BUTTERFLY MCQUEEN
Her roles were largely stereotypical, yet her charm and goofiness made her memorable. Here’s a look at her work beyond Gone With the Wind.

DESIGN IN FILM: THE MODERN HOUSEAn eight-minute video montage of modern homes—real and fake—as seen on the silver screen.

KEYE LUKE
An examination of the lengthy career of the Chinese-American character actor, from Charlie Chan to Woody Allen.

70MMThirty visually stunning films that illustrate the grandeur of large-format filmmaking.

CHILL WILLS
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MARGARET HAMILTON
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NEBRASKANSA look at some of the memorable talentsfrom Astaire to Zanuck—to come from the Cornhusker State.

BEHIND THE SCENES
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SILENT SURVIVORS
Our list of at least a dozen silent film performers that are happily still with us.

12 GREAT MOVIE SONGSElvis, The Beatles and The Supremes join our list of favorite movie themes of the 1960s.

WILHELM SCREAMWe trace the history of one of the most famous and beloved sound effects in movies.

LOST HORIZONA dud receives its due as we explore the elements that made this 1973 musical so preposterously memorable.

GREAT CLOSING LINES
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25 GREAT SILENT MOVIE POSTERSOur selection of artwork from the early days of motion pictures that expertly illustrate the tone and tale of the films they represent.

RAVES AND RASPBERRIES We select some choice bits from reviews by the late Roger Ebert.

ERROL FLYNN GETS WHACKEDThe actor recalls an unforgettable moment with Bette Davis on the set of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

CINEMATIC RIDESTen films where carnival attractions add to the plot and give their protagonists a cheap thrill.

REEFER TRILOGY
Three overwrought cautionary tales from the 1930s examine the perils of smoking marijuana in polite society.

20 DIRECTORS / 20 FILMSSome of the world’s best moviemakers from Hollywood’s Golden Era provide a behind-the-scenes look at their creations.

LOS ANGELES IN THE 1920SVintage clips offer a look at famous boulevards, studios, theaters, eateries and more.

BILLY WILDEROur favorite lines of dialogue from the Oscar-winning writer/director.

WOODY ALLENChoice lines of dialogue, from Take the Money and Run to Midnight in Paris.

KATHARINE HEPBURNTen authoritative moments when Kate's movie character speaks her mind.

UFA MOVIE POSTERSA look at the early one sheets from the longest standing film studio in Germany.

THE LANGUAGE OF NOIRWe celebrate tough talk from the best of Hollywood’s gritty crime dramas.

HELICOPTER OVER HOLLYWOOD

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AMERICAWe celebrate one of the most exuberant dance numbers committed to film, a thrilling showcase for freakishly talented folks with music in their bones.

HOLLYWOOD POSTCARDSTen vintage postcards revealing the glories of Southern California's movie mecca.

MAJOR FILMS, MINOR GAFFESTwenty-five mistakes in some of the greatest movies ever made.

GEORGE GERSHWINTen classic songs as seen on the silver screen.

GREAT ENDINGSA memorable tussle in Death Valley caps Erich von Stroheim’s broken classic.

10 GREAT POSTERSOur look at striking works of art that just happen to sell movie tickets.

MUST READMGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot provides a fascinating look at a lost treasure.

IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENINGJane Wyman and Bing Crosby charm with the Oscar-winning song from Here Comes the Groom (1951).

PLUNDER ROADFilm noir at its best—and most economical. No backstory, a lean look and just 72 minutes long.

W.C. FIELDSTen of his most memorable character names.

OUTER SPACE HORROR
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INGMAR BERGMAN
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10 DIRECTORS / 10 FILMS 
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JACK CARSON
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AL HIRSCHFELDWe select our ten favorite movie posters by the famed caricaturist.

BILLIE BURKE
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DIAMOND SETTINGSWe take a look at five of our favorite baseball movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

BESTSELLERS

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MOVIE MOMENTS THAT MAKE LIFE WORTH LIVINGOur collection of ten little moments of breathtaking beauty, expert craftsmanship and happy accidents that rank as our favorites.

EDNA MAY OLIVER
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STARS ON STARS: 30 CANDID OPINIONSA collection of favorite quotes from movie folk discussing their peers.

CEDRIC GIBBONS
We take a good look at the work of MGM’s legendary art director.

JOHN QUALENFive of our favorite performances from the character actor’s lengthy career.

NOT STARRING DORIS DAY
We select three movie musicals we deeply wish the sunny singer/actress would have made.

MICKEY ROONEY’S BEST
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PUBLICITY PHOTOS
Ten artful, playful and downright silly shots from some of the most famous movies in existence.

JEFFREY HUNTERWe tip our hat to the underrated (and very pretty) actor best known for going toe-to-toe with John Wayne in The Searchers and hanging on the cross in Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings.

ELVIS PRESLEYFive essential films for the Elvis movie fan.

SPRING SPRING SPRING”
We take a closer look and listen at Johnny Mercer’s witty ditty about the coming of the season.

BILL GOLD’S MOVIE POSTERSOur salute to the legendary graphic artist, including 25 of his posters for some of the most famous movies ever made.

