Many sources state that Paulette Goddard's mother was a Mormon (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). This is incorrect. This misperception may have arisen because of the fact that Paulette Goddard's parents were from Utah. Paulette Goddard is not known to have been the child of Mormons nor is she known to have ever been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Below are excerpts from Julie Gilbert's biography about Paulette Goddard which describe her Utah background.
Source: Julie Gilbert. Opposite Attraction: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard. New York: Pantheon Books (1995).
In 1846, Daniel Gozard emigrated from England to America and settled in Hartford, Connecticut. Five subsequent generations of his family lived and worked as farmers in Hartford County. The name Gozard eventually became Goddard. By the 1880s, Daniel's descendants had relocated to South Dakota, where, in Watertown, on October 23, 1887, his great-great-great-grandson Leslie's Illinois-born wife, Nellie Hatch, gave birth to their first child, Alta Mae Goddard, a pretty child who was very flirtatious from an early age. Although the Goddards were Episcopalian, not Mormon, they chose to move to Salt Lake City. It was just becoming a boomtown with the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which meant many new job opportunities and a substantial increase in population.
Leslie and Nellie Hatch Goddard's second child, Helen, was born on April 9, 1898, in Salt Lake City. Alta, who now had a sister eleven years her junior, was enrolled at Rowland Hall, an exclusive Episcopalian girls' school. All evidence is that Leslie Goddard was doing very well for himself, and his family considered itself prosperous. Leslie had started a job as a bookkeeper, but by 1900 had opened--in the very desirable Walker Brothers Bank Building--his own real estate company, the Goddard Investment Company, in order to take advantage of the city's recent prosperity. His company, which was especially active in the Avenues district, bought real estate lots and built homes on them with spectacular views of the city and the valley below.
[Page 38] But in 1903, Leslie Goddard's family was in ruins. His wife, Nellie, had deserted; Leslie gave up his own home and moved in with his father, Louis; and then, in May of that year, he married his secretary, Louise E. (for Effie) Stalter. Leslie was forty-two, effie was twenty-six. According to one distant family source, when her mother left, Alta, who was then fifteen or sixteen, went to live with her father, stepmother, and sister. In 1905, she entered the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute, and the next year she changed to St. Mary's Academy. Among her classmates there was Dollie Levy, the sister of her future husband.
The picture of Alta as a well-adjusted coed, living at home with her new stepmother, ten or eleven years her senior, and her sister, eleven years her junior, was refuted by Helen Murray, Alta's niece: "At the time of the divorce, when Alta was perhaps fifteen or sixteen, my mother's sister, Alta, went to live with her father, and my mother was reclaimed by Nellie. Aunt Alta, as we used to call her, left home very young. My mother told me that she ran off with a circus, though since Mother wasn't there at the time and had a tendency to get wrong ideas about things once in a while, that could be a misapprehension."
It seems more likely that Alta had run off to some kind of traveling show. She was striking, with her dark har, very fair skin, and green eyes. It would not have been surprising if she had been drawn to show business, with her dramatic looks, her bewitching, vagabond mother, and, not least, her rich Uncle Charlie.
Leslie's brother, Charles Goddard, was living in New York City in 1903. He had just started the American Druggists Syndicate, a company akin to Palmolive or Colgate, which manufactured drug and toilet articles. "Uncle Charlie" was living at the Hotel Chatsworth, 344 Weste Seventy-second Street, and in 1908 registered att he same hotel as Leslie's daughter Alta, who had last been in Salt Lake City's Polk Directory in 1906. On December 28, 1908, she had married another Salt Lake citizen, Joseph Russell Levy, in an Episcopal ceremony at the Hotel Chatsworth. She gave her age as twenty on the license; Levy is listed as twenty-eight.
J.R. (as he was known) Levy was the son of Sam Levy, one of the first cigar manufacturers in Salt Lake City. The logo of his company was "Sam Levy's Famous Cigar--the Pioneer Brand," advertised with a sketch of a rather robust woman in a corset, smoking a cigar. His office was in a prime location downtown on Main Street, and he was apparently quite prosperous. J. R. attended the Salt Lake Business Institute, after which he was employed by [page 39] his father as a clerk and bookkeeper, until the death of Sam in 1904, whereupon there were various skirmishes with his brothers about what to call the business. First it was Sam Levy Cigar Manufacturing Company; then Levy Brothers; then, in 1907, J. R. Levy & Bros.; and finally, in 1909, Sam Levy's Sons.
J. R. might have brought Alta back to Salt Lake City for the one year he was running the company. In 1908, his mother, Marie, was listed as having moved to New York, but by 1909, the three had moved back to Salt Lake City, where J. R. tried to head the family business and failed. By 1910, J. R. Levy was gone from Salt Lake City.
Marion Goddard Levy, as her name appears on her birth certificate, Alta and J. R.'s only child, was born on June 3, 1910, in either Great Neck, Long Island, or Whitestone Landing, Queens. Years later, her second husband, Charlie Chaplin, said that she was born in Brooklyn, and she was quoted in Earl Wilson's column as saying, "I was really born at 100th and Amsterdam in Manhattan." No one knows when or why she started calling herself Pauline (the name in every biographical report) and despite the birth certificate date of 1910, the years 1905 and 1915 appear on one passport and various legal documents. Pauline Marion Levy--whose father later spelled it LeVee or LeeVee--was half Jewish. She was most likely named after her paternal grandmother, Pauline Levy, and the name Marion was in honor of J. R.'s mother, Marie. Pauline developed quickly, and by the time she ws six, it was clear she was going to be a great beauty.
Little is known about her childhood, but because of a suit that J. R. Levy brought against his daughter in later years, the court records are revealing about the family between 1911 and 1926. Pauline always said that her father walked out on her mother and her very early on, but Levy saw it quite differently
Hollywood was always a Jewish community; it was started by Jews and to this day is run largely by Jews. But for a long time it was venomously anti-Semitic in a perverse way, especially before the war, when Jewish performers had to disguise their Jewishness if they wanted a job. These actors were frightened, and understandably so. When I was breaking into acting, I constantly heard about agents submitting an actor or actress for a part, taking them to the theater for a reading and afterward hearing the producer say, "Terrific. Thank you very much. We'll call you."
After the actor was gone, the agent would ask, "Well, Al, what did you think?"
"Great," the producer would say, "He was terrific, but he's too Jewish."
If you "looked Jewish," you didn't get a part and couldn't make a living. You had to look like Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Paul Muni or Paulette Goddard and change your name. They were Jews, but didn't "look Jewish" and employed the camouflage of non-Jewish names. Hence Julius Garfinkle became John Garfield, Marion Levy became Paulette Goddard, Emmanuel Goldenberg became Edward G. Robinson and Muni Weisenfreund became Paul Muni.