Here’s part 2 of my salute to an all round performer, Betty Hutton. First a bit of correction to the previous installment. I didn’t catch some mistakes in Betty’s life, and other tidbits of her life, some fun and some tragic, came out since the last part was posted.
In Betty’s book, Backstage You Can Have. She gives this early timeline: Her mother, Mabel Mae Lum, runs away from home
in Nebraska at age 9, taking her younger brother with her. This, shortly after their mother died at the hand of an abusive father, who seems to have beaten her to death. Mable ran away after being beaten badly herself, heading out into the harsh winter, To survive, she took a job as a house servant,
until money for train fare could be earned.
The two youngsters went to live with their kind uncle and aunt in Battle Creek. Their uncle was a railroad conductor. When Mable was older, an arranged marriage was made to Percy (Jack) Thornbird. Married at 16, because that’s what you do in the early 1900’s, and without many options for a young lady. She was not in love.
Note: in the book, Backstage You Can Have. Betty claims Percy was a railroad brakeman, and left almost as soon as she was born. She claims she always felt she didn’t fit in, Betty knew she looked different than her sister, and later found evidence that Mabel had an affair with a well known musician, bandleader, or some prominent entertainer. The identity was taken to the grave by Mabel, and Betty chose the same when the evidence came to her after Mabel’s death. The affair was broken off soon after the pregnancy was discovered, and it’s not likely the entertainer even knew of Betty’s existence.
Betty goes on to claim that when Percy, mostly known as Jack, left, Mabel left her aunt and uncle’s house to work in an Oldsmobile plant in Lansing. The family lived in a multi-family flat in the slums. Mabel became an alcoholic, enjoying life as well as she knew how. She had some close girl friends to live it up, unrestrained, and go out dancing and drinking together. During this time, Betty nearly died of pneumonia, and later the family moved to a house near a lake to set up a blind pig. A type of small scale speak easy.
Sources vary, some citing Betty singing on the streets and dropping out of school as early as age 9, and as late as age 15. Betty herself claims she sang as early as age 9,
but stayed in school until the 9th grade. This would put her at age 15, if she finished the year, but possibly 14 if she left before her birthday in February. She claims in interviews to have left as early as age 13.
In interviews Betty claims she won a competition that let her tour with the Vincent Lopez Orchestra when she was age 13. She toured with Mable and Marion accompanying her. Betty clarifies her competition as one where the regular opening act of jugglers, or some similar entertainers, were no shows. In need of an opening act, she was put up to performing.
front where she was concerned her lack of singing talent would be a problem. She bounced around the stage, hoping to mask that detail, even spinning the rotund Vincent Lopez around the music hall. Her energy paid off. This on the heels of her failed trip to New York to get a recording deal. Betty claims to have been 12 when going to New York, and the implication is that she went alone.
Betty claims that in these early years, alcohol was not a problem for her, as it was to Mable and Marion. Betty’s addiction to pills didn’t come until her film career was over. Which means that all that exuberant energy in her movie performances was all her, without chemical enhancements.
June 1: Betty drops out of Panama Hattie to relocate to Los Angeles, where Buddy DeSylva casts her in his first film for Paramount Pictures.
Stories abound as to why Betty left. From Betty’s perspective, Ethyl Merman demanded that Betty’s song be cut from the production. Others claim that Betty’s exuberant, physical performance
was a little too much, and the producers thought less was better than more. Regardless, Betty was hurt by the decision, and left when Buddy Disilva encouraged her to stay for a year, and with the promise of a movie role.
Rumors imply that Buddy was Betty’s boyfriend, but if he was, Betty doesn’t indicate it in her later interviews. She was quite open in her older years, and probably wouldn’t have many qualms about saying so, if it were true. She does admit seeing a married man, and being jilted by him. If she names him, it is in material I have yet to uncover. Also the implication as I understand it is that her affair with the unidentified married man didn’t take place until her arrival in Hollywood, and lasted four years.
