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Carole & Co. entries, September 2009   Leave a comment

Get ‘depressed’ with TCM in October

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.30 at 10:30
Current mood: depresseddepressed

It was 80 years ago next month that the U.S. stock market crashed, effectively putting an end to the booming economy most Americans experienced during the 1920s. (Incidentally, my grandfather worked at the Brooklyn Eagleduring the 1920s.) Businesses tried to get back on their feet, but by 1931, the bottom had fallen out and not only America, but the world, had plunged into a full-scale depression. (Some ill-advised decisions on tariffs had only made matters worse.)Few of us today were around during the Great Depression, though many of us have parents or grandparents who experienced it. And every Thursday in October, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. will commemorate this event by showing movies dealing with the era. It’s sort of comparable to the program Film Forum in New York ran earlier this year (, although TCM includes films made after the Depression that look back at the period, the most recent being 2000’s “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, to be shown at 10 p.m. (Eastern) Oct. 15.

Carole Lombard is part of the 25-film package — in, as you might guess, “My Man Godfrey” with William Powell. One of the 1930s’ best-loved comedies, it airs Oct. 8 at 11:15 p.m. (Eastern).

There’s also the likes of “Gold Diggers Of 1933″ and “The Purple Rose Of Cairo,” airing at 8 and 10 p.m. (Eastern) Oct. 22.

For the entire list of films and an overview, go to

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She’s back (with a vest-ed interest)!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.29 at 00:01
Current mood: pleasedpleased

Eight days ago, we were trying to track down two “missing persons” whose disappearance from the classic Hollywood scene was causing some concern ( While we still don’t know the wherabouts of G.D. Hamann, we are pleased to report that the other person, Carla Valderrama of, is back after an absence of nearly two months.Wrote Carla, “Ok. I admit it: I stink. I should not have neglected the website and left all of you hanging but I am writing a book about our beloved Miss Lombard and have been dedicating 100% of my time and energy towards it.”My hope is to provide more updates on this site and I appreciate your patience during this very busy time.”Okay, we figured she was working on the book during her absence, and we’re glad she’s back, safe and sound. But thanks to Carla, I also learned that Profiles In History is having another of its periodic auctions of Hollywood memorabilia next week. Several Carole Lombard items are included, but the big one is this:

What is this item of clothing, and what makes it so interesting? It’s a plaid vest Lombard wore in her role as Kay Dowling in the 1931 Paramount film “I Take This Woman,” in which she co-starred with recent postage stamp honoree Gary Cooper ( This is the film that was feared lost for decades until a 16mm print was found in 1998 at the Maine home of the author of the book the movie was adapted from; that print has since been restored and copied (

Here’s how it appears on page 175 of the catalog, complete with a small photo of Carole wearing the vest and proof this outfit was assigned to Lombard (though apparently the back of the vest was modified slightly for use in a later production:

There aren’t that many costumes from Lombard films still around, so this is a welcome find. Bidding is recommended to begin at between $800 to $1,200, though it could end up significantly higher depending upon interest.

The four other Lombard items are all portraits, taken by Otto Dyar and Eugene Robert Richee for Paramount, Robert Coburn for United Artists and Jack Freulich for Universal. None of the images are especially rare; the Coburn portrait is valued at between $800 and $1,200, while the others are valued at $600 to $800.

For more on the auction, go to, then type “Carole Lombard” in the “search” area.

Oh, and G.D., we’re still looking for you.

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A magazine that became a memorial

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.28 at 00:01
Current mood: determineddetermined

It’s near the end of 1941, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the U.S. into World War II, The Rexall drug store chain issues its complimentary monthly magazine for January 1942, and the editors decide to put Carole Lombard on the cover:Lombard, the cover notes, “is soon to be seen in the Alexander Korda picture ‘To Be Or Not To Be,’ released through United Artists.” (Korda was the film’s producer.) Anyway, Carole headlined a one-page spread inside showing winter sports clothing; other actresses included Ann Rutherford, Olivia DeHavilland, Anne Gwynne, Mary Martin and Paulette Goddard. There was also a story about the American Red Cross and how it would aid the wartime effort, as well as beauty tips and recipes.Of course, on Jan. 16, Lombard left us, and if any copies of this magazine were left at Rexall pharmacies, they became de facto memorials to her.

It’s an interesting artifact from the last weeks of Carole’s life, in very good condition, and it’s being auctioned at eBay. You don’t have much time — bidding closes at just after 8:20 p.m. (Eastern) tonight — but as of this writing no one has bid on it, and bidding starts at a reasonable $4. If interested, go to

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Things go better with Lombard

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.27 at 00:01
Current mood: energeticenergetic

Several months ago, we did an entry on a photo of Carole Lombard that may have been used (or, at the very least, was planned to be used) in a 1930s Coca-Cola ad ( It would have been truth in advertising too, since Lombard was an inveterate Coke drinker.As stated before, I’ve never actually seena Coca-Cola ad featuring Carole. Perhaps the company and Lombard’s agent, Myron Selznick, couldn’t come to an agreement over how much she would be paid. Perhaps one was made, but received minimal distribution, or was limited to certain markets. Believe it or not, there are a number of Coke historians, and perhaps one of them has either seen a Carole ad for Coca-Cola or know why one might have been scrapped. Whatever.We bring this up because there is now another photo of her that supposedly was designed for a possible Coke ad. Like the other one, this shows Lombard in a swimsuit, though this one is light rather than dark:

The seller describes the photo as “Carole Lombard looking like a goddess in a bathing suit.” I won’t disagree; it’s an ethereal pose, whether or not it was designed for Coca-Cola advertising.

The seller adds that the 6 1/2″ x 10″ photo “is set up for magazine publication or advertising and has ink crop marks and borders have been cut down. … The photographer’s studio backdrop and scaffold is visible in background. This looks like an original working photo.”

The photo was the property of King Features Syndicate on East 45th Street in New York, as a stamp on the back indicates. It’s stunning.

What’s nearly as stunning is that this rare, and gorgeous, Lombard photo has no bids as of this writing — even though bids start at a downright reasonable $9.98 and bids close at 8:14 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday. If you’d like to have this in your collection, or simply want to see what it’s all about, go to

But that’s not the only Lombard photo from the King files being auctioned. Take a look at this one:

I’m certain I’ve seen this photo before, or at least others like it from the same session. This photo was used in a feature called “A Star Off-Duty” in the March 1938 issue of a film-related tabloid called Tattlin that I heretofore have never heard of.

Bidding on this expires just after 8 p.m. (Eastern) Monday; no bids have yet been placed, and bidding begins at $14.98. If this strikes your fancy, visit

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Carole + another youngster

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.26 at 00:01
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

Over the years, I’ve downloaded all sorts of images of Carole Lombard. I’ve relayed many to you within days of getting them; others fell by the wayside for sundry reasons. Here’s one from that latter group, something I’ve had for a while, then forgot about.It’s from the March 1936 issue of Photoplay, and was taken at the famed Trocadero nightclub in West Hollywood:The caption reads:

“Frank Fay, Winnie Shaw, Carole Lombard and Bob Riskin think children should be seen and heard too, when they are as cunning and entertaining as little Carol Lee who turned Frank Fay’s Vod-vil night at the Trocadero into a riot.”

Fay, of course, appeared in two of Lombard’s films — “Nothing Sacred,” where he plays the master of ceremonies at a tribute for Hazel Flagg, and “They Knew What They Wanted,” where he portrays a rather sanctimonious priest. Shaw was a Warners contract player in the thirties, best remembered for introducing “Lullaby Of Broadway” in “The Gold Diggers Of 1935.” She made her last film in 1939, but lived until 1982.

This was probably taken in late 1935 or at the start of 1936, when Lombard and screenwriter Riskin were still “an item.” It’s sort of ironic to see them in the presence of a child, since Carole wanted to have children and Robert didn’t, one of the factors that doomed their relationship. (Another arrived about the time this magazine hit newsstands…some guy named Gable.)

But what of this Carol Lee, who I’m guessing to be about age 9? Whatever happened to her? I wish I could give you a clear-cut answer, but I can’t. A check at the Internet Movie Database reveals several people named “Carol Lee,” but none fit the time frame. The closest I could find was a Carol Lee who was in the Alice Faye musical “George White’s 1935 Scandals,” but that person portrayed a chorine, a role the Carol Lee we have in mind clearly wasn’t ready for.

So it’s possible this Carol Lee never sought a career in movies or show business; if she’s still with us today, she’d be in her early eighties…and I bet she’d have wonderful memories of meeting Carole Lombard. Given Carole’s smile, the feeling was mutual.

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Hey, LeRoy (oh, baby)!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.25 at 00:28
Current mood: curiouscurious

Q. Who’s the youngest star Carole Lombard ever worked with?A. If you define “worked with” strictly as “acted in a film with,” Shirley Temple, shown above with Lombard in “Now And Forever,” would be the answer; Shirley was all of six years old when she and Carole made that film in mid-1934. But if “worked with” is defined in a looser sense, then the answer is someone else — a person who, where age is concerned, made Shirley look like a grizzled veteran.He was known as Baby LeRoy, and he was born Ronald Le Roy Overacker in May 1932. He made his film debut at the age of six months, and soon became the youngest performer ever to get star billing. While he and Carole never appeared on film together, both were on Paramount’s roster, so they teamed up in advertisements and on magazine covers:

That’s Lombard and LeRoy, first in an Portuguese ad for Phillips toothpaste, then on the cover of the June 1934 issue of Screen Book. (Note that one of the articles inside is “‘Clark Gable Is No Hero,’ Says Mrs. Gable.” That was probably a piece on how the off-screen Clark was different from the dashing on-screen characters he played. A few years later, when Gable was trying to win his freedom so he could marry Lombard, she might have elaborated on the phrase “Clark Gable is no hero” somewhat differently.)

Baby LeRoy appeared in only nine feature films, but they include several hits: “Torch Singer,” arguably Claudette Colbert’s most overlooked pre-Code movie, the 1933 Charlotte Henry “Alice In Wonderland,” and several films with W.C. Fields, including “It’s A Gift” and “The Old-Fashioned Way.” (Legend has it that Fields once spiked his milk with gin.)

LeRoy’s last film was “It’s A Great Life” in 1935, but it wasn’t that he had retired from acting. In fact, he was set to make a comeback of sorts in 1939, at the ripe old age of 7 1/2, when he got the lead role in “The Biscuit Eater.” However, on the first day of filming in Albany, Ga., he ran into misfortune. According to the Internet Movie Database,

“The scene called for Baby LeRoy to swing across a lake holding a rope, but he lost his grip and fell into the lake as the cameras rolled. This happened both times that the scene was attempted. As a result, Baby LeRoy became ill with a very bad cold. By the next day he had lost his voice.”

Paramount sent another child actor on its roster, Billy Lee, to replace him; LeRoy was promised another starring role, but it never materialized. That was essentially it for LeRoy, whose only subsequent appearance before the cameras came on two episodes of “To Tell The Truth.” He died in July 2001 at age 69, a fascinating footnote to Hollywood history.

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Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.24 at 12:30
Current mood: sadsad

I’ve frequently noted that “Carole & Co.” covers Carole Lombard, her life and times, and people she knew and worked with. Well, I don’t know if she ever met the subject of today’s entry — she probably did, though it’s never been corroborated — but she certainly worked with someone who did.We are referring to Dorothy Coonan Wellman, widow of “Nothing Sacred” director William Wellman, who passed away Sept. 16 at age 95.Mrs. Wellman, a Minneapolis native, may well have been the last surviving Busby Berkeley dancer, having appeared in “42nd Street” and “Gold Diggers Of 1933.” (That was also the year she married Wellman, and they were together until his death in December 1975.) She had a few other small parts in her husband’s films, the last of which was in “The Story Of G.I. Joe” (1945), the fine biopic of war journalist Ernie Pyle, where she portrayed a nurse.

Our condolences to William Wellman Jr. and his six siblings, several of whom also worked in the film industry.

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Lombard and Hesser make ‘True Confessions’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.23 at 08:46
Current mood: artisticartistic

We’ve previously discussed Carole Lombard’s work with noted photographer Edwin Bower Hesser; we’ve also noted her appearances on the cover of True Confessions magazine (the cover above is from August 1934). But did you know that Hesser took a portrait of Lombard for a True Confesionscover? I certainly didn’t.But it’s true, and here it is:

And no, the story “I Was A Second Hand Wife” has nothing to do with Lombard.

Hesser almost certainly took a black-and-white portrait of Carole (color photography wouldn’t be perfected until later in the decade), and the magazine’s art staff took it from there. The blush is considerably, almost absurdly overdone; one can imagine that when Lombard saw the finished magazine cover, she said something like “They must’ve thought I was heading to the circus.” (Perhaps her comments were a bit stronger.) Other than that, it’s a lovely portrait.

The cover is from January 1932, but I initially had my doubts about whether that listing was accurate. The hair shading is a bit darker than we expect of Carole in that period. Perhaps the magazine’s editors believed blonde hair didn’t show up well on newsstands (or didn’t sufficiently contrast with the light background). In addition, the price is listed at 25 cents, whereas that 1934 issue and later ones we’ve seen sold for a dime.

Well, to paraphrase Fred MacMurray from the later Lombard film “Hands Across The Table,” there was this little thing called the Depression. True Confessions, begun by Fawcett Publications in 1922, had sold for a quarter since its inception. However, after the U.S. economy went into a tailspin in 1931, sales of magazines plummeted, and Fawcett cut the price to 10 cents that spring, where it remained until the 1940s, when it returned to a quarter. The magazine is still sold today, though you’ll now need a lot of quarters to buy a copy and few movie stars appear on its covers.

While the January ’32 magazine isn’t currently being auctioned at eBay, if you like the image, you can purchase a print for $14.24 (a canvas print sells for $64.49). To learn more, go to

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Carole shows some swagger (honest!)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.22 at 00:02
Current mood: productiveproductive

“Swagger” is not a word one associates with Carole Lombard; indeed, while she certainly had her share of confidence, one of the most appealing things about her was her lack of pretense. But we have a photo of Carole where she shows off some swagger:You don’t see much swagger in her, you say? Well, you’re simply not looking in the right place. It’s not in her face, it’s in what she’s wearing.Witness the snipe from the back of the photo:

It reads: “THE ELABORATE ERA — is inaugurated by Carole Lombard, Paramount player, who wears a gown and swagger wrap of massed star-sapphire-blue beads on a background of gray chiffon.”

(Not only did this enable the viewer — either seeing this portrait in its original version as a still photo or reproduced in a newspaper — to imagine Lombard in these precise shades, but it allows people some 75 or so years later to colorize Carole with the latest technology. Paint away, everybody!)

I wish I could tell you more about it, but I don’t see any P1202- number. I do know it’s an 8 x 10 photo that I’m guessing to be from about 1933 (not just from Lombard’s appearance, but perhaps the use of the word “inaugurate”) that’s said to be in good condition. It’s a bit faded from age, so I converted it to grayscale to add some clarity.

This is the first time I’ve seen this image of Carole, so I well understand why the seller is starting bidding at $49.99. As of this writing, no one has bid on it, but you have time — bidding closes at just after 10 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday.

If you have sufficient financial swagger to buy this, or are simply interested, go to

Missing persons

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.21 at 09:05
Current mood: worriedworried

Actually, this entry has nothing to do with the Los Angeles-based 1980s band of that name, whose videos were regularly played in the early years of MTV. (Incidentally, the band’s original members were all acolytes of Frank Zappa.) But we areon the lookout for a pair of folks who have meant a lot to study of Carole Lombard and classic Hollywood — and whom lately have vanished from the Internet.First is G.D. Hamann, whose voluminous research of Los Angeles newspapers from the Golden Age of Hollywood has uncovered all sorts of wonderful items on the film industry, and its personalities, of that era. It’s easy to fall back on the Los Angeles Times as a solitary resource, since it’s readily available on microfilm (and the Times’ splendid “Daily Mirror” blog is also a wonderful aid), but that would be comparable to relying solely on the New York Timesto study Broadway history. In neither case would you get a reasonably complete snapshot of the period.Hamann’s compiled this information into an array of books; I’ve bought two of them, and you learn a lot. Some of the items may be studio-originated hyperbole, but that’s up for you to decide.

