Hutton in 1944
Elizabeth June Thornburg|
February 26, 1921
Battle Creek, Michigan, U.S.
March 11, 2007 86) (aged|
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California, U.S.|
Ted Briskin (m. 1945–51)|
Charles O'Curran (m. 1952–55)
Alan W. Livingston (m. 1955–60)
Pete Candoli (m. 1960–67)
Early life and education
Hutton was born Elizabeth June Thornburg in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was the daughter of a railroad foreman, Percy E. Thornburg (1896–1937) and his wife, Mabel Lum (1901–1967). 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 1937, informing them of his suicide. Along with her older sister Marion, Betty was raised by her alcoholic 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. They eventually landed in Detroit where she attended Foch Intermediate School and Southeastern High School.
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 (starring Ethel Merman, who demanded on opening night that Hutton's musical numbers be cut from the show) and Two for the Show, both produced by Buddy DeSylva.
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.
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
In 1942, writer-director Preston Sturges cast Betty as the dopey but endearing smalltown girl who gives local troops a happy send-off and wakes up married and pregnant but with no memory of who her husband is, except that there were a few "z's" in his name. In this hilarious comedy skewering mindless patriotism, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, was delayed by Hays Office objections and Sturges' prolific output and was finally released early in 1944. The film made Hutton a major star; Preston Sturges was nominated for a Best Writing Oscar, the film was named on the National Film Board's Top Ten films for the year, the National Board of Review nominated the film for Best Picture of 1944, and awarded Betty Hutton the award for Best Acting for her performance in the film. The New York Times named it as one of the 10 Best Films of 1942-1944.
Critic James Agee noted that "the Hays office must have been raped in its sleep" to allow the film to be released. And although the Hays Office received many letters of protest because of the film's subject matter, it was Paramount's highest-grossing film of 1944, playing to standing-room-only audiences in some theatres. On the strength of its success, she signed a recording contract with the newly formed Capitol Records (she was one of the earliest artists to do so). Buddy DeSylva, one of Capitol's founders, also co-produced her next hit, the musical Incendiary Blonde, directed by veteran comedy director George Marshall and released in 1945, by which time Hutton had replaced Lamour as Paramount's top female box-office attraction. Marshall also directed Hutton in the hugely popular The Perils of Pauline in 1947, where she sang a Frank Loesser song that was nominated for an Oscar: "I Wish I Didn't Love You So."
She was billed above Fred Astaire in the 1950 musical Let's Dance. Her next screen triumph came in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 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. Among her lesser-known roles were an unbilled cameo in Sailor Beware (1952) with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, in which she portrayed Dean's girlfriend, Hetty Button.
Altogether, Hutton made 19 films from 1942 to 1952. 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, choreographer Charles O'Curran, direct her next film. This is not as outrageous as it now sounds, since many famous female stars, from Greta Garbo to Alexander Korda's first wife, silent movie star María Corda, often demanded directing gigs for their unknown husbands as the price of their next film.
However, beset by the erosion of their audience to television, the dismemberment of their theater chains and the rise of McCarthyism, the studio declined, and 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. She also became disillusioned with Capitol's management and moved to RCA Victor.
Television and post-film career
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 comedian Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, fashioned his first "Color Spectacular" as an original musical written especially for Hutton, Satins and Spurs. It was a flop with the public and critics, probably because Hutton had an outsized personality that didn't work well on "the small screen". It's also possible viewers expected to see color on their B&W sets, and when they didn't, switched to something else.
In 1957, she appeared on a Dinah Shore show on NBC that also featured Boris Karloff; the program has been preserved on a kinescope. Lucille Ball (another female star who had clearly pushed her husband to a lucrative career) and Desi Arnaz took a chance on Hutton in 1959, with their company Desilu Productions giving her a sitcom, The Betty Hutton Show. Hutton hired the still-blacklisted and future film composer Jerry Fielding to direct her series. They had met over the years in Las Vegas when he was blacklisted from TV and radio and could get no other work, and her Hollywood career was also fading. It was Fielding's first network job since losing his post as musical director of Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life in 1953 after hostile questioning by HUAC. The Betty Hutton Show faded quickly.
She guest-starred in the 1965 Gunsmoke episode "Bad Lady from Brookline". Her character takes a job singing in a saloon, while developing her shooting skills sufficiently to kill Matt Dillon for murdering her husband. The impression is that the show was written specifically to showcase Hutton's talents.