September 20: Filming begins on The Fleet’s In.
Director: Victor Schertzinger, William Holden,
Dorothy Lamour The Countess
William Holden Casey Kirby
Eddie Bracken Barney Waters
Betty Hutton Bessie Dale
Leif Erickson Jake
Betty Jane Rhodes Diana Golden
Barbara Britton Eileen Wright
Cass Daley Cissie
Jimmy Dorsey Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra Leader (as Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra)
And many others.
Not Mine(Johnny Mercer) Dorothy Lamour (also reprised by Betty Hutton)
Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry. (Johnny Mercer) Betty Hutton
I Remember You(Johnny Mercer) Dorothy Lamour,
Tangerine(Johnny Mercer) Helen O’Connell, Robert Eberly
The Fleet’s In(Johnny Mercer) Betty Jane Rhodes.
When You Hear the Time Signal(Johnny Mercer) Dorothy Lamour
If You Build a Better Mouse Trap(Johnny Mercer) Betty Hutton
With a Twist of the Wrist(Irving Graham)
My Bonney Lives Over the Ocean
Tomorrow You Belong to Uncle Sammy(Johnny Mercer) Cass Daley
October 31: Filming is completed on The Fleet’s In.
April 17: Filming begins on Happy Go Lucky.
Director: Curtis Bernhardt
Mary Martin Marjory Stuart
Dick Powell Pete Hamilton
Betty Hutton Bubbles Hennessy
Eddie Bracken Wally Case
Rudy Vallee Alfred Monroe
Mabel Paige Mrs. Smith
Eric Blore Betsman
Clem Bevans Mr. Smith
And many more.
Happy Go Lucky Music by Jimmy McHugh Lyrics by Frank Loesser Sung by Mary Martin and Dick Powell
Ugly Woman Music by Charles Herbert Lyrics by Sir Lancelot Performed by Sir Lancelot
Murder, He Says Music by Jimmy McHugh Lyrics by Frank Loesser Performed by Betty Hutton
Let’s Get Lost Music by Jimmy McHugh Lyrics by Frank Loesser Sung by Mary Martin
Ta-ra-ra Boom-der-ay (uncredited) Written by Henry J. Sayers Sung and Danced by Mary Martin
The Fuddy Duddy Watchmaker Music by Jimmy McHugh Lyrics by Frank Loesser Performed by Betty Hutton and The Sportsmen Quartet
June 2: Appears on radio’s “Command Performance” singing “Murder, He Says” with the Billy Artzt Orchestra. The episode is hosted by Mickey Rooney, and since Betty’s co-star from the Fleet’s In, Betty Rhodes sings her song from the film, we include her as well.
June 10: Filming is completed on Happy Go Lucky.
June 11: Filming begins on Star Spangled Rhythm.
Director: George Marshall
Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, and many more.
The movie is like a video version of Command Performance, with tons of variety acts. Betty has the chance to sing, I’m Doing It for Defense. Music by Harold Arlen Lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
July 23: Filming is completed on Star Spangled Rhythm.
August 25: Appears on radio’s “Command Performance” singing “The Fuddy Duddy Watchmaker” with the Alfred Newman Orchestra.
Hosted by Red Skelton, and also includes Betty’s friend and co-star from the Fleet’s In, Dorothy Lamour. Get ready for a comedy bit with Dorothy and Red as well. Fun stuff.
October 21: Filming begins on The Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek.
Director: Preston Sturges
Cast: Eddie Bracken … Norval Jones
Betty Hutton Trudy Kockenlocker
Diana Lynn Emmy Kockenlocker
William Demarest Constable Edmund Kockenlocker
Porter Hall Justice of the Peace
Emory Parnell Mr. Tuerck
Al Bridge Mr. Johnson (as Alan Bridge)
Julius Tannen Mr. Rafferty
Victor Potel Newspaper Editor
Brian Donlevy Governor McGinty (as McGinty)
Akim Tamiroff The Boss
And many others.
