Oscar Actors: Goddard, Paulette–Social Background, Career, Awards

Research in progress: Sep 9, 2021

Paulette Goddard Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: upper-middle

Race/Ethnicity/Religion: father Russian Jew

Family: parents divorced when she was young


Training: Child model

Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut: Ziegfeld Girl in “No Fooling” (1926); aged 21

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut:

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role:

Other Noms: So Proudly We Hail, 1943; aged 38

Other Awards:

Frequent Collaborator: Chaplin (2 films); Bob Hope (3 films)

Screen Image: sexy

Last Film: comeback in Italian film

Career Output:

Film Career Span: 1930-

Marriage: businessman, Chaplin, Burgess Meredith; novelist Erich Maria Remarque


Death: aged 85 (or 80)


Born June 3, 1905 in Whitestone Landing, New York; died 1990.

A former fashion model, she was billed as “Peaches” when she made her stage debut as a Ziegfeld Girl in “No Fooling” (1926).

While on the road in “Rio Rita,” she met and married Edgar James, a wealthy lumber industrialist.

In 1931, she drove out to Reno to obtain a quickie divorce and continued to Hollywood, hoping to get into pictures.

Taking on her divorced mother’s maiden name, Goddard, she got bit parts in a couple of films, was a Goldwyn Girl in The Kid from Spain.

She then was signed by Hal Roach as a member of his stock company.

In 1932 she met Charlie Chaplin, who was taken by her striking beauty and cynical wit. They married secretly at sea in 1936 (some say as early as 1933), the year of the release of their joint venture, Modern Times.

She appeared in only one other Chaplin film, The Great Dictator (1940).

Meanwhile, Goddard was making it on her own as a rising star and was the leading contender for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, until the job was given to Vivien Leigh.

In 1942, Miss Goddard divorced Chaplin and two years later married Burgess Meredith.

Goddard was a top star at Paramount through the mid-1940s, typically playing vivacious sirens, often exotic, at her best in comedy. She was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for her role in So Proudly We Hail (1943).

But her career declined sharply late in the decade and came to a screeching halt in the mid1950s. Having divorced Meredith in 1949, she married novelist Erich Maria Remarque in 1958 and until his death in 1970 lived in luxurious retirement in Europe.

In 1964, she made a one-shot comeback, in the Italian film “Time of Indifference.”

At her death of heart failure, Swiss officials reported her year of birth was 1905, not 1911 as her professional biography claimed.

Oscar Alert:

In 1943, Paulette Goddard competed for the Supporting Actress Oscar with Gladys Cooper and Anne Revere, both nominated for “The Song of Bernadette,” Katina Paxinou (who won) in “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and Lucille Watson (her co-star in “The Women”) in “Watch on the Rhine.”

Paulette Goddard (born Marion Levy; June 3, 1910 – April 23, 1990) was an American actress, child fashion model and  performer in several Broadway productions as a Ziegfeld Girl.

She became a major star of Paramount Pictures in the 1940s. Her most notable films were her first major role, as Charlie Chaplin’s leading lady in Modern Times, and Chaplin’s subsequent film The Great Dictator.

She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in So Proudly We Hail! (1943).

Her husbands included Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith, and Erich Maria Remarque.

Goddard was the daughter of Joseph Russell Levy, the son of a prosperous cigar manufacturer from Salt Lake City, and Alta Mae Goddard.

Her father was of Russian Jewish heritage, while her mother an Episcopalian of English ancestry. They married in 1908 and separated while their daughter was very young, although the divorce did not become final until 1926.

According to Goddard, her father left them, but according to J. R. Levy, Alta absconded with the child. Goddard was raised by her mother, and did not meet her father again until the late 1930s, after she had become famous.

In a 1938 interview published in Collier’s, Goddard claimed Levy was not her biological father. In response, Levy filed a suit against his daughter, claiming that the interview had ruined his reputation and cost him his job, and demanded financial support from her. In a December 17, 1945, article written by Oliver Jensen in Life, Goddard admitted to having lost the case and being forced to pay her father $35 a week.

To avoid a custody battle, she and her mother moved often during her childhood, including Canada. Goddard began modeling at an early age to support her mother and herself, working for Saks Fifth Avenue, Hattie Carnegie.

An important figure in her childhood was her great uncle, Charles Goddard, the owner of the American Druggists Syndicate. He played a central role in Goddard’s career, introducing her to Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld.

In 1926, she made her stage debut as a dancer in Ziegfeld’s summer revue, No Foolin’, which was also the first time that she used the stage name Paulette Goddard.

Ziegfeld hired her for another musical, Rio Rita, which opened in February 1927, but she left the show after only three weeks to appear in the play The Unconquerable Male, produced by Archie Selwyn. It was, however, a flop and closed after only three days following its premiere in Atlantic City.

Soon after the play closed, Goddard was introduced to Edgar James, president of the Southern Lumber Company, located in Asheville, North Carolina, by Charles Goddard. Aged 17, she married him on June 28, 1927, in Rye, New York. It was short marriage, and they separated in 1929; Goddard was granted a divorce in Reno, Nevada, in 1932, receiving a divorce settlement of $375,000.

