American actress Paulette Goddard, born Pauline Marion Levy, spent her teen years as a Broadway chorus girl, gaining attention when she was featured reclining on a prop crescent moon in the 1928 Ziegfeld musical Rio Rita. In Hollywood as early as 1929, Goddard reportedly appeared as an extra in several Hal Roach two-reel comedies, making confirmed bit appearances in a handful of these short subjects wearing a blonde wig over her naturally raven-black hair. Continuing as a blonde, she appeared as a "Goldwyn Girl" in the 1932 Eddie Cantor film Kid From Spain, where she was awarded several close-ups.
Goddard's career went into full gear when she met Charlie Chaplin, who was looking for an unknown actress to play "The Gamin" in his 1936 film Modern Times. Struck by the actress's breathtaking beauty and natural comic sense, Chaplin not only cast her in the film, but fell in love with her. It is still a matter of contention in some circles as to whether or not Chaplin and Goddard were ever legally married (Chaplin claimed they were; it was his third marriage and her second), but whatever the case, the two lived together throughout the 1930s. Goddard's expert performances in such films as The Young in Heart (1938) and The Cat and the Canary (1939) enabled her to ascend to stardom without Chaplin's sponsorship, but the role she truly craved was that of Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 epic Gone With the Wind. Unfortunately, that did not work out, and Vivien Leigh landed the part.
After working together in The Great Dictator (1940), Goddard and Chaplin's relationship crumbled; by the mid-1940s she was married to another extremely gifted performer, Burgess Meredith. The actress remained a box-office draw for her home studio Paramount until 1949, when (presumably as a result of a recent flop titled Bride of Vengeance) she received a phone call at home telling her bluntly that her contract was dissolved. Goddard's film appearances in the 1950s were in such demeaning "B" pictures as Vice Squad (1953) and Babes in Baghdad (1953). Still quite beautiful, and possessed of a keener intellect than most movie actors, she retreated to Europe with her fourth (or third?) husband, German novelist Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front). This union was successful, lasting until Remarque's death. Coaxed out of retirement for one made-for-TV movie in 1972 (The Snoop Sisters), Goddard preferred to remain in her lavish Switzerland home for the last two decades of her life.