No songs for Betty in this milestone in her career.
December 21: Appears on radio’s “Mail Call” with Cecil B. DeMille, Bert Lahr, Mickey Rooney, Richard Haydn and Douglas Aeronnaders.
December 23: Filming is completed on The Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek until February 1943.
January 4: Happy Go Lucky is released to theaters.
January 27: Appears on Eddie Cantor’s radio show with Rudy Vallee and Jimmy McHugh. Enjoy some clips of Betty in action with Eddie, and singing her new hit, Murder He Says.
February 3: Filming begins on Let’s Face It.
Director: Sidney Lanfield
Bob Hope Jerry Walker
Betty Hutton Winnie Porter
Zasu Pitts Cornelia Figeson
Phyllis Povah Nancy Collister
Dave Willock Barney Hilliard
Eve Arden Maggie Watson
The Milk Song Written by Cole Porter
Let’s Face It Written by Cole Porter
Let’s Not Talk About Love Written by Cole Porter
Farming Written by Cole Porter
Plain Jane Doe Music by Jule Styne Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Who Did? I Did! Yes, I Did Music by Jule Styne Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
All the Way Lyrics by Kim Gannon Music by Jule Styne
A fun story with Betty as a trainer at a fat camp. Her boyfriend, Bob Hope keeps slipping the ladies candy, but comedy and romance flourishes.
February 6: Appears on radio’s “Command Performance” singing “Murder, He Says” and “Doin’ It For Defense”. Though we skip Betty’s first song, enjoy the tune she just recorded for her latest movie.
February 25: Betty films additional scenes for The Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek.
March 3: Betty appears on radio’s “Mail Call” with Betty Rhodes and Bob Hope.
March 25: Appearing with Rudy Vallee on his radio program, Betty performs several tunes from their film Happy Go Lucky including “Murder, He Says.”
Unfortunately none of the above shows exist, but if someone knows how to dig them up, let me know.
April 9: Filming is completed on Let’s Face It.
May 5: Filming begins on And The Angels Sing.
Director: George Marshall
Dorothy Lamour Nancy Angel
Fred MacMurray Happy Morgan
Betty Hutton Bobby Angel
Diana Lynn Josie Angel
Mimi Chandler Patti Angel
Raymond Walburn Pop Angel
Eddie Foy Jr. Fuzzy Johnson
Frank Albertson Oliver
And many others.
IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU Written by Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van HeusenPerformed by Dorothy Lamour
HIS ROCKING HORSE RAN AWAY Written by Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van Heusen Performed by Betty Hutton
BLUEBIRDS IN MY BELFRY Written by Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van Heusen Performed by Betty Hutton
FOR THE NEXT HUNDRED YEARS Written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen Performed by Betty Hutton, Dorothy Lamour, Mimi Chandler and Diana Lynn (dubbed by Julie Gibson)
KNOCKING ON YOUR OWN FRONT DOOR Written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen Performed by Betty Hutton, Dorothy Lamour, Mimi Chandler and Diana Lynn (dubbed by Julie Gibson)
MY HEART’S WRAPPED UP IN GINGHAM Written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen
WHEN STANISLAUS GOT MARRIED Written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW? Written by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen
June 5: Appears on radio’s “Command Performance” singing “Bluebirds In My Belfry” with the Woody Herman Orchestra.
Since Betty is host for the show, and introduces the acts, we spend time to feature some extra tracks of Betty introducing the others. Not the whole show, but enjoy music from Woody Herman, as well as some tongue tieing introductions and greetings from the mail from military men over seas.
June 29: Filming is completed on And The Angels Sing.
It’s time to call the show to a halt, so we back up a notch to bring a special kiss goodbye from Betty as she closed that last Command Performance episode.
It was also around this time that Betty had been jilted by her married mystery lover. To cope with it, she requested to go on a tour to Army camps, and raise money for war bonds. It wouldn’t be the end of Betty at war, but that’s going to have to be the focus for another show.
July: Betty tours Army camps.