Betty Hutton

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Betty Hutton
Betty Hutton.jpg
Hutton in 1944
Born Elizabeth June Thornburg
(1921-02-26)February 26, 1921
Battle Creek, Michigan, U.S.
Died March 11, 2007(2007-03-11) (aged 86)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Resting place
Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California
Years active 1938–2000
Spouse(s) Ted Briskin (m. 1945–50)
Charles O'Curran (m. 1952–55)
Alan W. Livingston (m. 1955–60)
Pete Candoli (m. 1960–62)
Children Lindsay Diane Briskin (b. 1946)
Candice Elizabeth Briskin (b. 1947)
Carolyn Candoli (b. 1961)

Betty Hutton (February 26, 1921 – March 11, 2007) [1] was an American stage, film, and television actress, comedienne and singer.

Early life[edit]

Hutton was born Elizabeth June Thornburg in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was the daughter of a railroad foreman, Percy E. Thornburg (1896–1939) and his wife, Mabel Lum (1901–1967).[2] While she was very young, her father abandoned the family for another woman. They did not hear of him again until they received a telegram in 1939, informing them of his suicide. Along with her older sister Marion, Betty was raised by her mother, who took the surname Hutton and was later billed as the actress Sissy Jones.

The three started singing in the family's speakeasy when Betty was 3 years old. Troubles with the police kept the family on the move. She attended Central High School in Lansing, Michigan. They eventually landed in Detroit, Michigan. (On one occasion, when Betty, preceded by a police escort, arrived at the premiere of Let's Dance (1950), her mother, arriving with her, quipped, "At least this time the police are in front of us!") Hutton sang in several local bands as a teenager, and at one point visited New York City hoping to perform on Broadway, where she was rejected.

A few years later, she was scouted by orchestra leader Vincent Lopez, who gave Hutton her entry into the entertainment business. In 1939 she appeared in several musical shorts for Warner Bros., and appeared in a supporting role on Broadway in Panama Hattie[3] (starring Ethel Merman) and Two for the Show,[4] both produced by Buddy DeSylva.

Career[edit]

When DeSylva became a producer at Paramount Pictures, Hutton was signed to a featured role in The Fleet's In (1942), starring Paramount's number one female star Dorothy Lamour. Hutton was an instant hit with the movie-going public. Paramount did not immediately promote her to major stardom, however, but did give her second leads in a Mary Martin film musical, Star Spangled Rhythm (1943), and another Lamour film. In 1943 she was given co-star billing with Bob Hope in Let's Face It and with the release of The Miracle of Morgan's Creek the following year, Hutton attained major stardom. By the time Incendiary Blonde was released in 1945, she had supplanted Lamour as Paramount's number one female box office attraction.

Hutton in 1952

Hutton made 19 films from 1942 to 1952 including the hugely popular The Perils of Pauline in 1947. She was billed above Fred Astaire in the 1950 musical Let's Dance. Hutton's greatest screen triumph came in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) for MGM, which hired her to replace an exhausted Judy Garland in the role of Annie Oakley. The film, with the leading role retooled for Hutton, was a smash hit, with the biggest critical praise going to Hutton. (Her obituary in The New York Times described her as "a brassy, energetic performer with a voice that could sound like a fire alarm.")[5] Among her lesser known roles was an unbilled cameo in Sailor Beware (1952) with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, in which she portrayed Dean's girlfriend, Hetty Button.

In 1944, she signed a recording contract with Capitol Records (she was one of the earliest artists to do so). Later she became disillusioned with Capitol's management and moved to RCA Victor.

Her career as a Hollywood star ended due to a contract dispute with Paramount following the Oscar-winning The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Somebody Loves Me (1952), a biography of singer Blossom Seeley. The New York Times reported that the dispute resulted from her insistence that her husband at the time, Charles O'Curran, direct her next film. When the studio declined, Hutton broke her contract. Hutton's last completed film was a small one, Spring Reunion, released in 1957, a drama in which she gave an understated, sensitive performance. Unfortunately, box office receipts indicated the public did not want to see a subdued Hutton.

