Nationality: American. Born: Pauline Marion Goddard Levee in Whitestone Landing, New York, 3 June 1911. Education: Attended Mount Saint Dominic's Academy, Caldwell, New Jersey. Family: Married 1) Edgar James, 1927 (divorced 1929); 2) the actor Charlie Chaplin, 1936 (divorced 1941); 3) the actor Burgess Meredith, 1944 (divorced 1949); 4) the writer Erich Maria Remarque, 1958 (died 1970). Career: 1925—model from age 14; 1926—stage debut in Ziegfeld's No Fooling; 1929–32—short contracts with Roach and Goldwyn; 1933–36—studied with Chaplin prior to starring with him in Modern Times; 1938—contract with David O. Selznick under special arrangement with Chaplin; 1939—seven-year contract with Paramount; began acting in radio productions; 1944—five-month USO tour of Far East; Paramount renewed contract for seven years; 1947—in Winterset at Abbey Theatre, Dublin; 1950s—occasional TV appearances. Died: Near Ronco, Switzerland, 23 April 1990.
Films as Actress:
The Locked Door (Fitzmaurice); Berth Marks (Lewis R. Foster—short) (as train passenger)
City Streets (Mamoulian); The Girl Habit (Cline) (as lingerie salesgirl)
The Mouthpiece (Flood and Nugent) (as girl at party); Show Business (White—short); Young Ironsides (Parrott—short); Pack Up Your Troubles (George Marshall and McCarey); Girl Grief (Parrott—short); The Kid from Spain (McCarey) (as "Goldwyn" girl)
Roman Scandals (Tuttle)
Kid Millions (Del Ruth)
Modern Times (Chaplin) (as gamine); The Bohemian Girl (Horne and Rogers)
The Young in Heart (Wallace) (as Leslie Saunders); Dramatic School (Sinclair) (as Nana)
The Women (Cukor) (as Miriam Aarons); The Cat and the Canary (Nugent) (as Joyce Norman)
The Ghost Breakers (George Marshall) (as Mary Carter); The Great Dictator (Chaplin) (as Hannah); Northwest Mounted Police (Cecil B. DeMille) (as Louvette Corbeau); Second Chorus (Potter) (as Ellen Miller)
Pot o' Gold (The Golden Hour) (George Marshall) (as Molly McCorkle); Hold Back the Dawn (Leisen) (as Anita Dixon); Nothing but the Truth (Nugent) (as Gwen Saunders)
The Lady Has Plans (Lanfield) (as Sidney Royce); Reap the Wild Wind (Cecil B. DeMille) (as Loxie Claiborne); The Forest Rangers (George Marshall) (as Celia Huston); Star Spangled Rhythm (George Marshall)
The Crystal Ball (Nugent) (as Toni Gerard); So Proudly We Hail (Sandrich) (as Lt. Joan O'Doul)
Standing Room Only (Lanfield) (as Jane Rogers); I Love a Soldier (Sandrich) (as Eva Morgan)
Duffy's Tavern (Walker) (as guest); Kitty (Leisen) (title role)
Diary of a Chambermaid (Le Journal d'une femme de chambre) (Renoir) (as Celestine)
Suddenly It's Spring (Leisen) (as Mary Morely); Variety Girl (George Marshall) (as guest); Unconquered (Cecil B. DeMille) (as Abigail Martha "Abby" Hale); An Ideal Husband (Korda) (as Mrs. Cheveley)
On Our Merry Way (A Miracle Can Happen) (King Vidor and Fenton) (as Martha Pease); Hazard (George Marshall) (as Ellen Crane)
Bride of Vengeance (Leisen) (as Lucretia Borgia); Anna Lucasta (Rapper) (title role)
Del odio nace el amor (The Torch; Bandit General) (Fernández) (as María Dolores, + assoc pr)
Babes in Bagdad (Ulmer) (as Kyra)
Vice Squad (The Girl in Room 17) (Laven) (as Mona); Paris Model (Alfred E. Green) (as Betty Barnes); Charge of the Lancers (Castle) (as Tanya); Sins of Jezebel (Le Borg) (title role)
The Stranger Came Home (The Unholy Four) (Fisher) (as Angie Vickers)
Gli indifferenti (A Time of Indifference) (Maselli) (as Maria Grazia Ardengo)
The Snoop Sisters (Female Instinct) (Leonard Stern—for TV) (as Norma Treet)
On GODDARD: books—
Morella, Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein, Paulette: The Adventurous Life of Paulette Goddard, New York, 1985.
Gilbert, Julie Goldsmith, Opposite Attraction: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard, New York, 1995.
On GODDARD: articles—
Current Biography 1946, New York, 1946.
Gorney, J., "Paulette Goddard: Lost Too Many Good Parts," in Films in Review (New York), August/September 1974.
Obituary in New York Times, 24 April 1990.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 25 April 1990.
Lambert, Gavin, "Paulette Goddard: Star of Modern Times and Kitty in Coldwater Canyon," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1992.
* * *
Paulette Goddard began her career at age 14 as a Ziegfeld girl billed as "Peaches." Although she retired in her teens to wed a timber magnate, Edgar James, she embarked for Hollywood when her marriage failed and moved from bit parts in the 1930s to become one of Paramount's leading ladies in the 1940s. Goddard never allowed herself to be typecast, and variety best characterizes both her choice of roles and of husbands. Her pictures ranged from comedies to musicals and serious drama, and she played everything from the gamine to the frightened heroine and the siren.
After a series of very minor roles, she met Charles Chaplin (whom she eventually married), who gave her the part of the beautiful waif in his last silent release Modern Times. Her performance was fresh, seemingly spontaneous, and was widely praised. Her appearance almost netted her the part of Scarlett O'Hara, and she was under contract to Selznick until she was sold to Paramount. With the latter she had her first starring role in The Cat and the Canary, opposite Bob Hope. At Paramount and on loan to other studios she was to appear in a wide range of films, including musicals with Fred Astaire (Second Chorus) and James Stewart (Pot o' Gold), another Hope film (Nothing but the Truth) and, with Ray Milland, a spy film (The Lady Has Plans), a comedy (The Crystal Ball), and a hit costumer (Kitty). She received her only Oscar nomination, as best supporting actress, for her performance in a war drama (So Proudly We Hail), with Claudette Colbert and Veronica Lake. Goddard also appeared in Chaplin's The Great Dictator, their second and last film together (they later divorced).
Of all her roles, critics usually deem one of her best to have been in Diary of a Chambermaid, co-produced by Jean Renoir and Goddard's third husband, Burgess Meredith, and directed by Renoir. Goddard starred as an outspoken maid in a 19th-century French household, in what is often regarded as one of Renoir's best American films. Her career was in decline by the 1950s, however, and she appeared in a number of B pictures such as Babes in Bagdad, The Sins of Jezebel, and The Charge of the Lancers. With her marriage to Erich Maria Remarque in 1958, she ceased working, appearing only in the Italian Gli indifferenti (based on an Alberto Moravia novel) in 1964 and making a rare television appearance in The Snoop Sisters in 1972.
—Frances M. Malpezzi, updated by Frank Uhle