Paulette Goddard

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Paulette Goddard
Paulette Goddard publicity shot, date unknown III.jpg
Goddard studio publicity portrait
BornPauline Goddard Levy (or Marion Goddard Levy or Pauline Marion Levy or Marion Pauline Levy; disputed)
(1910-06-03)June 3, 1910
Whitestone Landing, Queens, New York (or Great Neck, Long Island or Manhattan, New York; disputed)
DiedApril 23, 1990(1990-04-23) (aged 79)
Ronco sopra Ascona, Ticino, Switzerland
Cause of death
Heart failure and emphysema
Resting place
Ronco Village Cemetery, Ticino, Switzerland
OccupationActress, film producer, dancer, model
Years active1926–1972
Spouse(s)Edgar James (m. 1927; div. 1932)
Charlie Chaplin (m. 1936; div. 1942)
Burgess Meredith (m. 1944; div. 1949)
Erich Maria Remarque (m. 1958; died 1970)
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Paulette Goddard
Paulette Goddard publicity shot, date unknown III.jpg
Goddard studio publicity portrait
BornPauline Goddard Levy (or Marion Goddard Levy or Pauline Marion Levy or Marion Pauline Levy; disputed)
(1910-06-03)June 3, 1910
Whitestone Landing, Queens, New York (or Great Neck, Long Island or Manhattan, New York; disputed)
DiedApril 23, 1990(1990-04-23) (aged 79)
Ronco sopra Ascona, Ticino, Switzerland
Cause of death
Heart failure and emphysema
Resting place
Ronco Village Cemetery, Ticino, Switzerland
OccupationActress, film producer, dancer, model
Years active1926–1972
Spouse(s)Edgar James (m. 1927; div. 1932)
Charlie Chaplin (m. 1936; div. 1942)
Burgess Meredith (m. 1944; div. 1949)
Erich Maria Remarque (m. 1958; died 1970)

Paulette Goddard (June 3, 1910 – April 23, 1990) was an American actress. A child fashion model and a performer in several Broadway productions as a Ziegfeld Girl, she became a major star of the Paramount Studio in the 1940s. Her most notable films were her first major role, as Charles Chaplin's leading lady in Modern Times, and Chaplin's subsequent film The Great Dictator. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in So Proudly We Hail! (1943). Her husbands included Chaplin, Burgess Meredith and Erich Maria Remarque.

Early life[edit]

Goddard was the only child of Joseph Russell Levy (1881–1954), son of a prosperous Jewish cigar manufacturer from Salt Lake City, and Alta Mae Goddard (1887–1983), who was Episcopalian and of English heritage.[1][2] They married in 1908 and separated while their daughter was very young, although the divorce did not become final until 1926. According to Goddard, her father left them, but according to J.R. Levy, Alta absconded with the child.[1] Goddard was raised by her mother, and did not meet her father again until the late 1930s, after she had become famous.[3] In a 1938 interview published in Collier's, Goddard claimed Levy was not her biological father.[3]

In response, Levy filed a suit against his daughter, claiming that the interview had ruined his reputation and lost him his job, and demanded financial support from her. In a December 17, 1945 article written by Oliver Jensen in Life Magazine, Goddard admitted to having lost the case and being forced to pay her father $35 a week. In order to avoid a custody battle, she and her mother moved often during her childhood, even relocating to Canada at one point.[1] Goddard began modelling at an early age to support herself and her mother, working for Saks Fifth Avenue and Hattie Carnegie among others. An important figure in her childhood was her great-uncle, Charles Goddard, the owner of the American Druggists Syndicate. He played a central role in Goddard's career, introducing her to Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld.[1]

In 1926, she made her stage debut as a dancer in Ziegfeld's summer review, No Foolin', which was also the first time that she used the stage name Paulette Goddard.[4] Ziegfeld hired her for another review, Rio Rita, which opened in February 1927, but she left the show after only three weeks to appear in the play The Unconquerable Male, produced by Archie Selwyn.[5] It was, however, a flop and closed after only three days following its premiere in Atlantic City.[5]

Soon after the play closed, Goddard was introduced to Edgar James, president of the Southern Lumber Company, located in Asheville, North Carolina, by Charles Goddard.[6] Aged 17, considerably younger than James, they married on June 28, 1927 in Rye, New York. It was a short marriage, and Goddard was granted a divorce in Reno, Nevada in 1929, receiving a divorce settlement of $375,000.[6]

Film career[edit]

Studio publicity portrait for Modern Times (1936), in which Goddard had her first substantial film role.