Until recently, Hamann had a blog, “Old Movie Section,” where much of this material was online. But go to the site now,, and all you get is “the blog you are looking for is not found.” Perhaps Hamann decided to take it down and limit the information to his books, rather than having some of this data available for free; if he did, that’s obviously his prerogative. Whatever, I hope he’s still combing through vintage newspapers, gathering material neglected for decades.

The other missing person has an even closer link to Carole Lombard:

That’s the home page of, an excellent source for Lombard information (the photo archive alone is magnificent) and sort of competitor — a very worthy one, mind you — to this site. However, note the date of the most recent entry: July 27. That means it’s been eight weeks since it was last updated.

The site’s owner, Carla Valderrama, is working on a Lombard biography, and I know she has visited Los Angeles several times to conduct research and do interviews (while there are only a handful of people left who acted on-screen with Carole, there are still some around who knew her). Such work has led to previous hiatuses at the site, but nothing quite this protracted. Obviously I wish her well in that endeavor, but I wish she would periodically check in at the site and update us; I also hope Hamann is doing well and can let us know he’s still around.

To quote the band Missing Persons from one of its best-known recordings, what are words for?

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Coop’s stamp of approval

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.20 at 00:01
Current mood: quixoticquixotic

It’s received relatively little fanfare, but Gary Cooper is the latest honoree in the United States Postal Service’s “Hollywood Legends” series; stamps with his image began being sold at post offices earlier this month. That it didn’t get much attention — despite a ceremony at the Autry National Center of the American West featuring his daughter, Maria Cooper Janis, film historian/critic Leonard Maltin and other notables — may be indicative of how Cooper has receded a bit from public consciousness.True, that’s to be expected, since it’s been nearly half a century since his passing, but Clark Gable’s been gone only a bit longer than Coop and I would guess he’s far more recognizable to people who only nominally follow classic Hollywood. Cooper had several iconic roles — Sgt. Alvin York and Lou Gehrig, to name two — but he isn’t identified with those real-life figures the way Gable isthe fictional Rhett Butler. Marshal Will Kane in “High Noon” comes close, but how many even remember the character’s name?Cooper was honored at a western museum, in a ceremony where his Oscar for “High Noon” was on display, but you can’t shoehorn him as a western star any more than you could James Stewart (the 2007 stamp honoree). Cooper excelled in many genres, from straight drama to sophisticated comedy (after all, he appeared in multiple Ernst Lubitsch films, just as he worked for the likes of Frank Capra). He always retained his integrity as an actor.

Some more about this stamp: The image is based on a black-and-white George Hurrell photograph from about 1940; the artwork surrounding the stamps is based on a still from “High Noon.” All in all, a well-deserved honor for a splendid actor whose body of work deserves rediscovery by more people.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Cooper made a pair of films with our favorite lady, as Carole Lombard appeared with him in “I Take This Woman” (shown above, 1931) and “Now And Forever” (1934). And the Cooper honor begs the question: When will Lombard get her stamp in the “Hollywood Legends” series? We’ve asked this question before, but perhaps now it’s time to take action. And what better way to do it than through Congress?

You can petition your representative or senator, of course, but it seems logical that the people who should be the campaign rolling are the representative from the district that includes Fort Wayne and the two senators from Lombard’s home state of Indiana. Who are they? What are their addresses? I’ll tell you.

The representative is Mark Souder, a Republican from the 3rd District:

Web site:

Washington, D.C. office:
2231 Rayburn House Office Building,
Washington, DC 20515-1403
Phone: (202) 225-4436
Fax: (202) 225-3479

Fort Wayne office:
1300 South Harrison Street, #3105
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Phone: (260) 424-3041
Fax: (260) 424-4042

As for the senators, there’s one Democrat and one Republican:

Evan Bayh (D)

Web site:

131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5623

Richard G. Lugar (R)

Web site:

306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4814

I’m not going to give you a form letter to send them — for one thing, if they’re too identical, they’ll defeat the purpose, and for another, I want you to use your imagination. However, there are some things you should play up:

* Her Hoosier roots;
* Her acting skill, notably as the preeminent actress of screwball comedy;
* Her patriotism as an American, expressed most forcefully in the last public act of her life, the war bond rally in Indianapolis;
* Her generosity to others, a quality that made her one of the most beloved people in the entertainment industry during her lifetime; and
* Her lively personality that continues to resonate on screen and inspires future generations.

Don’t inject politics into this — save your thoughts about health care for other letters. This is about getting Carole Lombard on a U.S. postage stamp, a cause that should transcend party or ideology.

After all, why should Karakalpakia ( have all the fun?

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RKO elegance

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.19 at 00:01
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

That’s the entrance to the RKO studio in Hollywood — geographically next door to Paramount, where Carole Lombard had plied her trade for seven years, but substantially different in so many ways. The RKO Lombard was branching out, showing the world she was far more than the dizzy doyenne of screwball comedy. She tried her hand at romantic drama (“In Name Only”), no-nonsense, almost turgid workplace drama (“Vigil In The Night”), starring in an adaptation of a popular play (“They Knew What They Wanted”). Good films, all of them, and generally well-received by critics…but none were huge smashes at the box office; they simply didn’t show the actress the way people wanted to see her. When she returned to laughter in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” one ad featured a little smiling figure saying, “Oh boy! Carole’s in a comedy again!”As she did at Paramount, Lombard did her share of photo shoots — and on many of them, the predominant theme appeared to be establishing Carole’s maturity and sophistication. She wasn’t eschewing fun, mind you, just reminding the public that there was another side of her, that Clark Gable’s wife was more than a madcap. It helped that RKO’s top photographer was Ernest Bachrach, who had brought out the personalities of the urbane Katharine Hepburn and the boisterous Ginger Rogers.Bachrach did the same for Lombard, amplifying the elegance that had been evident in many of her Paramount photos. Here’s an example:

This photo — almost certainly taken by Bachrach — is from 1940, and in fact there’s a caption on the back noting that Lombard had been signed for a starring role in “They Knew What They Wanted.” She had moved up in the world, was now over 30 and part of the Hollywood aristocracy (marriage to Clark Gable does that for a woman), and this photo is indicative.

This is a gorgeous picture, and as of this writing, the bidding for this item on eBay reflects it: five bids, topping out at $59.70. (It’s an original photo, 8 x 10 inches, in very good condition.) Bidding concludes just after 6:20 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. Want to try your hand at this lovely portrait? Go to

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What they were saying about her

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.18 at 00:05
Current mood: mellowmellow

Sometimes the value of a Carole Lombard item being auctioned deals with the image of her…but at other times, it rests with the words.Here’s a case in point:The image of Lombard is lovely, but fairly common; it’s from a 1937 magazine (which one I’m not sure). The image is actually sepia-toned, which could be the result of the way it was printed or merely a by-product of age. (I’ve converted it to greyscale to boost clarity.)

No, what’s of interest here is the copy below, which provides us a snapshot, in words, of how Carole was perceived at the time. It’s evidently from early ’37, because the most recent film mentioned is “My Man Godfrey” and Jean Harlow is still spoken of in the present tense.

The copy opens with “The young woman pictured here is actually as fun-loving as she looks haughty. No, there’s never a dull moment when Carole is around.” It then goes into her penchant for practical jokes, including the jalopy story from Valentine’s Day 1936, making “My Man Godfrey” with ex-husband William Powell, how “Twentieth Century” changed her reputation from clotheshorse to a genuine actress, and how she had just changed her legal name from Jane Peters to Carole Lombard. To be sure, there’s very little new here, but it is interesting to see how at least one fan magazine looked at Lombard after “Godfrey” had cemented her reputation as a first-rate comedic actress.

If you want this clipping, better hurry — it’s a “buy it now” item, for $6.99. If you’re interested, or want to see more, go to

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A pier that has few peers

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.17 at 00:01
Current mood: happyhappy

“Number nine…number nine…number nine…”As many of you know, last Wednesday — Sept. 9, 2009 — the Beatles’ remastered CDs were released. Symbolism, to be sure, but a reflection on the power of numbers. (The right-field fence at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, home of baseball’s Pirates, is 21 feet high, in honor of the team’s late Hall of Fame right fielder, Roberto Clemente, who wore No. 21.)But if you think numeric symbolism is a recent thing, go to Santa Monica. A little over 100 years ago — on Sept. 9, 1909 -- the Santa Monica Pier was opened.

And here’s the pier at its centennial celebration precisely 100 years later, featuring its now-famous sign:

While festivities were held at the pier on opening day, including swimming contests, the facility wasn’t initially designed for entertainment, but to aid the city’s sanitation. However, the pier’s recreational potential, beyond enabling the public to walk over ocean water, was soon realized, and within a few years another pier was built to the south, featuring a carousel, arcade and other attractions. Jane Alice Peters and her two older brothers likely made at least a few visits.

The pier thrived throughout the 1920s and ’30s; in the latter decade, the pier gained renown as “Muscle Beach,” home to bodybuilders such as Jack LaLanne (who’s still with us today, and in remarkably great shape for someone in his 90s).

By the 1970s, the pier had declined as a tourist attraction, and the city, which had just bought the property, considered demolishing the entertainment area of the pier to build a man-made island with a hotel. Public protest was vehement, and the plan was rescinded — in fact, three of the council members who had voted for the plan were then decisively beaten at the polls.

However, in 1983, much of the pier was wrecked by two heavy winter ocean storms, and it wasn’t until 1990 that the pier was fully restored. Over the years, the area gradually regained its luster, including some amusement park rides that hadn’t been on the pier since the 1930s and the creation of an interactive aquarium.

The pier is open year-round, and admission is free. For more information, go to

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From a late friend’s collection

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.16 at 14:23
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Not long ago, I wrote an entry about my first trip to Los Angeles in June 1989 (, several decades after the above photo was taken. It was fascinating visiting some of the sights from the age of classic Hollywood, particularly those that had some sort of tie to Carole Lombard.But I also met people, too. One of them was a lady named Susan Rice, who resided in Glendale, not far from Forest Lawn, and had a substantial collection of Lombard memorabilia. I dropped by for a brief visit where she showed me some of the items.Susan passed away in 2000, leaving some of the memorabilia to her sister. Now she is selling some of the collection. One of the items is this:

It’s a promotional photo of Lombard taken by Robert Coburn in conjunction with her upcoming (and, as it turned out, final) film, “To Be Or Not To Be.” Obviously, Carole’s not in character as Maria Tura, but then a lot of photo shoots had more to do with the personality being photographed than the character they were portraying. This is an attractive, and rare, image of Lombard in late 1941.

The photo is 11 x 14 inches and in excellent condition, according to the seller, though it’s aged a bit and I have converted it to greyscale. There’s a Coburn stamp on the back; the seller adds there is a code number A.K.8000-5 182, and since “To Be Or Not To Be” was an Alexander Korda production, I’m guessing that’s the reference. (United Artists, which released the film, was a consortium of producers rather than a studio with a traditional top-down hierarchy.)

As befits a rare, oversized photo of a legendary star, this won’t come cheaply; the minimum bid is $250 (no bids have been made as of this writing), and bidding will close at just after 9:15 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday. To bid or view, visit

And I hope whomever wins the auction treats this portrait with the same affection that Susan Rice did.

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Back home in Indiana? Not for this

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.15 at 08:19
Current mood: weirdweird

Here’s Clark Gable and Carole Lombard when they met the press in Los Angeles on March 30, 1939, a few days after their marriage in Kingman, Ariz. But where the screen couple spent their honeymoon has become the stuff of urban legend.Some maintain that Clark and Carole honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel in Arizona, something that’s been shown as a myth ( — but that’s not the onlyplace they supposedly spent time as newlyweds.

This is Lake Barbee, one of a chain of seven small lakes in northeast Indiana. It’s a resort area for people in that region, sort of Indiana’s equivalent of Lake Okoboji in Iowa. Anyway, I’ll step aside and let a Hoosier named Joe explain everything, in an entry he did called “Carole Lombard Didn’t Sleep Here”:

While I was preparing for my garage sale, one of the association board members dropped off my summer maintenance fees and mistook a picture on the cover of a book about Bette Davis as that of Carole Lombard. “She and Clark Gable spent their honeymoon at Lake Barbee at the hotel there near Warsaw you know.”

I was hot, tired and not in the mood to argue local urban legends so I took my bill and excused myself to go off in search of iced tea.

I had heard this story before, many times. Even the Barbee Hotel website boasts of the Hollywood star’s honeymoon there. There are countless references regarding this Indiana link to Lombard on the Internet and quite a few which recall various visits she made to her hometown of Fort Wayne; One even suggests that the location of what is now Chappell’s Coral Grill was once a pharmacy owned by a Lombard relative and that she frequently visited the site when she returned home and is supposed to haunt the building now. Her childhood home on Rockhill in West Central is a Bed & Breakfast now and source after source recounts tales of Lombard attending the unveiling of the historical plaque on the front of the house.

Nice star stories –- The problem is … they’re all untrue. Lombard only returned to Indiana twice after her mother whisked her to California in 1914: Once in 1930 on her way to New York and then again to Indianapolis in 1942. She was barely a starlet when she spent June 17-18, 1930 in Fort Wayne. Her visit was covered by the Journal Gazette in detail even though big screen stardom was still a few years away for her.:

When she eloped with Clark Gable in 1939 during a break in the filming of Gone With The Wind, they returned from Arizona to Hollywood, spent a few days at a ranch Gable had fallen in love with and bought and then he was back on the set. With every Hollywood reporter watching their every move, a long journey back to Lake Barbee would not have gone unnoticed. As for the dedication of the plaque on the house where she was born and spent her childhood, there is no record, locally or in her detailed itineraries, that she was anywhere else but Hollywood on January 1, 1938.

Her 1942 trip to Indianapolis was to sell WWII war bonds. There was no stop in Fort Wayne. She was killed flying back to Hollywood when her plane crashed near Las Vegas.

As bright a star as Lombard would become, she is truly one of Fort Wayne’s native legends … but her so called “return visits” and her honeymoon with Gable on an Indiana lake are simply urban legends.

The entry is at

Since it’s been documented that Gable and Lombard met the press on March 30, 1939, the logistics would have made it impossible (not to mention illogical) for the couple to go from a small Arizona town on the 28th to a remote Indiana lake and back to L.A. in a 48-hour span. Hey, it’d be tough to do that now, and we have jet aircraft and interstate highways.

And the plaque story? Carole saw it, but in California, before it was shipped east.

It’s entirely possible Carole Lombard did visit Lake Barbee…when she was a little girl named Jane Alice Peters on family outings from Fort Wayne. But after she, her mother and brothers left for California in 1914, the answer is no; the only Warsaws in Lombard’s life were the fictional Vermont town in “Nothing Sacred” and the war-torn Polish capital in “To Be Or Not To Be.”

Perhaps Lombard’s spirit has taken Gable’s ghost to Lake Barbee. I’m sure they would enjoy the sunsets.

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Carole, MGM style

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.14 at 09:00
Current mood: determineddetermined

“The Gay Bride” may not have been much of a movie — Carole Lombard herself called it the worst film she ever made — but it didprovide one benefit: an opportunity to experience the MGM glamour treatment firsthand.Since its inception in 1924, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had set the industry standard for Hollywood production values…and perhaps nowhere was that more evident than in how the studio polished its stars. From Norma Shearer to Marion Davies to Joan Crawford, the studio’s stars gained an ethereal aura — and when actresses from other studios came to Culver City to shoot a film, they received the same special care.We know MGM’s Clarence Sinclair Bull (, who spent 37 years at the studio, took these portraits of Lombard:

Here’s another publicity still of Lombard at MGM for “The Gay Bride,” presumably taken by Bull:

Note that in this portrait, Lombard’s face has a rather Garbo-ish feel; she was, of course, Bull’s most famous photo subject.

