Claudette Colbert - Early Life

Early Life

Émilie Chauchoin was born in Saint-Mandé, Seine, France, to Georges Claude, a banker, and Jeanne Marie Loew Chauchoin. Despite being christened "Emilie", she was called "Lily" as nickname because she had a cousin, the daughter of her mother's sister, of the same name. After some financial reversals, her family emigrated to New York City in 1911. Her mother was born in Channel Islands and was raised in there. Her mother was a fluent English speaker so Colbert could quickly learn English.

Colbert studied at Washington Irving High School where her speech teacher, Alice Rossetter, encouraged her to audition for a play she had written. Colbert made her stage debut at the Provincetown Playhouse in The Widow's Veil at the age of 15.

She attended the Art Students League of New York, intending to become a fashion designer, but appeared on the Broadway stage in a small role in The Wild Westcotts (1923). She had been using the name Claudette instead of nickname Lily since high school, and for her stage name she added her maternal grandmother's maiden name, Colbert.

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