Friday, March 30, 2012


Ye Gods! I went to see Natalie Wood and fell in love with Robert Preston. Oh, it was an adolescent crush, to be sure, but it just won't go away!
Remember double features? In the world of the less-than-5 minute attention span and no time for anything, it was perfectly normal to go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon for almost 4 hours and see a double feature. Most times, the main feature was the one you wanted to see and the second feature was either a pleasant surprise, tolerable, or a big enough stinker that you didn't feel guilty walking out on. But every once in a while, you were treated to 2 terrific movies; one that you and your friend discussed on a slow walk home.

As soon as I was old enough to steal my big sister's movie magazines I was entranced by Natalie Wood. So, when "Gypsy" hit the theaters in 1962 (probably 1963 in my town), my BFF Jean Marie and I got permission to see it and stay for the second feature, "The Music Man," if we so desired.

I pretty much loved "Gypsy" (though it took me YEARS to get over Rosalind Russell's Mama Rose). Jean Marie and I agreed that Natalie was gorgeous and the music terrific (it remains one of my favorite scores). We agreed to give "The Music Man" a shot, although it looked rather old fashioned, knowing that we could always leave if we didn't like it. Approximately 2 hours later I had forgotten about Gypsy Rose Lee because I was madly in love with Professor Harold Hill as played by Robert Preston.

Movie crushes come and movie crushes go. Actors and characters we once loved morph - seemingly overnight - into ones we despise or at least are ashamed to admit we had a thing for (I'm still not owning up to a crush on Dean Jones). But my love for RP has never wavered.

Naturally, I needed to know everything about my new love and I discovered that he had a reasonably successful, but unspectacular, movie career before migrating to the Broadway stage and achieving true star status there as Harold Hill in Meredith Wilson's "The Music Man." It is said that Jack Warner wanted either Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant to star in the movie version, but that Wilson held out for RP - and boy, am I glad he did. 
As con man Professor Harold Hill, RP charmed the socks off of me (and apparently everyone else who saw the movie). He owns the role and now, as then, I would believe every word he said and follow him anywhere. And may I add that I would not keep him waiting at the footbridge. (Oh, I loved Shirley Jones, Ronnie Howard, Pert Kelton and Hermione Gingold, too, but this is not about them.)

Another RP movie that I love him in is "All The Way Home."
Based on James Agree's "A Death in the Family," this 1963 tells the story of the sudden and accidental death of a father and the affect if has on those who loved him, especially his widow and young son. As the loving father, RP is vibrant and charismatic, and though I love this quiet, compelling film, it all seems empty once he is gone. Just like the lives of those left behind.

After Professor Hill, my favorite RP performance is as Toddy, the gay Parisian cabaret signer who befriends Victoria (aka Victor) in Blake Edward's "Victor/Victoria".
Now, Robert Preston is 100% a manly man. Throughout his career he is nothing less than handsome and virile. And so he is here, just a bit gayer.
It is a charming, bold and hilarious performance and it is one of my major pet peeves that he did not win a best supporting actor for his work in this film.

Some of my other favorite Robert Preston films are:

Act One (before "The Music Man" success):
"Reap the Wild Wind": he and Susan Hayward share a lovely romance
"This Gun for Hire": Veronica Lake's guy, but she has a soft spot for Alan Ladd
"Tulsa": Man enough for a wildcat Susan Hayward

Act Two (after "The Music Man" success):
"The Dark at the Top of the Stairs": commanding as the head of a troubled household
"Junior Bonner": One of my favorites - he wrestles the screen from Steve McQueen's rodeo rider. They are marvelous together.
"Semi-Tough": as team owner Big Ed Bookman, RP gets to play large & loud and he's wonderful.
"S.O.B.": A funny performance in a very funny Blake Edwards film.

I was fortunate to see Robert Preston on stage in "I Do! I Do!" and he was magnificent. I am truly sorry that I did not get to see him, along with Bernadette Peters in the failed "Mack and Mabel," Jerry Herman's musical about Mack Sennett and Mable Normand. Oh, how I wish!