This photo is now being auctioned at eBay. It’s not an original, but it is both beautiful and a relatively rare image. Bidding begins at $5.99 (no one has bid on it as of this writing), and closes just before noon (Eastern) on Friday. To learn more or to bid, go to A somewhat uncommon portrait at a good price…something that would make just about anyone feel glamorous.

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A Lombard hat trick

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.13 at 00:41
Current mood: excitedexcited

The Washington Redskins begin their season today, which is always a big deal around D.C., while the Washington Nationals are limping toward another 100-loss season (and, most likely, the top pick in next year’s amateur draft). But for many of us in Washington, the excitement doesn’t concern football or baseball, but hockey,thanks to the Capitals’ thrilling Alexander Ovechkin, arguably the world’s best player after only four years in the NHL. He’s won the MVP two years in a row, and some of his goals are the stuff of highlight reels. The Caps, who just opened training camp, are gradually building their team around him, and area fans are hoping for a Stanley Cup in the near future.There’s a term in hockey called a “hat trick,” referring to a player scoring three goals in one game. (Fans would throw their hats — preferably cheap ones — onto the ice whenever a player achieved such a feat.) I doubt Carole Lombard ever touched a hockey stick in her life — the National Hockey League didn’t come to Los Angeles until a quarter-century after her death — but one look at this photo, and you’ll say to yourself, “She shoots, she scores!”

It’s a gorgeous original photo — the hat, the eyes, the way she places her hand on the side of her neck. It looks to be from the early 1930s; according to the seller, there is a Paramount courtesy stamp on the back, though I don’t see any information (“P1202-” or otherwise) on the front. It’s said to be in excellent condition.

This portrait will sell for triple digits, and deservedly so; as of this writing, two bids have been made, currently topping at $102.50. However, bidding won’t close until 11 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday, so the price could conceivably go much higher. If you want to get in on the action, go to Those eyes, that glance could light up the lamp in just about any arena.

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One more ‘Brief Moment’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.12 at 00:04
Current mood: curiouscurious

We’ve previously discussed Carole Lombard’s 1933 Columbia film “Brief Moment,” where she portrays a nightclub singer who marries a shiftless playboy (Gene Raymond) whom she tries to reform. Oh, and while she portrays a singer, Lombard herself never actually sings ( have also noted that “Brief Moment” was reissued in 1939 ( to serve the “subsequent-run” market (despite its misspelling on the program); indeed, several other Lombard films received similar treatment, both before and after her death.

But apparently “Brief Moment” received another reissue…in 1952. That’s according to the person selling the following photo on eBay:

I’m not sure why Columbia reissued this film then; perhaps it was done to pay tribute to the 10th anniversary of Lombard’s passing. Whatever, a few prints of this film were probably sent to revival houses around the U.S. (Keep in mind that in ’52, studios still considered television a threat, and relatively few movies had made their way to the small screen. It wasn’t until mid-decade that old film libraries were sold en masse to TV stations and several studios became aggressive in their own television production.)

The photo is actually somewhat sepia-shaded from age; I converted it to grayscale to add clarity. It’s an 8″ x 10″ glossy. You can either bid on it — bidding is slated to close at just after 2:50 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday — or you can “buy it now” for $15. If this catches your fancy, go to ;

A blessed thought

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.11 at 00:01
Current mood: sadsad

Unless you’re one of our younger readers, you probably have an indelible memory of where you were eight years ago today…Sept. 11, 2001. It’s a date etched in the minds of a generation, just as Dec. 7, 1941 and Nov. 22, 1963 were.Me? I was editing a weekly newspaper in central New Jersey that Tuesday morning; we were going to press that day, so we had to finalize everything.Shortly after 8:45, our receptionist told us she had just heard an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. At the time, I figured it was likely some sort of accident involving a small aircraft, similar to the crash of an Army plane into the Empire State Building on a foggy Saturday morning in 1945. Less than a half-hour later, we learned that was not the case, that a second jet had struck the other tower and that these clearly were no accidents.With the radio giving us the latest news — one of the towers went down…a jet had struck the Pentagon in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington…the other tower collapsed — we composed and put together the paper, changing the front page to reflect the breaking news.

The paper wouldn’t be circulated until Thursday, but we had a local angle: We were based in the Watchung Mountains of New Jersey, and there was a lookout point dating back to colonial times that now served as a small park. I had been there several times in the past, and on a clear day you could view the twin towers in the distance. Now, people were congregating to witness the smoke from this destructive day, a vigil to this tragedy. We got to press a bit later than normal, no surprise given the enormity of what had happened, and on the way home, I stopped at the lookout — it was now twilight — and the absence of the towers was striking.

Over the next few months, our paper was filled with stories about the dozen or so people from the area who died in the twin towers, as well as stories of people who through good fortune didn’t board those ill-fated flights.

The world has changed in those eight years. The mastermind of that attack still hasn’t been caught; indeed, we’re uncertain whether he’s even alive. The president of the United States is someone few people outside of Chicago had heard of on Sept. 11, 2001. America and its allies have vigorously fought against terrorism, though it hasn’t been easy and there have been missteps along the way. And while the Pentagon, which suffered relatively little damage, has been restored, progress has been slow in placing a new building, or memorial, on the site of the World Trade Center.

Last night, I was searching the eBay site for Carole Lombard items, as I occasionally do, when I came across this item that seemed particularly appropiate for today:

It’s sheet music for a song called “Bless ‘Em All,” which was used in the film “To Be Or Not To Be” (sung by the Polish airmen stationed in England). According to the seller, the song was copyrighted in 1941, so it certainly wasn’t originally designed as a memorial to Lombard.

Anyway, if you’re interested in the item, bids begin at $4 (as of this writing, no bids have been made) and bidding closes just after 3:05 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. If you want to bid or learn more about the item, go to

And on this day, “bless ‘em all” indeed. Bless those who lost their lives that horrible day, whether as victims or as rescuers, and those who survived but continue to face health or psychological traumas. And bless those who lost loved ones.

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To ‘Carol,’ from John

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.10 at 12:34
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

“Twentieth Century” was indeed the film that established Carole Lombard as a first-rate star,not just an actress or leading lady. True, she’d had her moments in previous movies such as “Virtue” or “No Man Of Her Own,” but when she was cast as the female lead in this adaptation of a hit Broadway play, some in the industry whether it was merely because Columbia mogul Harry Cohn, who had a relatively meager talent roster of his own, couldn’t get a bigger “name” through loanout.Director Howard Hawks helped Lombard find herself, discover a talent some suspected she had but very rarely saw on screen. And co-star John Barrymore, already a legend on both stage and screen, coaxed a comedic effort from Carole that finally helped her find her niche.Barrymore was so pleased with Lombard’s performance that he signed a photo for her when the production was done. Here it is, courtesy of The Lombard Archive:

The inscription reads:

“To Carol Lombard, a grand actress and a grand person, with the affectionate good wishes of John Barrymore”

Lombard — who was being considered for a role in a Barrymore silent film at the time of her automobile accident in 1926 — cherished this item and remained good friends with Barrymore, going so far as to get him a key supporting role in her starring vehicle “Truce Confession” in 1937, at a time when alcoholism had diminished Barrymore’s skills and reputation. Barrymore died in May 1942, several months after Lombard.

‘Fools,’ er, ‘Food’ for thought

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.09 at 00:09
Current mood: hungryhungry

Several of Carole Lombard’s films tentatively had different titles than what we know them by. For example, “The Kind Men Marry,” shown above, was the proposed title of the movie we now know as “In Name Only.” Several years before that, Lombard was slated to make a movie with George Raft called “Concertina”…but soon after Raft was replaced by Fred MacMurray, its title was changed to “The Princess Comes Across.” Even Carole’s final film, “To Be Or Not To Be,” nearly ended up with the title “The Censor Forbids,” before Lombard (during what would be the last week of her life), co-star Jack Benny and director Ernst Lubitsch vigorously dissuaded United Artists from issuing it under that name.But did you know one other of Carole’s movies might have had a different title, albeit only by a few letters? I didn’t until recently.The film we’re referring to was one of her less successful efforts, both aesthetically and at the box office — and came at a time when she was arguably the hottest actress in the industry. This cooled that off. By now, most Lombard fans should know I’m referring to…

No, that’s not a typo, and no, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. That’s an ad promoting the upcoming picture “Food For Scandal.” It’s from a trade magazine (not sure which one) in early 1938.

Not that it ultimately mattered much — you can call a turkey an eagle, but it still won’t fly — but I can’t figure out either why Warners called it “Food For Scandal” in the first place, or why the change was made. The closest I can come for the latter was that having the word “food” in the title may have made it sound like an epicurean’s tale, possibly the 1938 equivalent of the swingin’ sixties sexy stage romp “There’s A Girl In My Soup” (below are Goldie Hawn and Peter Sellers in the 1970 film version):

But getting back to the ad, it’s easy to see in retrospect why Warners was so confident about this film. Fernand Gravet had just come off a success the year before with Joan Blondell in “The King And The Chorus Girl” (that’s the explanation for “The King” reference — it certainly wasn’t meant as a swipe at Clark Gable), Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were accomplished tunesmiths for both stage and screen, and Lombard was riding high with two hits in theaters, “Nothing Sacred” and “True Confession.” It seemed like a recipe for success.

Unfortunately, the ingredients didn’t blend. Gravet never really meshed with Lombard, the Rodgers and Hart tunes were unmemorable, and Carole doesn’t appear completely comfortable in the role. Moreover, screwball was a dish that Warners never really knew how to prepare. When “Fools For Scandal” was served to audiences, they deemed it rather bland, lacking in the usual Lombard spice.

The trade magazine ad is being auctioned at eBay; the minimum bid is $9.99, abd thus far no one has bid on it. The deadline is just after 11:05 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. If you’re interested in the item, go to

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When an actress needs a friend

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.08 at 08:20
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

Among the many glories of classic Hollywood was its supply of supporting players, actors who weren’t stars but were integral to the success of a film and popular in their own right. During her career, Carole Lombard worked with quite a few of these supporting players, including one who’s the subject of the entry today.Her name was Una Merkel, and her specialty — or at least the role she was invariably cast in — was playing the leading lady’s best friend. (To be sure, other actresses made a career of it, too; think of Pert Kelton’s saucy support of fellow hooker Constance Bennett in the pre-Code gem “Bed Of Roses.” But Merkel was most identified with the type.) Here’s Merkel, right, in one such role, with Loretta Young in “Midnight Mary” from 1933, a year Merkel appeared in 13 films:

Merkel was born in Covington, Ky., just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, in 1903, and began as a stand-in for Lillian Gish in fellow Kentuckian D.W. Griffith’s “Way Down East” in 1920. She focused on stage work for much of the twenties (although she did appear in a 1923 Lee De Forest experimental sound short), but turned to films in 1930, reuniting with Griffith to play Ann Rutledge in his “Abraham Lincoln.” Such period pieces would be rare for Merkel during the ’30s, as she was blessed with a figure that made her perfect for showgirls and other contemporary types:

In fact, she played a showgirl in “42nd Street” (1933), the film that arguably revived the musical genre.

But as stated earlier, Merkel was usually found as the heroine’s best friend; her soft southern accent and no-nonsense wisecracking made her an ideal complement to many of the era’s top stars, such as Jean Harlow (“Red-Headed Woman,” “Bombshell,” “Saratoga”), Myrna Loy (“Evelyn Prentice”), Marlene Dietrich (though not as a friend — they had a memorable catfight in “Destry Rides Again”), and of course Lombard. They worked together in “True Confession”:

That photo, featuring Lombard in a jam and Merkel there to lend support, is being auctioned at eBay — but you don’t have much time; bidding closes at just after 9:95 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. Bidding begins at $24.99, and no one has bid on it as of this writing. For more, visit

The type of screen roles Merkel was best known for faded during the 1940s, so she focused more on stage work and made relatively few films. She won a Tony for best supporting actress in a drama for “The Ponder Heart,” and five years later was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress in “Summer And Smoke.” She retired from acting in the late sixties (her last credit was on an “I Spy” episode in 1968), and died in January 1986 at age 82.

Not long afterward, I saw a classified ad in Hollywood Studio Magazine that read, “Una Merkel has no headstone!” and listed an address in Kentucky to mail funds. I sent $5, and evidently others contributed too, because this is now at her resting place:

The one time she needed a friend, the audience came through.

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Q. “Is that what I think I see?” A. “It…”

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.07 at 06:54
Current mood: hornyhorny

For the third consecutive day, we’re running a photo of Carole Lombard from the 1920s that’s being put up for auction. And perhaps it’s appropriate that I’m writing this entry on a holiday (Labor Day in the U.S.), because it’s an image that could — I emphasize, could -- be deemed “not safe for work.”We’ll later show the photo in its entirety, but first here’s a section of it we canshow you:It’s from Pathe publicity still CL-185, likely taken in the spring or early summer of 1929. The photographer isn’t identified, but it’s almost certainly William E. Thomas, Pathe’s chief photographer, who had previously taken portraits of Lombard that some might deem racy. The photo is a bit too heavy on the eye shadow for my tastes, but aside from that it’s a nice portrait of the young starlet.

Okay, now the whole picture:

It looks as if Carol (as if she was known then) has exposed her right nipple to the camera. Or has she?

While Lombard wasn’t as much an exhibitionist as say, Jean Harlow, she did have a fairly relaxed view of nudity, as witness several anecdotes over the years. But showing a nipple in a publicity still? Well, it would sort of limit the number of publications that could run the photo. (This also evokes the “Seinfeld” episode where Elaine’s Christmas card featured her nipple, courtesy of photographer Kramer.)

But is this actually a “nip slip”? Not to be prurient, but let’s examine the issue a bit closer:

After further review, as football referees might say, it appears to be a fold in the blanket covering her, rather than a nipple. It’s difficult to ascertain, in part because the portrait is done in soft focus.

As stated earlier, this is being auctioned at eBay; as of this writing, five bids have already been made (wonder why?), and the price is now over $100. Bidding closes at 11:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday.

Interested (not necessarily for bidding)? Then go to

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Going native (American)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.06 at 00:01
Current mood: artisticartistic

In yesterday’s entry, we examined a stunning portrait of Carole Lombard that is more than 80 years old. Today, we’re going to look at a photo that’s equally stunning…and even older.It’s taken by one of the leading photographers of the 1920s, Edwin Bower Hesser, whose sexy but tastefully rendered portraits of the female form made him extremely popular ( We’ve previously shown a few pictures he did of Lombard:However, neither possesses the clarity — and beauty — of this one below, featuring the teenage Carole .in a sheer top with an American Indian motif; all she has on underneath is a dark panty. I dare you to look at it and not say “wow”:

This picture likely is the point where innocence and sex appeal converge.

Hesser shot the photo in 1928 for Mack Sennett, as the stamp on the back of the photo makes clear:

Note the name “Carole Lombard” on the back; while we know Sennett occasionally including an “e” (and at times a second “l”) to Lombard’s first name, we don’t know whether her name was marked on the photo when it first came out or later, when that became her accepted first name.

But that’s not all — look at the embossed “Mack Sennett” stamp in the lower right-hand corner:

From such treatment, and the portrait itself, it’s apparent Sennett had a lot riding on Lombard, and that he viewed her as a successor to the likes of Mabel Normand and Gloria Swanson.

Like the photo shown yesterday, this one is also being auctioned at eBay — by the same dealer, in fact — but the Hesser and Sennett tie-ins, the embossed marking, and the near-mint condition of this doubleweight portrait (not to mention its incredible aesthetic beauty) makes it significantly more valuable than the Pathe photo. The minimum bid on this item is…$1,449.95. And it’s not overpriced.