Hutton in the trailer for
Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

Hutton got work in radio, appeared in Las Vegas and in nightclubs, then tried her luck in the new medium of television. In 1954, TV producer Max Liebman, of Your Show of Shows, fashioned his first "Color Spectacular" as an original musical written especially for Hutton, Satins and Spurs.[6] It was an enormous flop with the public and the critics, despite being one of the first programs televised nationally by NBC in compatible color. In 1957, she appeared on a Dinah Shore show on NBC that also featured Boris Karloff; the program has been preserved on a kinescope. Desilu Productions took a chance on Hutton in 1959, giving her a sitcom, The Betty Hutton Show, directed by Jerry Fielding.[7] It quickly faded.

Hutton began headlining in Las Vegas and touring across the country. She returned to Broadway briefly in 1964 when she temporarily replaced a hospitalized Carol Burnett in the show Fade Out – Fade In.[8] In 1967 she was signed to star in two low-budget westerns for Paramount, but was fired shortly after the projects began. In the 1970s she portrayed Miss Hannigan in the original Broadway production of Annie while Alice Ghostley was on vacation.

Marriages and children[edit]

Hutton's first marriage was to camera manufacturer Ted Briskin on September 3, 1945. The marriage ended in divorce in 1950. Two daughters were born to the couple

  • Lindsay Diane Briskin, born in Barcelona, Spain on March 1, 1946
  • Candice Elizabeth Briskin, born in Havana, Cuba on December 3, 1947.

Hutton's second marriage in 1952 was to choreographer Charles O'Curran. They divorced in 1955. He died in 1984.

She married for the third time in 1955. Husband Alan W. Livingston, an executive with Capitol Records, was the creator of Bozo the Clown. They divorced five years later, although some accounts refer to the union as a nine-month marriage.

Her fourth and final marriage in 1960 was to jazz trumpeter Pete Candoli, a brother of Conte Candoli. Hutton and Candoli had one child

  • Carolyn Candoli, born on March 9, 1961.

They divorced in 1962.

Life after Hollywood[edit]

With American sailors and Marines in the Marshall Islands in December 1944

After the 1967 death of her mother in a house fire and the collapse of her last marriage, Hutton's depression and pill addictions escalated. She divorced her fourth husband, jazz trumpeter Pete Candoli, and declared bankruptcy. Hutton had a nervous breakdown and later attempted suicide after losing her singing voice in 1970. After regaining control of her life through rehab, and the mentorship of a Roman Catholic priest, Father Peter Maguire, Hutton converted to Roman Catholicism and took a job as a cook at a rectory in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. She made national headlines when it was revealed she was working in a rectory.

In 1974, a well-publicized "Love-In for Betty Hutton" was held at New York City's Riverboat Restaurant, emceed by comedian Joey Adams, with several old Hollywood pals on hand. The event raised $10,000 (USD) for Hutton and gave her spirits a big boost. Steady work, unfortunately, still eluded her.

Hutton appeared in an interview with Mike Douglas and a brief guest appearance in 1975 on Baretta. In 1977, Hutton was featured on The Phil Donahue Show. Hutton was then happily employed as hostess at a Newport, Rhode Island jai alai arena.

She also appeared on Good Morning America, which led to a 1978 televised reunion with her two daughters. Hutton began living in a shared home with her divorced daughter and grandchildren in California, but returned to the East Coast for a three-week return to the stage. She followed Dorothy Loudon as the evil Miss Hannigan in Annie on Broadway[9] in 1980. Hutton's rehearsal of the song "Little Girls" was featured on Good Morning America.

A ninth grade drop-out, Hutton went back to school and earned a Master's Degree in psychology from Salve Regina University. During her time at college, Hutton became friends with singer-songwriter Kristin Hersh and attended several early concerts of Hersh's band, Throwing Muses.[10] Hersh would later write the song "Elizabeth June" as a tribute to her friend, and wrote about their relationship in further detail in her memoir, Rat Girl.[11]

Her last known performance, in any medium, was on Jukebox Saturday Night, which aired on PBS in 1983.[12] Hutton stayed in New England and began teaching comedic acting at Boston's Emerson College. She became estranged again from her daughters.