I don't think Robert Preston ever gave a bad performance. His personality was larger than life with an enveloping warmth. Maybe the stage was his true medium, but I am grateful for his cinematic presence and I treasure the joy he brings to the screen. He was always vibrant, vital and very much the male of the tale.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I Want James Cagney to Kick Bogey's Butt

I can't help it  - I'm a Warner Brothers girl. So many of my favorite actors were either mainstays of or at least passed through that ultra-efficient factory of movie studios: Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, Ann Sheridan, Ann Dvorak, Kay Francis, Warren William, Olivia De Havilland, Errol Flynn and even Marilyn Miller, just to name a few. But my number 1 Warner's Guy is James Cagney.
Was there ever an actor with more charisma and star power than Jimmy at the height of his powers? I can't think of one (not even my beloved Cary Grant). Humphrey Bogart, before attaining mega-star status, served a long internship at Warner Brothers. As he inched towards stardom, he was cast three times as Cagney's antagonist in three terrific films. My immediate reaction when seeing them together?  "PLEASE Jimmy - kick Bogey's butt now!" When paired together on the screen, Bogart, by nature of the roles he played, is seen to a disadvantage. He speaks slower and moves slower. Cagney is all speed and energy, Bogart seems turgid. Bogey is humorless, Jimmy is funny. Bogey never played a likable guy in these films. It's one thing to be bad, but unlikable is tough to take. This probably has a lot to do with why I still struggle to like Bogart. I admire him, I respect him, I appreciate him, but I just don't really like him. These early pictures formed a lasting impression that even "The Maltese Falcon" and "The African Queen" can't erase. I know, I know, but please don't try to convince me - it must be organic or hereditary or biological or something like that.

Angels With Dirty Faces

So, how does anyone compete with Cagney as Rocky Sullivan? In one of his greatest roles, Jimmy overpowers good priest Pat O'Brien (who is a pious bore) and bad boy Bogart. As crooked lawyer Frazier, Bogey is a shifty, snarling snake. He did Rocky (and Father Jerry) wrong and, even though Rocky paid the price, Bogey got his butt kicked real good. I was so happy when Jimmy plugged him.

The Roaring Twenties
Poor Eddie Bartlett, he's just a confused war vet who gets lured into bootlegging and falls for the wrong girl. But he's fundamentally decent and when fundamentally corrupt Bogey puts the hit on their good-guy friend, Eddie sacrifices his life (but not before, once again, kicking Bogey's butt). Cagney's death scene is a heart-breaker, but I was glad he got to turn the tables on Bogey before buying the farm at the church.

The Oklahoma Kid
Oy! If two New York City dudes ever looked out of place, it's Cagney and Bogey out west. But Jimmy, as Jim Kincaid, The Oklahoma Kid, gets to whup Bogey (as Whip McCord) one last time. It's all kind of campy fun, with Jimmy in white and Bogey in black. So there, Whip, take that from the man in the white hat (that's a mite too big for him)!!!

Well, it was only a matter of time before Cagney didn't have Humphrey Bogart to kick around any more and things were never quite the same. Bogart went on to a different kind of career and attained a noirish status with complex characterizations that a straight forward guy like Cagney would probably find irksome. But, if Bogey wasn't such a damn good actor, it all would not have been half as fun.

It's hard to give a presence like Jimmy Cagney a run for his money but Bogey, just warming up in the bullpen, was throwing pretty good stuff himself and soon he wouldn't be playing second fiddle to anyone. Still, Jimmy has my heart and every time I see Bogey I hope Cagney is somewhere waiting in the weeds, poised to magically appear and, if not kick Bogey's butt, at least muss up his lapels.

