Stars of the Silver Screen

Profile of Paulette Goddard

Paulette Goddard in the film, A Stranger Came Home

Paulette Goddard was a Broadway performer, a former child fashion model, and a renowned American actress of Paramount Pictures. Two of her notable films were the 1936s Modern Times and The Great Dictatorin the 1940s, wherein she played as Charlie Chaplin’s leading lady.

Goddard’s Early Life and Career

Marion Levy, also known as Paulette Goddard, was born on June 3, 1910, in Whitestone Landing, Queens, New York. She was the daughter of a Jewish cigar manufacturer, Joseph Russell Levy, and Alta Mae Goddard, who’s of English ancestry. At a young age, Goddard’s parents were separated, and she was raised by her mother. She later met her father in the 1930s when she had become famous. In a 1938 interview published at Collier’s magazine, Goddard had claimed that Levy was not her father. Consequently, her father filed a suit against her, claiming that the interview had cost him his job and reputation. Goddard then lost the case and was forced to pay her father about $35 a week.

During her childhood, Goddard and her mother often relocated to avoid a custody battle. To support herself and her mother, she had begun modeling for a fashion entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie and for a luxury department store, Saks Fifth Avenue. Goddard was later introduced to a Broadway impresario FlorenzZiegfield by her uncle, who owned a druggist syndicate, Charles Goddard.

Subsequently, by 1926, she had made a stage debut as one of Ziegfield’s dancer in No Foolin’. It was the first time Goddard had used her stage name Paulette Goddard. Furthermore, in the following year, Goddard was once again hired for another musical called Rio Rita. After three weeks, she left the show and appeared in a play produced by Archie Selwyn, The Unconquerable Male. However, the play was unsuccessful and closed after its premiere in Atlantic City.

Charles then introduced Goddard to the president of Southern Lumber Company, Edgar James. She married him at the age of seventeen, in 1927 and later divorced in 1932. Goddard then traveled to Hollywood and appeared as an uncredited extra in Berth Marks and The Locked Door.

Following that, in 1930, Goddard signed her film contract with the producer, Sam Goldwyn. During her career, she appeared in several films, including Whoopee!,City Streets, Ladies of the Big House, The Girl Habit, Palmy Days, and The Mouthpiece. She also appeared as an uncredited supporting actress for Hal Roach Studios in Show Business, Young Ironsides, Pack-up Your Troubles, and Girl Grief.In the year 1932 to 1934, Goldwyn used her in the films including, The Kid from Spain, The Bowery, Roman Scandals, and Kid Millions.

Goddard with Charlie Chaplin and in Hollywood

Goddard and Chaplin in The Great Dictator

The year Goddard signed her contract with Goldwyn, was also the moment she starts dating Charlie Chaplin. Eventually, the relationship they have created had received the attention of the press. Chaplin then cast Goddard as his leading lady in the film that he had written and directed, Modern Times in 1936. In the box office film, Goddard had played the role of The Gamin, an orphan girl who runs away and becomes The Tramp’s companion. Modern Times had been Goddard’s first credited film that had received positive reviews from the critics. In fact, according to a review from Frank Nugent of the New York Times, ‘her role was a fitting recipient of the great Charlot’s companionship.’

Following the success of the Modern Times, although Chaplin worked slowly, he had planned other projects with Goddard. However, Goddard was worried that the public might forget her, so she signed a contract with David O. Selznick and appeared in the comedy film, Young Hearts in 1938. Following that, Goddard also had films under MGM including, Dramatic School and The Women. Subsequently, Selznick was pleased with Goddard’s portrayal in The Young Hearts and considered her to play the character of Scarlett O’Hara, a character from Gone with the Wind. However, later on, the role was given to Vivien Leigh after Leigh had surpassed Goddard in screen tests for the role.

In the later years of the 1930s to 1940s, Goddard had signed a contract under Paramount Pictures. She was then given her next films, The Cat and the Canary alongside Bob Hope. After the success of the latter film, the two were teamed-up again in the film The Ghost Breakers in 1940. Following that, Goddard once again starred with Charlie Chaplin in his film, The Great Dictator. Two years after the film, the two divorced, and Chaplin agreed to a generous settlement.

In the 1940s, Goddard had appeared in more films like Pot o’ Gold, Hold Back the Dawn, Nothing but the Truth, The Lady Has Plans, Reap the Wild Wind, The Forest Rangers, and The Crystal Ball. Later in the 1950s, Goddard had more films and began to appear on TV guesting.

Goddard’s Later Life and Death

After her marriage to her fourth husband, Erich Maria Remarque, Goddard decided to retire from acting and moved to New Zealand. However, she attempted to come back to acting in 1964 and after the death of Remarque in 1970. Upon the death of her fourth husband, Goddard had inherited much of Remarque’s money, as well as his properties in Europe.

Subsequently, in 1975, Goddard had undergone invasive treatment for her breast cancer. On April 23, 1990, at the age of 79, she died from heart failure while she was under respiratory support because of emphysema. Her body was buried next to her mother and Remarque’s grave in Ronco Village Cemetery.

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