On September 13, 1903, Emilie "Lily" Chauchoin was born in Saint-Mandé, a Paris suburb. Her family moved to New York City when she was a little girl. After studying at the Art Students League of New York, 1923, she made her Broadway debut in a play called The Wild Wescotts and changed her name to Claudette Colbert.
By 1928, Colbert had a contract with Paramount Pictures and her film career took flight as she starred in Manslaughter, The Smiling Lieutenant and Frank Capra's masterpiece screwball comedy, It Happened One Night (for which Colbert won her first Academy Award.) Hollywood's highest paid actress who worked with legendary directors including Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, Cecil B. DeMille, John Ford, George Cukor and Ernst Lubitsch would go on to make more movie classics like The Palm Beach Story and Imitation of Life.
A quick-witted Colbert, who starred in more than 60 movies and many Broadway plays, held her own opposite Clark Gable, Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Joseph Cotten, Melvyn Douglas, Henry Fonda, Fredric March, Ray Milland, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Orson Welles, Rex Harrison and other leading men. As the 5-foot, 4-inch powerhouse of talent once said, "I did comedy because all my life I always wanted to laugh myself. There was never anything that gave me as much satisfaction as to be in something amusing."
We honor the actress with quotes from It Happened One Night. In this first film to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay), Colbert plays Ellen "Ellie" Andrews an heiress who ends up on the lam with Peter Warne, a tough talking out-of-work newspaper reporter (Clark Gable).