Hutton continued 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. In 1967 she was signed to star in two low-budget westerns for Paramount, but was fired shortly after the projects began. In 1980, she took over the role of Miss Hannigan during the original Broadway production of Annie while Alice Ghostley was on vacation. Ghostley replaced the original Miss Hannigan actress, Dorothy Loudon (who won a Tony Award for the role).
Marriages and children
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.
- Carolyn Candoli, born on March 9, 1961.
They divorced in 1967.
Life after Hollywood
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, but steady work 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 in 1980. Hutton's rehearsal of the song "Little Girls" was featured on Good Morning America. Hutton's Broadway comeback was also included in a profile that was done about her life, her struggle with pills, and her recovery on CBS News Sunday Morning.
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. 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.
Her last known performance, in any medium, was on Jukebox Saturday Night, which aired on PBS in 1983. 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.
Hutton lived in Palm Springs, California until her death, at 86, from colon cancer complications. Hutton is buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. None of her three daughters attended the funeral.
|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"||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|
|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||Herelf||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|
|Hollywood Victory Caravan||Herself||film short|
|The Stork Club||Judy Peabody|
|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||cameo, Uncredited|
|Somebody Loves Me||Blossom Seeley|
|1957||Spring Reunion||Margaret "Maggie" Brewster|
|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
|1965||Gunsmoke||Molly McConnell||1 episode|
|1977||Baretta||Velma||1 episode, (Last appearance)|
Box office ranking
For several years film exhibitors voted Hutton among the leading stars in the country:
- Two for the Show (1940)
- Panama Hattie (1940)
- Betty Hutton and Her All-Star International Show (1952)
- Gypsy (1962)
- South Pacific (1962)
- Annie Get Your Gun (1963)
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1964)
- Fade Out – Fade In (1964) (replacement for Carol Burnett)
- Mary, Mary (1965)
- Here Today (1966)
- Here Today (1972)
- Anything Goes (1973)
- Annie (1980) (replacement for Dolores Wilson)
|1952||Stars in the Air||Suddenly, It's Spring|
Awards and nominations
|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|
- Her songs "He's a Demon - He's a Devil - He's a Doll" and "It's a Man" are featured in the open-world video game, Fallout 4, on the in-game radio.
- 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.
- Percy E. Thornburg at Find a Grave
- "Betty Hutton | biography - American actress and singer". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
- Panama Hattie opening night cast at IBDB
- Two For The Show opening night cast at IBDB
- Satins and Spurs (TV) at IMDB
- Billboard Oct 26, 1959 p. 52
- Fade Out – Fade In replacement cast members at IBDB
- "St. Petersburg Times - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
- "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
- Annie replacement cast members at IBDB
- "Beautiful Old Betty". kristin hersh. 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
- Archived April 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- Jukebox Saturday Night at IMDB
- Robert Osborne interview on TCM on YouTube, video, 60 minutes
- Severo, Richard (March 14, 2007). "Betty Hutton, Film Star of '40s and '50s, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
- "Actress And Singer Betty Hutton Dead". CBS News.
- Palm Springs Cemetery District "Interment Information"
- Betty Hutton at Find a Grave
- "Betty Hutton buried in small ceremony - today > entertainment - today > entertainment > celebs - TODAY.com". Today.msnbc.msn.com. 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
- "Advance Record Releases". The Billboard: 30. July 7, 1951. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
- "Bing Crosby America's Screen Favourite.". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 24 March 1945. p. 8 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
- "BOX OFFICE DRAW.". The Barrier Miner. Broken Hill, NSW: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- Kirby, Walter (February 17, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Betty Hutton, Backstage You Can Have: My Own Story, 2009. The Betty Hutton Estate ISBN 978-1500916220
- The Betty Hutton Estate, Betty Hutton Scrapbook: A Tribute To Hollywood's Blonde Bombshell, 2015. The Betty Hutton Estate ISBN 978-1514202531
- Gene Arceri, Rocking Horse: A Personal Biography of Betty Hutton, 2009, BearManor Media ISBN 978-1593933210
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Betty Hutton.|
- Betty Hutton at the Internet Broadway Database
- Betty Hutton at the Internet Movie Database
- Betty Hutton at the TCM Movie Database
- BettyHuttonEstate The Betty Hutton Estate
- satinsandspurs.com The Betty Hutton Website
- Betty Hutton at who2.com
- Time Magazine article, April 24, 1950
- Denny Jackson's Betty Hutton Page at the Wayback Machine (archived October 28, 2009) (fan site)
- Betty Hutton at BroadwayWorld.com
- Betty Hutton at Virtual History