A few years later, she was scouted by orchestra leader Vincent Lopez, who gave Hutton her entry into entertainment. In 1939, she appeared in several musical shorts for Warner Bros., and appeared on Broadway in Panama Hattie and Two for the Show, both produced by Buddy DeSylva.
Hutton made 19 films in 11 years, from 1942 to 1952 including a hugely popular The Perils of Pauline in 1947. She was billed over Fred Astaire in the 1950 musical Let's Dance. Hutton's greatest screen triumph was Annie Get Your Gun for MGM, which hired Hutton to replace an exhausted Judy Garland in the role of Annie Oakley. The film and the leading role, retooled for Hutton, was a smash hit, with the biggest critical praise going to Betty (her obituary in The New York Times described her as "a brassy, energetic performer with a voice that could sound like a fire alarm") but Hutton, like Garland, was earning a reputation for being extremely difficult.
In 1944, she signed with Capitol Records, one of the first artists to do so, but was unhappy with their management, and later signed with RCA Victor. Among her many films was an unbilled cameo in Sailor Beware (1952) with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, in which she portrayed Dean's girlfriend, Hetty Button. Her time as a Hollywood star came to an end due to contract disagreements with Paramount following The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Somebody Loves Me (1952), a biopic of singer Blossom Seeley. The New York Times indicated that her film career ended because of her insistence that her husband at the time, Charles O'Curran, direct her next film; when the studio declined, Hutton broke her contract. Betty's last completed film was a small one, 1957's Spring Reunion. She gave an understated, sensitive performance in the drama; box office receipts showed the public didn't accept a subdued Hutton.
Hutton worked in radio, appeared in Las Vegas and in nightclubs, then tried her luck on the new medium of television. An original musical TV "spectacular" written especially for Hutton, Satin 'n Spurs (1954), was an enormous flop with the public and critics, despite being one of the first television programs televised nationally by NBC in compatible color. Desilu Productions took a chance on Hutton and in 1959 gave her a sitcom The Betty Hutton Show, which quickly faded. Hutton returned to Broadway briefly when she temporarily replaced a hospitalized Carol Burnett in Fade Out - Fade In in 1964. In 1967, she was signed to star in two low-budget Westerns for Paramount, but was fired shortly after the projects began.
Afterwards, Hutton had trouble with alcohol and substance abuse (sleeping pills), eventually attempting suicide after losing her singing voice in 1970, and having a nervous breakdown. She divorced her fourth husband, jazz trumpeter Pete Candoli, and declared herself bankrupt. Renewed interest in Betty was generated in a well-publicized "Love-In for Betty Hutton" held at New York City's Riverboat Restaurant, emceed by comedian Joey Adams, with several old Hollywood pals on hand. The 1974 event raised $10,000 (USD) for Betty and gave her spirits a big boost. Steady work, unfortunately, still eluded her. Her last TV outings were an interview with Mike Douglas and a brief guest appearance in 1975 on Baretta.
However, after regaining control of her life through rehab, and the mentorship of a Roman Catholic priest named Father Peter Maguire, Hutton converted to Roman Catholicism and took a job as a cook at a rectory in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. A 9th grade drop-out, Hutton went back to school and later received her Master's Degree in psychology from Salve Regina University. She would work as a casino hostess, charity counselor and acting teacher into the late 1980s.
After the death of her ally Father Maguire, Hutton returned to California in 1999 after decades in New England. Hutton hoped to become closer to her daughters and grandchildren, as she told Robert Osborne on TCM's Private Screenings in April 2000, though her children remained distant. She told Osborne that she understood their hesitancy to accept a now elderly mother. The TCM interview first aired on July 18, 2000. The program was rerun as a memorial on the evening of her death in 2007, and again on July 11, 2008.
Hutton's second marriage was in 1952 to choreographer Jacob Glazier, and they divorced in 1955; he died in 1982.
Her third marriage was in 1955 to Alan W. Livingston, an executive with Capitol Records, who had created Bozo the Clown; they divorced five years later, although some accounts refer to this as a nine-month marriage.
Her fourth and final marriage was in 1960 to jazz trumpeter Pete Candoli, who was born in 1923, a brother of Conte Candoli. Hutton and Candoli had one child, Carolyn Candoli (born 1962) and then divorced in 1967 (although some accounts place the year as 1964).