Born 1903 in Saint-Mandé, France, American stage and film actress Claudette Colbert began her career in Broadway productions during the late 1920s and progressed to motion pictures with the advent of sound film. Initially associated with Paramount Pictures, she gradually shifted to working as a freelance actress. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in It Happened One Night (1934), and received two other Academy Award nominations. Other notable films include Cleopatra (1934) and The Palm Beach Story (1942).
With her round face, big eyes, charming, aristocratic manner, and flair for light comedy, as well as emotional drama, Colbert was known for a versatility that led to her becoming one of the best-paid stars of the 1930s and 1940s. She was a leading lady in Hollywood for over two decades, and has been called “The mixture of inimitable beauty, sophistication, wit, and vivacity”.
During her career, Colbert starred in more than 60 movies. She was the industry’s highest-paid star in 1938 and 1942. By the early 1950s, Colbert had basically retired from the screen in favor of television and stage work, and she earned a Tony Award nomination for The Marriage-Go-Round in 1959. Her career tapered off during the early 1960s, but in the late 1970s she experienced a career resurgence in theater, earning a Sarah Siddons Award for her Chicago theater work in 1980. For her television work in The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987), she won a Golden Globe Award and received an Emmy Award nomination.
Colbert sustained a series of small strokes during the last three years of her life. She died in 1996 at her second home in Barbados.
In 1999, the American Film Institute posthumously voted Colbert the 12th-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema.
Take a look at these charming photos to see the beauty of Claudette Colbert in the 1920s and 1930s.