And how about you? Are you on Team Cagney or Bogart?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bitches and Blaggards: Gail Patrick and Clifton Webb

This is the third in the "Bitches and Blaggards" series; monthly posts devoted to my favorite movie bad girls and roguesA bitch is a selfish, malicious woman. A blaggard is a villain, a rogue and a black-hearted man. Both are bad, both are devastatingly alluring.
Gail Patrick
If a young, snooty rich bitch was needed in a 1930s or 1940s comedy, Gail Patrick was a great go-to gal. Always sleek and handsome, poor Gail was usually the dame that tried to stand between the glamorous leading lady and the handsome hero. And, it was a good bet that she would get her ermine-covered butt kicked as comeuppance for her wicked ways. Gail was such a good actress that you immediately wanted to push her face in the minute she and her air of superiority entered the room.
Gail stated out as a WAMPAS (Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers) Baby Star of 1935 (along with Wendy Barrie, Grace Bradley, Katherine DeMille, Gertrude Michael, and Ann Sheridan), and although she played the lead many times, her true niche was as that supporting bitch we all know and loathe.

Gail Patrick famously bitched in 2 of my favorite films:

My Favorite Wife
As Cary Grant's second wife, who never gets to consummate her relationship because first wife Irene Dunne comes back from the dead, Gail is a major pain in the neck. Her Bianca (the perfect name for a bitch) is lovely to look at, but impossible to warm up to. Sure she's frustrated, but can you blame Cary for following his heart and ending up with Irene? Bianca's reliance on her shrink is just another cause to be annoyed with her. Gail is so perfect in this film that you just want Cary to dump her already and get it over with!

My Man Godfrey
Did Gail's cruel and nasty Cornelia Bullock ever have a chance against her sweet and wacky sister Irene, as played by Carole Lombard in one of her signature roles? Cornelia's cruel and petty attempts to sabotage poor William Powell fall flat (as she did earlier in the film on a pile of ashes) and we can only feel glee when she is caught.

Some of Gail's other trouble-making roles include those in "Stage Door" and "Love Crazy." While she was not always a bitch, she was never an angel.
In real life, Gail was actually a pretty fine lady. She retired from the screen in 1948 and later became, with her husband, a producer of the "Perry Mason" TV series. Gail was active in civic and charitable causes and, from 1960 - 1962 was president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Gail was a graduate of Howard College in Birmingham, Alabama (now Samford University) and was a member of the Delta Zeta Sorority. Upon her death in 1980, Gail bequeathed $1 million to the sorority, from which the Delta Zeta Woman of Distinction Scholarship was established. Definitely NOT something Cornelia Bullock would have done!

Clifton Webb
Clifton Webb's filmography is rather slight, but as Spencer Tracy said of Katharine in Hepburn in "Pat and Mike": But what's there is cherce. Mr. Webb was not a blaggard in the usual sense. I would classify him as an intellectual blaggard, as his damage was done more with cutting wit than manly charm. He was often an urbane and supercilious snob (actually more of a bitch), especially in the character of Mr. Belvedere. But, even when he was playing a basically decent fellow, didn't you always feel that he could not be trusted?
Clifton Webb came to film rather late in life at age 55 (though he had made a few unimportant silents). Up until then he had a successful career on Broadway, mainly as a musical performer. It's hard to imagine Mr. Belvedere singing "I've Got a Crush on You," but Webb introduced that Gershwin classic on Broadway in 1928.

I only have one major full-fledged blaggard role for Webb, but it's a dilly.

In 1944 he was cast in his greatest movie role, that of the murderously elegant Waldo Lydecker, in Otto Preminger's classic "Laura." We know Waldo is a ticking time bomb from the moment we meet him. Once manly Dana Andrews is thrown into the mix, Waldo's fragile equilibrium is shattered (who can forget Andrews' sneer as Waldo emerges from the tub?). Not only is his quill dipped in venom, but his heart and mind are, as well. And yes, there is an ounce of pity for poor Waldo. Laura certainly used him, did not view him as a man, and, well, unrequited love is rather sad. A great performance among so many in the film, Webb's Waldo is unforgettable. 

