Hutton, Bette: Movie Star (Annie Get Your Gun)

March 12, 2007–Betty Hutton, the actress and singer who brought a brassy vitality to Hollywood musicals such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” died in Palm Springs, California. She was 86.

The death was confirmed Monday by a friend of Hutton who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing Hutton’s wishes that her death be announced at a specified time by the executor of her estate, Carl Bruno.

Hutton was at the top of the heap when she walked out of her Paramount contract in 1952, reportedly in a dispute over her demand that her then-husband direct her films. She made only one movie after that, but had a TV series for a year and worked occasionally on the stage and in nightclubs.

Unlike other actresses who have been called “blonde bombshells,” Hutton had a screen personality that had more to do with energy and humor than sex.

Time magazine wrote in 1950: “Betty Hutton, who is not remarkably pretty, by movie standards, nor a remarkably good singer or dancer, has a vividly unique personality in a town that tends to reduce beauty and talent to mass-produced patterns. Watching her in action has some of the fascination of waiting for a wildly sputtering fuse to touch off an alarmingly large firecracker.”

Hutton could be brash behind the camera, too, telling the AP in 1954: “When I’m working with jerks with no talent, I raise hell until I get what I want.”

Biopics

Several of her films were biopics: “Incendiary Blonde,” about actress and nightclub queen Texas Guinan; “Perils of Pauline,” about silent-screen serial heroine Pearl White; and “Somebody Loves Me,” about singer Blossom Seeley.

Annie Get Your Gun

“Annie Get Your Gun” (1950) was the Irving Berlin musical biography of Annie Oakley, with Hutton playing the part Ethel Merman had made famous on Broadway. Hutton got the movie role when Judy Garland wa fired by MGM.

Personal Note

My favorite Betty Hutton performance is in Preston Sturges’ 1944 comedy, “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek,” which was recenly released on DVD as part of the Sturges Special Collection.