Betty Hutton Remembered

As we all know, the vivacious Betty Hutton died a week ago, just a few weeks after her 86th birthday.  It was a surprise passing, announced somewhat awkwardly, but at least TCM was able to do a nice tribute to her last Thursday, including her Private Screenings segment which I had never seen before.  What a delightful hour it was, with a vulnerable, enthusiastic and often hilarious Betty sharing amazing and completely honest memories of her long and interesting life.

What came through most strongly was her utter openness, her complete desire to please and be loved, devoid of the protective cynicism which might have made her life in a sometimes hostile Hollywood a great deal easier to bear.  Betty Hutton was a trouper, a delicate soul encased in an effervescent exterior, an eager-to-please artist who wore her heart on her sleeve (a quality mentioned by Robert Osborne during the interview, and never more in evidence than during the revealing hour). 

Betty told of her beloved mother running a “blind pig” saloon during her childhood, and the tough life lived around hard-drinking men, hard times that brought out the songs in the young Betty, tunes offered to quell the dark moods conjured by liquored-up customers.  Her tales were touching, and Betty Hutton and Charles O'Curranalso quite touching was the lasting affection Betty shared with us for her mother, who was able to enjoy her daughter’s Hollywood stardom after such a hard-scrabble previous existence. 

One thing I didn’t discuss when we wished her happy birthday last month here was her not-completely-successful marriage history.  Married four times in total, Betty seemed never to find the fella who could make her happy.  Her first husband was wealthy Chicago camera-store owner Ted Briskin, whom she married in 1945 and divorced in 1951.  (He later went on to marry actress Colleen Miller, who later married supermarket mogul Walter Ralphs.)  Next up was Hollywood dance director/choreographer Charles O’Curran; she married O’Curran in 1952 and they were together until early 1955.  It was O’Curran who was behind Betty’s much-touted live TV musical extravaganza Satins and Spurs from 1954, but the production was a critical bust and a professional blow that seemed to stick with her.  (Charles later married singer Patti Page; he went on to play an important part as musical director for many of Elvis Presley’s Paramount movies, for which some people might not completelyBetty Hutton and Charles O'Curran thank him!)  Betty’s next husband was the Bozo the Clown franchise creator/Capitol records exec Alan Livingstone; they wed just a few weeks after Betty’s divorce from O'Curran in 1955, and stayed together until 1960.  (Livingstone subsequently married actress Nancy Olson and they’re still Mr. and Mrs.)  Betty’s last husband was jazz musician and actor Pete Candolini; their married lasted from 1960 till 1967.  (Candolini went on to married Edie Adams, the widow of comedian/actor Ernie Kovacs.) 

Judging from her appearance on Private Screenings, Betty seemed not to find the peace and fulfillment she had sought all her life until she met her spiritual mentor Father Maguire during the 1970s.  Their friendship brought happiness to a woman who clearly wanted to shower affection on her audiences over the years, and did so every time she appeared onscreen or stepped out onto a stage. 

The photos here are from a happy time, taken during the early days of the Betty Hutton and Charles O’Curran marriage.  They wed on March 19, 1952, for the record. 

(For an interesting account of Betty Hutton (and a lot of other celebrity) marriages, check out the About.com marriage site; strangely compelling and will save you from buying the tabloid mags.)

10 Responses Betty Hutton Remembered
Posted By WALTER WILSON : March 19, 2007 5:55 pm

I FELL IN LOVE WITH BETTY HUTTON AFTER WACTHING THE GREATIST SHOW ON EARTH.  SHE IS ONE OF THE LEGENDS OF THE MOVIE INDUSTRY.

Posted By WALTER WILSON : March 19, 2007 5:55 pm

I FELL IN LOVE WITH BETTY HUTTON AFTER WACTHING THE GREATIST SHOW ON EARTH.  SHE IS ONE OF THE LEGENDS OF THE MOVIE INDUSTRY.

Posted By Lee Ann 92 : March 19, 2007 10:47 pm

I remember her from "Private Screenings" and truly fell in love with her. She was such a class act – so at peace with her life and herself. Her memories seemed candid and honest and I came to respect her.She will be missed…

Posted By Lee Ann 92 : March 19, 2007 10:47 pm

I remember her from "Private Screenings" and truly fell in love with her. She was such a class act – so at peace with her life and herself. Her memories seemed candid and honest and I came to respect her.She will be missed…

Posted By Dan B. : March 20, 2007 9:37 pm

If awards were given for tributes to our stars who pass away , then TCM would surely win one for your "Private Screenings" with the late, great Betty Hutton. I was moved beyond belief by not only Betty's stories, but by Robert Osborns' way of handling this Fragile lady. At the end when he told her how many people loved her and the look on her face when said it, knocked me for a loop.   But during the ending credits with Betty singing the song "I wish I didn't love you so", this 59 year old man (Myself) cried like a baby.  Keep up your fine work Robert.

Posted By Dan B. : March 20, 2007 9:37 pm

If awards were given for tributes to our stars who pass away , then TCM would surely win one for your "Private Screenings" with the late, great Betty Hutton. I was moved beyond belief by not only Betty's stories, but by Robert Osborns' way of handling this Fragile lady. At the end when he told her how many people loved her and the look on her face when said it, knocked me for a loop.   But during the ending credits with Betty singing the song "I wish I didn't love you so", this 59 year old man (Myself) cried like a baby.  Keep up your fine work Robert.

Posted By John : March 24, 2007 4:29 pm

I always heard she had a very hard life. Many people taking great advantage of her unselfish nature.

Posted By John : March 24, 2007 4:29 pm

I always heard she had a very hard life. Many people taking great advantage of her unselfish nature.

Posted By Medusa : March 24, 2007 4:38 pm

I think what we all saw in Betty Hutton was an authentic emotional human being, gifted with tremendous talent and will, and honestly, probably not devious enough to skate through life like some of the bastards out there.  Her performances, along with her interesting life story, will help keep her name alive for many generations of movie lovers, I'd reckon.  Great comments, everybody.

Posted By Medusa : March 24, 2007 4:38 pm

I think what we all saw in Betty Hutton was an authentic emotional human being, gifted with tremendous talent and will, and honestly, probably not devious enough to skate through life like some of the bastards out there.  Her performances, along with her interesting life story, will help keep her name alive for many generations of movie lovers, I'd reckon.  Great comments, everybody.

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