All of Webb's subsequent roles had the touch of the blaggard (I am always waiting for that metaphorical gun hidden in the clock). The nasty, murder-on-his-mind husband of "The Dark Corner," comes close to Waldo's evil. His Elliott Templeton of "The Razor's Edge," certainly had signs of the blaggard (although most elegant and refined to be sure), and his comic version in "Dreamboat" and "Sitting Pretty" (and all other Belvedere films) make you want to just smack him (even though you know he was probably right). However, I find it almost impossible to believe that he and Myna Loy had enough husband and wife relations to produce that brood in "Cheaper by the Dozen"!

Off screen, Clifton Webb was a most interesting fellow. Famously devoted to his mother, with whom he lived with until her death at age 91, he grieved endlessly over her passing. Noel Coward, another like-minded blaggard, commented, "It must be terrible to be orphaned at 71."

Webb, after his death in 1966, apparently did not leave Hollywood. In a Beverly Hills home that he owned (other owners were Victor Fleming, Grace Moore, Gene Lockhart and Marlene Dietrich), his ghost and the ghost of his beloved mother, Maybelle, were seen by later owners of the house. Famous for his lavish parties at the residence, Webb, several days before his death stated, "I'm not leaving this house - even at death." According to later owners, he didn't, and he and Maybelle could be seen dancing and seemingly enjoying themselves (while driving the dogs nuts). The house was later razed and, apparently, Clifton and his mama moved on. And, it should not have been too hard for Webb to leave California, as he summed up his opinion of the state in these words:

"California is beautiful. So is a rose. But I can look at a rose for just so long and then I want to spit on it."

Spoken like a true blaggard! However, he might not be entirely gone, as there have been sightings of him strolling through the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles. Again, his word is not to be trusted!

The Bitch and Blaggard of April are Jane Greer and James Mason.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What the Nitrate Gave Me: Life Lessons from the Silent Stars

Jennifer at Flappers Flickers & Silent Stanzas and I are swapping posts this week. She has graced "A Person in the Dark" with this wonderful article about Theda Bara. To read my post on Charlie Chaplin, swing on over to Jennifer's beautiful site at Meanwhile, get your vamp on and read up on Theda!

It might seem odd to think of gleaning wisdom from silent film, but in learning about the stars, both on and offscreen, I’ve found a message that each can teach us. 

Part I – Theda Bara

It’s only proper to start with the woman who was my gateway into silents: Theda Bara, Miss Arab Death herself.  I discovered her while researching something else online; her dark eyes and smoky stare intrigued me.  Who was this mysterious woman?   Onscreen, as The Vamp, she chewed men up and spit them out without so much as a hint of conscience.  Her offscreen life was just as decadent and dangerous; her studio bio said she was “born in the shadow of the Pyramids”, and enjoyed surrounding herself with the exotic, the occult.  

One of my favorite stories comes from VAMP: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara by Eve Golden.  It’s her first big interview for the press, and her hotel room is “draped in Egyptian trimmings, sprayed with perfume, and bedecked with lilies and roses”.  She answers their questions while lounging in velvets and furs, the very picture of foreign allure…until they all leave, and she runs to the window “gasping ‘Give me air!’ in perfect mid-American”. 

As most of you already know, Theda was just Theodosia Goodman from Cincinnati, a pretty but naturally quiet woman disposed to reading.  Everything about her public image was carefully constructed by the studios; not one scrap of her was genuine.  It was par for the course then, to invent a backstory to account for aspects in a performer’s life that they wanted to promote (or sometimes to hide), but Theda, being one of the first, was one of the most thorough cases.  Every word she said or step she took was scripted by Fox in order to preserve the integrity of her story. 
What I learned from Theda is to never let others define you.  She was not a bad actress!  She could’ve transcended her typecast vampire image, if only she had been allowed to be Theodosia and not a caricature of a type that became obsolete quickly.  Sure, it was successful for a while, but it wasn’t long before it swallowed her whole, exhausting her and leaving nothing left.   That’s no way to live your life.