Nobody’s bid on it yet; the deadline is just after 10 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday. If you’re a serious memorabilia collector with sufficient money on hand — or you’re merely curious — go to

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Meet ‘Carol-of-the-curves’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.05 at 00:01
Current mood: creativecreative

Photos of the Pathe-era Carole (or, as she was known then, “Carol”) Lombard tend on the whole to be a bit more risque than those she would make for Paramount and other studios. Perhaps it’s because she was younger and hadn’t really settled into any particular niche of stardom (due in part to her own naivete). Perhaps she decided to overly rely on her looks while she gained experience as an actress. Whatever, the late 1920s Lombard pics exude a substantial amount of sex appeal.Much of that was due to William E. Thomas, Pathe’s chief photographer, who took plenty of photos of her, including several that ranked among the most erotic she ever did. The following isn’t all that risque, but it has a great deal of beauty:Carol’s a vision in feathers, isn’t she? Also note that she’s wearing the same headgear as in another Thomas portrait of her, one she autographed to a mysterious “Guy” (

What makes this 80-year-old picture all the more fascinating is that we also have the back of the photo, which features a caption:

The caption reads:

“An unusual camera study of Carol Lombard, former Mack Sennett beauty, whom Pathe is grooming for stellar honors. According to Edmund Goulding, the director who is credited with the discovery of Joan Crawford, Carol-of-the-curves is most promising star material. She has recently been seen in ‘Show Folks’ and ‘Ned McCobb’s Daughter.'”

Judging from the titles of the films, the photo was likely issued in late 1928 or early ’29, before Carol’s first all-talking feature at Pathe, “High Voltage.” It is also intriguing to see Lombard listed as “Carol-of-the-curves,” as studio officials would soon suggest she take off some of the weight she had put on while working for Sennett. (She, of course, complied.) Nevertheless, it is surprising to see that label used in a Lombard publicity item.

The photo is currently being auctioned at eBay, and the asking price is considerable — $279.95. But considering its rarity and reasonably good shape (very good/fine condition, on doubleweight glossy paper), the asking price is reasonable..It’s surprising that as of this writing, no bids have been made. Bidding closes at 9:55 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday.

If you’d like to bid, or simply want to learn more, go to

Clark and Carole’s new eternal neighbor

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.04 at 00:01
Current mood: melancholymelancholy

Carole Lombard and Clark Gable share a final resting place with all sorts of notable people, including many who played key roles in their careers and lives. That place is, of course, the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn, Glendale.(Carole’s mother and two brothers are also buried there, as is Gable’s final wife, Kathleen, and Otto Winkler, the MGM publicist who accompanied Lombard and her mother on that fateful 1942 war bond journey. Russ Columbo is also buried there.)

Last night, the mausoleum welcomed another resident, who was laid to rest more than two months after his shocking passing at age 50:

Say what you will about Michael Jackson’s often bizarre life — he was a phenomenal entertainer and singer, and he is certainly worthy of joining the immortals buried at Forest Lawn. (He’s not the first Motown artist laid to rest there, by the way; that honor goes to Mary Wells, who helped put Berry Gordy’s company on the map with “Bye Bye Baby” and “My Guy,” though she isn’t in the Great Mausoleum.)

There are more than a quarter of a million people buried at Forest Lawn, relatively few of whom are celebrities. I visited it once, in June 1989, and the place blends reverence, flamboyance and even a bit of camp…and yet it works. Some might say that’s a description of Michael Jackson himself, and one wonders if he ever considered it as his ultimate destination. (Jackson collected plenty of entertainment items; I’ve read stories about him arranging after-hours visits to memorabilia stores while on tour and buying loads of things.)

Security is extremely tight at Forest Lawn — many deem it too tight — and some wonder whether it will become even tighter now, discouraging many of Jackson’s fans, as well as making it more difficult for those of us who want to leave a flower at Carole’s vault. We may find out in a month or so, when the 101st anniversary of Lombard’s birth arrives on Oct. 6.

Time magazine has issued a fascinating article on Forest Lawn, which can be found at,8599,1920240,00.html (although it incorrectly states Jackson is in close proximity to Lombard, Gable and Harlow; he is in another area of the Mausoleum). For a list of celebrities buried at Forest Lawn, ranging from jazz pianist-vocalist Nat “King” Cole to “Oz” books author L. Frank Baum to ballplayer and Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel (a longtime Glendale resident and classmate of William Powell at Central High School in Kansas City, Mo.), visit

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A feathery photo

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.03 at 12:34
Current mood: artisticartistic

Every now and then, I like to peruse eBay’s list of Carole Lombard-related items being put up for auction. Many of them are the same old same old, but occasionally you come across something new and interesting.The following may or may not be new; I have thousands of Lombard images, and I honestly can’t recall whether this had been among them:However, it definitely is interesting, and here’s why: It’s a vintage 1933 Paramount photo, for one thing. For another, it belonged to noted publicist John Springer, who both knew and represented many Hollywood stars. This uncirculated photo, 8″ x 10″ and reportedly in excellent condition, had been housed in New York’s Corbin-Bettman archive.

The photo is being auctioned, with a starting price of $24.99 — a reasonable starting price for a 76-year-ol Lombard photo of such quality. No one has bid on it as of this writing, and you have until 1:20 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday to do so. If interested, go to

A tragic anniversary

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.02 at 08:19
Current mood: sadsad

Today marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most tragic, and pivotal, days in Carole Lombard’s life. For it was on Sept. 2, 1934 that singer/songwriter/bandleader Russ Columbo, to whom she was romantically linked at the time, died in a freak accident where a spark set off a Civil War-era gun at the home of his friend Lansing Brown.We’ve written about Columbo before (, who some say was ready to announce his engagement to Carole at the time of his death. Would she have married him? And would such a marriage have succeeded over the long term?As was the case with Clark Gable, (whom of course, she actually married), some biographers have their doubts; letters between Columbo and Lombard ( indicate that Russ viewed Carole with as much worship as affection, and perhaps this made the more down-to-earth Lombard a bit uneasy. (Later, Lombard would say of him, “His love for me was the kind that rarely comes to any woman,” and though she viewed him with affection, there likely was a double edge to that remark.)

Due to Columbo’s early passing (he was 26 at the time of his death) he is relatively forgotten today, although things might be different had he been portrayed by Tom Cruise in a rumored film where Michelle Pfeiffer, then at the peak of her luminosity, would have played Lombard ( Fortunately, Russ’ music can still be enjoyed; while he’s often compared to Bing Crosby, one of his contemporaries, Columbo’s style is far more dramatic, less jazz-oriented.

Here’ are a few Russ performances. First, “Too Beautiful For Words,” featuring some lovely Lombard stills:


Then, “Just Friends,” from 1932 (Frank Sinatra did a version of this on his 1959 album “No One Cares”):


Third, another song recorded by both Columbo and Sinatra (Frank did it several times), “All Of Me”:



Finally, “When You’re In Love,” from Columbo’s final recording session (one Lombard reportedly attended):

While Columbo lacked Crosby’s ease, he certainly would have continued to evolve as an artist.

“Let’s get ready to ‘Rumba’!”

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.01 at 00:01
Current mood: impressedimpressed

Perhaps that’s how fabled ring announcer Michael Buffer could introduce one Carole Lombard movie. (For the uninitiated, Buffer’s trademark slogan is “Let’s get ready to rumble.“) Anyway, if you’re in the Los Angeles area on Labor Day, you will have a chance to watch this Lombard-George Raft dance vehicle.Moreover, it will be shown at one of Hollywood’s most famous theaters — Grauman’s Egyptian, on Hollywood Boulevard:

By themselves, those things would be exciting — but there’s much more to it than that. This is part of a five-day event, Cinecon 45, that begins this Thursday. As its Web site ( proclaims, “Cinecon is a five day celebration of the movies, screening nearly thirty rare silent and early sound feature films and as many short subjects from the nation’s leading film archives and Hollywood studio vaults, and is dedicated to showcasing unusual films that are rarely given public screenings.” Sounds like a lot of fun.

“Rumba” will be shown at 1:35 p.m. Labor Day; actually, you may want to come in at 1:30 to see the 1945 Disney cartoon “Hockey Homicide,” one of a series of hilarious “Goofy does sports” shorts. But the schedule ( is chock full of fascinating movies. From my perspective, a few highlights include:

* “Trial Marriage” (1929), Thursday at 9:10 p.m. See Thelma Todd in a drama filmed at Columbia, along with Lombard’s friend Sally Eilers and Jason Robards Sr.

* “The Playboy Of Paris” (1930), Thursday at 10:40 p.m. Maurice Chevalier is so associated with those wonderful Ernst Lubitsch films that one can often forget he made other films, too, such as this rarely revived comedy that also stars Frances Dee, Stu Erwin and Eugene Pallette.

* ” Easy Living” (1937), Friday at 1:40 p.m. Written by Preston Sturges, directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Jean Arthur as a woman whoselife amazingly changes when a fur coat lands on her while she rides a double-decker bus. With Edward Arnold and Ray Milland.

* “The Silencers” (1966), Sunday at 2:50 p.m. Why am I including the first Matt Helm movie? Because appearing for a Q&A will be Dean Martin’s co-star, the wonderful Stella Stevens (shown below from the film, and who’s probably best known for working with the other half of the Martin and Lewis team). Did you know Stevens has directed several films of her own?

* “The Bride Comes Home” (1935), Monday at 9:20 a.m. This was the second teaming of Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, following their success in “The Gilded Lily.” Robert Young is the second lead; wonder if this is a Ralph Bellamy-type role?

Cinecon does not offer admission to individual films — but you can obtain day passes good for that day’s entire schedule (such passes also provide access to dealers’ rooms for film memorabilia), ranging from $25 to $30 . For more information, go to

Seems like a lovely way to spend a Labor Day weekend…seeing Lombard and her contemporaries on a big screen (and in a venue where many of these films were originally shown). And if Michael Buffer is in the neighborhood, maybe he will introduce “Rumba.”

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70 years ago today…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.09.01 at 10:44
Current mood: morosemorose

…Nazi Germany invaded Poland, triggering the start of World War II — a battle the U.S. would largely watch from the sidelines for more than 2 1/4 years.Here’s some footage from that time:

Let us not forget.

Posted December 12, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, August 2009   Leave a comment

One place Lombard doesn’t want ‘love’…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.31 at 00:31
Current mood: bouncybouncy

  …why, the tennis court, of course! (Unless it’s her opponent who’s being “loved.”) We ran those photos above for two reasons: First, I’m pretty certain they’ve never run here before, and second, it’s a reminder that the U.S. Open, the season’s last “major,” starts today in Queens, N.Y., and will last through Sept. 13.Of course, back in Carole’s time it was played over at Forest Hills, whereas now it’s being played at the USTA complex in Flushing Meadows. (One of the stadiums is named for Louis Armstrong, who as far as I know of never touched a tennis racket in his life, but lived not far away in Corona. Personally, I think it would make more sense if CitiField, the Mets’ new home, was named for Armstrong instead, as he was an avid baseball fan.)

Anyway, Lombard loved tennis…and was pretty good at it, too. As we’ve noted before, she sponsored the career of Alice Marble, who won Forest Hills four times and Wimbledon once ( It’s too bad that Carole, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn and some other of the film colony’s top players didn’t arrange a tournament or some exhibitions to determine Hollywood’s best player (and raise money for charity as well).

All of the photos are from a 1935 fan magazine (not sure which one), which features this caption:

“Carole apparently finds something very funny in this game. Maybe her opponent fell down. The game isn’t all one big laugh, however. Carole is all set for some fast and strenuous playing, too. Tennis is Miss Lombard’s favorite outdoor sport, and you can see her here relaxing with a swift game after a day’s work in her ‘Hands Across The Table.'”

Whether you’ll be watching the Open in person or following on TV or online, enjoy the tournament.

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The Prinz who helped Carole dance

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.30 at 00:01
Current mood: excitedexcited

When you see some old pictures, you get a feeling of envy, of wishing you were in the other person’s shoes.Take this photo, for instance: After seeing that, some of you women may wish you were Carole Lombard; some of you men may wish you were George Raft. But I bet many of you fellows wish you were that other guy, getting as close as you legally could to Lombard’s lovely lower half without her screaming for studio security.But who is this person clutching Carole’s ankle and Raft’s calf? As you might guess, he’s a choreographer, someone who worked with Lombard several times. His name is LeRoy Prinz, and his life was an interesting one.But before we go into it, let me give credit, where credit is due — the “Daily Mirror” blog of the Los Angeles Times, a site I heartily recommend to anyone interested in Los Angeles history (which, of course, includes the movies, as they’ve been an important part of the city’s economy and culture for close to a century). Every week, the blog runs a “Movie Star Mystery Photo,” usually an overlooked actor or actress from long ago. Well, this past week the blog chose Prinz, someone who rarely appeared on camera but played a significant role in what you saw on screen.

Prinz choreographed dozens of movies. He spent most of the 1930s at Paramount, where he helped choreograph four Lombard films — “We’re Not Dressing,” “Bolero,” “Rumba” (the photo above was taken during work on that movie) and “Swing High, Swing Low.” He later moved to Warners, where he choreographed “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and other films.

In 1935, Prinz was not only working on “Rumba,” but assisting a troupe of several newcomers to Paramount, all of whom received contracts with the studio. Here he is with these lovely ladies:

With him holding fencing gear are, from left, Esther Pressman, Beula MacDonald, Bonita Barker, Kay Gordon, Dorothy Thompson and Dene Myles. In the other photo, surrounding Prinz are top, Thompson and Barker; middle, Gordon and MacDonald; bottom, Pressman and Myles.

None of the six, some of whom had been in films since the late 1920s, had substantial careers in movies; Thompson, also known as Dorothy Ward, was perhaps the most successful, getting a few speaking roles in low-profile films in the early thirties before concentrating on dance work.

Prinz, born in Missouri in 1895, ran away from home in his youth, later joined the French Foreign Legion, received pilot’s training in Canada and served with Eddie Rickenbacker’s famed 94th Aero Squadron during World War I. After the war, he received a theater arts degree at Northwestern, where he honed his interest in dance. He returned to Paris and choreographed the Folies Bergere before being hired by Cecil B. De Mille.

Prinz not only choreographed, but directed some short subjects — and won an Oscar for “A Boy And His Dog” in 1946.

In later years, he produced Hollywood benefit programs and assisted on entertainment for the 1980 Republican national convention and the 1981 inauguration of his good friend Ronald Reagan, who telephoned him a week before his death in September 1983.

For the “Daily Mirror” entry on Prinz, go to

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I see in the paper...

Benny Rubin

Posted by [info]wheelerwoolsey on 2009.08.30 at 18:42

Something of general Carole Lombard interest from comedian Benny Rubin’s self-published 1972 book Come Backstage With Me:
In the book, Rubin tells stories from his years in vaudeville, films, radio and television.
A photo of Benny Rubin with Lombard as published in the book.Rubin makes a few passing references to Lombard in the book. He mentions her among the celebrities spending a weekend at San Simeon as guests of Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst in 1929. Also, he makes mention of how, when Lombard was killed, he was too upset over her death to make an appearance as the racetrack tout on Jack Benny’s radio show and that Sheldon Leonard took over the part from then on.One more photo of Rubin with other 1930s comedians:

Bert Wheeler, Bob Woolsey, Milton Berle, Joe Penner, Victor Moore and Benny Rubin.

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One last trip to the lobby

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.29 at 00:01
Current mood: melancholymelancholy

Since beginning this community more than 26 months ago (hard to believe it’s been that long), I’ve pointed out all sorts of memorabilia from Carole Lombard films — and chief among them has been the lobby card. For those unfamiliar with the item, lobby cards were made of cardboard, usually measuring about 11 x 14 inches, that helped promote the current or an upcoming feature in the lobby (hence the name).Virtually every feature Carole appeared in — even those going back to her starlet days at Fox — had lobby cards as a promotional item…but some are easier to find than others. And one film for which lobby cards are relatively difficult to locate turns out to be both one of her best-known and her last. We are, of course, referring to “To Be Or Not To Be.”I’m not completely sure why this is the case. I’m tempted to think that studios may have cut back on such products after Pearl Harbor, or that many of these were turned in during wartime paper drives, thus decreasing the supply. Whatever, you don’t come across a “To Be Or Not To Be” lobby card very often.However, one has popped up on eBay:We don’t know whether that was the actual color of the gown Carole wore in that scene (since the film was shot in black-and-white, the color of the gown was largely irrelevant), but you can imagine Maria Tura wearing something in this shade. Moreover, I do not know whether this was produced before or after Lombard’s death.