Goddard's first visited Hollywood in 1929, when she appeared as an uncredited extra in two films, the Laurel and Hardy short film Berth Marks, and George Fitzmaurice's drama The Locked Door.[7] Following her divorce, she briefly visited Europe before returning to Hollywood in late 1930 with her mother.[7] Her second attempt at acting was no more successful than the first, as she landed work only as an extra. In 1932, she signed her first film contract with producer Samuel Goldwyn to appear as a Goldwyn Girl in The Kid from Spain. However, she and Goldwyn did not get along, and she began working for Hal Roach, appearing in a string of uncredited supporting roles for the next four years.[7]

The year she signed with Goldwyn, Goddard began dating Charlie Chaplin, a relationship that received substantial attention from the press.[7][8] It marked a turning point in Goddard's career when Chaplin cast her as his leading lady in his next box office hit, Modern Times, in 1936.[7] Her role as "The Gamin", an orphan girl who runs away from the authorities and becomes The Tramp's companion, was her first credited film appearance and garnered her mainly positive reviews, Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times describing her as "the fitting recipient of the great Charlot's championship".[7]

Following the success of Modern Times, Chaplin planned other projects with Goddard in mind as a co-star, but he worked slowly, and Goddard worried that the public might forget about her if she did not continue to make regular film appearances. She signed a contract with David O. Selznick and appeared with Janet Gaynor in the comedy The Young in Heart (1938) before Selznick loaned her to MGM to appear in two films. The first of these, Dramatic School (1938), co-starred Luise Rainer, but the film received mediocre reviews and failed to attract an audience.[9] Her next film, The Women (1939), was a success. With an all-female cast headed by Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell, the film's supporting role of Miriam Aarons was played by Goddard. Pauline Kael would later comment of Goddard, "she is a stand-out. She's fun."[10]

Studio publicity portrait from the 1940s, when Goddard was working for Paramount Pictures.

Selznick was pleased with Goddard's performances, particularly her work in The Young at Heart, and considered her for the role of Scarlett O'Hara. Initial screen tests convinced him and the director George Cukor that Goddard would require coaching to be effective in the role, but that she showed promise,[11] and she was the first actress given a Technicolor screen test.[11] Russell Birdwell, the head of Selznick's publicity department, had strong misgivings about Goddard. He warned Selznick of the "tremendous avalanche of criticism that will befall us and the picture should Paulette be given this part ... I have never known a woman, intent on a career dependent upon her popularity with the masses, to hold and live such an insane and absurd attitude towards the press and her fellow man as does Paulette Goddard ... Briefly, I think she is dynamite that will explode in our very faces if she is given the part."[11] Selznick, however, remained interested in Goddard and after he had been introduced to Vivien Leigh, he wrote to his wife that Leigh was a "dark horse" and that his choice had "narrowed down to Paulette, Jean Arthur, Joan Bennett, and Vivien Leigh".[11]

After a series of tests with Leigh that pleased both Selznick and Cukor, Selznick cancelled the further tests that had been scheduled for Goddard, and the part was given to Leigh.[11] It has been suggested that Goddard lost the part because Selznick feared that questions surrounding her marital status with Charlie Chaplin would result in scandal. However, Selznick was aware that Leigh and Laurence Olivier lived together as their respective spouses had refused to divorce them,[12] and in addition to offering Leigh a contract, he engaged Olivier as the leading man in his next production Rebecca (1940).[13] Chaplin's biographer Joyce Milton wrote that Selznick was worried about legal issues by signing her to a contract that might conflict with her preexisting contracts with the Chaplin studio.[14]

Paulette Goddard in a publicity shot for A Stranger Came Home (1954).

Goddard signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and her next film The Cat and the Canary (1939) with Bob Hope, was a turning point in the careers of both actors. She starred with Chaplin again in his 1940 film, The Great Dictator. The couple split amicably soon afterward, and Goddard allegedly obtained a divorce in Mexico in 1942, with Chaplin agreeing to a generous settlement. She was Fred Astaire's leading lady in Second Chorus (1940), where she met her third husband, actor Burgess Meredith. One of her best-remembered film appearances was in the variety musical Star Spangled Rhythm (1943), in which she sang a comic number, "A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peekaboo Bang", with Dorothy Lamour and Veronica Lake.[15]

