Betty Hutton

Betty Hutton (born Elizabeth June Thornburg; February 26, 1921 – March 12, 2007)[1] was an American stage, film, and television actress, comedian, dancer, and singer.

Betty Hutton
Hutton in 1947
Elizabeth June Thornburg

(1921-02-26)February 26, 1921
DiedMarch 12, 2007(2007-03-12) (aged 86)
Resting placeDesert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California, U.S.
Years active1938–1983
Ted Briskin
(m. 1945; div. 1951)

Charles O'Curran
(m. 1952; div. 1955)

Alan W. Livingston
(m. 1955; div. 1960)

Pete Candoli
(m. 1960; div. 1967)
RelativesMarion Hutton (sister)

Early life and education

Hutton was born Elizabeth June Thornburg in Battle Creek, Michigan. While she was very young, her father abandoned the family for another woman. They did not hear of him again until they received a telegram in 1937, informing them of his suicide. Betty and her older sister, Marion, were raised by her alcoholic mother, who took the surname Hutton. Marion was later billed as the actress Sissy Jones.

The three started singing in the family's speakeasy when Betty was 3 years old. Troubles with the police kept the family on the move. They eventually landed in Detroit, where she attended Foch Intermediate School.[2] 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.

Early career

A few years later, she was scouted by orchestra leader Vincent Lopez, who gave Hutton her entry into the entertainment business.

She appeared in several musical shorts for Warner Bros., Queens of the Air (1938), Three Kings and a Queen (1939), Public Jitterbug No. 1 (1939), and One for the Book (1940).


Hutton was cast in a Broadway show, Two for the Show (1940) which ran for 124 performances.[3]

The show was produced by Buddy DeSylva, who then cast Hutton in Panama Hattie (1940–42). This was a major hit running for 501 performances.[4] It starred Ethel Merman, who demanded on opening night that Hutton's musical numbers be cut from the show.


Early films

When DeSylva became a producer at Paramount Pictures, Hutton was signed to a featured role in The Fleet's In (1942), starring Paramount's number-one female star Dorothy Lamour, alongside Eddie Bracken and William Holden. The film was popular and Hutton was an instant hit with the moviegoing public.[5]

Hutton was one of the many Paramount contract artists who appeared in Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). The studio did not immediately promote her to major stardom but did give her the second lead in a Mary Martin film musical, Happy Go Lucky (1943). The response was positive and Hutton was given co-star billing with Bob Hope in Let's Face It (1943). During that year, she made $1250 per week.[6]

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

In 1942, writer-director Preston Sturges cast Betty as the dopey but endearing small-town 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 a few "z's" were in his name. This film, 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; Sturges was nominated for a Best Writing Oscar, the film was named to the National Film Board's Top Ten films for the year, and 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. The New York Times named it as one of the 10 Best Films of 1942-1944.

Critic James Agee noted that "the Hays office must have been raped in its sleep"[7] to allow the film to be released. And although the Hays Office received many letters of protest because of the film's subject matter, it was Paramount's highest-grossing film of 1944, playing to standing-room-only audiences in some theatres.

Paramount kept Hutton busy, putting her in And the Angels Sing (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Lamour, and Here Come the Waves (1944) with Bing Crosby. Both were huge hits.

On the strength of Hutton's success, she signed a recording contract with the newly formed Capitol Records (she was one of the earliest artists to do so).

Buddy DeSylva, one of Capitol's founders, also co-produced her next hit, the musical Incendiary Blonde (1945), where she played Texas Guinan. It was directed by veteran comedy director George Marshall and Hutton had replaced Lamour as Paramount's top female box-office attraction.

Hutton was one of many Paramount stars in Duffy's Tavern (1945), and was top billed in The Stork Club (1945) with Barry Fitzgerald, produced by DeSyvla.

