The Incendiary Blonde : Betty Hutton©2005JCMarion


The musical performer the world would know as Betty Hutton was born in February of 1921 in Battle Creek, Michigan, as Elizabeth June Thornburg. Growing up was a dreary affair, beset by poverty and a broken family. She began to show her talent in singing as a young teenager and by the time she was eighteen she had experience with local bands plus a stint with the orchestra of Vincent Lopez under the name Betty Darling. In May of 1939, Hutton made her first appearance on record as a vocalist on the tune “Igloo” and “Concert In The Park” with Lopez on Bluebird # 10300. This was followed by “The Jitterbug” on # 10367. In 1940 she headed for New York City and the Broadway stage. She landed a part in “Two For The Show” with Eve Arden and Keenan Wynn. Producer B.G. deSylva gave Hutton a role in “Panama Hattie” on the Broadway stage and when he went to Paramount Pictures in 1941 Hutton was remembered and made a number of films for that studio. She made her debut in 1942 in the musical picture “The Fleet’s In” which featured the tune “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In A Hurry”. This was followed by “Star Spangled Rhythm”, “Happy Go Lucky” with Dick Powell and Mary Martin and featured Betty with the song “Murder He Says”, “Let’s Face It” and “Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek”, the last a non-musical.


Two more formula wartime musicals followed in 1944 – “And The Angels Sing”, and “Here Come The Waves” with Bing Crosby, and then her first big time role as Texas Guinan in the picture “Incendiary Blonde” in 1945. Hutton got rave reviews for her portrayal of the legendary hostess. Meanwhile two movie songs gave Hutton her first big selling record in 1944. “It had To Be You” (from “The Roaring Twenties”) and “His Rocking Horse Ran Away” (from “And The Angels Sing”) recorded for Capitol on # 155, were both top ten sellers across the country. The record remained on the best sellers list for almost four months. In 1945 “Stuff Like That There” from the film “On Stage Everybody” got as high as the number four seller for Capitol on # 188. Two more films for the busy performer in 1945 – “Duffy’s Tavern”, the celluloid version of the popular radio program, and late in the year “The Stork Club” which contained the song written by Hoagy Carmichael “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief”.


A song from the picture “Incendiary Blonde” called “What Do You Want To make Those Eyes At Me For?” on Capitol # 211 was another good seller for Hutton who now was seen as a top recording star as well as a musical-comedy and motion picture personality. The song “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” on Capitol # 220 was one of the big hits during the decade of the nineteen forties. It became the number one seller in the country and was a five month mainstay on the hit parade. “My Fickle Eye” (with “Where There’s Me There’s You” on the flip side) was a good seller on RCA Victor # 1915 was a top twenty seller, but back with Capitol Records “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So” from Hutton’s hit film “The Perils Of Pauline” on # 409 was a top five seller and a three month hit parade record.


The next three years Hutton did movie work filming “Dream Girl” in 1948, “Red Hot And Blue” the following year, and “Let’s Dance” in 1950. That year she replaced Judy Garland in the film version of “Annie Get Your Gun” and played the lead as Annie Oakley opposite Howard Keel. That picture produced "Anything You Can Do", "There's No Business Like Show Business", and "I Got The Sun In The Morning" all recorded with Howard Keel for MGM Records. 1950 was also the year that Hutton returned to the best selling records list with a duet with Perry Como on the tune “A Bushel And A Peck” from the Broadway show “Guys And Dolls”. The record for RCA Victor on # 3930 was a huge seller, a top three national hit, and a stay of nearly five months on the best sellers list. Late in the year Hutton’s version of “Orange Colored Sky” on RCA # 3908 was a top twenty five seller.


An all star lineup was included on Hutton’s next hit record. She joined Tony Martin, Dinah Shore, and Phil Harris for “The Musicians” which was a top twenty five seller for RCA Victor on # 4225. In 1952 Hutton did two films – “Somebody Loves Me” and “The Greatest Show On Earth” with an all star cast in which Hutton reportedly did all her own acrobatic feats. By this time Betty decided that her career went as far as she could go in motion pictures, and so from that point on she concentrated on stage and television appearances. In September of 1953 Betty Hutton made her last appearance on the best sellers list with “Goin’ Steady” recorded with Nelson Riddle on Capitol # 2522.


In 1954 Betty starred in a television musical called “Satins And Spurs”, and then was a frequent guest on many TV shows such as Dinah Shore, Ed Sullivan, and Perry Como. In 1959 she was given her own show playing a character named Goldie Appleby. She continued making sporadic appearances on television into the mid sixties, and then because of personal and financial setbacks, decided to leave show business all together. In the mid seventies she pursued educational goals and attended Salve Regina University in Rhode Island where she made her home. She attained both a bachelor’s and masters degree, and taught acting and singing and was awarded an honorary Ph.D and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Emerson College’s Musical Theater Society. Today Betty Hutton lives in quiet retirement in Palm Springs, California.

The music of Betty Hutton survives in a few motion pictures available on DVD, and a few CDs of her recorded efforts. "Satins And Spurs (DRG) contains the songs from the TV special plus eighteen additional tracks from Hutton's many movie roles. "Hollywood's Blonde Bombshell" for Collector's Choice features eleven tracks, "Somebody Loves Me" for Sepia contains 27 tracks mostly from Capitol Records, and "Best Of The RCA Years" for One Way has fifteen tracks from sides recorded for RCA Victor. Betty Hutton was a top musical force during the nineteen forties and early fifties, and a major personality during the Interlude Era.

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