Cinema: This Side of Happiness

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It was not an auspicious debut. Mom strummed the ukulele in the blind pig that she operated in Lansing, Mich., and out onto the floor came a skinny, freckled five-year-old named Betty June Thornburg, with her sister Marion, seven. While the speakeasy customers sipped needled beer, the blonde moppets sang and wriggled their way through Black Bottom and other favorite anthems of the year 1926.

"Mom didn't do anything real bad," recalls Betty Hutton, as larger audiences have since come to know the freckle-face. "How is a woman supposed to make...

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