Hutton went into Cross My Heart (1946) with Sonny Tufts, which she disliked. She did however enjoy the hugely popular The Perils of Pauline (1947), directed by Marshall, where she sang a Frank Loesser song that was nominated for an Oscar: "I Wish I Didn't Love You So."[8]

Hutton's relationship with Paramount began to disintegrate when DeSylva left the studio due to illness (he would die in 1950). "After I left I started doing scripts that I knew weren't good for me."[9]

Hutton made Dream Girl (1948) with MacDonald Carey , which she later said "almost ruined me."[9] She did Red, Hot and Blue (1949) with Victor Mature, which she also disliked.[9]

Annie Get Your Gun

Hutton's next screen triumph came in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which hired her to replace an exhausted Judy Garland in the role of Annie Oakley. The film, with the leading role retooled for Hutton, was a smash hit, with the biggest critical praise going to Hutton.

She was billed above Fred Astaire in the 1950 musical Let's Dance.

Hutton was one of several stars in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). She made an unbilled cameo in Sailor Beware (1952) with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, a remake of The Fleet's In, in which she portrayed Dean's girlfriend, Hetty Button.

She made Somebody Loves Me (1952), a biography of singer Blossom Seeley, with Ralph Meeker.

Hutton then clashed with Paramount. The New York Times reported that the dispute resulted from her insistence that her husband at the time, choreographer Charles O'Curran, direct her in a film.[10]

In April 1952 Hutton returned to Broadway, performing in Betty Hutton and Her All-Star International Show.

In July 1952 she announced she and her husband would form a production company.[11] She left Paramount in August.[9]

Television and Theatre

Hutton got work in radio, appeared in Las Vegas where she had a great success.[12]

She had the rights to a script about Sophie Tucker but was unable to raise funds.[9]

In 1954, TV producer Max Liebman, of comedian Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, fashioned his first "Color Spectacular" as an original musical written especially for Hutton, Satins and Spurs[13][14]

Hutton's last completed film was a small one, Spring Reunion (1957). It was a financial disappointment. She also became disillusioned with Capitol's management and moved to RCA Victor.

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

The Betty Hutton Show

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 CBS sitcom, The Betty Hutton Show. Hutton hired the still-blacklisted and future film composer Jerry Fielding to direct her series.[15] 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. It was Fielding's first network job since losing his post as musical director of Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life in 1953 after hostile questioning by HUAC. The Betty Hutton Show ended after 30 episodes.[16]

Hutton continued headlining in Las Vegas and touring across the country. She returned to Broadway briefly in 1964 when she temporarily replaced a hospitalized Carol Burnett in the show Fade Out – Fade In.[17]

She guest starred on shows like The Greatest Show on Earth, Burke's Law and Gunsmoke.

In 1967, she was signed to star in two low-budget Westerns for Paramount, but was fired shortly after the projects began.

Life after Hollywood

After the 1967 death of her mother in a house fire and the collapse of her last marriage, Hutton's depression and pill addictions escalated. She divorced her fourth husband, jazz trumpeter Pete Candoli, and declared bankruptcy.[18]

After losing her singing voice in 1970, Hutton had a nervous breakdown and later attempted suicide. She regained control of her life through rehabilitation, and the mentorship of a Roman Catholic priest, Father Peter Maguire. Hutton converted to Roman Catholicism, and took a job as a cook at a rectory in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. She made national headlines when it was revealed she was practically penniless and working in a rectory. In 1974, she was hospitalized with emotional exhaustion.[19] Later that year, a well-publicized "Love-In for Betty Hutton" was held at New York City's Riverboat Restaurant, emceed by comedian Joey Adams, with several old Hollywood pals on hand. The event raised $10,000 for Hutton and gave her spirits a big boost, but steady work still eluded her.

Hutton appeared in an interview with Mike Douglas and a brief guest appearance in 1975 on Baretta. In 1977, Hutton was featured on The Phil Donahue Show. Hutton was then happily employed as hostess at a Newport, Rhode Island, jai alai arena.

She also appeared on Good Morning America, which led to a 1978 televised reunion with her two daughters. Hutton began living in a shared home with her divorced daughter and grandchildren in California, but returned to the East Coast for a three-week return to the stage.