BEAUTIFUL MENFilm giants Cary Grant and his ilk will have to wait. Here we look at ten not-so-obvious choices—actors blessed with incredible good looks, if not legendary status.

BEAUTIFUL WOMENTen of the most physically stunning females to grace the silver screen.

FOOTBALLFive classic films where gridiron shenanigans drive the plot. 

THE 43 FACES OF JOHNNY DEPPWe review the wide variety of characters the actor has played, from early teenager roles to larger-than-life eccentrics.

FRED ASTAIREFive lively numbers from the peerless hoofer.

THE ROAD TO HELEN LAWSONJudy Garland, Susan Hayward and the bumpy road Valley of the Dolls producers experienced in casting an important role in a truly lousy film.

 AMERICAN LANDMARKS ON FILM From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, we take a look at ten famous sights that added drama to the movies.

THE GIRL HUNT BALLETWe revisit the stylish Fred Astaire dream ballet from The Band Wagon (1953).

IOWA FILMS & STARSTen contributions the Hawkeye State has made to motion picture history.

FOX THEATEROur fond look back at one of San Francisco’s grandest movie palaces.

AUTOBIOGRAPHIESTen great titles penned by industry legends.

THE BAND WAGONNanette Fabray recalls a glaring mistake in the 1953 classic musical.

TRIGGERWe celebrate the life and somewhat creepy afterlife of Roy Rogers's favorite mount.

CHARACTERS: AGNES GOOCHPeggy Cass's memorable turn as a plain Jane coaxed into living a little in Auntie Mame (1958).

DESIGNS ON FILMA handsome volume by author and designer Cathy Whitlock chronicles the history of Hollywood set design.

REBECCAFive screen tests for Hitchock’s 1940 classic, with comments by David O. Selznick.

CHARACTERS: BABY ROSALIEIn a daffy send-up of Shirley Temple, June Preisser plays an aging child star in MGM's let's-put-on-a-show musical, Babes in Arms (1939).

PRESTON STURGESSnippets of dialogue from six of the writer/director’s best films.

ANSELMO BALLESTEROur gallery of ten striking one sheets from the Italian poster artist.

GREAT MOVIESCelebrating the cool jazz short, Jammin’ the Blues (1944).

BETTY HUTTONTwelve films that exemplify the charms of this freakishly energetic performer.

JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZSmart dialogue from the Oscar-winning screenwriter.

DESERT NOIROur report from this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

RED DREAM FACTORYWe profile eight films from a unique Russian-German film studio of the twenties and thirties.

« Science Fiction Horror: 25 Spectacular Movie Posters from the 1950s | Main | Three on a Reefer: Anti-Marijuana Propaganda of the 1930s »
Tuesday
Jun282016

Betty Hutton

Betty Hutton is not everyone’s cup of tea, to be sure. When she performs, she seems to employ every molecule in her body and play to the very back row of the theater—the one across town. Called “a vitamin pill with legs” by Bob Hope, she makes those around her seem sedate and sluggish by comparison. Hutton has torn through a total of 22 movies throughout her career, with her most famous role being Annie Oakley in the MGM musical Annie Get Your Gun (1950). Her portrayal of Trudy Kockenlocker in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) runs an arguably close second.

Born in 1921 in Battle Creek, Michigan, Hutton was two years old when her father bolted. Mother took Betty to Detroit and found work in the automobile industry before opening her own speakeasy. When she discovered that Betty could sing, she pushed her into any opportunity that would allow the youngster to display her pipes, and, by the age of 13, Betty was singing with local bands. She was still a teen when she hit Broadway in Panama Hattie, starring Ethel Merman. It is unclear what happened early in the run of that show—whether Hutton had one of her numbers cut, and if Merman was behind it—but Buddy DeSylva, the show’s producer, saw great promise in her and vowed to have Paramount Studios take a look.

She could toss off a novelty number with gusto, but she also had a lovely way with a ballad, delivered tenderly in her smoky, slightly raspy voice. Paramount signed her and put her in a couple of musical shorts before she made her first feature-length picture, The Fleet’s In (1942). A proven musical talent, Paramount threw a screwball comedy her way, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), and confirmed their suspicions that she could make an audience chuckle. “Nobody ever let me act except Preston Sturges,” Hutton once remarked about her Morgan’s Creek director. “He believed in me.”

Audiences believed in her, too, and the Sturges comedy was followed by a string of hits throughout the 1940s, marred only by the critical and box office flop Dream Girl in 1948. She bounced back quickly, though, and by 1950 she was back on top, famously replacing an erratic Judy Garland in Annie Get Your Gun. Hutton’s success in the Irving Berlin musical would be one of her last, and, by the mid-1950s, her career had quieted down significantly.

In her book, The Star Machine, author Jeanine Basinger neatly sums up the actress’s uniqueness: “Hutton keeps nothing in reserve. She hops, she leaps, she mugs, and she grimaces. She throws herself on the floor, jumps up and down, and emits war whoops. She twitches and she tics, but you don’t have to worry that she’s going to fly apart on you the way you fear Judy Garland will…Betty Hutton is many people’s guilty pleasure, but some feel the need to explain her or even apologize for her. Why not just say it right out? She’s nuts, and I love her.”

