A Year: Day to Day Men: 13th of September

The Wayfarer

September 13, 1903 was the birthdate of French-born American actress Claudette Colbert.

Claudette Colbert starred in the successful 1929 film “The Lady Lies” and followed tthe film with another hit that year “The Hole in the Wall”. She starred opposite Fredric March in the 1930 “Manslaughter”, a remake of the earlier silent film. Colbert was again paired with March in the 1931 “Honor Among Lovers”, a romantic story which faired well at the box office.

Cecil B. Demille cast Claudette Colbert in his last great work “The Sign of the Cross”, released in 1932. She played the Empress Poppaea, wife to Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar played by Charles Laughton. Later in 1932 Colbert was paired with Jimmy Durante in the “Phantom President”, a musical comedy by George M. Cohen. By this time Claudette Colbert’s name symbolized good movies and crowds gathered in the theaters to see her next film, the acclaimed 1933 dramatic love story “Tonight is Ours”.

Claudette Colbert had two very successful movies which increased her stardom in 1934. The first was her starring role as Cleopatra in Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacular 1934 “Cleopatra”. This was a difficult role for Colbert; having contracted appendicitis on her previous film, she was only able to stand a few minutes at a time during the shooting. She also was fearful of snakes, so the death scene shooting was delayed as long as possible. Not one of DeMille’s best films, it nevertheless was a financial success.

Claudette Colbert’s second role in 1934, the one which would immortalize her, was the character of Ellie Andrews, in the now famous “It Happened One Night”. Paired with Clark Gable, the madcap comedy was a mega-hit all across the country. It resulted in Colbert being nominated for and winning the Oscar that year for Best Actress. In 1935, she was again nominated for her role as Doctor Jane Everest, a staff member at a mental institution, in the film “Private Worlds”. Starring as Anne Hilton in the 1944 “Since You Went Away”, she received her third nomination for Best Actress. Claudette Colbert was now a sure drawing card for virtually any film she was in.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Claudette Colbert appeared in the early television medium as well as in theaters. She appeared in the 1955 western film “Texas Lady”; however, Colbert was not on the big screen again until the 1961 “Parrish”, playing a mother on a tobacco plantation in the Connecticutt River Valley. This was her final performance on the big screen; Colbert returned to her original acting career of stage productions.  After a series of strokes, Colbert divided her time between living in New York and Barbados, where she passed on July of 1996 at the age of 92.

Leave a Reply