Fresh-faced as “a gamin” in Modern Times
Working my way through AFI's 1998 and 2007 lists of greatest films (Entertainment Weekly's two lists—here and here—are next), I finally saw Charlie Chaplin's (April 16, 1889—December 25, 1977) Modern Times (1936), which was quite impressively engaging considering it's nearly 80 years old and mostly silent. Very funny stuff, and enhanced by Paulette Goddard (June 3, 1910—April 23, 1990), who was a strikingly and appropriately modern beauty.
Goddard's been interesting to me ever since she popped up ever so many times in The Andy Warhol Diaries, which were published after the artist's death due to hospital incompetence. Goddard was a big-screen beauty who'd retired by the '60s, but she married well [rich dudes and/or creative types—including both Chaplin and Burgess Meredith (November 16, 1907—September 9, 1997], then became a fabulous NYC socialite.
Out of curiosity, I wondered what Goddard's final role was, and it turned out to be a stint on the long-forgotten, leaden pilot for the '70s series The Snoop Sisters, which was kind of like “Miss Marple” times two, starring Helen Hayes (October 10, 1900—March 17, 1993) and Mildred Natwick (June 19, 1905—October 25, 1994). It wasn't a very distinguished performance—Goddard, still lovely, was pretty stiff for a five-times-married, fading movie star (“Norma Treat”—often misspelled in various sources as “Treet“) someone was trying to murder—but it sure is fun to watch. Along with Hayes, Natwick and Goddard, the episode features Jill Clayburgh (April 30, 1944—November 5, 2010) as Goddard's concerned daughter and appearances by a host of familiar names: Art Carney (November 4, 1918—November 9, 2003), Charlie Callas (December 20, 1927—January 27, 2011), Bill Dana (b. October 5, 1924) and Craig Stevens (July 8, 2018—May 10, 2000).
Good luck finding many women in Hollywood who were prettier.
My favorite line is when Clayburgh, expressing shock that her mother isn't picking up her phone, says, “She's compulsive—she answers pay phones!” The episode also makes use of vintage Goddard footage, Sunset Boulevard-style—a scene of her screaming and attempting to flee a zombie from 1940's comedic monster movie The Ghost Breakers.
Interestingly, the episode revolves around Goddard's character writing a scandalous tell-all book. In real life, Goddard was doing a memoir with Anita Loos (April 26, 1888—August 18, 1981) until Andy Warhol poached her...but a book never happened. One reason given by those in the know was that Goddard refused to dish on her old co-stars as much as the publisher—which had paid a $50,000 advance—wanted.
Watch the episode here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.
The end Times