[See previous post: "Betty Hutton Bio: The Blonde Bombshell."] Buddy DeSylva did as promised. Betty Hutton was given a key supporting role in Victor Schertzinger's 1942 musical comedy The Fleet's In, starring Dorothy Lamour, William Holden, and Eddie Bracken. "Her facial grimaces, body twists and man-pummeling gymnastics take wonderfully to the screen," enthused PM magazine. (Hutton would have a cameo, as Hetty Button, in the 1952 remake Sailor Beware, starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and Corinne Calvet.)
The following year, Betty Hutton landed the second female lead in Happy Go Lucky (1943), singing Jimmy McHugh and Frank Loesser's "Murder, He Says," and stealing the show from fellow Broadway import Mary Martin and former Warner Bros. crooner Dick Powell. She also got co-star billing opposite Bob Hope in Sidney Lanfield's musical comedy Let's Face It. Additionally, Paramount's hugely successful all-star war-effort extravaganza Star Spangled Rhythm revolved around her and Eddie Bracken's characters.
Betty Hutton was now a full-fledged Hollywood star. Several other Paramount musicals followed, almost invariably comedies, e.g., George Marshall's And the Angels Sing (1944), in which Hutton, Dorothy Lamour, and Diana Lynn are singing sisters; Mark Sandrich's Here Come the Waves (1944), opposite Bing Crosby; and Hal Walker's The Stork Club (1945), with Barry Fitzgerald and Don DeFore. A departure from Hutton's hijinks was the highly dramatic biopic Incendiary Blonde (1945), in which she played entertainer Texas Guinan and sang "It Had to Be You" while thinking of Arturo de Córdova.
Betty Hutton 'full-fledged actress': The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
Betty Hutton's most renowned movie of this period was The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, a small-town comedy with big-city sensibilities that irked the censors of the day. In the film, girl-gone-wild Trudy Kockenlocker (Hutton) contributes to the war effort by partying with a bunch of sailors and by, if she remembers it correctly, getting married to one of them. Sanctity of marriage or no, the next day Trudy can't remember the identity of her husband, but soon enough discovers that she may have gotten pregnant somewhere along the way. Enter naive and well-meaning Eddie Bracken to save both the day and the Kockenlocker name.
Though hardly as funny as its reputation has it, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek is perhaps the only Betty Hutton vehicle to have achieved major "classic movie" status. That's mostly because it was written and directed by the idolized Preston Sturges, who received an Academy Award nomination for the film's original story.
Sturges, for his part, recognized that Hutton was not only a full-fledged star, but also "a full-fledged actress with every talent the noun implies. She plays in musicals because the public, which can do practically nothing well, is willing to concede its entertainers only one talent."
The Perils of Pauline: Betty Hutton career highlight
Following the minor John Berry-directed comedy Cross My Heart (1946), playing a pathological liar who falsely claims she has committed a crime to help out budding lawyer-husband Sonny Tufts, Betty Hutton would be at her very best in George Marshall's The Perils of Pauline. A delightful — and highly fictionalized — biopic about silent-screen serial heroine Pearl White, this 1947 semi-musical comedy-drama was set mostly in the 1910s and 1920s, thus offering plenty of much-needed nostalgia in the years following the horrors of World War II. Not surprisingly, The Perils of Pauline was reportedly one of Hutton's biggest commercial hits. John Lund, himself hardly a box office draw, was her leading man.
Unfortunately, Betty Hutton's The Perils of Pauline triumph was followed by the poorly received 1948 comedy Dream Girl, with Hutton as a sort of female Walter Mitty under the direction of Mitchell Leisen and with Macdonald Carey as her co-star. Red, Hot and Blue (1949) was a better-received effort: directed by John Farrow (Mia Farrow's father), the romantic crime comedy musical co-starred Victor Mature, soon to be known worldwide as the first half of Samson and Delilah. Hutton herself might have become known as the other half, as director Cecil B. DeMille is supposed to have considered her for the role of Delilah before eventually casting Hedy Lamarr.
["'It Had to Be You': Betty Hutton Movies" continues on the next page. See link below.]
Publicity image of Betty Hutton in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, with Eddie Bracken: Paramount Pictures.