Jetta Goudal

Active - 1923 - 1932  |   Born - Jul 12, 1891   |   Died - Jan 14, 1985   |   Genres - Romance, Drama, Comedy

Share on

Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

Her publicist at one point claiming her to be the daughter of World War I spy Mata Hari (no one took that statement seriously, though), darkly alluring Jetta Goudal spoke with a French accent in her only full-length, English-language talkie, Business and Pleasure (1932), and persistently named glamorous Versailles, France, as her hometown. In reality, she was a Dutch Jew (born Julie Goudeket) born and raised in Amsterdam. Whatever her parentage, Goudal became one of the late-silent era's great femme fatales and was under personal contract to director (and sometimes star-maker) Cecil B. DeMille. Not merely an exotic presence, Goudal proved to be an actress of no small talent and was ideally cast in the dual role of a frigid wife reincarnated as a fiery Gypsy in DeMille's The Road to Yesterday (1925). She was certainly one of the best things in D.W. Griffith's troubled Lady of the Pavements (1929), which came with hastily added talking sequences. But she lost the plum role of Diane in Seventh Heaven (1927) to Janet Gaynor (who went on to win an Academy Award) because DeMille refused to release her from her contract. ("She is a stupid woman," Goudal would say unkindly of Gaynor, "no wonder Charles Farrell got all the close-ups!") Goudal sued and the ensuing debacle for all intents and purposes finished her in Hollywood. There were a couple of French-language versions of popular melodramas and she returned to chase Will Rogers through Business and Pleasure (1932), but her popularity had effectively ended along with silent films. Enjoying a lifelong marriage to Hollywood art director Harold Grieve, a much-retired Jetta Goudal told an interviewer shortly before her death in 1985: "I don't like being called a silent star. Who was silent? I was never silent!"

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography