Beautiful girl who danced at every show, acted in every production in her birth town, who dreamed of becoming an actress from as long as she can remember. Sounds familiar? There were thousands of such girls, and Philippa Hilber was one of them. Unlike most, she actually got somewhere – she signed a contract with a major studio and started in bits and pieces.The problem was that she never got beyond that stage. In the end, she married and left the screen.
Phillippa A. Hilber was born on January 22, 1918, in Los Angeles, California, to Phillip Melbourne Hilber and Vera Thornton. Her father was a professional photographer, born in Michigan.
Her parents separated when she was a toddler, and she went on to live with her maternal grandparents, Alvin and Addie Thornton. In 1920, Vera and Philippa lived with Alvin and Addie and Vera’s younger brother, Richard Scott. Alvin and Addie were both Mississippi natives that married in the late 1880s, had six children, and came to California in the early 1910s. After the divorce, Vera never remarried. Phillip remarried to Hazel Hilber and had a son, Charles, born in 1930.
Philippa grew up in San Bernardino, and integrated herself with the entertainment world while very young – she appeared in school plays aged only 11, and was about 14 years old when she danced ballet in various summer concerts. Here is an excerpt of a newspaper article, dating from July 1931, about a concert at the Biltmore Bowl:
Suited particularly to this out-of-doors theater, and offering an atmospheric bit which will, in all probability, long be remembered, is the ballet “Clouds,” danced to the music of Debussy. Of the sixty dancers included in the personnel of this ballet, only six will appear as individual figures. The others are completely covered beneath more than 1000 yards of veiling, shading in color from foggy grays to brilliant orange: Representing the. clouds at sunset, the dancers drift in their rhythmic patterns about the stage, finally disappearing, leaving but one tragic little cloud who has strayed away from the rest, but who scurries away when she discovers she has been left alone. Hiding behind the clouds, but emerging in their full brilliance when the last bit of chiffon has drifted away, are five stars and, as a final climax, the moon. Featured in this ballet are Evelyn Wenger, Edith Jane. Elise Relman. Helen Doty, Phillipa Hilber and Dorothy Wagner
Philippa continued to dance at various revenues, and hope for movie stardom. And that came soon enough – she signed a movie contract in November 1934, when she was just 16 years old, and started her movie career. On the side, we have to note that she waited to finish high school in 1936, when she was already a working actress.
Philippa started as a dancer, and as such appeared in uncredited roles of chorus girls. Her first appearance was in Arizona to Broadway, a sadly forgotten but not-all-that-bad comedy about con men trying to out-con each other. The underrated and tragic James Dunn plays the male lead, and my favorite Joan Bennett is the female lead. What’s not to like? Philippa then appeared in Roman Scandals, the seminal Eddie Cantor comedy.
This was followed by a show girl role in Moulin Rouge, a charming but shallow pre-code comedy with Constance Bennett playing dual roles and Franchot Tone as the husband. As you can imagine when there are dual roles involved, it’s about mistaken identities and so on. Predictable, but fun non the less. Then came Stand Up and Cheer!, which is less of a movie and more of an excuse to put one variety act after another. Avoid if you don’t like your movies without a plausible plot.
Philippa was a rumba specialist dancer in Redheads on Parade, a sadly totally forgotten Dixie Lee musical, with our favorite wooden actor, John Boles. She danced ballet in one of the few Spanish movies Hollywood made, Piernas de seda.
King of Burlesque, Philippa’s next feature, was an early Alice Faye movie with a plot that would become a genre staple in the 1940s – The low-class man aspiring to high society and married above himself, shunning his low-class sweetheart, who then goes abroad to sing and becomes a big success on the stage there. Faye actually played the shunned lady twice more, but this was the first time. The husband/cad is Warren Baxter, and socialite wife is Mona Barrie – decent cast, good dancing and singing acts, and what more do you need?
Philippa appeared in two Loretta Young movies – Wife, Doctor and Nurse and Second Honeymoon. The former is actually an interesting take on the typical love triangle, with Loretta playing the wife – the latter is a lackluster Loretta/Tyrone Power pairing, devoid of any energy and wit (a must for a screwball comedy, which it feigns to be). She also appeared in Girls’ Dormitory, a flat movie that aimed to shock but of course is more boring than anything, and You Can’t Have Everything, a breezy, charming Alice Faye/Don Ameche movie (where you need to forget the plot and just enjoy the music!)
Philippa ended her career with two total misses – Love and Hisses, a dismal movie at best, about a rado feud between columnist Walter Winchell and band leader Ben Bernie(since neither knows how to act, you can imagine how good the movie is), and Kentucky Moonshine, a lesser movie of the Ritz brothers (and they were the poor man’s Marx brothers).
Philippa left movies to raise her children after this.
In 1934, Philippa gave a Beauty hint for her fans:
FOR a facial that leaves the skin smooth and soft, mix equal parts of sweet almond oil and honey, cover the face and allow to remain on half an hour. Remove with cold cream or lukewarm, damp towels. through several waters. Do not wring them out, but hang up dripping. Dry celery leaves and parsley, then pulverize. Keep in salt shakers. They are worth the trouble to prepare and make a tasty garnish.
Philippa dated Doodle Weaver for a few months in 1935. She married Bill Goodwin on March 11, 1936, in Yuma, Arizona. They just hoped into Goodwin’s car one day and of they went! William Nettles Goodwin was born on July 28, 1910, in San Francisco, California, to . Goodwin attended the University of California. He acted in stage productions on the West Coast before he began working in radio in 1930. After working on a station in Portland, Oregon, he worked at stations in Sacramento and Los Angeles. he would act in Hollywood movies, and work with George Burns and Gracie Allen.
Philippa promised that marriage would not interfere one bit with her career. Typical sentence, spoken by dozens of starlets – with typical results. Yes – within three years, Phillipa was pregnant and leaving movies for good.
The couple had four children – Jill (born on December 20, 1939), William Richard (born on January 8, 1942), Lynn (born on October 18, 1943), and Sally (born on June 29, 1945). In 1945, she was named Glamour Mother of the Year by infantry men fighting in Europe. In 1951, there was thing short item in the papers about Philippa: People are always asking Philippa Goodwin, wife of Bill Goodwin, how she finds time to raise four children. “It’s the same as raising one,”, explains Philippa. “When Jill, our firstborn, arrived, she took all my time. What can three more do?”
Philippa and Bill enjoyed a happy and fulfilling marriage, and even had their own radio program. Unfortunately, Bill died from a sudden heart attack on 1958. In the 1970s, Philippa worked as a successful real estate agent, based in Los Angeles.
Philippa never remarried, retired in the 1980s and moved to Palm Desert to enjoy her golden years.
Philippa Hilber Goodwin died on April 1996 in Palm Desert, California.