In 1980, she took over the role of Miss Hannigan during the original Broadway production of Annie while Alice Ghostley was on vacation. Ghostley replaced the original Miss Hannigan actress, Dorothy Loudon (who won a Tony Award for the role).[20]

Hutton's rehearsal of the song "Little Girls" was featured on Good Morning America. Hutton's Broadway comeback was also included in a profile that was done about her life, her struggle with pills, and her recovery on CBS News Sunday Morning.[21]

A ninth-grade drop-out, Hutton went back to school and earned a master's degree in psychology from Salve Regina University in 1986.[22] During her time at college, Hutton became friends with singer-songwriter Kristin Hersh and attended several early concerts of Hersh's band, Throwing Muses.[23] Hersh later wrote the song "Elizabeth June" as a tribute to her friend, and wrote about their relationship in further detail in her memoir, Rat Girl.[24]

Hutton's last known performance, in any medium, was on Jukebox Saturday Night, which aired on PBS in 1983.[25] Hutton stayed in New England and began teaching comedic acting at Boston's Emerson College. She became estranged again from her daughters.

Final years

After the death of her ally, Father Maguire, Hutton returned to California, moving to Palm Springs in 1999, after decades in New England. Hutton hoped to grow 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, April 14, 2009, January 26, 2010, and as recently as March 18, 2017.[26] as part of TCM's memorial tribute for Robert Osborne.

Hutton lived in Palm Springs until her death March 12, 2007, at 86, from colon cancer complications.[10][27] She is buried at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.[28]

Marriages and children

Hutton's first marriage was to camera manufacturer Ted Briskin in 1945. The marriage ended in divorce in 1951.[29] Two daughters were born to the couple:

  • Lindsay Diane Briskin, born in Barcelona, Spain on March 1, 1946
  • Candice Elizabeth Briskin, born in Havana, Cuba on December 3, 1947

Hutton's second marriage in 1952 was to choreographer Charles O'Curran.[10] They divorced in 1955.[29] He died in 1984.

She married husband Alan W. Livingston in 1955, weeks after Hutton's divorce from O'Curran. They divorced in 1960.[29]

Her fourth and final marriage in 1960 was to jazz trumpeter Pete Candoli. They divorced in 1967.[29] Hutton and Candoli had one child:

  • Carolyn Candoli, born on March 9, 1961

Hutton was once engaged to the head of the Warner Bros. makeup department, makeup artist Perc Westmore, in 1942,[30] but broke off the engagement, saying it was because he bored her.[31]


For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Betty Hutton has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6259 Hollywood Boulevard.[32]

Hit songs

Year Title Chart peak Catalog number Notes
1939 "Old Man Mose" with Vincent Lopez Orchestra
"Igloo" 15 Bluebird 10300 with Vincent Lopez Orchestra
"The Jitterbug" Bluebird 10367 with Vincent Lopez Orchestra
1942 "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry"
"I'm Doin' It For Defense"
1943 "Murder, He Says"
"The Fuddy Duddy Watchmaker"
1944 "Bluebirds in my Belfry"
"It Had To Be You" 5 Capitol 155 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"His Rocking Horse Ran Away" 7 Capitol 155 with Paul Weston Orchestra
1945 "Stuff Like That There" 4 Capitol 188 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?" 15 Capitol 211 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"(Doin' It) The Hard Way" Capitol 211 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief" 1 Capitol 220 with Paul Weston Orchestra
"A Square in the Social Circle" Capitol 220 with Paul Weston Orchestra
1946 "My Fickle Eye" 21 RCA Victor 20-1915 with Joe Lilley Orchestra
1947 "Poppa, Don't Preach To Me" Capitol 380 with Joe Lilley Orchestra
"I Wish I Didn't Love You So" 5 Capitol 409 with Joe Lilley Orchestra
1949 "(Where Are You?) Now That I Need You" Capitol 620 with Joe Lilley Orchestra
1950 "Orange Colored Sky" 24 RCA Victor 20-3908 with Pete Rugolo Orchestra
"Can't Stop Talking" RCA Victor 20-3908 with Pete Rugolo Orchestra
"A Bushel and a Peck" (duet with Perry Como) 3 RCA Victor 20-3930 with Mitchell Ayres Orchestra
1951 "It's Oh So Quiet"[33] RCA Victor 20-4179 with Pete Rugolo Orchestra
"The Musicians" (with Dinah Shore, Tony Martin and Phil Harris) 24 RCA Victor 20-4225 with Henri René Orchestra
1953 "Goin' Steady" 21 Capitol 2522 with Nelson Riddle Orchestra
1954 "The Honeymoon's Over" (duet with Tennessee Ernie Ford) 16 Capitol 2809 with Billy May Orchestra
1956 "Hit the Road to Dreamland" Capitol 3383 with Vic Schoen Orchestra


