Claudette Colbert - Rotten Tomatoes

Claudette Colbert



Paris-born actress Claudette Colbert was brought to New York at the age of seven by her banker father. She planned an art career after high school graduation, studying at the Art Student's League. Attending a party with actress Anne Morrison, the 18-year-old was offered a three-line bit in Morrison's new play The Wild Westcotts. That ended her art aspirations, and Colbert embarked on a stage career in 1925, scoring her first big critical success in the 1926 Broadway production of The Barker, in which she played a duplicitous snake charmer. One year later, the actress made her first film at Long Island's Astoria studio, For the Love of Mike (1927), but the film was unsuccessful and she enjoyed neither the experience nor her young director, Frank Capra. So back she went to Broadway, returning to films during the talkie revolution in The Hole in the Wall (1929), which was also the movie-speaking debut of Edward G. Robinson. Once again, Colbert disliked film acting; but audiences responded to her beauty and cultured voice, so she forsook the stage for Hollywood.



Colbert's popularity (and salary) skyrocketed after she was cast as "the wickedest woman in history," Nero's unscrupulous wife Poppaea, in the Biblical epic The Sign of the Cross (1932). Colbert expanded her range as a street-smart smuggler's daughter in I Cover the Waterfront and in the pioneering screwball comedy Three-Cornered Moon (both 1933), but it was for a role she nearly refused that the actress secured her box-office stature. Virtually every other actress in Hollywood had turned down the role of spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews in Columbia's It Happened One Night (1934), and when director Frank Capra approached an unenthusiastic Colbert, she wearily agreed to appear in the film on the conditions that she be paid twice her normal salary and that the film be completed before she was scheduled to go on vacation in four weeks. Colbert considered the experience one of the worst in her life -- until the 1935 Academy Awards ceremony, in which It Happened One Night won in virtually all major categories, including a Best Actress Oscar for her.



Colbert spent the next decade alternating between comedy and drama, frequently in the company of her most popular co-star, Fred MacMurray. She gained a reputation of giving 110 percent of her energies while acting, which compensated for her occasional imperviousness and her insistence that only one side of her face be photographed (which frequently necessitated redesigning movie sets just to accommodate her phobia about her "bad side"). Colbert remained a top money-making star until her last big hit, The Egg and I (1947), after which she lost some footing, partly because of producers' unwillingness to meet her demands that (under doctor's orders) she could only film a short time each day (her doctor was her husband). She hoped to jump-start her career in the role of Margo Channing in All About Eve, but those plans were squelched when she injured her back and had to relinquish the character to Bette Davis. Traveling the usual "fading star" route, Colbert made films in Europe and a budget Western in the U.S. before returning triumphantly to Broadway, first in 1956's Janus, then in the long-running 1958 comedy Marriage Go Round. The actress also appeared on television, although reportedly had trouble adjusting to live productions. In 1961, she returned to Hollywood as Troy Donahue's mother in Parrish. It would be her last film appearance until the 1987 TV movie, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles -- in which she far outclassed her material. Still a prominent figure in the Hollywood hierarchy, Colbert retired to her lavish home in California, where she frequently entertained her old friends Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Claudette Colbert died in 1996 in Bridgetown, Barbados, at the age of 92.

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet The Planter's Wife (Outpost in Malaya)
  • Actor
2014
No Score Yet The Many Faces of Cleopatra
  • Actor
2009
No Score Yet Lubitsch Musicals
  • Actor
2008
No Score Yet Hollywood Greeting: Valentine's Day
  • Actor
2003
No Score Yet The Two Mrs. Grenvilles
  • Alice Grenville
1987
No Score Yet The AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards: Frank Capra
  • Actor
1982
No Score Yet Parrish
  • Ellen McLean
1961
87% Funny Face
  • Actor
1957
No Score Yet Texas Lady
  • Prudence Webb
1955
No Score Yet Fabulous Versailles
  • Actor
1954
No Score Yet Let's Make It Legal
  • Miriam Halsworth
1951
No Score Yet Thunder on the Hill
  • Sister Mary Bonaventure
1951
No Score Yet Three Came Home
  • Agnes Newton Keith
1950
No Score Yet The Egg and I
  • Betty MacDonald
1947
No Score Yet Sleep, My Love
  • Alison Courtland
1947
No Score Yet Without Reservations
  • Christopher 'Kit' Madden
1946
No Score Yet The Secret Heart
  • Lee Addams
1946
No Score Yet Tomorrow Is Forever
  • Elizabeth Hamilton
1946
No Score Yet Guest Wife
  • Mary
1945
75% Since You Went Away
  • Anne Hilton
1944
No Score Yet So Proudly We Hail!
  • Lt. Janet Davidson
1943
No Score Yet No Time for Love
  • Katherine Grant
1943
96% The Palm Beach Story
  • Gerry Jeffers
1942
No Score Yet Remember the Day
  • Nora Trinell
1941
No Score Yet Skylark
  • Lydia Kenyon
1941
No Score Yet Arise, My Love
  • Augusta Nash
1940
No Score Yet Boom Town
  • Betsy Bartlett
1940
80% Drums Along the Mohawk
  • Lana (Magdelana)
1939
No Score Yet It's a Wonderful World
  • Edwina Corday
1939
92% Midnight
  • Eve Peabody/"Baroness Czerny"
1939
No Score Yet Zaza
  • Actor
1939
No Score Yet Land of Liberty
  • Actor
1939
29% Bluebeard's Eighth Wife
  • Nicole de Loiselle
1938
No Score Yet Tovarich
  • Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna
1937
No Score Yet I Met Him in Paris
  • Kay Denham
1937
No Score Yet Maid of Salem
  • Barbara Clarke
1937
No Score Yet Under Two Flags
  • Actor
1936
No Score Yet Private Worlds
  • Dr. Jane Everest
1935
No Score Yet The Gilded Lily
  • Marylin David
1935
No Score Yet She Married Her Boss
  • Julia Scott
1935
100% Imitation of Life
  • Beatrice 'Bea' Pullman
1934
88% Cleopatra
  • Cleopatra
1934
98% It Happened One Night
  • Ellie Andrews
1934
No Score Yet Four Frightened People
  • Judy Cavendish
1934
No Score Yet Torch Singer (Broadway Singer)
  • Sally Trent, aka Mimi Benton
1933
No Score Yet Three Cornered Moon
  • Elizabeth Rimplegar
1933
No Score Yet I Cover the Waterfront
  • Julie Kirk
1933
No Score Yet The Phantom President
  • Felicia Hammond
1932
No Score Yet Make Me a Star
  • Guest Star
1932
33% The Sign of the Cross
  • Poppea
1932
No Score Yet The House That Shadows Built
  • Actor
1932
No Score Yet Women of Courage
  • Actor
1932
88% The Smiling Lieutenant
  • Franzi
1931
No Score Yet The Big Pond
  • Barbara Billings
1930

Quotes from Claudette Colbert's Characters