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.