What I do know is that its relative rarity )it’s considered in “fine” condition) makes this an expensive item. You can “buy it now” for $295, or you can try your hand at a regular auction over the next few weeks; the choice is yours. For more on this item, go to

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Flapper fashion…in Technicolor!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.28 at 00:01
Current mood: giddygiddy

While fans of classic Hollywood cherish the beauty of black-and-white photography (there’s a reason it was called the “silver screen,” after all), there is certainly something to be said for seeing pre-World War II images in color. It reminds us the people of that era saw brilliant blue skies, magnificent reddish sunsets and glorious “purple mountain majesties,” just as we do today. In fact, as we’ve noted before, Carole Lombard was not only featured in color in “Nothing Sacred,” but also in parts of two Mack Sennett shorts, including “Matchmaking Mama,” from which a still is shown below:It’s hard for many of us to realize that some silent film was indeed shot in Technicolor. I don’t believe there were more than a handful of full-length all-Technicolor features (if any). The process was simply too expensive. But some filmmakers did indeed employ Technicolor, and one of the most obvious places to use it was in short films focusing on fashion. (I know more than a few of you are interested in this topic.)Thankfully, one of these has cropped up on YouTube, giving us a colorful look at what the fashionable American woman was wearing in 1928. This is from “Glamour Daze” (, a charming, imaginative site that examines fashion from the 1920s to the 1950s; it’s really worth checking out.

Keep in mind that just as in the Lombard scene shown above, this is two-strip Technicolor; the three-strip process, enabling the full color spectrum to be captured on film, wouldn’t be perfected until the mid-thirties. Consequently, you’ll see lots of red, green and brown, but no blue. Nevertheless, the color reproduction is beautiful…as are the ladies.

None of the actresses shown became top-tier stars, but some had good careers, such as Laura LaPlante. Another one shown, Jeanette Loff, was a contemporary of Lombard’s at Pathe and posed with her for a comedic holiday photograph (

And the last actress featured, Ruth Elder, was better known as an aviatrix (that’s why we see her arriving in a plane). In October 1927, she attempted to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She and her male co-pilot traveled 2,600 miles before their plane went down and they were rescued.

Note that the fashions were provided by Sibley, Lindsay & Curr, a Rochester, N.Y. department store popularly known as “Sibley’s.” At this time, it was the largest department store between New York City and Chicago. I can recall when Sibley’s expanded to my hometown of Syracuse in 1969 as part of a downtown urban renewal project. The Syracuse store closed some two decades later, and Sibley’s itself was subsequently bought out. The stores are now part of Macy’s.

Incidentally, the first of the two songs is “Love Me Tonight” by the wonderful vocalist Annette Hanshaw, and that’s her trademark “that’s all” at the end of the video.

It’s a reminder that color, and beauty, are timeless.

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Taking a studio ‘tour’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.27 at 13:35
Current mood: curiouscurious

As I believe I’ve mentioned earlier, I have been to Los Angeles three times — and on each occasion, I have taken a studio tour, In June 1989, I toured what was then known as The Burbank Studios; it was actually the old Warners lot, which at the time was also being used by Columbia. In September 1996, I toured the Paramount lot. And in March 2000, I visited Universal Studios for its theme park/tour (and returned to Paramount to watch a “Frasier” episode being filmed).Since many of you can’t make it out to L.A., I’m going to take you on a virtual studio tour. Moreover, we’re going to do it with the help of an imaginary time machine — the one inside your mind — so you can get a feel for what the studios were like at the time Carole Lombard and her contemporaries were making movies in these magic factories.(Before we begin our journey, let me credit the Los Angeles Public Library for making this all possible. The library has a huge photo collection available online — much of it dealing with southern California history. To access it, go to, let’s go:We’ll start in Hollywood, specifically at the studio Carole called home for seven years, Paramount. Here’s what the place looked like in the 1930s; that large area of land just to the north of the studio is the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery.

Here’s the Paramount lot in 1936, taken from a building across the street, hence the unusual angle:

Now let’s go next door to RKO, where Lombard spent nearly two years:

This was taken in the spring of 1940, when “Irene,” with Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland, was making the rounds of theaters.

It’s off to Culver City, and a studio Lombard was familiar with at different times of her career:

That’s what’s now known as the Culver Studios. In 1925, when this photo was taken, it was the Thomas Ince Studios — and later that decade, it would be taken over by Pathe, and Lombard would make her first all-talking features on the lot.

Fast forward a decade to 1935…

After serving as a studio for Pathe and then RKO, Selznick International Pictures would take over the facility, and it’s where Carole would film “Nothing Sacred” and “Made For Each Other.”

A bit further north up Washington Boulevard is the home of Ince’s first studio, shown in 1916 — then known as Triangle, but we know it better as MGM:

When Lombard made her only film at MGM, “The Gay Bride,” in 1934, this is what the studio complex looked like:

(The photo, which came from the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner archives, was cropped.)

Finally, let’s head north of Hollywood. Here’s the entrance to Universal Studios on May 29, 1939:

Now east to Burbank and the Warners lot in 1937, a year before Lombard went there to make “Fools For Scandal”:

Hope you enjoyed your visit to Hollywood past.

Carole goes on “Stage”

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.26 at 09:08
Current mood: artisticartistic

If you think we’re referring to Carole Lombard’s admittedly minimal experience in live theater, you’re mistaken. (She apparently did some work with a Pasadena company after recovering from her automobile accident, but that’s about it.) No, this concerns an entertainment magazine called Stage --
a publication I’d heretofore never heard of — specifically its September 1937 issue:
The magazine has a two-page spread called “Hollywood, I Love You!” focusing on Lombard’s forthcoming film, “Nothing Sacred,” and featuring several rare photographs:

The magazine also features some fascinating ads, such as this one for the Samuel Goldwyn film “Dead End”:

And take a look at this artistic ad for lipstick (wonder if Carole ever used that brand?):

The magazine is being auctioned at eBay; as of this writing, three bids have been made, the highest being for $24.47. Want to get in on it? Then hurry — bidding closes at just after 9:10 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. Go to

Oh, and now that I think of it, Carole did have a pretty substantial stage career after all. Sound stages, that is.

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Have some ‘Fun in Flickers’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.25 at 00:08
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Carole Lombard was (usually) an interviewer’s delight, full of vibrant comments and fascinating recollections. One of her most famous interviews was the one shown above, “Fun In Flickers” (, which ran in the Feb. 24, 1940 issue of Collier’smagazine:
The magazine itself is now being auctioned…or should I say, being sold.It’s available under eBay’s “buy it now” option for $49.95.

What’s in it, in addition to the Lombard interview?

* A story about how Paris is coping with war, several months before the city fell to the Germans.

* A sports story about the “two-fisted champions” — the University of Oregon basketball team, which the year before had won the initial NCAA tournament (though at the time it wasn’t as highly regarded as the National Invitation Tournament, which had begun a year earlier).

* An article on hope for those suffering from leprosy.

And much more — a snapshot of a fascinating time.

If this strikes your fancy, go to But hurry…

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Carole, Clark and…who?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.24 at 00:01
Current mood: confusedconfused

Those of you who are fond of the Philly soul sound of the 1970s might recall a record from 1971 called “Tip Of My Tongue,” by a group called Brenda & the Tabulations. Well, that phrase can be used to describe this photo, featuring Clark Gable, Carole Lombard…and a third person.As the seller on eBay so accurately described it, Clark and Carole are accompanied by “a third person who looks familiar but I can’t name.” If it’s any solace to the seller, I can’t identify him, either (though judging from the costume, it might be someone related to the production of “Gone With The Wind”).. But if you can, let me know.In addition, if you’d like to purchase this picture, or just learn more about it, go to One bid has already been made at $5.99 as of this writing, and bidding closes at just after 8:45 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday.Oh, and one more thing — Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. will be airing “Nothing Sacred” at 6:45 p.m. (Eastern) tonight as part of a day-long Fredric March tribute on its “Summer Under The Stars.”

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Remembering Rudy

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.23 at 00:06
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

There aren’t very many people left who were alive when Carole Lombard was still with us…and far fewer who can make that claim about having existed simultaneously with Rudolph Valentino, who passed away 83 years ago today, on Aug. 23, 1926.And through her movies, Lombard still speaks to us; even if silent film was somehow magically audible, Valentino would come to us in a totally foreign dialect, so to speak; thus was the “language” of the silent cinema.It’s difficult for contemporary audiences to grasp Valentino’s significance to film. He was the first of the so-called “Latin lovers” to become a big star on screen (ironic, since Valentino was Italian, not from Spain or Latin America, although his breakthrough role came as an Argentinian in “The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse”). He paved the way for others in that vein, although some of them weren’t Latin, either, such as Ricardo Cortez, who was actually Jewish and from Austria. You could argue that Russ Columbo, shown below, continued the Valentino tradition from a musical perspective.Watch some of Valentino’s films, and you can fully comprehend his stardom in a way that mere stills can’t show. He was magnetic, charismatic, but he rarely took it to excess. Indeed, he could — and sometimes did — gently lampoon his image. Most of his fan base was female, but many men respected his work.

One of the great questions of film history is whether Valentino could have made the transition to talking pictures. There are some recordings of Valentino’s voice, and he certainly doesn’t sound inconsistent with his screen persona. But would he have received scripts with dialogue that fit the new paradigm of the talkies? (That, more than his voice, was what doomed John Gilbert; florid prose that seemed appropriate on title cards sounded ludicrous when actually spoken.) Even if Valentino had made a seamless transition to talkies, he might not have withstood the change in sensibilities that came when the Depression hit full force in 1931 and the new male ideal shifted to tougher types such as James Cagney and Clark Gable.

Carole Lombard likely saw a few Valentino films as a teenager, but as far as I know, she never met him. (At the time of his death, she was still 17 and recuperating from the automobile accident that had left a scar along her left cheek.) But one of Carole’s contemporaries did meet Valentino — in fact, she credited him with getting her movie career started. We are referring to Myrna Loy, who tried out for a small role in Valentino’ 1925 film “Cobra,” but didn’t get it. However, Valentino was impressed with Loy (then known as Myrna Williams), and helped her get a chorus role in the 1925 Metro film “Pretty Ladies.”

Valentino is also remembered today for the fervor of his fandom following his death, something that now is almost considered the thing of parody. Fortunately, in recent years Valentino’s legacy has been treated with far more respect, and today at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral Mausoleum of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (shown below), the annual memorial service will be held.

The featured speaker will be the actor’s great-grandniece, Jeanine Villalobos — marking the first time a family member will have appeared at the service since the 1930s. She will read letters that Alberto Valentino, Rudolph’s brother, had mailed to Italy discussing the outpouring from the public at the time of the actor’s funeral. That evening at the cemetery, two Valentino fioms, “A Society Sensation” and “Stolen Moments,” will be presented.

At Allan R. Ellenberger’s fine “Hollywoodland” site, he has put up several entries that provide more insight into Valentino the actor and Valentino the man.

* For more on the service, visit

* He conjectures where the actor might have been buried if his life had gone a bit differently at

* The story of a “forgotten” admirer, who so loved Valentino she named her son, who died at childbirth, after him, can be found at

* For recollections of Valentino from another noted actor, Gilbert Roland, go to

* And a report, with pictures, on the service can be found at

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Using a British bus ‘to look for America’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.22 at 00:01
Current mood: restlessrestless

It was originally planned to be a little film called “Night Bus,” based upon a story no one thought was anything particularly special. It could have starred Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy, or Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, but Lombard — one of the few actresses in the industry who didn’t mind being loaned out to Harry Cohn and Columbia, decided to stay put at Paramount to make a dance film with George Raft called “Bolero.”Gable’s co-star would be Claudette Colbert, the film would be retitled “It Happened One Night,” and it came out of nowhere to become a word of mouth hit that cleaned up at the Oscars.It’s perhaps Hollywood’s most illustrious example of buses on screen.. Of course, buses have figured prominently in other parts of American culture. (think of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” or “Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival). Well, now Greyhound — an iconic brand — is being carried over to Great Britain for travel.Beginning next month, buses under the Greyhound name will run trips from London to Portsmouth and Southampton. Of course, the UK is a far more compact land than America, endowed with an efficient, far-reaching rail system. Unlike the U.S., there are few out-of-the-way villages — the communities that made Greyhound such an important mode of transit in America.

To learn more about Greyhound’s American history and its plans for Great Britain, go to Oh, and if you ride one night, say hi to Peter and Ellie for us.

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Get your ‘Hands Across’ this press sheet

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.21 at 00:01
Current mood: mellowmellow

Overlooked by more than a few classic film buffs for many years, “Hands Across The Table” is increasingly being deemed one of the best films Carole Lombard ever made — or at the very least the best thing she did in her seven years at Paramount — since its inclusion in “The Carole Lombard Glamour Collection” DVD set nearly 3 1/2 years ago.Now you have an opportunity to purchase an artifact from that 1935 film. We’re specifically referring to a press sheet promoting the movie:

Note the reference “It pays to advertise” on the back page; was the use of that phrase merely a coincidence, or was one of the Paramount press people a Lombard fan using the term as sort of an in-joke? Whatever, it sure would be nice to own one of those “magnetic pictorials.”The seller provides us with more information on the person who originally owned this and many other items being auctioned:

“Paul Denis worked for Billboard from 1931 to 1943, first as an associate editor, then as managing editor, before moving to the New York Post, where he became assistant to the columnist Earl Wilson. He also wrote for magazines and was the author of six books, including ‘Inside the Soaps.’ Mr. Denis founded Daytime TV magazine in 1969.” The seller promises many more items from the partial estate.

The item is being sold for $29.95 under eBay’s “buy it now” option. If interested, go to

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More history in the cards

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.20 at 16:31
Current mood: creativecreative

Slightly more than three months ago, we discussed the incredibly attractive film star cards issued by the Garbaty tobacco company of Germany ( As it turns out, another Carole Lombard card issued by Garbaty has been put up for auction. I’ll tell you a little more about it after I present you with the image, and the back of the card as well (which has no information directly about Lombard):This card is from 1937, among the last cards Garbaty issued (by this time, the Garbaty family, which was Jewish, had flad Nazi Germany for the U.S.). The series called “Film-Lieblinge” (Film Favorites). This series was comparatively less ornate than some of the earlier Garbaty series, but is nonetheless beautiful. A total of 200 cards were issued, 160 of which were at the same scale as previous sets and 40 at a larger 2 7/16″ X 3 1/4″ size. I believe this is one of the larger cards.Both the size and its relative rarity may account for the higher value of this, compared to other Lombard cards from Garbaty; it has a “buy it now” price of $89.99. If you’re interested in purchasing it, or would like to learn more, go to

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Tomorrow, have some Hopkins

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.19 at 00:21
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. continues its splendid “Summer Under The Stars” series until the end of August, and tomorrow, the 20th, a fine actress who’s sometimes overlooked — though it has little to do with the high caliber of her acting — will get her due. We are referring to Miriam Hopkins, whose career may have intersected more with Carole Lombard’s than any other actress of the time. That’s Miriam, above, in “Fast And Loose,” a film she made with Lombard in 1930. Unfortunately, it’s not on TCM’s schedule, but a lot of other good films are.And three of the highlights are slated for prime time, as we’ll see a tripleheader of Hopkins with arguably her favorite director, the great Ernst Lubitsch.
At 9:45, Hopkins teams with Herbert Marshall and Kay Francis in the stylish “Trouble In Paradise” from 1932, and at 11:15 is the delightful 1933 gem “Design For Living” with Fredric March and Gary Cooper.Beyond that are Hopkins films in all sorts of settings, from romantic comedy (1934’s “The Richest Girl In The World” at 8:15 a.m.) to drama (“These Three” from 1936 at 2:45 a.m.(, even a western (1940’s “Virginia City” at 4 p.m.). Hopkins was an intelligent woman who could be difficult to work with at times but was nevertheless respected for her skills.

