Betty Hutton had done some short musical films in the late ’30s, but her screen career was not going anywhere until she came to the attention of Buddy DeSylva. DeSylva was the executive producer at Paramount from 1941 to 1944. He cast Betty in a supporting role in Dorothy Lamour’s war-time picture THE FLEET’S IN. Betty was a smash and realizing she would fast become an audience favorite, DeSylva began to create musical comedy vehicles specifically for her. From 1942 to 1952, Betty made 18 films at the studio. A lot of them were huge box office successes, and one of them paired her again with Lamour, where they played sisters with Diana Lynn.
Paulette Goddard was originally under contract to David Selznick in the late 30s, but her services were also shared with Charlie Chaplin. She did two films with the legendary comic, and both are regarded as classics. When she failed to nab the part of Scarlett O’Hara, she headed over to Paramount, which proved to be a smart move. Starting in 1939, she had several comedy hits with Bob Hope, but she also was skilled at dramatic parts and adventure stories, which made her a natural lead for several Cecil B. DeMille pictures. During the next ten years, she appeared in 21 Paramount productions and though not every one of those was a hit, there was no denying that Paulette Goddard was one of the studio’s more important stars.
What can you say about Bing Crosby that hasn’t already been said? But perhaps we can begin by saying he did not jump into the motion picture industry with a splash. In his first movie at Paramount, CONFESSIONS OF A CO-ED, he merely appeared as part of a musical group called The Rhythm Boys. It wasn’t until a year later that the studio featured him much more prominently in the first BIG BROADCAST movie, in 1932. But Bing quickly caught on, and soon he was Paramount’s biggest and most successful musical star. Over the course of 25 years, he would appear in 50 motion pictures for the studio– even earning a few Oscar nominations along the way.
Mae West is another one that has had plenty written about her. The woman’s a legend. What’s interesting is that her film career at Paramount, and basically her screen career in general, was not too prolific. She made her mark fast, and it was a lasting mark, but her list of motion pictures is quite short. From 1932 to 1937, she only made eight films at Paramount (the first one was a supporting role). And after that, she did just another four, scattered across four decades. Yet there’s a reason we’re still discussing Mae West today. Maybe because she was so unique and special.
Initially Jerry Lewis was part of a comedy team with pal Dean Martin, and when he was signed by Paramount in the late 1940s, it is safe to say he was not considered leading man material. But Jerry quickly proved how valuable he was to the studio, and even after he and Martin broke up in 1956, his movie career stayed hot. He directed his first picture in 1960 at Paramount. And before he was done with the company in 1965, he had been in 35 of the studio’s films, most of them quite profitable.
Claudette Colbert started at Paramount when it was transitioning to sound and still had studios based in New York. From 1929 to 1944, she appeared in 26 motion pictures for the studio. In 1934, she earned an Oscar on loan out for IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. But the Paramount films she made were her bread and butter. She worked with DeMille, Lubitsch, Leisen and Sturges– all the studio’s prestige directors. And she probably had the best leading men and greatest selection of scripts that any actress ever had at Paramount.