Goddard first visited Hollywood in 1929, when she appeared as an uncredited extra in two films, the Laurel and Hardy short film Berth Marks (1929), and George Fitzmaurice’s drama The Locked Door (1929).

She briefly visited Europe before returning to Hollywood in late 1930 with her mother. Her second attempt at acting was no more successful than the first, as she landed work only as an extra.

In 1930, she signed her first film contract with producer Samuel Goldwyn to appear as a Goldwyn Girl in Whoopee! (1930). She also appeared in City Streets (1931), Ladies of the Big House (1931), and The Girl Habit (1931) for Paramount, Palmy Days (1931) for Goldwyn, and The Mouthpiece (1932) for Warners.

Goldwyn and Goddard did not get along, and she began working for Hal Roach Studios, appearing in uncredited supporting roles for the next four years, including Show Business (1932), Young Ironsides (1932), Pack Up Your Troubles (1932, with Laurel and Hardy), and Girl Grief with Charley Chase.

Goldwyn used Goddard in The Kid from Spain (1932), The Bowery (1933), Roman Scandals (1933), and Kid Millions (1934).

The year she signed with Goldwyn, Goddard began dating Charlie Chaplin, a relationship that received attention from the press. It marked a turning point in Goddard’s career when Chaplin cast her as his leading lady in his next box office hit, Modern Times (1936). Her role as “The Gamin,” an orphan girl who runs away from the authorities and becomes The Tramp’s companion, was her first credited film appearance and garnered her mainly positive reviews.

Following the success of Modern Times, Chaplin planned other projects with Goddard in mind as a co-star, but he worked slowly, and Goddard worried that the public might forget about her if she did not continue to make regular film appearances. She signed a contract with Selznick and appeared with Janet Gaynor in the comedy The Young in Heart (1938) before Selznick lent her to MGM to appear in two films.

Dramatic School (1938), co-starred Luise Rainer, but the film received mediocre reviews and failed to attract an audience.

Her next film, The Women (1939), was a success. With an all-female cast headed by Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell, the film’s supporting role of Miriam Aarons was played by Goddard.

Selznick was pleased with Goddard’s performances, particularly her work in The Young in Heart, and considered her for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Initial screen tests convinced Selznick and director George Cukor that Goddard would require coaching to be effective in the role. She was the first actress given a Technicolor screen test.

Russell Birdwell, the head of Selznick’s publicity department, had strong misgivings about Goddard. He warned Selznick of the “tremendous avalanche of criticism that will befall us and the picture should Paulette be given this part…I have never known a woman, intent on a career dependent upon her popularity with the masses, to hold and live such an insane and absurd attitude towards the press and her fellow man as does Paulette Goddard…Briefly, I think she is dynamite that will explode in our very faces if she is given the part.”

Selznick remained interested in Goddard for Scarlett. After he was introduced to Vivien Leigh, he wrote to his wife that Leigh was a “dark horse” and that his choice had “narrowed down to Paulette, Jean Arthur, Joan Bennett, and Vivien Leigh.”

After tests with Leigh that pleased both Selznick and Cukor, Selznick cancelled the further tests that had been scheduled for Goddard, and the part was given to Leigh. Goddard lost the part because Selznick feared that questions surrounding her marital status with Chaplin would result in scandal. However, Selznick was aware that Leigh and Laurence Olivier lived together, as their respective spouses had refused to divorce them, and in addition to offering Leigh a contract, he engaged Olivier as the leading man in Rebecca (1940).

Chaplin’s biographer Joyce Milton wrote that Selznick was worried about legal issues by signing Goddard to contract that might conflict with her pre-existing contracts with the Chaplin studio.

Goddard signed contract with Paramount and her next film, The Cat and the Canary (1939) with Bob Hope, was a turning point in the careers of both actors. They promptly were re-teamed in The Ghost Breakers (1940).

Goddard starred with Chaplin again in his film The Great Dictator (1940). The couple split amicably soon afterward, and Goddard obtained a divorce in Mexico in 1942, with Chaplin agreeing to generous settlement.

At Paramount, Goddard was cast by Cecil B. De Mille in the action epic North West Mounted Police (1940), playing the second female lead. She was Fred Astaire’s leading lady in Second Chorus (1940), where she met actor Burgess Meredith, who became her third husband.

Goddard made Pot o’ Gold (1941), a comedy with James Stewart, then supported Charles Boyer and Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn (1941), from a script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, directed by Mitchell Leisen.

Goddard was teamed with Hope for a third time in Nothing But the Truth (1942), then made The Lady Has Plans (1942), a comedy with Ray Milland.

She did Reap the Wild Wind (1942), playing the lead, a Scarlett O’Hara type character. Also starring top-billed Milland and John Wayne, it was a huge hit.

Goddard did The Forest Rangers (1942). One of her better-remembered film appearances was in the variety musical Star Spangled Rhythm (1943), in which she sang “A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peekaboo Bang” with Dorothy Lamour and Veronica Lake. She and Milland did The Crystal Ball (1943).

