Claudette Colbert

Actor, Dress shop employee, French tutor
Inimitably charming, witty and sophisticated star of American films from the start of talkies till the mid-1950s, and later a most welcome presence on the stage and in occasional TV. Born in Paris, Claudette Colbert ... Read more »
Born: 09/13/1903 in Paris, FR

Filmography

Actor (58)

Going Hollywood: The War Years 1987 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

The American Film Institute Salute to Frank Capra 1981 - 1982 (TV Show)

Performer

Parrish 1961 (Movie)

Ellen McLean (Actor)

Royal Affairs in Versailles 1956 (Movie)

Madame de Montespan (Actor)

Texas Lady 1955 (Movie)

Prudence Webb (Actor)

Daughters of Destiny 1954 (Movie)

Elisabeth (Actor)

Let's Make It Legal 1951 (Movie)

Miriam Halsworth (Actor)

Thunder on the Hill 1951 (Movie)

Sister Mary Bonaventure (Actor)

Without Reservations 1946 (Movie)

Kit (Actor)

No Time For Love 1942 (Movie)

Katherine Grant (Actor)

The Palm Beach Story 1941 (Movie)

Gerry Jeffers (Actor)

Boom Town 1939 (Movie)

(Actor)

Drums Along the Mohawk 1938 (Movie)

Lana (Magdelana) (Actor)

Midnight 1938 (Movie)

Eve Peabody (Actor)

Zaza 1938 (Movie)

Zaza (Actor)

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife 1937 (Movie)

Nicole (Actor)

Cleopatra 1934 (Movie)

Cleopatra (Actor)

It Happened One Night 1934 (Movie)

Ellie Andrews (Actor)

Private Worlds 1934 (Movie)

Dr. Jane Everest (Actor)

The Gilded Lily 1934 (Movie)

Marilyn David (Actor)

Imitation of Life 1933 (Movie)

Beatrice 'Bea' Pullman (Actor)

The Wiser Sex 1931 (Movie)

Margaret Hughes (Actor)

The Big Pond 1929 (Movie)

(Actor)

Arise, My Love (Movie)

Augusta Nash (Actor)

Bride for Sale (Movie)

Nora Shelly (Actor)

Climax! (TV Show)

Actor

Family Honeymoon (Movie)

Katie Armstrong Jordan (Actor)

For the Love of Mike (Movie)

Mary (Actor)

Four Frightened People (Movie)

Judy Cavendish (Actor)

Guest Wife (Movie)

Mary (Actor)

His Woman (Movie)

Sally Clark (Actor)

I Cover the Waterfront (Movie)

Julie Kirk (Actor)

I Met Him in Paris (Movie)

Kay Denham (Actor)

It's a Wonderful World (Movie)

Edwina Corday (Actor)

Maid of Salem (Movie)

Barbara Clarke (Actor)

Make Me a Star (Movie)

Guest Star (Actor)

Practically Yours (Movie)

Peggy Martin (Actor)

Proudly We Hail (Movie)

Lt. Janet Davidson (Actor)

Remember the Day (Movie)

Nora Trinell (Actor)

She Married Her Boss (Movie)

Julia Scott (Actor)

Since You Went Away (Movie)

Anne Hilton (Actor)

Skylark (Movie)

Lydia Kenyon (Actor)

Sleep, My Love (Movie)

Alison Courtland (Actor)

The Bride Comes Home (Movie)

Jeanette Desmereau (Actor)

The Egg and I (Movie)

Betty MacDonald (Actor)

The Man from Yesterday (Movie)

Sylvia Suffolk (Actor)

The Phantom President (Movie)

Felicia Hammond (Actor)

The Secret Heart (Movie)

Lee Addams (Actor)

The Sign of the Cross (Movie)

Empress Poppaea (Actor)

The Smiling Lieutenant (Movie)

Franzi (Actor)

The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (TV Show)