There are even two films Hopkins made with Bette Davis (who ended up taking Hopkins’ husband from her, triggering a feud that would last for years), “The Old Maid” (1939( at 12:15 p.m. and “Old Acquaintance” (1943) at 2.

For the entire schedule, go to

Backward, into the future!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.18 at 01:11
Current mood: relievedrelieved

Imagine a society where the typical American women stands at the stature of your typical WNBA player or supermodel, women to literally look up to. Well, according to this story in the Associated Press, this should have already taken place…back in the year 2000, when women were going to averagebetween 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-2.The AP story was actually a prediction, made all the way back in December 1949. The mid-century was approaching, and so it was appropriate for many to look a half-century hence and predict what life would be like in that far-off time. And while American women are slightly taller than their counterparts of 1950, they certainly haven’t morphed into a legion of feminine giants (nor have they developed, on average, the size 11 feet this article predicted).Welcome to past views of the future; some of the predictions are right on target, others, like this one, not so much. They are fascinating to examine, sometimes for their accuracy, other times for their ludicrousness. The above clipping is from a site called “Paleo-Future” (, which has all sorts of examples. Some will elicit a chuckle, others a knowing nod. (And speaking of nods, the subject title is a twist on “Forward, Into The Past,” the title of a Firesign Theatre skit lampooning the excesses of old-time radio.)During the 1930s, there were some concepts of the world of the future — think of the Flash Gordon serials (with Charles Middleton in his memorable turn as Ming the Merciless). Another came in a Pathetone newsreel that imagined futuristic fashion in “Eve, A.D. 2,000!”

Here are two stills of what the narrator said are imaginings “from top designers” as to what women would be wearing in 2000:

Yeah, I’m sure this is how Travis Banton, Adrian and Irene viewed women’s wear more than 60 years into the future. This seems about as accurate as the prediction that women of the millennium would be a group of towering amazons, futuristic Xenas.

But before you guys begin to chortle, here’s what the designers envisioned you wearing:

Must be one of Ming’s assistants.

Fortunately, we have the entire segment, featuring even more outlandish designs:

One wonders whether Carole Lombard ever imagined what life would be like in 2000. Perhaps she did, but if so, she probably never talked about it — and she may not have envisioned seeing it for herself. After all, she would have been a few months past age 91 as the odometer of time changed all its digits and became 2000.

With that thought (and the 900th post at “Carole & Co.”), I’m off to bed, and will sleep well as a Washington Nationals fan now that Stephen Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009 amateur draft, signed with the team at the deadline last night. Welcome to Washington. and we eagerly await to see Nationals Park become…

Candidly Carole

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.17 at 00:01
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

Carole Lombard’s beauty shone through the thousands of studio portraits she made, from those at Sennett and Pathe in the 1920s, to the vast array she made in the 1930s at Paramount and elsewhere, to those she did in the early 1940s for RKO and United Artists.But Lombard didn’t need elaborate makeup or fancy settings to let her beauty emerge — in fact, her magnetism was evident in the most candid of photographs. Here’s a splendid example:I am told it’s from about 1935, but that’s about all I know about it. I have no idea who the other person in the photo is (perhaps it’s someone I should recognize, but don’t) or where this was taken.But don’t those eyes of Lombard’s just draw you in? Isn’t that smile marvelous? (Although I will concede that for a second or so, one might wonder whether that’s Carole or her old Cocanut Grove dance rival, Joan Crawford.) Anyway, it’s stunning, and I’m a bit surprised that this is the first time I’ve come across this photograph.Want some more surprises?

* The photo is being auctioned at eBay, specifically at

* Even though the opening bid request is for all of $5.99 (on an 8″ x 10″ high quality glossy paper), no one has bid on the item as of this writing. The deadline is 10 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday.

Let’s hope this picture finds a buyer. After all, candidness was always one of Lombard’s charms.

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Photographed by Richee…printed by Hurrell

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.16 at 00:01
Current mood: impressedimpressed

We’ve frequently praised the great Hollywood portrait photographers who transformed already beautiful stars such as Carole Lombard into ethereal icons through their technical magic. And some proof of that skill is now being auctioned at eBay.This photograph was taken at Paramount in 1936 by the studio’s top photographer at the time, Eugene Robert Richee, as he surrounds Carole’s alabaster features in white. Merely seeing it on the screen is beautiful, but imagine having this exquisite portrait the way it was meant to be seen — a double weight, silver gelatin printing in a high-gloss finish. This is how George Hurrell and other legends of the art of portrait photography went about creating their masterpieces. In fact, this was printed by Mark Vieira, whose array of books on Hollywood history include a Hurrell biography. Moreover, this was made in the very building where Hurrell maintained his studio for many years.In addition to the 8″ x 10″ portrait, the winning bidder will get a “Certificate of authenticity as well as appraisal for $950… a copy of a great letter from Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and another from Helmut Newton both discussing Hurrell.”Currently, one bid has been placed at $29.99; bidding closes at 8:48 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. If you’re interested, and what fan of portrait photography wouldn’t be, go to

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Hollywood and a family patriarch

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.15 at 00:01
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

The death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, earlier this week at age 88 again reminded us of the major role the Kennedy family has played in American society. And the man who started it all, family patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy (shown at lower left in the family portrait).If you ever wondered where the Kennedys’ infatuation with actresses came from (John F. Kennedy Jr, with Daryl Hannah, John F. Kennedy with Gene Tierney and of course Marilyn Monroe, who was also rumored to have had a relationship with Robert F. Kennedy), well, let’s just say it’s a family tradition. For several years, Joseph P. Kennedy had an intimate relationship with Gloria Swanson, arguably the first “modern” star.But unlike his sons some decades later, Joe Kennedy wasn’t simply going to bed with a movie star; he was helping guide Swanson’s career to boost the studio he owned. Joseph was a businessman – a very good one – and you can learn a lot about his dealings in Hollywood, both professional and personal, in “Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years,” written by Cari Beauchamp.Kennedy didn’t spend very many years in the film industry – less than a decade – but he was there from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s, a time when Hollywood was undergoing much upheaval. There was the transition to sound, of course, but the economics of movies were also changing. Studios were consolidating or merging in order to survive, resulting in filmdom’s eight major companies by the mid-1930s (Columbia, MGM, Paramount, RKO, Twentieth Century-Fox, United Artists, Universal and Warners), and Kennedy played a major role in that shift.

Kennedy, previously a successful Boston banker, ran several studios, wheeling and dealing. For a while he controlled First National, but it eventually wound up in the hands of Warners (which subsequently moved most of its operations from Sunset Boulevard to First National’s facility in Burbank). Kennedy assisted David Sarnoff and others in the creation of what became RKO, to whom he later sold his interests in Pathe Pictures. (By the way, in the early thirties, RKO-Pathe was located on the former Thomas Ince lot on Washington Boulevard in the Culver City – the site that later in the decade became home to Selznick International Pictures, where Carole Lombard would make two films.)

Speaking of Lombard, there’s little about her in this book. It notes she was among several actors let go by Pathe in late 1929, but doesn’t go into the primary reason why – newly arrived Constance Bennett’s contention that Lombard and fellow Pathe player Diane Ellis, both blondes, looked too much like her. Nor does it mention the incident, reported in Larry Swindell’s “Screwball” and other books, where Lombard was told to lose some weight after joining Pathe and her response to Kennedy, “You could stand to lose some weight yourself.”

Nevertheless, this is a fascinating book. Among the things you learn is how Kennedy helped platonic friend Marion Davies assist her financial bailout of William Randolph Hearst when he ran into difficulties in the mid-thirties. (In 1960, Davies aided John F. Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency, and was on hand for his inauguration the following January. She died that September.)

And while we’re on the subject of patriarchs, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the passing of a musical patriarch, Les Paul, who died earlier this week at age 94. Both a remarkable musician and a technical master, he did so much for the music industry…and until earlier this year was doing two shows with his trio every Monday at a midtown Manhattan jazz club.

As a tribute, here’s one of the nicest, most heartfelt things he ever did — the 1945 war-is-over standard, “It’s Been A Long, Long Time,” where Les plays guitar and Bing Crosby sings. I’m generally not as much a fan of Crosby’s forties work as I am his thirties output, but this is among the exceptions; Bing sings it ably, given lovely support by Les. There have been many fine versions of this song, but to me, this is the definitive one. Savor its beauty.

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An ‘Untouchable’ in Dodge City?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.14 at 11:11
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

That’s Robert Stack with Carole Lombard in her final film, “To Be Or Not To Be.” They had been friends for several years, since Stack — a renowned skeet shooter — had given her lessons.Stack, who had been acting for several years before working on film with Lombard, would of course gain lasting fame for playing Eliot Ness in the early sixties series “The Untouchables.” However, if some CBS executives had had their way, Stack would have played another lawman who ultimately became famous…although, unlike Ness, he never actually existed.In the early fifties, CBS radio decided to try something new — a western series that went far beyond the horse opera shoot-‘em-up cliches. It was called “Gunsmoke,” and when it came time to select a cast, some of the network suits wanted Stack to play the marshal of Dodge City, Matt Dillon. This put them at odds with the show’s creator, Norman MacDonnell, who sensed Stack would be too much a traditional heroic type. Instead, MacDonnell wanted to hire a veteran radio actor who had worked with him on other series such as “Escape.”Ultimately, MacDonnell got his way, and that’s how William Conrad came to play Marshal Dillon when “Gunsmoke” debuted on radio in April 1952. And thanks to fine acting from Conrad and other members of the cast, literate scripts and excellent sound work, “Gunsmoke” quickly became recognized as something far beyond the typical oater — radio’s equivalent of what was being done on screen at the time, such as “High Noon” or the James Stewart “psychological” westerns.Maybe Stack could have pulled it off. But Conrad gave Dillon’s character a texture, a weariness over the complexity of his work. As Dillon explained in the show’s opening, he was “the first man they look for and the last they wanna meet…It’s a chancy job, but it makes a man watchful. And a little lonely.”

Writers researched Dodge City of the 1870s to make it as realistic as possible; there really was a Front Street in town, and the Long Branch saloon actually existed. (The series’ authenticity was such that the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce wrote the program looking for information on whether someone named Matt Dillon had worked in the town at the time.)

By the early ’50s, network radio drama was reaching an artistic peak; production values had improved tremendously, as had the writing. (For proof, listen to “Dragnet” on radio and compare it with some of the police-detective shows of a few years earlier. “Dragnet’s” realism was a quantum leap forward, although the emphasis was on the procedural work, not the characters. Joe Friday was no Matt Dillon.) But just as silents faced a challenge from the comparatively primitive talkies, so was radio confronted by television.

So as “Gunsmoke” became a hit, there was talk that like “Dragnet,” it too would be adapted for TV. Cast members were hoping to make the switch as well, and began a campaign to show they could pull it off. They visited Knott’s Berry Farm in 1953 wearing western gear, and a few photos were made, such as this one:

That’s Conrad, flanked by Howard MacNear as Doc Adams, left, and Parley Baer as Dillon’s assistant (not a deputy), Chester Proudfoot. Above them is Georgia Ellis as Kitty, who ran the Long Branch (and overseer of its girls; there was always an undercurrent that she was a madam). TV fans will remember MacNear as Floyd the barber on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

CBS ultimately didn’t buy the argument, and when the TV version began in September 1955 — introduced by John Wayne, a major fan of the radio series — James Arness was cast as the marshal (he certainly looked the part more than Conrad did, although his voice was never quite as authoritative), and none of the radio actors made the switch to the TV series. (Many of the scripts used in the first few years of the TV series were adapted from those used on radio.)

The radio series continued to air, and in fact would run until June 1961, the death knell for traditional network radio. (Two other CBS series, “Suspense” and “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar,” continued through September 1962.) The TV series ran for two decades, and is still highly regarded — although many still deem the radio “Gunsmoke” to be the definitive version.

To compare the radio and TV “Gunsmokes”‘ approach to the same scene, go to To hear some “Gunsmoke” radio episodes, visit

Lombard at her ‘Worst’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.13 at 11:11
Current mood: amusedamused

And no, I’m not referring to “The Gay Bride” or “Fools For Scandal” (or, if you’re Leonard Maltin, “True Confession”). This is actually about a film Carole Lombard never made, though she came close to doing so.We’re referring to a 1933 movie made at Fox called “The Worst Woman In Paris.” Great title, huh? One that any actress would be proud of (he said sarcastically). Well, on July 1, 1933, Harrison Carroll in the Los Angeles Evening Herald-Expressreported Lombard had been signed for the lead role. According to G.D. Hamann’s research, she was the latest star to fill the part:“Siren types used to be plentiful in Hollywood, but to hear Fox, there is an acute shortage just now. After a two months’ search they have signed Carole Lombard to play the lead in ‘The Worst Woman In Paris.’“The filling of this part has given the studio more grief than selecting the complete cast of any two normal pictures. Almost every actress in Hollywood has been under consideration at one time or another.”First it was Jean Harlow, then it was Myrna Loy. MGM wouldn’t loan its platinum-haired sensation, and Myrna took sick just before the picture was supposed to start. Between times, attempts had been made to sign Tallulah Bankhead, Claudette Colbert, Kay Francis and Ann Dvorak. Even Mary Astor, who is scarcely the siren type, was once mentioned for the role.

“Director Monta Bell is praying that Carole will keep her health, so he can start the cameras grinding at last.”

According to Lombard biographer Larry Swindell, Carole didn’t, coming down with a case of her “annual influenza” that forced her to drop out. And perhaps that played a part. But six days later, the Herald-Express reported Lombard “is said by her mother to have gone to Reno to establish residence and seek a divorce from William Powell … Incompatibility of temperament is blamed.” And in Carroll’s column that day:

“…Director Monta Bell is almost ready to beat his head against the wall. After endless negotiations, Carole Lombard was finally signed to play in ‘The Worst Woman In Paris.’ Now she too drops out of the role. Says Monta, ‘If I don’t get a leading woman by next week, I’m going to use a female impersonator.'”

But Bell — who also helped write the screenplay — never had to approach Julian Eltinge to play the worst-man-dressed-as-a-woman-in-Paris. That’s because he wound up with Benita Hume, better known now as Mrs. Ronald Colman, as the lead, joining the cast that included Adolphe Menjou and Helen Chandler.

As it turned out, it wasn’t much of a film; “Halliwell’s Film Guide” called it a “Silly, pointless story on which good production values are wasted,” while at the time of its release in December 1933, Variety said it “Does not give promise of scoring in any placement.” But nearly 70 years later, it apparently scored well when revived at a movie convention in Syracuse. One reviewer called it a sophisticated comedy at the Internet Movie Database. (Noted film authority William K. Everson also liked it.) The movie was also shown at Film Forum in New York at a December 2007 pre-Code festival; it’s probably shown every now and then on the Fox Movie Channel.

Incidentally, “The Worst Woman In Paris” (which occasionally has a question mark at the end of the title) was among a number of films criticized by the Legion of Decency in its ultimately successful battle to more strictly enforce the Production Code.

But whether it was through influenza, a divorce, or both, Lombard was able to evade the role — and any subsequent jokes about being cast in a film with that title.

Oh, and Mary Astor “scarcely the siren type”? Well, her diary hadn’t yet been made public.