Motion pictures
Year Title Role Notes
1938 Queens of the Air Herself film short
1939 Vincent Lopez and His Orchestra Herself film short
Three Kings and a Queen Herself film short
Public Jitterbug No. 1 Herself film short
1940 One for the Book Cinderella film short
1942 The Fleet's In Bessie Day
Star Spangled Rhythm Polly Judson
1943 Happy Go Lucky Bubbles Hennessy
Let's Face It Winnie Porter
Strictly G.I. Herself film short
1944 The Miracle of Morgan's Creek Trudy Kockenlocker
And the Angels Sing Bobby Angel
Skirmish on the Home Front Emily Average film short
Here Come the Waves Susan Allison / Rosemary Allison
1945 Incendiary Blonde Texas Guinan
Duffy's Tavern Herself cameo
Hollywood Victory Caravan Herself film short
The Stork Club Judy Peabody
1946 Cross My Heart Peggy Harper
1947 The Perils of Pauline Pearl White
1948 Dream Girl Georgina Allerton
1949 Red, Hot and Blue Eleanor "Yum-Yum" Collier
1950 Annie Get Your Gun Annie Oakley
Let's Dance Kitty McNeil
1952 The Greatest Show on Earth Holly
Sailor Beware Hetty Button cameo, Uncredited
Somebody Loves Me Blossom Seeley
1957 Spring Reunion Margaret "Maggie" Brewster
Year Title Role Notes
1958 That's My Mom 1 episode (unaired pilot)
1959–1960 The Betty Hutton Show Goldie Appleby 30 episodes
1964 The Greatest Show on Earth Julia Dana 1 episode
1964–1965 Burke's Law Carlene Glory
Rena Zito
2 episodes
1965 Gunsmoke Molly McConnell 1 episode
1977 Baretta Velma 1 episode, (final appearance)

Box-office ranking

For several years, film exhibitors voted Hutton among the leading stars in the country:

  • 1944 – 25th (US)[34]
  • 1950 – 15th (US)
  • 1951 – 9th (UK)
  • 1952 – 14th (US),[35] 3rd (UK)

Stage work

Radio appearances

April 12, 1942Command Performancewith Gene Tierney - first show from Hollywood
June 2, 1942Command Performancewith Mickey Rooney
February 6, 1943Command Performancewith Rita Hayworth
October 2, 1943Command Performancewith Don Ameche
November 13, 1943Command Performancewith Bob Hope
May 29, 1948Command Performancewith Bob Hope - sixth-anniversary special
February 6, 1950Lux Radio Theatre"Red, Hot And Blue"
1952Stars in the Air"Suddenly, It's Spring"[36]
April 27, 1953Lux Radio Theatre"Somebody Loves Me"

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Film
1944 Golden Apple Awards Won Most Cooperative Actress
1951 Golden Globe Award Nominated Best Motion Picture Actress – Musical/Comedy Annie Get Your Gun
1950 Photoplay Awards Won Most Popular Female Star Annie Get Your Gun

Her songs "He's a Demon - He's a Devil - He's a Doll" and "It's a Man" are featured in the open-world video game, Fallout 4, on the in-game radio.

Her song "Murder, He Says" appeared in Woody Allen’s 1985 film, Crimes and Misdemeanors.


