The lovely Claudette Colbert was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin 113 years agao today in Saint-Mandé, France, an eastern suburb of Paris. We saw her perform on Broadway 31 years ago opposite Rex Harrison in a drawing room comedy called Aren’t We All? and it remains among our greatest regrets that we didn’t play Stage-Door Johnny after the show to tell her how we admired her. Here are 10 CC Did-You-Knows:
- Her father owned a bakery on what is now Avenue Général de Gaulle, but the family moved to New York City in 1906.
- Colbert attended Washington Irving High School in New York City, graduating in 1923.
- As a child, Colbert dreamed of being a Broadway actress, and to that end, after her formal education was completed, she enrolled for dramatic training at the Art Students League of New York and paid for her studies by working in a dress shop.
- She debuted on Broadway in 1923 in a play called The Wild Wescotts, and it was during that show’s run that she changed her name.
- She turned to films as a practical choice when the Great Depression proved to be a difficult time for live theatre. Her first movie was a 1927 Frank Capra-directed silent picture called For the Love of Mike (alas, the film is now considered lost). It was so poorly under-budgeted that Capra had to hitchhike back to Hollywood from New York City. After making the picture, Colbert vowed, “I shall never make another film.”
- Colbert considered her left side to be her best and was rarely photographed from any other angle.
- Colbert was so convinced that she wouldn’t win the Oscar for It Happened One Night (1934) that she skipped the ceremony. She was quickly transported over from a train station when the announcement was made that she had won.
- Colbert turned down the role of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940).
- Colbert was one of five French actresses (though she later became a naturalized U.S. citizen) to win an Academy Award and one of just 12 French actresses to earn an Oscar nomination.
- Her nickname was Lily.
Happy birthday, Claudette Colbert, wherever you may be!