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In the ‘quintessential’ winner’s circle

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.12 at 11:01
Current mood: happyhappy

We know Carole Lombard is a winner — and now we have demonstrable proof. (Above is Seabiscuit, one of the all-time great racehorses, and one Lombard probably saw race, posting a win at Santa Anita in 1937.)The “Hollywood Dreamland” blog recently asked its readers to name the quintessential actress of the 1930s. Eight names were listed (though several deserving candidates, such as Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert and Irene Dunne were omitted, presumably for lack of space), and Lombard not only won, but won going away.Carole Lombard, 29 votes, 26%
Bette Davis, 18 votes, 16%
Jean Harlow, 16 votes, 14%
Myrna Loy and Ginger Rogers, 14 votes each, 12%
Katharine Hepburn, 7 votes, 6%
Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, 6 votes each, 5%Note the gap between Lombard and second-place Davis was only one vote less than that between Davis and the two seventh-place finishers, Crawford and Garbo.I’ve been credited for being a good “campaign manager” for Carole, and perhaps some of the votes for her can be directly attributed to this site. But Lombard’s life, work and personality speaks for itself.

For more on this poll — whose 110 votes represented a record for that blog — go to And if you voted for her, thanks.

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Lombard ‘lived’ here

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.11 at 12:28
Current mood: curiouscurious

We’ve discussed places where Carole Lombard lived, but here’s an entry about a place one of her characters lived in, so to speak.The character is Jane Mason, whom Carole portrayed opposite James Stewart, shown above, in the 1939 Selznick International film “Made For Each Other.” The fictional couple lived in the east, but some of the settings for the film were derived from a home in California — or, should I say, homes...models from a late 1930s development called San Gabriel Village.According to an article in the Sept. 17, 1938 Los Angeles Evening Herald-Expressand unearthed by G.D. Hamann in his painstaking research of classic Hollywood, two model houses “provided inspiration” for settings, according to Lillian K. Deighton, the studio’s director of research.The article said the fireplace “is an exact duplication of the fireplaces in San Gabriel Village homes, with heart and facing of red brick and graceful white mantel. Living room furniture is directly inspired by the decorative schemes of both model homes. The kitchen is a replica of the kitchen in the model home at 1003 Del Mar.”I have no idea whether Lombard visited the homes as part of the research — but since she had designs on a house she could someday share with Clark Gable, she very well have made a tour of her own. (And having moved into a few houses in recent years, she certainly had some experience with the subject.)

The houses appear to be still there, judging from a Google map search. To reach them, take Valley Boulevard to Del Mar and turn north a few blocks; they are at the intersection with West and East Fairview avenues. Perhaps the fireplaces remain as they were in 1938, but one presumes the living room furniture and kitchen have undergone their share of changes.

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Danger for Davies

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.10 at 11:23
Current mood: discontentdiscontent

That’s Carole Lombard’s good friend Marion Davies with Leslie Howard in the 1931 drama “Five And Ten.” Before that year was ended, Davies’ life was shaken by a bomb threat, one that could have seriously injured or even killed her.It occurred on Dec. 21, at Davies’ Ocean House in Santa Monica. The generous Davies was planning to send some of the gifts she received to needy children, and she asked a butler to open a small package that had been labeled “Personal Only for Marion Davies,” and inside was a small jewelry box with a key fastened to its side. According to Davies biographer Fred Lawrence Guiles, “When the butler touched the key, smoke began to pour from the [box] and Marion screamed to him to throw it out of the house.” It was tossed onto the beach, the sheriff’s office were called and after the device was soaked, the box was opened and a potent explosive was found — reportedly leaden pellets from a .22 caliber rifle.Who did it? According to the Hollywood Citizen-News,police had one suspect, a Casper J. Potter, 30, of West 10th Street, who had just been arrested on an extortion plot against a wealthy Los Angeles woman. The handwriting on that letter was similar to one received by Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, the studio where Davies then worked.The Citizen-News information was researched by G.D. Hamann, but no follow-up items were given, probably meaning that either Potter was cleared or no suspect was ever found. (It should be noted that the Citizen-Newswas not a Hearst paper, and it is unclear whether the perpetrator was familiar with the link between Davies and publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.)Whatever, Guiles wrote, the incident was “a sordid end to a bad year, and Marion fretted for a long time over the fact that there was someone unknown who resented her enough to take her life.”

“…and in flew Enza.”

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.08 at 11:00
Current mood: listlesslistless

One of the things we do at “Carole & Co.” is not just review Carole Lombard’s career as an actress and a star, but her life and the environment she lived in. We’re doing that in today’s entry — one that sort of resonates to conditions we may soon be facing.Despite Carole’s athleticism, she was remarkably susceptible to ailments throughout her life. This goes back as far as her childhood as Jane Alice Peters; had she not suffered a sustained cold at age 6, Bess Peters and her three children might well have remained in San Francisco when they moved there from Fort Wayne in the fall of 1914. Jane’s life would have been very different, and though she still may have tried to become an actress, she wouldn’t have had the factory-town connections Los Angeles provided.Let’s turn the clock ahead four years, to October 1918, when Jane had just turned 10 and her only connection to the movies was attending them. At the time, Los Angeles and much of wartime America was facing an epidemic of what was called “Spanish influenza” — though there was nothing to confirm that it was spawned in Spain.Los Angeles, a rapidly growing city, feared being hard hit (at a time when it was building many ships to aid the Allied cause in the World War, which would end in about a month), and so city officials took action. Group meetings were barred; places where masses could gather, such as theaters and libraries, were closed. Department stores could remain open, but sales promotions were discouraged. Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Railway streetcars were vacuumed daily to prevent the spread of the disease. Even church services were shut down, and many of the city’s larger Protestant churches presented their sermons in newspapers.About the only places where people congregated were pharmacies, in order to purchase medicines and other preventative items. For more on the epidemic in southern California in 1918, go to

Larry Swindell makes no mention of the flu strain’s effects on Jane in his Lombard biography, “Screwball.” At the time, Jane and her family were living on South Catalina Street (a few blocks west of the current Wilshire/Vermont Metrorail station), and she and her brothers received a brief school holiday due to the outbreak. (We do know Carole would be laid low by the flu a few times during the 1930s.)

Despite the lighthearted look shown above (and the jokey phrase “and in flew Enza”), the flu would be no laughing matter. It would last about a year and a half, killing millions worldwide. With a re-emergence of the H1N1 flu a definite possibility, it’s good to learn from the past about living safely.

What made Sammy run? And what made Carole live there?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.07 at 11:22
Current mood: awakeawake

If she did, that is.We are referring to the Colonial House at 1416 North Havenhurst Drive in West Hollywood, a mid-rise apartment a few blocks south of Sunset Boulevard whose decidedly English tone was always a bit out of touch with the more exuberant architecture of the area. According to Richard Alleman in his “The Movie Lover’s Guide To Hollywood,” Carole Lombard lived there while married to William Powell, though I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen any other account that it was her residence.If that was indeed Lombard’s domicile, it apparently wasn’t for very long, as she and Powell soon moved to a house of their own that was recently put up for sale ( However, that’s not the only tie Colonial House has with classic Hollywood. It was Bette Davis’ last domicile on the West Coast (she had a sixth-floor penthouse, according to Alleman), and she lived there until her death in the fall of 1989.And fictionally, it was the home of Sammy Glick, the title character in Budd Schulberg’s famed 1941 novel “What Makes Sammy Run?” Schulberg, who wrote some of the 1950s’ best screenplays (“On The Waterfront,” “A Face In The Crowd”), died earlier this week at age 95. (He also helped rewrite the screenplay of “Nothing Sacred” after Ben Hecht left the production.)Of Glick’s Colonial House apartment, he wrote, it was “one of the smallest in the building and even that must have been way beyond his means…but he wrote off only part of the expense to shelter, the rest to prestige.”

I’m trying to watch a movie!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.06 at 10:53
Current mood: curiouscurious

That’s Marion Davies and William Haines watching a movie — one made by Marion’s character, I believe — in the 1928 King Vidor classic “Show People.” We’re using it because I just came across a blog entry about the problems some face when they watch a classic movie in a theater or some other public environment (such as outdoors on a large screen during the summer), and some rather uncouth people spoil the experience by hooting at the film for whatever unknown reason. You can find the entry — and a number of comments on the topic — at’m fortunate in that I can’t recall ever encountering such a situation — it may have helped that most of my viewings have come at revival houses in places such as New York City, where there is a considerable clientele who treat these films with respect and not as camp — but I’ve probably been one of the lucky ones. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time.My question to you is, have you ever been faced with this situation? What movie was it, and what was the apparent reason for such behavior? (One comment in the above entry refers to people hooting at Jean Arthur’s rather unique voice while “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” was shown. I viewed that film in public nearly five years ago, and thankfully no one stooped to such an action.)I guess part of me is particularly interested in seeing if any screenings of Carole Lombard films have received such nefarious treatment, but this query applies to any film from the classic era.

So let us know.

P.S. An update on the “quintessential 1930s actress” poll at “Hollywood Dreamland” — Carole Lombard now has the lead! She has 23 votes, while Bette Davis has 16 votes and “Libeled Lady” co-stars Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy have 13 each. There are still a few days left to vote, so if you haven’t, go to and cast your ballot for Carole.

Carole Lombard, godmother

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.05 at 15:04
Current mood: contentcontent

Imagine having Carole Lombard as your godmother. For one man, that is indeed a reality.His name is Richard Lang, son of director Walter Lang, shown below (who directed a number of musicals for 20th Century-Fox, such as “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “The King And I,” as well as Lombard’s own “Love Before Breakfast” for Universal) and Madalynne Fields, Carole’s old friend from Mack Sennett days and later her personal secretary.She and Lang married in 1937, and later had a son, Richard; Carole was named his godmother.Like his father, he became a director; most of Richard’s work came in TV, where he directed episodes of series ranging from “Julia” (the groundbreaking late-sixties sitcom starring Diahann Carroll), “Charlie’s Angels,” “Jake And The Fatman” (starring William Conrad, perhaps best known as Marshall Dillon on the classic radio version of “Gunsmoke”), and later “Beverly Hills 90210″ and “Melrose Place.” His last credit, according to the Internet Movie Database, came in 1997, so I assume he’s at least semi-retired from the industry.Both his parents lived to see him gain some success in the business, as Walter Lang died in February 1972 and Madalynne Fields Lang died some 2 1/2 years later.
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Carole with her Buddy

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.04 at 11:06
Current mood: giddygiddy

I’ve seen a lot of photos from Carole Lombard’s first Paramount film, 1930’s “Safety In Numbers” with Buddy Rogers, but this one is new to me, and probably rare. And it’s up for auction.The minimum bid is $29.99, and the deadline for bidding is just after 8 p.m. (Eastern) Friday. As of this writing, no bids have been placed. If interested (or if you’re having problems viewing this image), go to
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Tomorrow, it’s Satchmo’s birthday!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.03 at 12:14
Current mood: happyhappy

For the past two years, we’ve noted that Louis Armstrong’s birthday is August 4 ( and, so why should we stop now? Armstrong is the wellspring from which so much of American popular music derives from — and that includes genres other than jazz. As his good friend Bing Crosby once said when introducing Armstrong on the radio, Louis “is 100 percent music.” No argument there (and I’m certain Carole Lombard had at least a few Armstrong records in her collection).To celebrate, here are some Satchmo musical highlights, opening with a pair from the 1956 movie “High Society.” Here’s Louis and his band singing the “High Society Calypso” to begin the film, as Armstrong provides an overview of the plot (it’s a semi-remake of “The Philadelphia Story”):Next, Louis and Bing together on the exhilarating “Now You Has Jazz”:Armstrong’s 1932 classic, “(I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead) You Rascal You” (along with a little bit of “Chinatown, My Chinatown”) is featured in this Betty Boop cartoon:

Finally, I knew Armstrong played on country legend Jimmie Rodgers’ 1930 “Blue Yodel No. 9.” But what I didn’t know is that Louis did a version of it with Johnny Cash on Cash’s TV show in October 1970:

On Aug. 4, WKCR-FM (89.9 in New York) will present a 24-hour Armstrong “birthday broadcast,” as it does annually. You can hear the marathon at

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A lot to love about Loy

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.08.01 at 11:19
Current mood: satisfiedsatisfied

It’s rather appropriate that the most prolific, and beloved, screen couple in the history of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — the studio with a lion mascot — were both Leos. (So am I, for that matter, born Aug. 19.) Earlier this week, we saluted William Powell on the anniversary of his birth; now, we’ll do likewise with Myrna Loy, who was born 104 years ago tomorrow. (This is being done a day ahead of schedule because I may not have access to a computer tomorrow.)We’ve written Loy’s praises before — and her autobiography, “Being And Becoming,” is a must for anyone interested in classic Hollywood — so this time, we’ll supply you with some tidbits regarding Myrna’s magnificent career:* By the time of “The Thin Man,” the film that firmly established the Powell-Loy team (they had worked together earlier in 1934 in “Manhattan Melodrama”), Myrma had already made 81 movies in nine years. In some years, she made as many as 12 films.* She got her break through Rudolph Valentino. She got a tryout for his film “Cobra,” and while she didn’t get the part, both he and his wife, Natalia Rambova, were supportive. Myrna’s first film, “Pretty Ladies,” came later in 1925, as she and Joan Crawford both played chorus girls.* Did you know Loy once worked with Ernst Lubitsch? It was in the mid-twenties silent “So This Is Paris,” where Myrna has a small role as a maid.

* Myrna did a lot of “exotic” roles up until 1932, as her slightly slanted eyes could be exaggerated for such parts, but she once even performed in blackface. It was for a 1927 film, “Ham And Eggs At The Front,” a World War I farce about black soldiers written by Darryl F. Zanuck! Truth be told, Loy looks more like a Native American than a black woman, and she appears nowhere as grotesque as the males made up in heavy blackface, but Myrna — who as early as the 1930s decried racial stereotyping in movies — regretted this movie for the rest of her life.

* There might have been one more Powell-Loy film — “Escapade” — but Myrna walked off the set, and it had nothing to do with Powell. Rather, it was that she believed MGM wasn’t paying her at the level it was paying other stars at the studio. The move paid off, as she soon received an improved contract. (Incidentally, Loy’s replacement in the film was Luise Rainer.)

* During the first few years of talkies, Loy was occasionally loaned out to smaller, independent studios — companies such as Gotham, Chesterfield and Sono Art that are more or less forgotten today.

* Loy was married four times, but none of them were to fellow actors. Perhaps the closest she ever came to marrying one came late in the 1950s, when she had a romance with, of all people, Montgomery Clift (who was 15 years her junior).

* Both Loy and Kay Francis were initially sought to play the mother in the Lana Turner version of “Madame X,” but both turned it down. The role instead went to Constance Bennett, who died soon after filming was completed. (When Bennett was at her peak in 1931, Loy made a film called “Consolation Marriage,” and one reviewer said it was “a bad Connie Bennett picture.”)

Anyway, a happy birthday to one of the classiest people in Hollywood.

Posted December 12, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, July 2009   Leave a comment

This Monday, much Marion

Posted by [info]vp19on 2009.07.31 at 11:43

Tomorrow marks the beginning of August, and with it one of my favorite periods as a viewer of Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. — its annual “Summer Under The Stars,” a promotion where for each of the month’s 31 days, a different star is highlighted for 24 hours. Carole Lombard was featured during its 2006 run, so it may be another year or two before she returns, but on Monday one of Carole’s good friends — someone she once said “helped more people than the Red Cross” — will be featured.

We are referring to Marion Davies (shown in a George Hurrell portrait), who’s finally being recognized less for being the “sweetheart of San Simeon” and more for being a wonderfully talented actress in her own right. There’s a lot of Davies being shown — if you want the entire schedule, go to, click “schedule” and search for Aug. 3. It’s a pretty good schedule, though I wish “The Fair Co-Ed” had been included (Marion reportedly plays a mean game of basketball!) but here are some of my highlights (all times Eastern):

* 6 a.m. – “The Red Mill” (1927), sparkling comedy directed by Fatty Arbuckle under the pseudonym William Goodrich.

* 10:45 a.m. – “Not So Dumb” (1930). Marion reunites with director King Vidor for this early talkie.

* 1:45 p.m. – “Blondie Of The Follies” (1932) Davies, a one-time Follies girl, stars opposite Robert Montgomery. Not to be confused with the similarly titled…

* 3:30 p.m. – “Polly Of The Circus” (1932). Clark Gable is Marion’s leading man.