Here are a dozen pictures that reveal what Betty Hutton the Movie Star is all about.

 The Fleet’s In (1942)
William Holden is a sailor with an unearned reputation as a ladies' man who is goaded by his buddies into wooing the notoriously aloof nightclub performer, The Countess of Swing (Dorothy Lamour). Eddie Bracken plays Holden’s friend; Betty Hutton, in her feature film debut, plays Lamour’s roommate Bessie and steals the movie.

 Happy Go Lucky (1943)
Hutton plays Bubbles Hennessey, pal to gold-digger Mary Martin, in this romantic farce set in Trinidad. Martin stars, but it’s Hutton who captivates. As a matter of trivia, this was one of the movies Woody Allen saw at the Bleecker Street Cinema with his niece in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Both movies featured Hutton singing what became a big part of her repertoire, “Murder, He Says.”

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)
The folks at the Production Code were apparently out to lunch when the script for Preston Sturges’s then-daring, now-classic comedy came through. The send-up of small-town America involves spiked lemonade at an all-night party for the troops, which paves the way for Trudy Kockenlocker (Hutton) to have gotten married (possibly) and to have gotten pregnant (definitely).

Here Come the Waves (1944)
What’s better than a movie with Betty Hutton in it? How about a movie with two Betty Huttons in it? Twin sisters Rosemary and Susie Allison (Hutton) are nightclub performers; Susie is rambunctious and blonde, Rosemary is slightly less rambunctious and brunette. Rosemary joins the waves, Susie’s boyfriend Johnny Cabot (Bing Crosby) is drafted into the Navy, Susie joins Rosemary and, faster than you can say “scat,” all three are in the service.

Incendiary Blonde (1945)
Hutton gets to warble "Ragtime Cowboy Joe," "Oh By Jingo! (Oh By Gee, You're the Only Girl For Me)," "What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?" and "Row, Row, Row” as she enacts the highs and lows of Texas “Queen of the Nightclubs” Guinan in this toe-tapping biopic.

The Stork Club (1945)
Hatcheck girl Hutton saves Barry Fitzgerald from drowning and subsequently receives a huge cash windfall, which arouses the suspicions of boyfriend Don DeFore. In this film, the actress sings one of the songs for which she is most famous—“Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” by Hoagy Carmichael and Paul Francis Webster.

The Perils of Pauline (1947)
Hutton plays one of cinema’s early stars, Pearl White, who appeared in the silent serial of the title. It’s a rather loose version of White’s life, peppered with goofy tunes and physical comedy to showcase Hutton’s strengths.

Dream Girl (1948)
Hutton’s career momentum stalled with this wet firecracker of a romantic comedy—a filmed version of Elmer Rice’s Broadway stage play—that New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called “as dreary a botch of a good thing as we have ever seen.” About its star, Crowther wrote, “It must be stated that Betty Hutton is a dud as the poor little millionaire's daughter who goes wandering in cuckoo-land. In those scenes when she tries to be poignant, she is drearily artificial. And in the slapdash performance of her daydreams, her burlesque is too obvious and broad. Also her voice is disturbing. At one time, she'll talk like Betty Field, who played the original Dream Girl; the next minute, she'll sound for all the world like Ezra Stone as Henry Aldrich on the radio.”

Red, Hot and Blue (1949)
Crime, comedy and four Frank Loesser songs come together for this vehicle in which a gangster, who is financing the show that Hutton is in, shows up dead in her apartment. The songs are not great Loesser, but Hutton gives it her all, as usual.

Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
It is an understatement to say this was a difficult production, as the star was replaced, two directors were fired and several supporting cast members were switched out. The lead role was the most problematic, with the names Doris Day, Judy Canova and Betty Hutton initially bandied about. Ginger Rogers wanted the role, but Louis B. Mayer told her agent, Leland Hayward, “Tell Ginger to stay in her high-heel shoes and her silk stockings; she could never be as rambunctious as Annie Oakley has to be.” Mayer cast Judy Garland, who pre-recorded the songs and shot several scenes before her unreliability doomed her. More potential Annie Oakleys were mentioned—Betty Garrett, Betty Grable and even Broadway original Ethel Merman—before Hutton was tapped. Busby Berkeley directed some early footage and was replaced by Charles Walters, himself fired before he shot a single scene. Walters discovered his fate when Hedda Hopper announced it on the radio. And Frank Morgan, playing Buffalo Bill, died during production and was replaced by Louis Calhern.

Let’s Dance (1950)
Hutton teams with Fred Astaire in this lively musical, which sees the two as a former USO musical act reunited after several years, with Hutton trying to regain custody of her child. The plot is no great shakes, but it is a good-natured little entertainment, with tunes like “Can’t Stop Talkin’ About Him,” “Oh Them Dudes” and “Tunnel of Love.”

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
Hedy Lamarr and Marlene Dietrich were reportedly considered for the part of Holly in Cecil B. DeMille’s circus drama before he selected Hutton—on the condition that she lose weight and learn the trapeze before filming began. The movie is considered by many to be one of the worst Best Picture winners in Oscar history.

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