So Ms Goodman, thank you for teaching me to always be myself.  It’s the most important lesson anyone could ever learn. 

If you would like to read more in this series, stop on by Flapper Flickers & Silent Stanzas at


Monday, March 12, 2012

7 x 7 Link Award

Kim from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has passed the 7x7 Link Award this way.

The 7 x 7 Link Award rules are as follows:
Tell  everyone something that no one else knows about
Link to one of my posts that I personally think best fits the following categories: Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, and Most Pride-Worthy Piece.
Pass this award to 7 other bloggers

Tell Everyone Something No One Else knows About
I love glitter nail polish. I love it in every color. I can't get enough of it. There.

Most Beautiful Piece
That would be "Pola Negri and Rudolph Valentino: Birds of Paradise in Love." I was mad for the Federico Beltran Masses painting of the two silent screen lovers and adored the over-heated story of their romance. Was it fact or fiction? Who cares?

Most Helpful Piece
I think "Norma Desmond's Handbook: How to Live Life as a Star" was very helpful to those who plan on becoming a silent screen diva.

Most Popular Piece
"Theda Bara: What I Learned From My Jenny Craig Consultant" has been hit upon more times than a vamp at a cheap dive.

Most Controversial Piece
"What's So Great About...Or, The Fault Lies Not In Our Stars." I had the temerity to say that I didn't like "The Godfather" and did not think that Humphrey Bogart walked on water. Sheesh!

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece
"Kay Francis: Where Have You Been All My Life?": I was surprised at how many people love Kay Francis. It was great to learn that!

Most Underrated Piece
"Marilyn Miller: Look For the Silver (Screen) Lining": I wrote this very early in my blogging experience and did not have many readers. I adore Marilyn and enjoyed writing about her.

Most Pride-Worthy Piece
"The Flappers: Free, Female and 21": This was my favorite entry into my 13-part 2011 series "Strong Women in Film."

Pass This Award on to 7 Other Bloggers

The Lady Eve's Reel Life
Silver Screen Modiste
Flapper Flickers and Silent Stanzas
Creme de la Creme
Watch Classics
In the Mood

All good reads!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

John Gilbert: The Artist

This is my contribution to the "Gone Too Soon" Blogathon, hosted by Comet Over Hollywood ,where you can see the complete line-up of tributes to those stars who left us too soon.

John Gilbert was a silent screen star whose specialty was hot-house, throbbing romance. He was a great star in the 1920s who, with the advent of sound, crashed and burned and sunk steadily into despair and ruin.
Sound familiar? If you have seen the movie "The Artist," it will. The many similarities between Gilbert and George Valentin are obvious, right down to the  pencil mustache, the subsequent alcoholic despair and even his act of writing his own film. However, like all legends, while there is a grain of truth to them, they leave out so much. And so it is with John Gilbert. 

John Gilbert had an ugly youth. Born John Cecil Pringle in 1897, his father was an absent comic actor and his mother an actress in touring companies. The hard life of living hand to mouth with his mother gave him an early awareness of the grittier side of life, but Jack, as he was often called, was filed with determination to get into the movies. By the time he was a teenager, he was working in Hollywood, both as an unknown actor and as a writer of screenplays. His first big break came in a 1919 Mary Pickford film called "Heart 'o the Hills" as one of Mary's handsome young suitors.
John Gilbert: With and Without His Mustache
From there it was a steady climb. Signed by Fox Studios, Jack Gilbert became John Gilbert and began evolving into a dashing leading man. One of the highlights of his Fox period is "Cameo Kirby." Based on the Booth Tarkington play, Gilbert sports his famous mustache, which transformed his looks from good to devastatingly handsome. During this time he married his second wife, actress Leatrice Joy.