Oscar nomination
Goddard received one Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress, for So Proudly We Hail! (1943).

Goddard was teamed with Fred MacMurray in Standing Room Only (1944) and Sonny Tufts in I Love a Soldier (1944). She was one of many Paramount stars in Duffy’s Tavern (1945).

Goddard’s most successful film was Kitty (1945), in which she played the titular role.

In The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946), Goddard starred with Burgess Meredith, to whom she was married at the time, under the direction of Jean Renoir. It was made for United Artists.

At Paramount she did Suddenly It’s Spring (1947) and De Mille’s Unconquered (1947). During the Hollywood Blacklist, when she and blacklisted husband Meredith were mobbed by a baying crowd screaming “Communists!” on their way to a premiere, Goddard is said to have turned to her husband and said, “Shall I roll down the window and hit them with my diamonds, Bugsy?”

She made An Ideal Husband (1947) in Britain for Alexander Korda, and was accompanied on a publicity trip to Brussels by Clarissa Spencer-Churchill, niece of Sir Winston Churchill, and later the wife of future Prime Minister Anthony Eden.

Goddard and her husband were among several stars in On Our Merry Way (1948).

At Paramount, she did two movies with MacDonald Carey: Hazard (1948) and Bride of Vengeance (1949). She then left the studio.


Paulette Goddard in a publicity shot for A Stranger Came Home (1954)
In 1949, she formed Monterey Pictures with John Steinbeck. Goddard starred in Anna Lucasta (1949), then went to Mexico for The Torch (1950). In England, she was in Babes in Bagdad (1952); then she went to Hollywood for Vice Squad (1953), Sins of Jezebel (1953), Paris Model (1953), and Charge of the Lancers (1954). Her last starring role was in the English production A Stranger Came Home (also 1954; known as The Unholy Four in the United States).

Goddard began appearing in summer stock and on television, guest starring on episodes of Sherlock Holmes, an adaptation of The Women, this time playing the role of Sylvia Fowler,[18] The Errol Flynn Theatre, The Joseph Cotten Show, and The Ford Television Theatre.

She was in an episode of Adventures in Paradise and a TV version of The Phantom.

After her marriage in 1958 to Erich Maria Remarque, Goddard largely retired from acting and moved to Ronco sopra Ascona, Switzerland. She attempted a comeback in films with a supporting role in the Italian film Time of Indifference (1964), which was her last feature film.

After Remarque’s death in 1970, she made one last attempt at acting, when she accepted a small role in an episode of The Snoop Sisters (1972) for TV.

Goddard inherited much of Remarque’s money and several important properties across Europe, including a wealth of contemporary art, which augmented her own long-standing collection. During this period, her talent at accumulating wealth became a byword among the old Hollywood élite. During the 1980s, she became a fairly well known (and visible) socialite in New York, appearing covered with jewels at many high-profile cultural functions with well-known men, like Andy Warhol, with whom she sustained friendship until his death in 1987.

Goddard underwent invasive treatment for breast cancer in 1975, successfully by all accounts.

On April 23, 1990, aged 79, she died at her home in Switzerland from heart failure while under respiratory support due to emphysema.

She is buried in Ronco Village Cemetery, next to Remarque and her mother.

Goddard married the much older lumber tycoon Edgar James on June 28, 1927, when she was 17 years old; the couple moved to North Carolina. They separated two years later and divorced in 1932.

In 1932, Goddard began a relationship with Charlie Chaplin. She later moved into his home in Beverly Hills. They were reportedly married in secret in Canton, China, in June 1936. Years later Chaplin privately told relatives that they were married only in common law. Aside from referring to Goddard as “my wife” at the October 1940 premiere of The Great Dictator, neither Goddard nor Chaplin publicly commented on their marital status. On June 4, 1942, Goddard was granted a Mexican divorce from Chaplin.

In May 1944, she married Burgess Meredith at David O. Selznick’s home in Beverly Hills. They divorced in June 1949.

In 1958, Goddard married author Erich Maria Remarque. They remained married until Remarque’s death in 1970.

Goddard had no children. In October 1944, she suffered the miscarriage of a son with Burgess Meredith.


Goddard’s foremost legacies remain her two feature films with Charles Chaplin, Modern Times and The Great Dictator, and a large donation to a prominent American educational institution. Goddard, whose own formal education did not go beyond high school, bequeathed US$20 million to New York University (NYU) in New York City.

This contribution was also in recognition of her friendship with the Indiana-born politician and former NYU President John Brademas. Goddard Hall, a residence hall for NYU freshmen in Greenwich Village, is named in her honor. Efforts to raise CHF 6.2M ($7M) to purchase and save Remarque and Goddard’s villa from demolition are underway, proposing to transform the Casa Monte Tabor into a museum and home to an artist-in-residence program, focused on creativity, freedom, and peace.

Fictional portrayals
Goddard was portrayed by Gwen Humble in the made-for-TV movie Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara War (1980), by Diane Lane in the 1992 film Chaplin, and by actress Natalie Wilder in the 2011 play Puma, written by Julie Gilbert, who also wrote Opposite Attraction: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard.