They said it was her husband’s car, but in the late 1930s no one really knew for sure if Paulette Goddard and Charlie Chaplin were really married. In fact, it was only when they divorced in 1942 that they confirmed they’d ever wed.
The car is a Rolls Royce.
Anita Loos, the actress-writer behind the comic novel, stage version and screen edition of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” — and a woman who knew a thing or two about luxurious living — put it best. In her 1954 memoir Fate Keeps On Happening, Loos wrote this about one of her closest friends: “To Paulette, no occasion is festive without champagne and caviar.”
Hello, everybody, Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today to appreciate that Rolls-driving Goddard, one of the most financially savvy actresses Hollywood ever spawned. (Chaplin was no dope in the money-management department either.)
Paulette was born Pauline Marion Levy, the only child of a Long Island couple whose marriage rapidly fell apart. She and her mother were financially pressed, and moved around a good deal when she was very young.
A child model by 13, she soon found herself cast in producer Flo Ziegfeld productions, including the 1927 musical Rio Rita in which she was widely noticed perched on a cutout of the moon being serenaded by a the baritone leading man. Her movie career actually began in New York in 1927, when she appeared in a four shorts for Ziegfeld.
From the beginning — and perhaps because of her beginnings — Goddard had a finely developed taste for luxury, jewelry, clothes, cars, the works. At 16, she married a Palm Beach socialite who undoubtedly catered to her expensive tastes.
The marriage was short lived, and at its conclusion in 1929, Goddard was awarded a $100,000 settlement — worth about $1.3 million in today’s dollars.
After her divorce Paulette arrived in Hollywood and in 1932, she appeared as a blond “Goldwyn Girl” in The Kid From Spain starring radio personality Eddie Cantor.
Goddard’s stunning good looks caught the attention of a 43-year-old Charlie Chaplin that same year, and their romance began. Chaplin was intrigued not only by her seductiveness but by her keen business sense, unusual for a young starlet.
He co-starred her in 1936’s Modern Times, and then somewhere, somehow, they secretly married. The couple separated in 1940, and divorced two years later.
Paulette subsequently married Erich Maria Remarque. The “All Quiet on the Western Front” author and the beautiful — and very smart — actress began their 12-year, later-in-life marriage in 1958. He was 60. She was said to be 48, although estimates of her age varied since throughout her life (which ended in 1990) Goddard never came clean about her actual birth date.
By most accounts the Remarque-Goddard union was a success. It lasted until the author’s death in 1970. She was gregarious and a gadabout. He was sedentary but understanding. Both were rich.
By this stage of his life, Remarque — a man of many affairs in every sense who once romanced fellow German Marlene Dietrich — was “bored by the physical and more interested in a woman’s mind.”
DISCLOSURE — That last quote comes the 1985 biography “Paulette: The Adventurous Life of Paulette Goddard,” co-authored by Edward Z. Epstein and Classic Movie Chat’s own Joe Morella. If I may say so (Frank speaking) the book is a wonderful read, and an essential reference on Goddards’s adventurous life.