quipped at

Betty Hutton

Betty Hutton (born Elizabeth June Thornburg, February 26, 1921March 11, 2007) was an American film actress and singer.


Early life

Hutton began life as Elizabeth June Thornburg, a daughter of railroad foreman Percy E. Thornburg (1896-1939) and his wife, the former Mabel Lum (1901-1967). Her father abandoned the family for another woman and they did not hear from or see him again until they received a telegram, in 1939, informing them of his death from suicide. Along with her older sister Marion, Betty was raised by her mother, who took the surname Hutton and was later billed as the actress Sissy Jones. The three started singing in the family's speakeasy when Betty was 3 years old. Related troubles with the police kept the family on the move, and eventually they moved to Detroit. When interviewed as an established star appearing at the premiere of Let's Dance (1950), her mother — arriving with her, and following a police escort — 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.

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.


When DeSylva became a producer at Paramount Pictures, Hutton was signed to a featured role in The Fleet's In (1942) which starred Paramount's number one female star Dorothy Lamour. Hutton made an instant impact with the moviegoing public but Paramount did not immediately promote her to major stardom, giving her second leads in a Mary Martin musical and another Lamour film before casting Betty as Bob Hope's leading lady in Let's Face It (1943). Following the release of The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), Betty was indisputably a major star and with the release of Incendiary Blonde (1945), Hutton had supplanted Lamour as Paramount's number one female box office attraction.

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.

Hutton followed Dorothy Loudon as the evil Miss Hannigan in Annie on Broadway in 1980. Her last known performance in any medium was on Jukebox Saturday Night, which aired on PBS in 1983.

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.


The actress's first marriage was to camera manufacturer Ted Briskin on September 3, 1945; they divorced in 1950. Two daughters were born to the couple, Lindsay Diane Briskin (born 1946) and Candice Elizabeth Briskin (born 1948). Ted Briskin had a brief 21-day marriage to Joan Dixon after this divorce. He died in 1980 in Los Angeles.

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).


Hutton lived in Palm Springs, California until her death caused by complications from colon cancer at 86 years of age. Carl Bruno, executor of her estate and a long-term friend, told the Associated Press that she died on the evening of Sunday, March 11, 2007. Hutton is buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. None of her three daughters attended the funeral.

Hit songs



Short subjects

  • Paramount Headliner: Queens of the Air (1938)
  • Vincent Lopez and His Orchestra (1939)
  • One for the Book (1939)
  • Three Kings and a Queen (1939)
  • Public Jitterbug Number One (1939)
  • A Letter from Bataan (1942)
  • Strictly G.I. (1943)
  • Skirmish on the Home Front (1944)
  • Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945)


External links

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