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Hollywood's Elite - The Meteoric Rise and Fall of America's Sweetheart 6
Betty Hutton's Sad Story Begins
The accompanying video shows Betty Hutton at her peak and best. I fell in love with her because of a performance in "The Perils of Pauline", made in 1947. Betty always sang as if electricity coursed through her veins. Her songs would start off mild and mellow then a burst of energy would slap you all in the same stanza. I felt that Ms. Hutton put every ounce of energy she had into each performance giving her audience the best she could muster.
Raised by a single mother (her father left the union for another woman) she and her older sister Marion began singing in the family's speakeasy when Betty was three years of age. Due to several run ins with the police, Betty's family relocated to Detroit (speakeasys were illegal).
As a teen Betty sang with several local bands, traveled to New York trying to secure a spot in a Broadway production. Vincent Lopez, an orchestra leader, gave Hutton a break into mainstream entertainment. In 1939 she appeared in some musical shorts for Warner Brothers and a role on Broadway's Panama Hattie, starring superstar Ethel Merman, and Two for the Show.
Hutton's Career is Off and Running
In 1942 Betty Hutton signed with Paramount Pictures for a role in The Fleet's In, co-starring alongside the studios number one star Dorothy Lamour. Even though she did not have the starring role in the feature, audiences loved her. Hutton would pay second fiddle to Paramount's star studded leading lady roster, until co-staring with Bob Hope in Let's Face It (1943).
Betty's role in Miracle of Morgan's Creek,released in 1944, skyrocketed the starlet's career. The Incendiary Blonde role (1945) cemented her on Hollywood's elite list and she surpassed Ms. Lamour in audience popularity. Between 1945 and 1952 Hutton recorded several albums and starred in 19 films that included The Perils of Pauline, Annie Get Your Gun (1950) with MGM and Let's Dance with Fred Astaire, in which she received top billing. With this new found stardom gossip chatter of a reputation for being difficult.
Betty's meteoric career with Paramount came to a screeching halt due to a contract dispute between the star and studio heads. This was after her role in the Oscar winning flick The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Somebody Loves Me(1952) a biography of singer Blossom Seeley. It was rumored that contract negotiations broke down due to Ms. Hutton's insistence that her then spouse, Charles O'Curran, direct her next film. The studio heads said no, and Hutton broke her contract. Betty completed her last film with the studio, but the role was dramatic, the box office was lackluster, and audiences didn't except her in a serious role.
Life After the Silver Screen
Betty bounced from radio, Vegas, nightclubs and television. A television musical was specifically written for the songstress Satin and Spurs (1954) a humongous flop with fans and critics even though it was one of the first programs televised in color nationwide.
Desilu produced a sitcom The Betty Hutton Show, but it was quickly forgotten. After headlining in Las Vegas and touring across the country Hutton did a brief stint on Broadway subbing for hospitalized Carol Burnett in the stage production of Fade out - Fade In. Hutton signed with Paramount in 1967 for roles in two low budget westerns, but was fired soon after production started.
Hutton was married four times and two children were produced from these unions. The failure of Betty's last marriage, her mothers sudden death due to a house fire in 1967 sent the actress into a free-fall of depression and deepened her addiction to prescription drugs.
Hutton declared bankruptcy, lost her singing voice which thrust her into a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. Betty Hutton made headlines, when it was revealed that she was a cook in a Catholic rectory, I remember the headlines. Father Peter Maguire assisted Hutton with rehab, in reclaiming her life and became her mentor until his death.
The headlines stirred an out pouring of love for Betty allowing her to regaine self confidence. She went on to make guest appearances on Mike Douglas, The Phil Donahue Show, Good Morning America, which held a public reunion with her daughters. A ninth grade dropout, Betty returned to school and not only graduated from high school but earned a Master's Degree in psychology. She soon began teaching comedic acting at Boston's Emerson College.
After the death of Father Maguire Hutton returned to California and hopefully mend her relationship with her daughters and grandchildren. The rollercoaster that life had taken Hutton during her career, coupled with her private tragedies, put strain and distance between Betty and her daughters.
Unfortunately, as late as 2000 during an interview on TCMs Private Screening Hutton revealed that the relationship was still strained, and she voiced at the time that she hoped they would be watching. I watched this interview and felt so bad for her, you see these people on the screen, but don't walk in their shoes.
Betty Hutton died of colon cancer in 2002, leaving behind a star on the Hollywood walk of fame at 6253 Hollywood Boulevard.