In 1924, Gilbert moved from Fox to MGM and began the most successful period of his career. Full-fledged stardom was achieved with "His Hour," the type of florid romantic film that Gilbert would become famous for. As the Russian nobleman who makes love to Aileen Pringle, women swooned and an American Valentino emerged as a major Hollywood heart throb. A string of hugely successful films followed ("The Snob", "He Who Gets Slapped", "La Boheme", "The Merry Widow"), but Gilbert got the chance of a lifetime in 1925 as the WWI soldier of King Vidor's "The Big Parade."
As the soldier who learns about life, suffers the horrors or war and falls in love with a French girl, Gilbert proved he was more that a smoldering glance. The picture was an instant classic and he received rave reviews for his performance. However, more films like "The Big Parade," were not in Gilbert's future. The public wanted Gilbert the lover.

One of the things Gilbert is remembered for today is being one half of one of Hollywood's hottest romances. In 1926 Gilbert was divorced from Leatrice Joy and was assigned to a film called "Flesh and the Devil," starring none other than Greta Garbo. By all accounts, their eyes met, sparks flew and the rest was history. Dubbed "GarBert" or "GilBo" by the press (what, you though Bennifer or Brangelina was a first?) they were hot copy. This, of course, did not please the reticent Miss Garbo, who refused to commit. She would eventually leave him at the alter.
While they were a couple they made three successful romantic films: "Flesh and the Devil," "Love" and "A Woman of Affairs." All presented the lovers as ultra romantic beings who lived in a world of love we mere mortals can only imagine. This was the image that the public had of John Gilbert and it raised him to unimaginable heights and also caused his ultimate demise.

Silent screen stars were rarely viewed as "real folks." They lived and loved on a Mount Olympus called Hollywood that had only a passing resemblance to the world the audience knew. Movie stars loved more passionately, felt more deeply and generally experienced life more powerfully than the rest of us. That was the great art of the silent screen - to make the make-believe believable. And John Gilbert was one of its greatest artists. He was the romantic lover supreme.

It all went bad for John Gilbert so suddenly. First, Garbo finally put an end to the affair. On the rebound, he married the great stage star, Ina Claire. This union did not last. His relationship with studio boss Louis B. Mayer had reached toxic proportions and the new talking pictures caused concern. Gilbert's voice was light, but certainly acceptable. Here he is in 1929's "Hollywood Review." He and Norma Shearer (directed by Lionel Barrymore) perform the balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet," as well as a modern jazz-age version for laughs. He is handsome, charming and very much at ease.
Unfortunately, "His Glorious Night" was making the rounds and did him in. This is the film so wickedly parodied in "Singing in the Rain." It's not Gilbert's voice that is wrong, but the repeated "I love you, I love you, I love you"s that caused laughter in the theaters. And when a heart throb is laughed at, well, the end is near. Gilbert was undone, not by his voice, but by the passing of his creation, the great lover. The great lover persona was never meant for sound. Valentino, had he not died, might well have met the same fate. Fairbanks, whose persona was also larger than life, was dealt a similar career-ending blow.

From then on, nothing seemed to work for John Gilbert. He gave a good performance in "Downstairs," a film written by him in which he played a cad to good advantage (he married his co-star, Virginia Bruce, but that union also ended in divorce). He then got a monumental chance when Garbo asked for him as her co-star in "Queen Christina." The film was successful, Garbo was applauded for her magnificent portrayal, and Gilbert got good notices, but it did little for his career. There was nothing wrong with John Gilbert except that too many new sound actors were in the forefront and there was no longer any room in Depression America for the grand, fantasy-image of The Great Lover.

After "Queen Christina," Gilbert made one more film, "The Captain Hates the Sea." In 1936, drinking heavily and in the midst of a love affair with Marlene Dietrich, John Gilbert suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 38. Gone too soon.
John Gilbert's daughter, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain, has done much to set the record straight regarding her famous father. She continues to promote the revival of his films and is the author of "Dark Star, the Untold Story of the Meteoric Rise and Fall of Legendary Silent Screen Star John Gilbert."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reconsidering: Paulette Goddard

I've had to change my mind about quite a few performers as I get smarter (notice I didn't say "older"?). Stars or films that left me cold when I was dumber (read "younger"), now are more intriguing to me. In fact, some are downright fascinating.
The lovely Paulette Goddard is one of those stars. There was more to "the Girl With the Champagne Smile" than initially meets the eye. Being a rabid Chaplin admirer, I wrote her off as one whose career would not have blossomed without him. Maybe it's true, but as I look at her now, I think maybe she would have been a bigger star. She clearly is delightful and probably was too much for Charlie to handle.