Actor

Three Came Home (Movie)

Agnes Keith (Actor)

Tomorrow Is Forever (Movie)

Elizabeth (MacDonald) Hamilton (Actor)

Tonight Is Ours (Movie)

Princess Nadya (Actor)

Torch Singer (Movie)

Sally Trent/Mimi Benton (Actor)

Tovarich (Movie)

Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna (Actor)

Under Two Flags (Movie)

Cigarette (Actor)

Biography

Inimitably charming, witty and sophisticated star of American films from the start of talkies till the mid-1950s, and later a most welcome presence on the stage and in occasional TV. Born in Paris, Claudette Colbert moved to New York when her banker father encountered financial setbacks. Initially intending to become a commercial artist, she studied with speech teacher Alice Rossetter to overcome a slight lisp. Rossetter encouraged Colbert to audition for a play she had just written, "The Widow's Veil" (1919), and so one of the most durable careers in show business began with an appearance as an Irish bride (complete with red wig and brogue).

Relationships

George Chauchoin

Father
died in 1925

Jeanne Chauchoin

Mother
died in April 1970

Charles Colbert

Brother
older born c. 1898 helped manage Colbert's career for a time died in 1971

Norman Foster Director

Companion
Married in 1927 divorced in August 1935 in Mexico Colbert did not live with him and kept marriage a secret for many years

Clark Gable Actor

Companion
reportedly had affair during filming of "It Happened One Night"

Helen O'Hagan

Companion
was Colbert's companion from c. 1970

Joel Pressman

Husband
married on December 24, 1935 until his death from liver cancer on February 28, 1968

EDUCATION

Art Students League of New York

New York , New York

Washington Irving High School

New York , New York
made first stage appearance in a school play in 1918

P S 59

New York , New York

Milestones

1991

Career celebrated with ceremony and retrospective at New York University

1987

Returned to TV to star opposite Ann-Margret in two-part film, "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles"

1984

A building at the old Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York (where she had made her first films for Paramount) was renamed in her honor

1984

Received tribute for lifetime achievement from the Film Society of Lincoln Center

1982

Appeared on the American Film Institute's televised salute to Frank Capra

1981

Acted on Broadway in "A Talent for Murder"

1978

Returned to Broadway to star opposite Rex Harrison in "The Kingfisher"

1974

Returned to the stage to appear in "A Community of Two" in Philadelphia

1972

Made rare public appearance at the "Fabulous Forties" nostalgia night at Manhattan's Roseland

1968

Announced that she was going to write a book entitled "How to Run a House" for her friend's Bennett Cerf's Random House Press; book did not materialize

1965

Made last stage appearance for almost a decade, opposite Brian Ahearne in "Diplomatic Relations"

1963

Appeared in Maxwell House Coffee TV commercials and billboard advertisements

1961

One-shot return to films: played Troy Donahue's mother in the popular soap opera, "Parrish"

1959

Last major acting role on TV for 25 years, in "The Bells of St. Mary's"

1958

Returned to Broadway to originate a role after 27 years to star opposite Charles Boyer in the popular sex farce, "The Marriage Go-Round"

1956

Replaced Margaret Sullavan in the female lead of the Broadway play, "Janus"

1955

Last starring role in an American feature film, "Texas Lady"

1954

Made pact with CBS to star in five teleplays after successful appearance in "The Royal Family of Broadway"

1952

Worked in Europe in film and theater; made fewer films, but starred in two in France

1952

Traveled to England to star in "Outpost in Malaya"

1951

Made TV debut on "The Jack Benny Show"

1951

Starred in last screen romantic comedy, "Let's Make It Legal"

1951

Starred opposite Noel Coward in successful stage presentation of "Island Fling/South Sea Bubble"

1951

Announcments made that she would star in a TV series, "Leave It to Lizabeth"; filmed pilot, but backed out of series commitment

1950

Replaced in leading role in "All About Eve" by Bette Davis after suffering severe back injury

