Who knew. I didn’t – Claudette Colbert could sing -sort of! Definitely not dubbed . Her voice goes from quite deep to quite high. A touch of Dietrich?



I love that song! ( by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger.)

I only really know Claudette’s  films post the production code when she was the leading lady in the Norma Shearer/ Irene Dunne mold , always the classy sophisticated leading lady.

Her image,pre-code, gave her varied opportunities  from playing a seductive “Cleopatra “ to an evil Empress Poppaea In “Sign of the Cross”.

And in “Torch Singer”, she is a an unmarried mother, ‘Sally Trent’ who gives up her child and then becomes a successful singer who enjoys a hedonistic life style, calling herself ‘Mimi Benton’.


When you think of the  Colbert persona from 1935 onwards, she was rarely seen smoking or drinking, both of which she does in abundance in “Torch Singer”!


Claudette at the start  of the film, a young chorus girl who has been left by the father of her child. She meets Lyda  Roberti, another expectant mother. To save money , they share a flat with their two babies.

The first anomaly in the film – Lydia Roberti makes a welcome if fleeting appearance , but suddenly disappears from the film. We are only told later that she left town with her baby to marry someone back home.

And then I began to wonder if the version I saw had scenes cut. There would surely have been a farewell scene between Claudette and Lyda.


Lyda Roberti


Claudette has to give her baby up for adoption after a year, as she can’t manage on her own.

Then when we get one of these Hollywood montage scenes where she is seen singing in a small cafe, then a slightly larger place, and then in a flashy nightclub with an orchestra behind her! – all in one minute flat!

Claudette Colbert, Mildred Washington.

She has a swanky apartment and a maid ( played by Mildred Washington) whom she treats as a friend, reminiscent of Mae West and her maids  in “I’m No Angel”.

It was sad to read that Mildred Washington died in 1933 at the age of 28.

Claudette  delivers the songs well. And wears some gorgeous gowns by Travis Banton.



For once Ricardo Cortez plays the good guy who loves Mimi. He runs a radio station and Mimi, by a silly sequence of events, ends up as ‘Aunt Jenny’ who tells stories and sings to children over the air waves. There’s nice irony as she stands before the microphone with a drink  and cigarette in her hand.

Mimi decides to use the radio show to try and find her child who was adopted 4 years earlier.




David Manners has only a few scenes as the boyfriend who went abroad not knowing  Claudette’s character was expecting his baby.

It might be pre-code, but the ending is the typical one you would expect. He convinces her to marry him and raise their child together.

The fact that the child has been adopted for 4 years isn’t even addressed . He gets the child back.  Bad writing, or again, were some scenes cut?

Also, the second last scene has Ricardo driving Mimi to David Manners’ house. He is seen waiting in the car for her. But the last scene is Mimi re-united with her child and deciding to stay with Manners.

i guess Ricardo is still waiting outside!


“Torch Singer” is one of 6 films in the set, Pre-Code Hollywood Collection.

I must try and see more of Claudette’s pre-codes. She made an amazing 19 films from 1930 to 1933. One on You Tube is “Young Man of Manhattan”(1930) in which she costars with her first husband, Norman Foster.


6 responses »

  1. Claudette also sang Jazz Up Your Lingerie in The Smiling Lieutenant two years earlier. She was supposed to head the London company of the Hepburn musical Coco but the production fell through.

  2. I didn’t know she was considered for Coco. Apparently, on Broadway Rosalind Russell wanted to do it, but Katharine Hepburn got the role though she was even less of a singer than Rosalind. When Hepburn left the show in July 1970, Claudette was considered along with Jeanmaire, Margaret Leighton and Lilli Palmer.
    Claudette took voice lessons with her friend Kitty Carlisle Hart. But Danielle Darrieux got the part and one review said, “For the first time, one hears the entire score (by Alan Lerner and Andre Previn) impeccably sung.”

  3. Yes Danielle’s version of Always Mademoiselle is on YT. Fascinating to hear the other ladies who were considered. Lilli could sing and had made several musical films in post war Germany.

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