She received one Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, for the 1943 film So Proudly We Hail!, but did not win. Her most successful film was Kitty (1945), in which she played the title role. In The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946), she starred opposite Burgess Meredith, to whom she was married at the time. Cecil B. DeMille cast her in three blockbusters: North West Mounted Police (1940), Reap the Wild Wind (1942) (where Goddard played a Scarlett O'Hara-type role), and Unconquered (1947).[15]

In 1947 she made An Ideal Husband in Britain for Alexander Korda, and was accompanied on a publicity trip to Brussels by Clarissa Spencer-Churchill, niece of Sir Winston Churchill and future wife of Prime Minister Anthony Eden. In 1949, she formed Monterey Pictures with John Steinbeck. Her last starring roles were the English production A Stranger Came Home (known as The Unholy Four in the United States), and Charge of the Lancers in 1954. She also acted in summer stock and on television, including the 1955 television remake of The Women, this time playing the Sylvia Fowler role, however.[8]

Later life[edit]

After her marriage to Erich Maria Remarque, Goddard largely retired from acting and moved to Ronco sopra Ascona, Switzerland. In 1964, she attempted a comeback in films with a supporting role in the Italian film Time of Indifference, which turned out to be her last feature film. After Remarque's death in 1970, she made one last attempt at acting, when she accepted a small role in an episode of The Snoop Sisters (1972) for television.[15]

Upon Remarque's death, Goddard inherited much of his money and several important properties across Europe including a wealth of contemporary art, which augmented her own long-standing collection. During this period, her talent at accumulating wealth became a byword among the old Hollywood élite. During the 1980s she became a fairly well known (and highly visible) socialite in New York City society, appearing, covered with jewels, at many high-profile cultural functions with several well-known men including Andy Warhol, with whom she sustained a friendship for many years until his death in 1987.[16]


Goddard underwent invasive treatment for breast cancer, successfully by all accounts.[when?] On April 23, 1990, she died from heart failure while under respiratory support due to emphysema, aged 79,[17] at her home in Switzerland.[16] She is buried in Ronco Village Cemetery, next to Remarque and her mother.

Personal life[edit]

Goddard married the much older lumber tycoon Edgar James on June 28, 1927, when she was 17 years old; the couple moved to North Carolina. They separated two years later and divorced in 1932.[18]

In 1934, Goddard began a relationship with Charlie Chaplin. She later moved into his Beverly Hills home. They were reportedly married in secret in Canton, China, in June 1936. Aside from referring to Goddard as "my wife" at the October 1940 premiere of The Great Dictator, neither Goddard nor Chaplin publicly commented on their marital status. On June 4, 1942, Goddard was granted a Mexican divorce from Chaplin.[19] In May 1944, Goddard married Burgess Meredith at David O. Selznick's Beverly Hills home.[20] They divorced in June 1949.[21]

In 1958, Goddard married author Erich Maria Remarque. They remained married until Remarque's death in 1970.[22]

Goddard had no children from any of her marriages. In October 1944 she suffered the miscarriage of a son with Burgess Meredith.[23][24] She was the first stepmother to Chaplin's sons, Charles, Jr. and Sydney Chaplin, whose mother was Lita Grey.

Discrepancies regarding year of birth[edit]

With Phillip Reed in 1957

Like many other actresses, Goddard tampered with her year of birth. According to one of Goddard's biographers, Julie Gilbert, the actress was born in either Whitestone Landing, Queens, New York or Great Neck, Long Island on June 3, 1910, and according to her birth certificate was named Marion Goddard Levy.[25] However, various later documents mention different birth years and places as well as names. Legal documents and a passport listed her birth year as 1905 and 1915,[25] and when asked to clarify the confusion over her age in a 1945 interview with Life, Goddard claimed she was in fact born in 1915.[26]

She later claimed in a magazine column to have been born in Manhattan, and according to her second husband, Charlie Chaplin, she was born in Brooklyn.[25] Goddard's name has also been cited as Pauline Goddard Levy and Pauline Marion Levy.[25][27] However, according to the U.S. Census taken on January 5, 1920, Goddard (as Pauline G. Levy) and her parents (Joseph R. and Alta M. Levy) were living in Kansas City, Missouri. She is listed as having been born in New York, and her age is given as nine years, the age being the age of the individual as of his or her last birthday, which is the question asked by census enumerators (see Jackson County, Missouri enumeration District 236, p. 5-B, family 145.) Also, her gravestone in Switzerland clearly gives her year of birth as 1910. The 1910 Census confirms Pauline's self-report as her parents were living in Manhattan in April 1910, less than two months before her birth.