  1. Information about the date of Hutton's death has conflicts.
    • Her gravestone says March 12, which is also given in the Social Security Death Index and in a list provided by the cemetery.
    • The New York Times obituary, published on March 14 (Wednesday), says she died "Sunday night", which was March 11.
    • The AP obituary does not have a clear death date: "The death was confirmed Monday by a friend of Hutton, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing her wishes that her death be announced at a specified time by the executor of her estate, Carl Bruno."
    • The Guardian obituary was first published with March 12 as the death date, which was then changed to the 11th a week later, per the note at the bottom.
  2. "Betty Hutton Estate". Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  3. "Two For The Show – Broadway Musical – Original | IBDB".
  4. "Panama Hattie – Broadway Musical – Original | IBDB".
  5. "Variety (January 1943)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company. October 24, 1943 via Internet Archive.
  6. "Hollywood Fights Its Slowdown: Wage-ceiling starlets will solve the shortage of stars". Click: The National Picture Monthly (March 1943): 17.
  7. Donnelly, Elisabeth (2009-07-21). "The Reelist: Virgins on Film". Tribeca Film. Retrieved 2018-11-22.
  8. "Variety (January 1948)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company. October 24, 1948 via Internet Archive.
  9. Betty Hutton, Husband Form Own Company By Bob Thomas. The Washington Post 7 Aug 1952: 22.
  10. Severo, Richard (14 March 2007). "Betty Hutton, Film Star of '40s and '50s, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  11. Betty Hutton to Produce Films, Appear on TV Los Angeles Times 18 July 1952: 20.
  12. Betty Hutton Terrific in 'Final' Appearance Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 14 Oct 1954: A12.
  13. "Satins and Spurs". Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  14. Television in Review: Betty Hutton: N. B. C. Stages First of Color 'Spectaculars' ' Satins and Spurs' Has Some Lusty Hoofing V. A.. New York Times 13 Sep 1954: 31.
  15. Billboard Oct 26, 1959 p. 52
  16. BETTY HUTTON TURNS TO "GOLDIE" Korman, Seymour. Chicago Daily Tribune 26 Sep 1959: a5.
  17. "Fade Out – Fade In replacement cast members at IBDB". Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
  18. Landlords Sue Betty Hutton The Washington Post, Times Herald10 Mar 1967: B8.
  19. Betty Hutton Put in Mental Hospital Los Angeles Times 14 Dec 1974: 5.
  20. "Annie replacement cast members at IBDB". Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
  21. Betty Hutton: A Trouper's Torment: The Showbiz Fires Are Banked, But the Flame of Hope Burns High A Trouper's Torments By Paul Hendrickson. The Washington Post 10 Feb 1979: C1.
  22. Salve Regina College (1986-05-18). "Salve Regina College Thirty-Sixth Annual Commencement program, 1986". Salve Regina University Commencement Programs.
  23. "Beautiful Old Betty". kristin hersh. 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
  24. Sheffield, Rob (October 8, 2010). "Book Review - Rat Girl - By Kristin Hersh". Archived from the original on April 3, 2011.
  25. "Juke Box Saturday Night". Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  26. Robert Osborne interview on TCM on YouTube, video, 60 minutes
  27. "Actress And Singer Betty Hutton Dead". CBS News.
  28. "Palm Springs Cemetery District "Interment Information"" (PDF).
  29. "Betty Hutton Remembered". Streamline: The Filmstruck Blog. 19 March 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  30. "St. Petersburg Times - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  31. "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  32. "Betty Hutton - Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  33. "Advance Record Releases". The Billboard: 30. July 7, 1951. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  34. "Bing Crosby America's Screen Favourite". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 24 March 1945. p. 8 Supplement: The Argus Week-end Magazine. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  35. "Box Office Draw". The Barrier Miner. Broken Hill, NSW: National Library of Australia. 29 December 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  36. Kirby, Walter (February 17, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 1, 2015 via

Further reading

  • Betty Hutton, Backstage You Can Have: My Own Story, 2009. The Betty Hutton Estate ISBN 978-1500916220
  • The Betty Hutton Estate, Betty Hutton Scrapbook: A Tribute To Hollywood's Blonde Bombshell, 2015. The Betty Hutton Estate ISBN 978-1514202531
  • Gene Arceri, Rocking Horse: A Personal Biography of Betty Hutton, 2009, BearManor Media ISBN 978-1593933210
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