Paulette's story is well known. As a young woman who struggled financially, she helped support herself and her mother, first as a child model and then as a fetching member of a Ziegfeld show. She hit the jackpot early and married into wealth, but decided the life of a grande dame was not for her, ditched the husband and headed for Hollywood. You gotta love a girl with spunk.

Once in Hollywood, in her blonde cutie phase, she added decoration to such Goldwyn productions as "Roman Scandals" and "Kid Millions."
It's not hard to believe that, just by looking at her, this girl was going places. However, having a famous husband upped the ante.

Shortly after her arrival in Hollywood, Paulette met Charlie Chaplin. Their relationship has been well documented, and Paulette is the one Chaplin woman who went on to have an important Hollywood career on her own. But, it was Charlie who convinced her to go from bleached blonde to her natural brunette shade and starred her in two of her most important roles. While the legal status of their relationship was always in question, there is no doubt they did, for a time, make each other very happy.
Paulette's performance in "Modern Times" is probably the most powerful given by all of Chaplin's leading ladies (sorry dear Edna, sorry Claire). Her gamin is a total joy and, while Chaplin painstakingly coached her, it comes off as totally natural and spontaneous. 

"The Great Dictator," filmed while the relationship was grinding to a halt, offered Paulette a role in a great and courageous film. Chaplin tried to make "an actress" out of Paulette, but it was a role against which she rebelled.

Paulette also was a leading candidate for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind." Some say that Selznick was nervous about her possibly non-legal union with Chaplin, but in all probability, Vivien Leigh just blew the competition away (Leigh was also living "in sin" with Olivier at that time).

Paulette Goddard's career after Chaplin went into high gear during the pre-war and war years. Just as pretty as the other pin-ups, she had a verve and wholesomeness that the others lacked. Outside of the Chaplin films, these are the films in which Paulette has cast her spell over me (so far):

"The Women": as the brassy chorus girl Miriam Aarons, she is smartest of all of those hens out on the Reno ranch. Straight forward and wise, she's a smarty-cat who lands on her feet.
"The Cat and the Canary": In a little haunted house tomfoolery with Bob Hope, Paulette is as cute as a button and a great sparring partner for professional coward Hope.
"Hold Back the Dawn": as the dancer who loves Charles Boyer but always has her head on her shoulders, I keep rooting for her schemes to come to fruition (in spite of the true love of Olivia de Havilland getting in the way).
A Woman of Substance
One of the reason I loved "The Artist" this year is because it was, in part, a story about a man whose creation was his personality. In that respect, Paulette Goddard was an artist. While her screen performances might not have been of the highest art, her off-screen live was. 
Some Paulette Goddard facts:
She was extremely well read, and a great collector of art. Her jewelry collection was legendary.
Her third husband was Burgess Meredith
Her fourth (and final) husband was the writer Erich Maria Remarque.
She had affairs with George Gershwin and Diego Rivera (who painted this mural of her):
Upon her death in 1990,she bequeathed $20 million to New York University (Goddard Hall is named in her honor).

Irene Selznick, in her autobiography "A Private View" relates a very funny story about Goddard (called "Sugar" by her friends) and a flesh colored bathing suit that she skillfully nabbed from Irene. Charles Chaplin, Jr. wrote warmly of her as his step mother. And finally, when fate dictated that both she, as Remarque's wife, and Chaplin, in exile, lived in Switzerland, she was asked if she and Charlie ever saw one another. Her reply? "We live on different mountains."

A great gal and a sparkling presence, I am now in Paulette Goddard's corner!