EDITORIAL PAULETTE GODDARD

 

pgeditorialphotoaA movie goer mother has passed on to me her passion for the screen, in particular her interest in American cinema dating back to the forties and for the stars who made her dream, as an adolescent after the war.

Paulette Goddard became famous in the forties when the major studios were the rule makers imposing drastic contracts of copyright and creating the best possible commercial image of their brand new stars, making them dream-creatures, entertaining, sensuous and surrounded by mystery, slightly too sophisticated and stereotyped, but still fascinating.

Hollywood then dominated the cinema throughout the world and attracted many artists from different parts of the globe who were seeking success : some would succeed (for instance, Marlène Dietrich or Greta Garbo) others would fail ! Paramount Studios, where Paulette made her debut, had a reputation for having artists from the Music Hall and the theater (Claudette Colbert or Sylvia Sidney) and for receiving a European influence from major directors like Ernst Lubitsch or Rouben Mamoulian. Despite the power of those major studios, independant producers survived and even managed to grow (Walt Disney or David O. Selznick). It is also due to the highlight of studio filming and the improvement of the techniques and particularly the introduction of Technicolor and  the ever increasing share given to colour replacing black and white.

During this period,

- The silent movie disappeared giving place to talking movies, modifying the game of acting. It reduced to silence numerous stars like Mary Pickford, whereas others passed the test of audibility like Norma Shearer.

- The cinema de genre made its way through, from melodramas to sitcoms, passing through cinema noir incarnated by heroins as stereotyped as Lana Turner or Veronica Lake.

- Musical shows reached its apex with legendary tandems such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

- Millions of spectators rushed to the evergrowing number of cinema halls which showed their favorite stars, considered then like untouchable icons. Those prestigious stars focused the dreams and desires of millions of young Americans who had reached the big cities to find work after World War I, the 1929 crash, and the Great Depression of the thirties.

- Censurship hardened with a new code of morality, and yet a time of full employement in the United States at the end of World War II, and a surge of viewers in cinema halls who then felt the need to identify themselves with well-known faces in popular and often patriotic movies. The movie stars themselves were willing - and eager - to take part in the war effort.

- A social transition occured when the cold war and anticommunism reached a peak ; the situation of black people and women had improved, but a time when social conflicts appeared within the movie studios which were forced by the government to break up their monopolies and to sell their cinema halls.

- For most of the female movie stars, their age, the lack of success at the box office and their desire for independance, led to a cut in fees, the end of the leading role, and the cancellations of their contracts with movie studios (an exception was Olivia de Havilland). Only a few were able to resist for an extraordinary length of time covering for some thirty years of their careers (Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn).

But television, video and Internet have enabled us to rediscover some stars once admired but long forgotten, such as Louise Brooks or Jean Harlow, while others will never cease to twinkle, sealed in our collective memory, such as Ava Gardner or Marylin Monroe.

Paulette Goddard is a one of those sensuous and popular heroins, often carefree, a star in the constellation of female movie stars able to offer dreams and passion to generations of movie goers.

pgeditorialphotobThe first time I saw her, luminous in The great dictator, I was still an adolescent and felt dazzled by her magnetic eyes. Desarming and sublimated, she has haunted my dreams for years. Then coming out of my soft torpor and curious by nature, I started to learn more about her career and the adventurous life of this strongwilled woman, bright and non conventional - definitely fascinating !

She was neither a movie superstar nor a female myth, but she was one of the few popular actresses of the Golden Age of American cinema to remain in people’s memory, above all thanks to her two roles with Charles Chaplin  : The joyful and vibrant young girl in The modern times, and the sweet fighting Hannah in The great dictator. One regrets that she was not hired, according to her wish, to act in Gone with the wind, as her career would have greatly benefited from it. But Paulette was an astounding actress ; it takes only to see her in some of her films : Hold back the down, So proudly we hail or Diary of a chambermaid, to realize the extent of her talent - too often underestimated. But this was the fate of all actresses performing in comedies and adventure movies.
Her beauty and her natural elegance attracted male eyes. Her ambition and her professionalism enabled her to build up a fine career and above all to reach the top of the social ladder, as she was a tough business woman and a great art collector !

Too young when she died for me to have gotten in touch with her and meet her, she has nevertheless been an inspiration for my movie choices, for I like what she represents : the epitomy of a « joie de vivre » belonging to a time past when cinema was entertaining, yet surprising, a wonderful actress having lived fully the life of an independant woman, asserting her tastes, her opinions and her life choices !

This non-profit website was created by a moviegoer, a resolute admirer of Paulette Goddard (« Goddardian » forever). I hope it will please those who have a passion for cinema and are willing to discover a wonderful actress !

Hervé Le Coupannec

 

The dictator final scene : Paulette first vision - first schock !

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