After the death of her ally, Father Maguire, Hutton returned to California, moving to Palm Springs in 1999, after decades in New England. Hutton hoped to grow closer with her daughters and grandchildren, as she told Robert Osborne on TCM's Private Screenings in April 2000, though her children remained distant. She told Osborne that she understood their hesitancy to accept a now elderly mother. The TCM interview first aired on July 18, 2000. The program was rerun as a memorial on the evening of her death in 2007, and again on July 11, 2008, April 14, 2009, and as recently as January 26, 2010.[13]

Death[edit]

Betty Hutton's headstone at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. Her epitaph reads "Loved by All".

Hutton lived in Palm Springs, California until her death, at 86, from colon cancer complications.[5][14] Hutton is buried at Desert Memorial Parkin Cathedral City, California.[15][16] None of her three daughters attended the funeral.[17]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Betty Hutton has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6253 Hollywood Boulevard.

Hit songs[edit]

Year Title Chart peak Catalog number Notes
1939 "Old Man Mose" with Vincent Lopez Orchestra
"Igloo" 15 Bluebird 10300 with Vincent Lopez Orchestra
"The Jitterbug" Bluebird 10367 with Vincent Lopez Orchestra
1942 "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry"
"I'm Doin' It For Defense"
1943 "Murder, He Says"
"The Fuddy Duddy Watchmaker"
1944 "Bluebirds in my Belfry"
"It Had To Be You" 5 Capitol 155 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"His Rocking Horse Ran Away" 7 Capitol 155 with Paul Weston Orchestra
1945 "Stuff Like That There" 4 Capitol 188 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?" 15 Capitol 211 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"(Doin' It) The Hard Way" Capitol 211 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief" 1 Capitol 220 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"A Square in the Social Circle" Capitol 220 with Paul Weston Orchestra
1946 "My Fickle Eye" 21 RCA Victor 20-1915 with Joe Lilley Orchestra
1947 "Poppa, Don't Preach To Me" Capitol 380 with Joe Lilley Orchestra
"I Wish I Didn't Love You So" 5 Capitol 409 with Joe Lilley Orchestra
1949 "(Where Are You?) Now That I Need You" Capitol 620 with Joe Lilley Orchestra
1950 "Orange Colored Sky" 24 RCA Victor 20-3908 with Pete Rugolo Orchestra
"Can't Stop Talking" RCA Victor 20-3908 with Pete Rugolo Orchestra
"A Bushel and a Peck" (duet with Perry Como) 3 RCA Victor 20-3930 with Mitchell Ayres Orchestra
1951 "It's Oh So Quiet"[18] RCA Victor 20-4179 with Pete Rugolo Orchestra
"The Musicians" (with Dinah Shore, Tony Martin and Phil Harris) 24 RCA Victor 20-4225 with Henri René Orchestra
1953 "Goin' Steady" 21 Capitol 2522 with Nelson Riddle Orchestra
1954 "The Honeymoon's Over" (duet with Tennessee Ernie Ford) 16 Capitol 2809 with Billy May Orchestra
1956 "Hit the Road to Dreamland" Capitol 3383 with Vic Schoen Orchestra

Filmography[edit]

