'. She lost out narrowly to Vivien Leigh because she represented a "moral risk" to an hypocritical public.
Paulette's third husband was the actor, Burgess Meredith whom she married in 1944. In October of that year she suffered the miscarriage of a son. The couple divorced in 1949.
Her fourth marriage was in 1950 to novelist Erich Maria Remarque, the marriage ending in 1970 with Remarque's death.
After this marriage Goddard retired from acting and moved with her husband to Ronco sopra Ascona, Switzerland.
She was independently wealthy, initially from her first husband, then from her Hollywood salaries and her other husbands, and in later years she sold many valuable artworks at auction, including her collection of Impressionist art, which was sold in 1979 for $2.9 million. She became known for her philanthropy and in her will she left US$20 million to New York University.
In the mid 1970's Goddard was successfully treated for breast cancer. She died in Ronco, Switzerland from heart failure on 23 April, 1990. She is buried in Ronco cemetery, next to her last husband and her mother.
Paulette Goddard Academy AwardsNo Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Supporting Actress ... So Proudly We Hail! (1943)
Paulette Goddard Filmography
The Locked Door (uncredited)
City Streets (uncredited)
The Girl Habit
Ladies of the Big House (uncredited)
Show Business (uncredited)
Young Ironsides (uncredited)
Pack Up Your Troubles (uncredited)
Girl Grief (uncredited)
The Kid from Spain (uncredited)
Roman Scandals (uncredited)
Kid Millions (uncredited)