1948

Replaced by Katharine Hepburn in leading role in "State of the Union" after disagreements with director Frank Capra

1947

Made motion picture exhibitor's poll of top ten box office stars; placed 9th

1944

Left Paramount Pictures after having spent most of her starring career there; last film under contract, "Practically Yours"

1943

Played a mother with teen-aged daughters for the first time in David O. Selznick's acclaimed homefront saga, "Since You Went Away"

1940

Joined with Ronald Colman, Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne, Lewis Milestone and Anatole Litvak to form producing unit at Twentieth-Century Fox; Colbert starred in Fox film, "Remember the Day"

1939

Starred in first color film, "Drums Along the Mohawk", directed by John Ford and co-starring Henry Fonda

1938

Was the sixth top money-making woman in America with an income of $301,944 ($50,000 less than she had made the year before, when she placed fourteenth)

1936

Plans to star as Joan of Arc in a film directed by Anatole Litvak fell through

1936

Negotiated new contract with Paramount which called for seven films at $150,000 per film

1935

Co-starred opposite Fred MacMurray for the first of seven films together (in his first substantial lead) in the popular "The Gilded Lily"

1935

Was named best-dressed actress in Hollywood

1934

Enjoyed landmark career success in Frank Capra's popular and acclaimed Oscar-winner, "It Happened One Night" while on loan to Columbia

1934

Signed new two-year contract with Paramount; earned $5000 per week

1933

Renegotiated contract with Paramount; allowed to appear in films at other studios

1932

Briefly went off salary for refusing bland roles

1932

Appeared in largest film to date: as Poppaea in Cecil B. DeMille's epic, "The Sign of the Cross"

1931

Position in film industry elevated by success of Ernst Lubitsch's popular "The Smiling Lieutenant"

1929

Played leading roles in two unsuccessful plays by noted playwrights Eugene O'Neill ("Dynamo") and Elmer Rice ("See Naples and Die", her last stage appearance for over 20 years)

1929

Made talking film debut in second film, "The Hole in the Wall"

1928

Marriage to Norman Foster (in 1927) revealed by New York columnist

1928

Journeyed with Foster to Paris to recreate their stage roles in "The Barker"

1928

Film contract with First National aborted after failure of first film

1928

Signed film contract with Paramount which enabled her to continue stage career

1927

Enjoyed major Broadway success as the female lead in "The Barker"

1927

Film acting debut in the silent, "For the Love of Mike"

1926

Traveled to Paris; returned to New York to comply with five-year contract she had recently signed with producer Al Woods

1925

Replaced in leading role of Frederick Lonsdale's "The Fake"

1923

Made Broadway stage debut in "The Wild Westcotts"

1919

Made stage debut at the Provincetown Playhouse in "The Widow's Veil", written by her speech teacher, Alice Rossetter

1912

Moved from Paris to New York after father suffered financial reverses in the banking business

Made motion picture exhibitors poll of top ten boxoffice stars: 6th place in 1935 and 8th place in 1936

Reunited in London and on Broadway with Rex Harrison in revival of Frederick Lonsdale's drawing-room comedy, "Aren't We All?"

Hosted monthly CBS afternoon information series, "The Women"

Bonus Trivia

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Besides her Oscar for "It Happened One Night" (1934), Colbert was also nominated as Best Actress for "Private Worlds" (1935) and "Since You Went Away" (1944). She was also nominated for a Tony for her stage work in "The Marriage Go-Round" (1958) and an Emmy for "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles" (1987).

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Colbert is the only actress to star in three films nominated for Best Picture in the same year (1934), three prestigious films of the day which confirmed her as a "top" star: Cecil B. DeMille's playful, sexy epic, "Cleopatra"; John Stahl's notable interracial/mother-love tearjerker, "Imitation of Life", and Frank Capra's aforementioned landmark comedy, "It Happened One Night", which won.

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