Motion pictures
Year Film Role Notes
1938 Queens of the Air Herself film short
1939 Vincent Lopez and His Orchestra Herself film short
Three Kings and a Queen Herself film short
Public Jitterbug No. 1 Public Jitterbug No. 1 film short
1940 One for the Book Cinderella film short
1942 The Fleet's In Bessie Day
Star Spangled Rhythm Polly Judson
1943 Happy Go Lucky Bubbles Hennessy
Let's Face It Winnie Porter
Strictly G.I. Herself film short
1944 The Miracle of Morgan's Creek Trudy Kockenlocker
And the Angels Sing Bobby Angel
Skirmish on the Home Front Emily Average film short
Here Come the Waves Susan Allison / Rosemary Allison
1945 Incendiary Blonde Texas Guinan
Duffy's Tavern Herself cameo
The Stork Club Judy Peabody
Hollywood Victory Caravan Herself film short
1946 Cross My Heart Peggy Harper
1947 The Perils of Pauline Pearl White
1948 Dream Girl Georgina Allerton
1949 Red, Hot and Blue Eleanor "Yum-Yum" Collier
1950 Annie Get Your Gun Annie Oakley
Let's Dance Kitty McNeil
1952 The Greatest Show on Earth Holly
Sailor Beware Hetty Button uncredited cameo
Somebody Loves Me Blossom Seeley
1957 Spring Reunion Margaret "Maggie" Brewster
Television
Year Film Role Notes
1958 That's My Mom 1 episode (unaired pilot)
1959–60 The Betty Hutton Show Goldie Appleby 30 episodes
1964 The Greatest Show on Earth Julia Dana 1 episode
1964–65 Burke's Law Carlene Glory
Rena Zito
2 episodes
1965 Gunsmoke Molly McConnell 1 episode
1977 Baretta Velma 1 episode

Box Office Ranking[edit]

For several years film exhibitors voted Hutton among the leading stars in the country:

  • 1944 – 25th (US)[19]
  • 1950 – 15th (US)
  • 1951 – 9th (UK)
  • 1952 – 14th (US),[20] 3rd (UK)

Stage work[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Result Category Film
1944 Golden Apple Awards Won Most Cooperative Actress
-
1951 Golden Globe Award Nominated Best Motion Picture Actress – Musical/Comedy Annie Get Your Gun
1950 Photoplay Awards Won Most Popular Female Star Annie Get Your Gun

References[edit]

  1. ^ There is conflicting information about the date of Hutton's death.
    • Her gravestone says March 12, which is also reflected in a list provided by the cemetery.
    • The New York Times obituary, published on March 14 (Wednesday), says she died "Sunday night", which was March 11.
    • The AP obituary doesn't have a clear death date: "The death was confirmed Monday by a friend of Hutton who spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing her wishes that her death be announced at a specified time by the executor of her estate, Carl Bruno. The source refused to provide further details including the time and cause of death."
    • The Guardian obituary was first published with March 12 as the death date, which was then corrected to the 11th a week later, per the note at the bottom
    • The Social Security Death Index says March 12.
  2. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica – Betty Hutton
  3. ^ Panama Hattie opening night cast at IBDB
  4. ^ Two For The Show opening night cast at IBDB
  5. ^ a b Severo, Richard (March 14, 2007). "Betty Hutton, Film Star of ’40s and ’50s, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  6. ^ Satins and Spurs (TV) at IMDB
  7. ^ Billboard Oct 26, 1959 p. 52
  8. ^ Fade Out – Fade In replacement cast members at IBDB
  9. ^ Annie replacement cast members at IBDB
  10. ^ Kristin Hersh: Beautiful Old Betty
  11. ^ New York Times Sunday Book Review: Punk Days
  12. ^ Jukebox Saturday Night at IMDB
  13. ^ Robert Osborne interview on TCM on YouTube, video, 60 minutes
  14. ^ "Actress And Singer Betty Hutton Dead". CBS News. 
  15. ^ Palm Springs Cemetery District "Interment Information"
  16. ^ Betty Hutton at Find a Grave
  17. ^ http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/17600545/ns/today-entertainment/t/betty-hutton-buried-small-ceremony/
  18. ^ "Advance Record Releases". The Billboard: 30. July 7, 1951. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved September 6, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Bing Crosby America's Screen Favourite.". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848–1957) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 24 March 1945. p. 8 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "BOX OFFICE DRAW.". Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954) (Broken Hill, NSW: National Library of Australia). 29 December 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Betty Hutton, Backstage You Can Have: My Own Story, 2009. The Betty Hutton Estate ISBN 978-1500916220
  • Gene Arceri, Rocking Horse: A Personal Biography of Betty Hutton, 2009, BearManor Media ISBN 978-1593933210

External links[edit]