Betty Hutton, star of '50s musicals, is buried


CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. -- Betty Hutton, the brassy blonde star of "Annie Get Your Gun" who lost Hollywood but never her fans, was buried Tuesday with a handful of mourners in attendance. She was 86.

Hutton died in her Palm Springs apartment from complications of colon cancer Sunday night but the official announcement was withheld until after her funeral, said Carl Bruno, executor of her will and a longtime friend.

"She wanted anonymity as far as being buried. She didn't want that to be turned into a circus," he said.

She was buried in a gray-and-pink metal casket at Forest Lawn Cathedral City, where stars such as Frank Sinatra and Sonny Bono are interred.

A virtual recluse in her later years, Hutton's mourners included three caregivers, Bruno and his partner, who were her landlords, Bruno said.

She was estranged from her three daughters and they did not ask to attend the service, he said.

The estrangement "caused her a lot of heartache," Bruno said.

Hutton's roles were characterized by brashness and ferocious energy.

She made about two dozen movies but was best known for the title role of Annie Oakley in the 1950 movie version of the musical "Annie Get Your Gun." She got the role after Judy Garland dropped out of the production.

Longtime Paramount Pictures executive A.C. Lyles said Tuesday that Hutton was one of the studio's "most valued personalities" and one of its highest-salaried actress of that time.

But mostly he recalled her fondly as a dear friend.

"I don't know how a heart that big can be in one little body," Lyles told The Associated Press.

She was at the top when she walked out of her Paramount movie contract in 1952, reportedly in a dispute over her demand that her then-husband direct her films. She made only one movie after that but had a TV series, "The Betty Hutton Show," from 1959-60 season in which she played a manicurist who inherits a wealthy customer's estate.

She also worked occasionally on stage and in nightclubs.

She was born Betty June Thornburg in Battle Creek, Mich., in February 1921 and never knew her father. She began her career at age 5 singing with her sister, Marion, in their mother's speakeasy.

"When I mentioned that I wanted to be a star, my mother thought I was nuts," Hutton recalled. "I thought if I became a star and got us out of poverty, she would quit drinking. I didn't know (alcoholism) was a disease; nobody did. There was no A.A. then."

Her first real success was as a singer in Vincent Lopez's band. It was he who gave her the name Hutton. (Her sister eventually adopted the surname Hutton, too, and was a vocalist for Glenn Miller.)

At 18, she was in a Broadway revue, "Two for the Show," followed by the Broadway version of "Panama Hattie" before getting her start in Hollywood. She became a protegee of Buddy De Sylva, a famed songwriter then working for Paramount.

Hutton's personal life was rocky at times, including four failed marriages and a 20-year addiction to pills.

She credited a Rhode Island priest, the Rev. Peter Maguire, with befriending her and turning her life around. She converted to Roman Catholicism.

In later years, she was a virtual recluse.

"She didn't want to be seen," Bruno said. "She always felt that people were expecting young, 20-year-old bouncing blonde and she didn't want to disappoint them."

Yet she continued to receive fan mail from around the world. They would send her roses and gifts, including teddy bears and embroidered towels.

"I have boxes of it," Bruno said.

In addition to her daughters Candy, Lindsay, and Caroline, she is survived by several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Bruno said. He did not have other details.