Claudette Colbert’s heart-shaped face, high, sweeping brows & signature bangs, & distinctive voice allowed her to sparkle in scores of movies during the 1930s & 1940s, when she was one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies. She won the Academy Award for It Happened One Night (1934) the same year that she starred in 2 other films also nominated for Best Picture- Cleopatra & Imitation Of Life. Colbert could play in a light comedy, an historical bio-pic & a romantic drama with equal ease. She was the champagne of movie stars.
Colbert’s leading men included: Clark Gable, Fredric March, Fred MacMurray, Melvyn Douglas, Ronald Colman, Charles Boyer, Gary Cooper, Don Ameche, Ray Milland, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Spencer Tracy & Joel McCrea.
Colbert smoothly transitioned to character roles in the 1940s. She was highly sensitive about her age & had to be convinced to play a mother to Jennifer Jones & Shirley Temple in Since You Went Away. She famously feuded with Paulette Goddard during the filming of So Proudly We Hail (1943) when Colbert overheard her co-star refer to their age difference.
When her film career began to decline, Colbert returned to the Broadway stage & in 1958 was Tony nominated for The Marriage Go Round. She also appeared frequently in TV projects, winning a Golden Globe an Emmy for The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987). The Kennedy Center Honors celebrated her lifetime achievement in 1989.
Colbert was married twice, rather unconventionally, she live apart from both husbands. In 1996, she died at age 92 at her home in Barbados after a series of strokes Long rumored to be bisexual, including an affair with Marlene Dietrich, she left the bulk of her 4 million dollar estate to her longtime companion, Helen O’Hagan, a retired director of Saks Fifth Avenue.