With Chaplin in The Great Dictator

Goddard, whose own formal education did not go beyond high school, bequeathed US$20 million to New York University (NYU). This was also in recognition of her friendship with the Indiana-born politician and former NYU President John Brademas. Goddard Hall, an NYU freshman residence hall on Washington Square, is named in her honor. Efforts to raise CHF 6.2M ($7M) to purchase and save Remarque and Goddard's villa from demolition, are underway, proposing to transform the Casa Monte Tabor into a museum and home to an artist-in-residence program, focused on creativity, freedom and peace.[28]

Fictional portrayals[edit]

Goddard was portrayed by Diane Lane in the 1992 film Chaplin, and by actress Natalie Wilder in the 2011 play Puma, written by Julie Gilbert, who also wrote Opposite Attraction: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard.[29]


1929Berth MarksTrain passengerShort subject
1929Locked Door, TheThe Locked DoorGirl on rum boatUncredited
1931City StreetsDance extraUncredited
1931Girl Habit, TheThe Girl HabitLingerie salesgirl
1931Ladies of the Big HouseInmate in midst of crowdUncredited
1932Mouthpiece, TheThe MouthpieceBlonde at partyUncredited
1932Show BusinessBlonde train passengerUncredited
Short subject
1932Young IronsidesHerself, Miss HollywoodUncredited
Short subject
1932Pack Up Your TroublesBridesmaidUncredited
1932Girl GriefStudentUncredited
Short subject
1932Kid From Spain, TheThe Kid From SpainGoldwyn GirlUncredited
1933Hollywood on Parade No. B-1HerselfShort subject
1933Bowery, TheThe BoweryBlonde who announces Brodie's jumpUncredited
1933Hollywood on Parade No. B-5HerselfShort subject
1933Roman ScandalsGoldwyn GirlUncredited
1934Kid MillionsGoldwyn GirlUncredited
1936Modern TimesEllen Peterson – A Gamine
1936Bohemian Girl, TheThe Bohemian GirlGypsy vagabondUncredited
1938Young in Heart, TheThe Young in HeartLeslie Saunders
1938Dramatic SchoolNana
1939Women, TheThe WomenMiriam Aarons
1939Cat and the Canary, TheThe Cat and the CanaryJoyce Norman
1940Ghost Breakers, TheThe Ghost BreakersMary Carter
1940Great Dictator, TheThe Great DictatorHannah
1940Screen Snapshots: Sports in HollywoodHerselfShort subject
1940North West Mounted PoliceLouvette CorbeauAlternative titles: Northwest Mounted Police
The Scarlet Riders
1940Second ChorusEllen Miller
1941Pot o' GoldMolly McCorkleAlternative titles: The Golden Hour
Jimmy Steps Out
1941Hold Back the DawnAnita Dixon
1941Nothing But the TruthGwen Saunders
1942The Lady Has PlansSidney Royce
1942Reap the Wild WindLoxi ClaiborneAlternative title: Cecil B. DeMille's Reap the Wild Wind
1942Forest Rangers, TheThe Forest RangersCelia Huston Stuart
1942Star Spangled RhythmHerself
1943Crystal Ball, TheThe Crystal BallToni Gerard
1943So Proudly We Hail!Lt. Joan O'DoulNominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1944Standing Room OnlyJane Rogers/Suzanne
1944I Love a SoldierEvelyn Connors
1945Duffy's TavernHerself
1946Diary of a Chambermaid, TheThe Diary of a ChambermaidCélestineProducer (Uncredited)
1947Suddenly, It's SpringMary Morely
1947Variety GirlHerself
1947UnconqueredAbigail "Abby" Martha Hale
1947Ideal Husband, AnAn Ideal HusbandMrs. Laura CheveleyAlternative title: Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband
1948On Our Merry WayMartha Pease
1948Screen Snapshots: Smiles and StylesHerselfShort subject
1948HazardEllen Crane
1949Bride of VengeanceLucretia Borgia
1949Anna LucastaAnna Lucasta
1949Yank Comes Back, AA Yank Comes BackHerselfUncredited
Short subject
1950Torch, TheThe TorchMaría Dolores PenafielAssociate producer
Alternative title: Bandit General
1952Babes in BagdadKyra
1953Vice SquadMona RossAlternative title: The Girl in Room 17
1953Sins of JezebelJezebel
1953Paris ModelBetty BarnesAlternative title: Nude at Midnight
1954Charge of the LancersTanya
1954Stranger Came Home, AA Stranger Came HomeAngieAlternative title: The Unholy Four
1964Time of IndifferenceMariagraziaAlternative titles: Les Deux Rivales
Gli Indifferenti
1951Four Star RevueGuest actressEpisode #1.41
1952Ed Sullivan Show, TheThe Ed Sullivan ShowHerself2 episodes
1953Ford TheatreNancy WhitingEpisode: "The Doctor's Downfall"
1954Sherlock HolmesLady BerylEpisode: "The Case of Lady Beryl"
1955Producers' ShowcaseSylvia FowlerEpisode: "The Women"
1957Errol Flynn Theatre, TheThe Errol Flynn TheatreRachelEpisode: "Mademoiselle Fifi"
1957The Joseph Cotten Show: On TrialDollyEpisode: "The Ghost of Devil's Island"
1957Ford TheatreHolly MarchEpisode: "Singapore"
1959Adventures in ParadiseMme. Victorine ReynardEpisode: "The Lady from South Chicago"
1959What's My Line?Guest panelistNovember 29, 1959 episode
1961Phantom, TheThe PhantomMrs. HarrisTV movie
1972Snoop Sisters, TheThe Snoop SistersNorma TreetTV movie
Alternative title: Female Instinct


