Tags: Hollywood | claudette colbert | supporting roles

Claudette Colbert as Supporting Roles: 3 Times Star Shined Without Being Lead

By    |   Wednesday, 13 May 2015 04:21 PM

After Claudette Colbert got a taste of fame for her Broadway role in "The Barker" in 1927, she quickly set her sights on the silver screen and promptly landed a role in the feature film "For the Love of Mike" the same year.

This preference to play a leading lady led to only a few notable supporting roles during the span of her nearly 70-year career.

Yet throughout her years, Colbert's signature look remained apparent. According to Vanity Fair's Any Fine Collins, one critic said that "in Miss Colbert's beauty there is a certain strangeness. Her eyes are the only absolutely black eyes we ever say. She laughs all the time and is filled with life and vivacity, and yet there is a certain mingling of virginity, an air of dignity."

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This "strange beauty" perhaps made it difficult for directors and producers to see Colbert as anything but a leading lady, yet her range as an actress demanded for at least a few supporting roles throughout her career.

Here are three times Claudette Colbert shined in supporting roles:

1. Madame de Montespan, "Royal Affairs in Versailles" (1954)
This role marked the one and only time that Claudette Colbert worked with a French director. Colbert was born in France as Emilie "Lily" Chauchoin, but quickly changed her name to Claudette Colbert because she wanted something easier to pronounce, and she didn't want to be typecast.

"In the very beginning, they wanted to give me French roles. You know, cute little maids with dark bangs and an accent. That's why I used to say my name Col-bert just as it is spelled instead of Col-Baire. I did not want to be typed as ‘that French girl’” according to Lawrence J. Quirk’s “Claudette Colbert: An Illustrated Biography.”

This reluctance means that “Royal Affairs in Versailles” is “one of only two films she made in her native country” according to “The Claudette Colbert Handbook” written by Emily Smith.

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2. Ellen McLean, "Parrish" (1961)
“Parrish” is significant in the long history of Colbert’s career because it is the last feature film she appeared in, playing the role of Parrish McLean’s mother in the Connecticut River Valley.

MovieFanFare.com writer Jerry Frebowitz says of her performance, “Even in 1961, in her final theatrical performance as Troy Donahue’s mother in Parrish, she stood above it all. And once again, without having the luck of Claudette’s motherly support, maybe Troy would have become one of the worst actors on the Warner Brother lot.”

3. Alice Grenville, "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles"
This made-for-TV movie marks the last performance of Colbert's long, illustrious, legendary career. Although Ann-Margret was cast as Colbert’s adversary in what BJ Kirschner of Miniseries Marathon says was one of Ann-Margret’s “juiciest roles ever,” Kirschner notes that “Colbert, in her last role, not only still stunning, but stealing the movie!” This role earned her the final award of her career – a Golden Globe in 1988 –
along with a Primetime Emmy nomination.

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After Claudette Colbert got a taste of fame for her Broadway role in "The Barker" in 1927, she quickly set her sights on the silver screen and promptly landed a role in the feature film "For the Love of Mike" the same year.
claudette colbert, supporting roles
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2015-21-13
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 04:21 PM
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