Betty Hutton, American actress and singer, Died at 86


Betty Hutton died on March 11, 2007 at the age of 86, she was an American stage, film, and television actress, comedian, dancer and singer.

Born Elizabeth June Thornburg in Battle Creek, Michigan on February 26, 1921, in Battle Creek, Michigan, entertainer Betty Hutton started performing at a young age, she was the daughter of a railroad foreman, Percy E. Thornburg (1896–1939) and his wife, Mabel Lum (1901–1967).

While she was very young, her father abandoned the family for another woman.

She attended Central High School in Lansing, Michigan.

They eventually landed in Detroit.

(On one occasion, when Betty, preceded by a police escort, arrived at the premiere of Let’s Dance (1950), her mother, arriving with her, quipped, “At least this time the police are in front of us!”) Hutton sang in several local bands as a teenager, and at one point visited New York City hoping to perform on Broadway, where she was rejected.

In 1942, writer-director Preston Sturges cast Betty as the dopey but endearing smalltown girl who gives local troops a happy send-off and wakes up married and pregnant but with no memory of who her husband is, except that there were a few “z’s” in his name.

In this hilarious comedy skewering mindless patriotism, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek was delayed by Hays Office objections and Sturges’ prolific output and was finally released early in 1944.

The film made Hutton a major star; Preston Sturges was nominated for a Best Writing Oscar, the film was named on the National Film Board’s Top Ten films for the year, the National Board of Review nominated the film for Best Picture of 1944, and awarded Betty Hutton the award for Best Acting for her performance in the film.

Hutton made 19 films from 1942 to 1952.

Her career as a Hollywood star ended due to a contract dispute with Paramount following the Oscar-winning The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Somebody Loves Me (1952), a biography of singer Blossom Seeley.

The New York Times reported that the dispute resulted from her insistence that her husband at the time, choreographer Charles O’Curran, direct her next film.

This is not as outrageous as it now sounds, since many famous female stars, from Greta Garbo to Alexander Korda’s first wife, a silent movie star, often demanded directing gigs for their unknown husbands as the price of their next film.

In 1957, she appeared on a Dinah Shore show on NBC that also featured Boris Karloff; the program has been preserved on a kinescope.

Lucille Ball (another female star who had clearly pushed her husband to a lucrative career) and Desi Arnaz took a chance on Hutton in 1959, with their company Desilu Productions giving her a sitcom, The Betty Hutton Show.

Hutton at this point did a remarkably brave thing: with her own career hanging in the balance, she hired the still-blacklisted and future film composer extraordinaire Jerry Fielding to direct her series.

They had met over the years in Las Vegas when he was blacklisted from TV and radio and could get no other work, and her Hollywood career was also fading.

As her career faded, Hutton fell prey to her personal demons and financial woes.

She abused sleeping pills and other drugs for many years.

In 1967, she declared bankruptcy, having spent the $9 million to $10 million that she had earned during her heyday.

A few years later, she had a mental breakdown, subsequently spending time in a treatment facility.