  1. ^ a b c d Gilbert, pp. 37–41 for parents' names and backgrounds, as well as Alta's birth year; pp. 159–60 for Levy's death year and p. 477 for Alta's death year.
  2. ^ Harms, John W.; Goddard Harms, Pearl (1990). The Goddard Book 2. Gateway Press. p. 1364. 
  3. ^ a b Gilbert, pp. 159–60
  4. ^ Gilbert, p. 43
  5. ^ a b Gilbert, p. 46
  6. ^ a b Gilbert, pp. 46–51
  7. ^ a b c d e f Gilbert, pp. 53–70
  8. ^ a b Monush, Barry (2003). Monush, Barry, ed. Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965, Volume 1 1. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 282. ISBN 1-55783-551-9. 
  9. ^ Shipman, p. 247
  10. ^ Kael, p. 660.
  11. ^ a b c d e Haver, pp. 251, 259-60.
  12. ^ Walker, p. 150.
  13. ^ Haver, p. 318.
  14. ^ Milton, Joyce. Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin, HarperCollins (1996) p. 373.
  15. ^ a b c Paulette Goddard at the Internet Movie Database
  16. ^ a b Flint, Peter B. (April 24, 1990). "Paulette Goddard, 78, Is Dead; Film Star of 1930's Through 50's". p. 1. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 
  17. ^ Details of death of Paulette Goddard,; accessed April 25, 2014.
  18. ^ "FORMER FOLLIES GIRL SUES.; Paulette Goddard James, Wed Here in 1927, Seeks Reno Divorce". The New York Times. p. 21. 
  19. ^ "Paulette Goddard Divorces Charles Chaplin in Mexico". St. Petersburg Times. June 5, 1942. p. 8. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Paulette Goddard Becomes Bride of Burgess Meredith". The Evening Independent. May 23, 1944. p. 10. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Goddard Mexican Divorce Final". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 8, 1949. p. 12. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Paulette Goddard, Chaplin's ex-wife". The Pittsburgh Press. April 23, 1990. p. B4. Retrieved February 17, 2013. 
  23. ^ Paulette Goddard aka Marion Pauline Levy profile,; accessed April 25, 2014.
  24. ^ Paulette Goddard (1910–1990) profile, American National Biography Online; accessed April 25, 2014.
  25. ^ a b c d Julie Gilbert, p. 39
  26. ^ Jensen, Oliver (December 17, 1945). "The Mystery of Paulette Goddard". Life (Time Inc) 19 (25): 124. ISSN 0024-3019. "The interview moved on to her date of birth. It was pointed out that the dates most frequently given were 1911, 1905 and 1914. "Isn't that funny", observed Miss Goddard, "because I was actually born in 1915." In the same interview she acknowledged marrying at age 16." 
  27. ^ Rimler, Walter (2009). George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait. University of Illinois Press. p. 147. ISBN 0-252-09369-0. 
  28. ^ (German) "La villa d'Erich Remarque en danger", sur; accessed November 2010.
  29. ^ "New Jersey Rep Presents PUMA Through April 3 Read more about New Jersey Rep Presents PUMA Through April 3". February 17, 2011. Retrieved February 17, 2013. 


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