From the 30s to the 50s she lit up the screen. But how much did you really know about her?
Not covered in yesterday’s Monday Quiz is this telling factoid — Claudette Colbert felt her left side photographed best, and only reluctantly permitted full face or right-profile shots.
Whatever this says about her (she claimed a nose injury created a slight facial protuberance on her right) it’s evident that Colbert did not regard herself as one of Hollywood’s classic beauties. She made up for it with her sharp way with witty dialogue and sophisticated repartee.
So good was she that for from the mid-Thirties to the mid-Forties, she reigned as a big box office star who just happened to participate in some of the most entertaining films Hollywood ever produced. She invariably handled herself with style onscreen.
So let’s get to the answers to our Monday Claudette Colbert Quiz. Here we go:
1) Question: Claudette Colbert was the first choice for the role of Margo Channing, in 1950’s All About Eve which, of course, went to Bette Davis. a) True; or b) False?
1) Answer: a) True. Colbert was first sought to play the Margo Channing role, but the actress ruptured a disc in her back during the production of director Jean Negulesco’s World War II drama, Three Came Home, and was not available. Enter Bette Davis.
2) Question: Colbert won a best-actress Oscar for a movie created by the same director who was in charge of her very first movie at the tail end of the “silent” film era. Who is this person?
2) Answer: Frank Capra, who not only directed Colbert in her Oscar-winning turn in 1934’s It Happened One Night but also directed her in her movie debut in 1927’s For the Love Of Mike.
3) Question: Although Colbert sported a French-sounding name, she was really born and raised in Tenafly, New Jersey. a) True; or b) False?
3) Answer: b) False. Colbert was born in France in 1903, in Val-de-Mar near Paris. Sorry, Tenafly. Her family emigrated to the U.S. when she was just six years old.
4) Question: In addition to winning a best actress Oscar, Colbert was nominated (but didn’t win) in that category for her work in which two of the following films? a) Since You Went Away; b) I Met Him In Paris; c) Private Worlds; or d) She Married Her Boss.
4) Answer: Colbert won an Oscar nominations for (a) 1944’s Since You Went Away and (c) for 1935’s Private Worlds.
5) Question: Although most often linked with Clark Gable for 1934’s It Happened One Night, Colbert’s most frequent costar was another top male star. Who is he? a) Melvyn Douglas; b) Fred MacMurray; c) Ronald Coleman; or d) Charles Boyer.
5) Answer: b) Colbert and Fred MacMurray costarred in a total of seven movies beginning with 1935’s The Gilded Lily and ending in 1948’s Family Honeymoon.
6) Question: Colbert was the subject of scandalous Hollywood gossip in her time, including a report about a supposed love affair with another actress. Who was this supposed paramour? a) Hedy Lamarr; b) Marlene Dietrich; c) Lilli Damita; or d) Greta Garbo.
6) Answer: b) Marlene Dietrich supposedly had “a passionate affair” with Colbert during the 1930’s. (Note: Colbert was married twice, the latter to surgeon Dr. Joel Pressman, a union that lasted from 1935 to his death in 1968.)
7) Question: Colbert often found herself playing maternal roles although she looked slim, trim and glamorous. At age 41, for example, she played in 1944’s Since You Went Away the mother of two almost-grown daughters coping with an absent father during World War II. Which of the following played the daughters? a) Jennifer Jones; b) Margaret O’Brien; c) Shirley Temple; or d) Deanna Durbin.
7) Answer: (a) Jennifer Jones and (c) Shirley Temple.
8) Question: During the filming of Since You Went Away, Colbert and costar Joseph Cotten shared a secret about another actress in the cast and the famous producer of the picture. What was it about? a) That the actress was the illegitimate child of the producer; b) That the actress dumped her husband to take up with the producer; c) That the actress and the producer had carried on an old fashioned love affair; or d) That the actress had rebuffed repeated advances made by the producer.
8) Answer: (b). The producer of Since You Went Away was David O Selznick. Actress Jennifer Jones was married at the time to actor Robert Walker but all was not well with their six-year union. Costar Joseph Cotten remembered that one day while sitting quietly between rehearsals, Colbert turned to him and asked, “Is it true, Jo, this talk I hear around the lot?” Cotten responded, “What talk? I haven’t heard a word.” Concluded Colbert, “If you haven’t heard about it, it’s not true.” The subject was dropped and never brought up again. A few days later director Alfred Hitchcock visited the movie set, and blabbed to Cotten that “I suppose David and Jennifer are going to get married as soon as his divorce is final. I had a letter from England today.” A stunned Cotten later recalled that “Claudette and I, each thinking that we were sitting on a powder keg, remained silent. The picture was not in any way affected by their romance.”
9) Question: Despite all the money she earned as a top star, Colbert died virtually broke. a) True; or b) False?
9) Answer: b) False. After her second husband’s death, Colbert retired to the Caribbean, to Barbados, and lived out her life comfortably. Among the friends invited to her place: Nancy and Ronald Reagan.
10) Question: What was Colbert’s real name? a) Daisy Mettinger; b) Emily Cauchoin; c) Claudette Steinberg; or d) Nancy Dalton.
10) Answer: b) Colbert was born Emily Claudette Chauchoin.