Paulette Goddard
By: Lynn Peril | Categories: HiLo Heroes

goddard

When PAULETTE GODDARD (1910–90) hit Hollywood, “all the other starlets lost their novelty,” claimed her friend Anita Loos. A former model and Ziegfeld girl, Goddard was freshly divorced from a lumber magnate and flush with alimony when she headed west in 1930. A chance invitation to lunch led to a meeting with Charlie Chaplin. The shrewd, well-read Goddard proved she was more than another gold-digging blonde (she was temporarily platinum) when she asked the money-obsessed megastar for advice regarding an investment. Chaplin further advised that she dye her hair back to its natural color, then cast her opposite himself in Modern Times, launching her previously bit-part film career into the big time. Chaplin was the second in Goddard’s impressive line-up of husbands, rounded out by actor Burgess Meredith and writer Erich Maria Remarque; her list of romantic conquests outside of her marriages included actors, artists, and intellectuals. Marlene Dietrich claimed that Goddard told her to “Never, ever sleep with a man until he gives you a pure white stone of at least ten carats.” Dietrich was a romantic rival, and thus an unreliable source, but Goddard undoubtedly loved jewelry. (A fling with Clark Gable allegedly ended when a gold pendant he gave her turned her skin black, thus revealing its brassy origin.) Alas, Loos’s later claim that her friend’s remark “Nothing makes me tremble like diamonds” provided “an inspiration I was later to use in a book” appears far-fetched… Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was published in 1925, several years before she and Goddard first met.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Chuck Barris, Allen Ginsberg, Curtis Mayfield, Suzi Quatro, Tony Curtis, Lili St. Cyr, Wilfred Thesiger, Josephine Baker.

READ MORE about members of the Partisan Generation (1904-13).

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Lynn Peril is the author of Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office. She lives in Oakland, California.