AKA Elizabeth June Thornburg
Birthplace: Battle Creek, MI
Location of death: Palm Springs, CA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, CA
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor, Musician
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Incendiary Blonde
Betty Hutton's father ran off with another woman when she was two, and her mother made ends meet by running an illegal speakeasy in the basement of their home during prohibition. Neither mother nor daughter ever heard from her father again, until a telegram in 1939 informed them that he had killed himself.
Beginning when she was nine years old, Hutton earned extra funds for the family by singing in the bar and on street corners. At 14 she was singing with a band of her high school classmates. At 15 she dropped out and ran away, and at 17 she was touring with then-famous bandleader Vincent Lopez, becoming known for her flailing dances and flirtations antics on stage. At 19 she starred on Broadway in Two For The Show with Keenan Wynn and Eve Arden.
She became one of the first singers to sign with Johnny Mercer's upstart company, Capitol Records. Among her biggest hits were several funny songs, including "I'm Just A Square (In A Social Circle)" and "Hamlet", which reduced the Shakespeare play to a few minutes of tongue-twisting lyrics. On the strength of her hit records, she appeared in several pre-feature shorts for Warner Bros, then jumped to Paramount when they offered her a chance to make feature films.
She had her best success in comedies and musicals, where her sense of humor came through in exuberant but always sexy performances. She was frequently paired with comic actor Eddie Bracken, first in The Fleet's In with Dorothy Lamour and most famously in the risqué and hilarious The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, where Hutton played Gertrude Kockenlocker, a small-town girl who finds herself pregnant but doesn't know who the father might be. She starred in Annie Get Your Gun, musically arguing with Howard Keel in the quasi-feminist anthem "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better". In her best dramatic role, she played silent screen star Texas Guinan in Incendiary Blonde with Albert Dekker, and in Cecil B. DeMille's circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth, Hutton played a trapeze artist, and performed the act herself, with a net just below the camera's view.
Hutton reportedly had a fiery temper, and many Hollywood A-list names were eager to work with her once but not a second time. In 1952, she demanded that her husband, choreographer Charles O'Curran, direct her next film, but he had no experience as a director and the studio refused. Hutton abandoned the remaining years on her contract, instead returning to the stage and working on radio and in nightclubs.
She starred in a 1954 "spectacular" for NBC, Satins and Spurs, basically an original Broadway-style musical made for television. Co-starring Kevin McCarthy and directed by her husband, O'Curran, it was one of television's first broadcasts in color -- in a time when color TVs were a brand new innovation and stratospherically expensive. Hoping to sell lots of sister-company RCA's newfangled color sets, all the network's ads bragged that Satins and Spurs would be broadcast in color, so millions of people tuned in, expecting to see color on their black-and-white sets. As a result, much of the audience was furious, and the ratings were awful.
On The Betty Hutton Show, a late-1950s CBS situation comedy, she played a showgirl-turned-manicurist who inherited big bucks when a wealthy client died, but he also left her his three daughters. Tom Conway played her lawyer and occasional sparring partner. When her sitcom was cancelled she worked rarely as guest star on shows like Burke's Law and Gunsmoke. By the late 1960s Hutton was bankrupt, and had lost her once-lovely singing voice to the ravages of drug and alcohol abuse. She was befriended by a priest who let her live in his Rhode Island church, where she spent several years volunteering in the kitchen and eventually overcame her addictions. She later attended college, then spent many years teaching theater. She returned to Broadway in 1980, playing Miss Hannigan in Annie with 14-year-old Sarah Jessica Parker as the little orphan.
Hutton's sister, Marion Hutton, was for many years the "girl singer" for the Glenn Miller orchestra, sometimes billed as "Sissy Jones." She later married Vic Schoen, longtime music director for The Andrews Sisters, and after her show business career ended she managed Residence XII, an alcohol rehab facility in the suburbs of Seattle.
Father: Percy E. Thornburg (railroad brakeman, b. 1896, d. 1939 suicide)
Mother: Mabel Lum Thornburg (bootlegger, b. 1901, d. 1967)
Sister: Marion Hutton (actress, "Sissy Jones", b. 10-Mar-1919, d. 10-Jan-1987 cancer)
Husband: Ted Briskin (camera manufacturer, m. 1945, div. 1950, two daughters)
Daughter: Lindsay Diane Briskin (b. 1946)
Daughter: Candy Briskin (b. 1948)
Boyfriend: Robert Sterling (actor, dated 1950, d. 2006)
Husband: Charles O'Curran (choreographer, div. 1955, d. 1984)
Husband: Alan Livingston (creator of Bozo the Clown, m. 1955, div. 1960)
Husband: Pete Candoli (jazz trumpeter, m. 1960, div. 1964, one daughter)
Daughter: Carolyn Candoli
High School: (dropped out in 9th grade)
University: BA, Salve Regina University (1978)
University: MFA, Salve Regina University (1982)
Teacher: Theater, Salve Regina University (late 1980s)
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6253 Hollywood Blvd.
Endorsement of Bexel Vitamin B capsules (1944)
Endorsement of Liggett Group Chesterfield cigarettes (1948)
Risk Factors: Alcoholism
The Betty Hutton Show Goldie Appleby (1959-60)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Spring Reunion (Mar-1957) · Maggie Brewster
Somebody Loves Me (24-Sep-1952) · Blossom Seeley
The Greatest Show on Earth (10-Jan-1952)
Let's Dance (29-Nov-1950) · Kitty McNeil
Annie Get Your Gun (17-May-1950) · Annie Oakley
Red, Hot and Blue (19-Oct-1949)
Dream Girl (16-Jun-1948)
The Perils of Pauline (4-Jul-1947)
The Stork Club (28-Dec-1945) · Judy Peabody
Duffy's Tavern (28-Sep-1945) · Herself
Incendiary Blonde (25-Jul-1945)
Here Come the Waves (18-Dec-1944) · Susan
And the Angels Sing (25-Apr-1944) · Bobby Angel
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (5-Jan-1944)
Let's Face It (5-Aug-1943)
Happy Go Lucky (4-Jan-1943) · Bubbles Hennessy
Star Spangled Rhythm (18-Dec-1942)
The Fleet's In (24-Jan-1942)
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