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Claudette Colbert

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One of the brightest film stars to grace the silver screen was born Lily Claudette Chauchoin on September 13, 1903 in Paris, Seine, France. Her banker father moved the family to the United States when she was three. As she grew up, Claudette wanted nothing more than to play to Broadway audiences. Any actress or actor worth there salt went for Broadway, not Hollywood. After Claudette's formal education ended, she enrolled in the Art Students' League where she paid for her dramatic training by working in a dress shop. She made her Broadway debut in 1923 in the stage production of THE WILD WESCOTTS. It was during this event that she adopted the name Claudette Colbert. When the Great Depression shut down most of the theaters, Claudette decided to make a go of it in films. Her first film was in 1927 in a movie called FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE. It was a box-office disaster. She wasn't real keen on the film industry but with no theaters worth anything she had no choice but to remain. In 1929, she starred as Joyce Roamer in THE LADY LIES. The production was a success and later that year had another hit entitled THE HOLE IN THE WALL. In 1930, she played the starring role, opposite Fredric March, in MANSLAUGHTER which was a remake from the silent version eight years earlier. One year later, Claudette was again paired in a film with March called HONOR AMONG THIEVES. It fared well at the box-office only because it was the kind of film that catered to women who enjoyed magazine fiction romantic stories. In 1932, Claudette played the evil Poppeia in Jesse Laskey's last great work, THE SIGN OF THE CROSS and once again was with Fredric March. Later the same year, she was paired with Jimmy Durante in THE PHANTOM PRESIDENT. By now Claudette's name symbolized good movies and she along with March pulled them in at the theaters with the acclaimed TONIGHT IS OURS (1933). 1934 started a little on the slow side with the release of FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE where Claudette and her co-stars were at odds with the dreaded bubonic plague on board a ship. However, the next two films were real gems for this young actress. First up Claudette was charming and radiant in Cecil B. DeMille's spectacular CLEOPATRA. It wasn't one of DeMille's finest by any means but it was a financial success and showcased Claudette as never before. But it was as Ellie Andrews, in the now famous IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, that would ensure she would be forever immortalized. Paired with Clark Gable, the madcap comedy was a super hit all across the country. The film also helped Claudette be nominated for and win in the category of Best Actress. The next year she was nominated again for PRIVATE WORLDS where she played Dr. Jane Everest who was staffed in a mental institution. The performance was exquisite. Films such as GILDED LILY (1935), DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939), and NO TIME FOR LOVE (1943) kept fans coming to the theaters and the movie moguls happy. Claudette was a sure drawing card for virtually any film. In 1944, Claudette starred as Anne Hilton in the production of SINCE YOU WENT AWAY. Again, although she didn't win, Claudette won her third nomination for Best Actress. By the time the late 40's and early 50's rolled around she was not only seen on the screen but the infant medium of television where she was on a number of programs. However, her drawing card was fading somewhat as new stars replaced the older ones. In 1955, she filmed TEXAS LADY and wasn't seen again until PARRISH in 1961. It was her final silver screen performance. Although she appeared in a TV movie THE TWO MRS. GRENVILLES, Claudette never, again, appeared before the cameras. She did, however, remain on the stage where she had returned in 1956, her first love. After a series of strokes, Claudette divided her time between New York and Barbados. On July 30, 1996, Claudette died in Speightstown, Barbados. She was 92. Claudette was the type of actress that only comes along once in a lifetime.
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