Sunset Boulevard, released in 1950, is a film noir directed and co-written by the legendary Billy Wilder. Praised by many critics, the film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three. It is widely accepted as a classic and is often cited as one of the most noteworthy films of American cinema. The film's story follows the life of struggling young Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (played by William Holden, Betty's co-star in The Fleet's In) as he is ensnared by long-forgotten silent-film star Norma Desmond (played by Gloria Swanson) into being her kept man.
The first few scenes of the film describe Joe's unsuccessful efforts to borrow money from his friends after failing to convince a Paramount Pictures producer, Mr. Sheldrake, to buy his most recent script about a rookie shortstop. Sheldrake isn't very interested in the script and deems it "a rehash of something that wasn't very good to begin with." Before dismissing Gillis, Sheldrake comments, "Of course, we're always looking for a Betty Hutton. Do you see it as a Betty Hutton?" Gillis doesn't, of course. Sheldrake continues: "If we made it a girls' softball team and put in a few numbers, it might make a cute musical."
Though the comment was said as a joke to rattle Gillis, the truth behind it was all too real. After her mentor Buddy DeSylva's departure from Paramount, Betty's films became more variable in quality and many critics began to note that her performances were much better than and often undeserving of the films themselves. Studio executives didn't know what to do with Betty's unique talents and were constantly looking for scripts to cast her in. Often was the case, not unlike the situation in Sunset Boulevard, where Paramount would take an original dramatic piece, completly alter it and add in a few novelty numbers to end up with a "Betty Hutton" (case in point: films like Cross My Heart, Red, Hot and Blue and Let's Dance).
Betty was becoming restless with the bad scripts and started fighting the studio for better material. She told the press, "You have to be very careful these days. The public is shopping. One bad picture and you’re cooked." For this reason, many films Betty was set to star in were cancelled, pushed back or re-cast; and eventually lead to Betty walking out on her contract with Paramount. So when Sheldrake suggests turning Gillis' script into a Betty Hutton film, the joke is that another script for Betty would have been superfluous as she was all over the place at Paramount (including the wall of Mr. Sheldrake's office!)