* 8 p.m. – “Show People” (1928). Arguably Davies’ finest film, a delightful spoof of Hollywood directed by Vidor. (Did anyone see “Souls For Sale,” a 1923 film starring Vidor’s wife, Eleanor Boardman, on TCM recently? It covers the same territory, but from a dramatic rather than comedic perspective.)

* 9:30 p.m. – “The Patsy” (1927). Another Vidor-Davies comedy collaboration, one nearly as good as “Show People.”

* 11:30 p.m. – “Captured On Film” (2001). A TCM documentary about Davies that shows off her considerable talent. Will be repeated at 5 a.m. if you miss it the first time.

* 12:30 a.m. – “Going Hollywood” (1932). A charming musical with Bing Crosby and Fifi D’Orsay. In order to get Crosby from Paramount, MGM had to loan out Clark Gable for “No Man Of His Own.” You know the rest.

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Is Carole “quintessential”? If so, vote!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.30 at 12:34
Current mood: energeticenergetic

Carole Lombard’s currently in a poll to determine the “quintessential actress of the 1930s.” Her competitors are Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Great Garbo, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Myrna Loy and Ginger Rogers.

Currently, Lombard’s running third, trailing Davis and Rogers.

If you want to help Carole out, go to — a nice blog on classic Hollywood, by the way — and cast your vote.

And I don’t think the blog owner will mind my electioneering…look at the lead photograph and you’ll understand why.

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Happy 117th, Godfrey, Nick, Philo, etc.

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.29 at 00:01
Current mood: enviousenvious

I would guess this is the image most of us conjure up when it comes to William Powell, who was born 117 years ago today. He’s been gone for more than a quarter-century now — although that isn’t quite as long as the period between his last movie, “Mister Roberts” in 1955, and his death in March 1984.

Powell is my all-time favorite actor, someone I wish I could emulate…although I’ve never smoked and limit my drinking to an occasional beer. But the key to Powell isn’t the martini he was often seen with as his most famous character, Nick Charles; it’s instead that style, that wit, that clipped voice oozing with sophistication. (You can understand while Paramount cast Powell in the lead of its first talkie, “Interference.”)

I think I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Once sound arrived, Powell played characters who were idealized versions of what men — at least the white-collar variety — aspired to be. (During the silent era, Powell was more often than not portrayed villains.) In their own ways, Cary Grant and Clark Gable (pre-World War II) each seemed too superhuman for the average male to emulate. In contrast, Powell was accessible; you could project yourself into Godfrey Parke or Philo Vance or Bill Chandler (his character in the screwball gem “Libeled Lady”) or even Florenz Ziegfeld.

Speaking of “Libeled Lady” — one of several classics Powell made in 1936, arguably the greatest year any actor has ever had — here’s his celebrated fishing scene from that film. The premise is that Powell, a reporter, is trying to get the goods on Myrna Loy’s character, an heiress who’s threatening to sue the paper Powell’s working for over something it printed. Powell is trying to pass himself off as an expert fisherman, even though he’s never angled in his life and is discreetly using a book for instruction. Walter Connolly plays the heiress’ father. This clip proves Powell was not only adept with words, but was a brilliant physical comedian, too:

Of course, another reason many men wished they were like Powell was his success off-screen. While Powell was certainly a handsome man, nothing about him screams sex appeal (at least from a male point of view). Yet he married Carole Lombard — and despite their divorce, remained good friends with her until her death — and might have married another ’30s legend, Jean Harlow, had kidney disease not claimed her at 26 (Powell was 16 years older than Lombard and nearly 19 years Harlow’s senior). There must have been something special about him.

Normally, this would be the part where I would go into a segment about a salute to Powell on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. today. Just one problem, there really isn’t any. TCM isn’t completely ignoring Powell’s birthday — though you’ll have to be in the Pacific or Mountain time zones to take advantage of it. At 10 p.m. Pacific (or 1 a.m. Eastern), TCM is showing “Fashions Of 1934,” starring Powell and Bette Davis. It’s part of a program of pre-Code musicals — though neither Powell nor Davis sing. I’ve never seen this film, so it might be worth checking out.

We’ll leave you with this image of Lombard with her first husband, as they set sail on their honeymoon in Hawaii in 1931:

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A negative to feel positive about

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.28 at 00:01
Current mood: productiveproductive

Hate to say it, but there are times one simply has to bring in some negativity to this community. But don’t fret about this, Carole Lombard fans. I’m being negative in a good sense.That’s because the 8-by-10-inch high quality negative of this rare image is now being auctioned at eBay. (It’s not an original negative, the seller notes, but was taken from the original still a few decades ago.) Here’s what the negative looks like when inverted:

I’m guessing this is from 1932 or ’33, when Carole was at her blondest. Since this is copied directly from an original still, there are no markings or codings to detect more information.

Speaking of information, here’s more from the seller:

“This negative was produced years ago {25-45 years ago} at a cost of $50 — by at the time the only person in Hollywood who produced the highest possible copy negatives available from original stills — this was acquired from the largest MGM, Universal and Paramount movie photo dealer in Hollywood — he spared no expense in making these — be confident this is the highest quality copy negative that possible can be offered.”

I’m thus almost certain this is a Paramount still, since Lombard’s only film at MGM was made in 1934 and her two at Universal were both made in ’36. Moreover, I can’t recall seeing this image before.

The seller also notes the purchase of original stills from this collection and “will be listing some great photos from this collection.” Based upon the photo above, let’s hope at least a few Lombard pic are in tht group.

Getting back to the matter at hand -- this Lombard negative — bidding begins at $24.99, and no bids have been placed at the time I wrote this. Bidding is scheduled to close at 12:40 a.m (Eastern) on Monday. Want to place a bid, or at least check it out? Then go to

See? An occasional bit of negativism never hurt anybody.

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Stomping around Hollywood, 1928

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.27 at 00:01
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Hope you enjoyed my entry yesterday, where I reviewed my first trip to Hollywood some 20 years ago. I think many of us not only dream of visiting there but, through some machine or some other magic, to actually travel to the Hollywood of the “golden age.”Obviously, it wasn’t all golden; the health care that today would have saved Jean Harlow’s life wasn’t around in 1937…and if you are black, going back to a time when, in many areas, you were legally a second-class citizen understandably holds little appeal for you. Nevertheless, dreaming of visiting the past allows one to edit such harsh realities from our minds.

And Io aid in your dreaming, here’s something I’ve come across. For a few minutes, you’ll be transported to the Hollywood of more than eight decades ago. It’s footage from a newsreel showing scenes from Hollywood in the late ’20s, and it’s simply fascinating.

You won’t see Carole Lombard in this, but you will see many sites she was familiar with, and even a view of where she spent a lot of time in 1928 — the year-old Mack Sennett studios in North Hollywood, as well as other studios (including Warners’ pre-Burbank home on Sunset Boulevard).

You’ll get to ride on a Hollywood Boulevard streetcar, albeit only for a few seconds. You’ll see leading Hollywood nightspots (including the original Brown Derby on Wilshire), and some of the new movie palaces

The footage concludes with scenes from the November 1928 premiere of “Interference,” Paramount’s first talkie…but while we meet a few filmland personalities (including Al Jolson) speaking into the microphone for a local radio hookup (but we can’t hear them, for this is a silment newsreel), we don’t see the star of the film — Lombard’s future husband, William Powell. Weird.

Accompanying these images is the song “Hollywood Stomp” by one of the era’s top blues singers, Victoria Spivey. She worked with many jazz and blues greats of the day, including Louis Armstrong and Lonnie Johnson. The song sounds as if it were recorded in the late ’20s, but it actually was done in October 1936. By then, she had experienced the film industry firsthand, portraying Missy Rose in King Vidor’s famed 1929 all-black musical, “Hallelujah!”

Hope you enjoyed your momentary visit to 1928 Hollywood. We now return you to your current time and place.

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Losing my L.A. virginity

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.26 at 00:01
Current mood: pleasedpleased

Do you remember your first time?

No, not for that — I’m referring to the first time you visited Los Angeles. If you’re a southern California native, you don’t count in this discussion, and don’t take it personally. This is about tourists or those who liked their first visit so much they came back to stay.

I thought I’d tell you the story of my first trip to L.A., the Hollywood district in particular, especially since I did it as someone who loved classic movies (as I still do), and wanted to soak up as much of the atmosphere as I could. Yes, I keenly recall Hollywood Boulevard…

Truth be told, I don’t go back that far; the above photo was taken on Hollywood Boulevard in 1936. My trip took place in June 1989.

For most of my 10-day stay, my home base was a place on North Whitley Avenue, a block or so north of the Boulevard. I got a week’s stay there, and as I recall, my room was relatively spartan. Not that I minded — I wasn’t spending much time there other than sleeping.

I wish I could remember the name of the place of my lodging, but it’s a moot point now, because the site has been converted into a Motel 6:

I don’t know what their current rates are, but I would guess they would be under $100 a night, especially since there are several other motels in the Hollywood area with rates in double rather than triple digits. (A small underground garage is available for guests, though there is a $10 a day charge.)

If you want to learn more about it, go to There’s even a video about the place, narrated by humorist Tom Bodett, whose folksy Motel 6 commercials were ubiquitous on radio during the ’80s and ’90s. (I had no idea he was still associated with the company.)

The Motel 6 is only a few blocks away from a Red Line Metrorail station, but two decades ago Metro was still a dream to Angelenos. L.A. was a much different place in June of ’89 — the Herald Examiner was still publishing, there were still two NFL teams called “Los Angeles,” and the riots that shocked the city were nearly three years away. The Boulevard had yet to undergo the sprucing up it’s seen in recent years, so the area was still a trifle tawdry. But the funkiness was part of its charm.

Whitley Avenue was the main road up to Whitley Heights, one of the first exclusive communities in the Hollywood district. Rudolph Valentino and other notables of filmdom in the 1920s lived there. After checking in, I walked up Whitley to check out the neighborhood.

Some dazzling architecture, doncha think?

At the foot of Whitley Avenue, it intersected with the Boulevard. On the northwest intersection was a 1928 building originally designed as a Bank of America; here it is in 1930:

It’s now a convenience store, and looks like this:

On Hollywood Boulevard just east of Whitley was the janes House, about the only structure left from Hollywood’s pre-movie days, when for a few years it was an independent city (Hollywood became part of Los Angeles in 1910 in order to access the city’s newfound water supply.) If you look at the upper left corner, you can see the top of the Motel 6:

In 1989, the Janes House served as a visitors center; I’m not sure whether it holds that function today.

A few blocks west of Whitley was a place that was too expensive for me to stay in, but cost nothng to visit. I am, of course, speaking of the Hollywood Roosevelt (shown below in March 1934), and its magnificent lobby:

Oh, and one more great Hollywood site is literally at your feet…the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And a block or so west of the Roosevelt — specifically at 6930 Hollywood Blvd. — is my favorite star, for my favorite star.

I’ll probably get into more details on this and other trips I’ve taken to L.A. (three in all, most recently in 2000) sometime soon. All I’ll say is if you’re a fan of classic Hollywood, you really should visit. I myself would like to see what the Boulevard is like now, with all these construction projects taking place. And while Hollywood 2009 certainly is far different than Hollywood of 1929 or 1939, if you explore hard enough, you’ll feel the ghosts of the greats.

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Bare arms…so “Allure”-ing

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.25 at 00:01
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

Carole Lombard’s been part of the magazine racks lately. Two days ago, we noted how a photo that was part of a spread in Vanity Fair magazine evoked Lombard and ex-husband William Powell in “My Man Godfrey.” Now, Carole’s being featured in Allure -- not the short-lived men’s mag of 1937 (, but the current beauty monthly that, like Vanity Fair,is a Conde Nast publication.

It’s the August issue, with actress Amy Adams on the cover. (She was one of the stars of last year’s “Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day,” a film that referenced Lombard several times as part of its plot.) But it’s inside where we find Carole, circa 1931:

It’s Lombard from the early ’30s, before she had earned a reputation as an actress, but long after she had earned a reputation as a beauty. She indeed looks like one of those women who could be draped in just about anything and still look magnificent.

The Lombard photo was part of a page; what a study in contrasts!

Those three models on the page are attractive, but comparing them to Carole would be like comparing one of today’s center fielders to Joe DiMaggio — an exercise in futility. Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive, who not only alerted me to this but scanned the pictures for me, commented, “These are some VERY silly clothes. CL is the best looking (and best-dressed) one on the page!” And I concur.

So if you see some women seductively walking around this August with bare arms complementing their gowns, and you like what you see, credit Lombard. She’s still influencing fashion.

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1940s? No. Carole and Cary? Yes.

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.24 at 00:01
Current mood: confusedconfused

If people selling items on online auctions had to be tested on their knowledge of the items they were putting up for auction, some of them might not pass.When I recently checked eBay for Carole Lombard memorabilia, I noticed one listing of a leggy Lombard photo “from the late ’40s,” something that’s obviously impossible. Another seller didn’t make an error anywhere as egregious, but nevertheless it bears noting…especially because it’s an interesting photo.

The seller labels it a “Carole Lombard Cary Grant Original 1940s Movie Photo,” and here it is:

While Lombard obviously lived into the 1940s, she didn’t work with Grant then (although Cary was Carole’s first choice for the male lead in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” which of course went to Robert Montgomery). But Lombard and Grant did team up for the RKO drama “In Name Only,” released in mid-1939, and the costumes make it pretty obvious what film it’s from — certainly not “Sinners In The Sun,” released in 1932, and definitely not “The Eagle And The Hawk” since it was set during World War I and Carole’s character never meets Cary’s. But in the description the seller uses, the film’s title is listed as “unknown.”

But while the seller may not have been doing his or her homework where film history is concerned. they at lest know how to describe this 8 x 10 sepia glossy: “crease and chip at bottom left corner tip ~ very small tear at bottom edge ~ light creases and top and bottom margins ~ a few light dimples visible when photo is angled in the light. ” (Some nice shadow work by the RKO photographer, presumably Ernest Bachrach, as it highlights the furtiveness of the characters’ meetings, at least in the early going.)

Moreover, the seller does have a sense of the relative rarity of this photo (I’ve never seen it before), because the starting bid is $49.95, and as I write this, no one has bid yet.The deadline is just after 8:45 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. If interested, or merely curious, go to

And, let me add just so I don’t appear to be criticizing the seller, knowledge of your subject shouldn’t be a prerequisite for being a successful online seller. (Even if I personally think it helps.)

‘An incredible simulation’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.23 at 00:01
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery…but it also can be a nice way to pay the bills. As proof, notice all the “tribute” bands that have sprouted over the years, trying to replicate the magic of bands such as the Doors, Led Zeppelin and more.Of course, the two kings of rock, Elvis Presley and the Beatles, have been the most imitated acts. There were a handful of Presley tribute performers even while he was alive (and I’m not referring to singers who covered relatively obscure Elvis material and had hits of their own, such as Ral Donner or Terry Stafford). All four Beatles were still with us when “Beatlemania” began its stage run, and Beatles tribute acts are still going strong.

Speaking of “Beatlemania,” did you know that one of the best rockers of the 1980s, Marshall Crenshaw — his “Cynical Girl” is one of my very favorite rock records — got his start playing John Lennon in a road show of “Beatlemania”? Later in the ’80s, Crenshaw played Buddy Holly in “La Bamba,” and did a splendid version of Holly’s “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.” (A few years ago, he wrote a book, “Hollywood Rock,” that reviewed many rock movies dating back to the 1950s.)

If you’re wondering what this has to do with classic Hollywood, take a look at this:

Did someone colorize “It Happened One Night”? (And please, no Ted Turner jokes — the money he has given to support film preservation has more than made up for his indiscretion of two decades ago.) Nope…it’s “an incredible simulation,” as the radio ads for “Beatlemania” used to say — James Marsden and Rose Byrne re-creating the famed hitchhiking scene for Vanity Fair’s August issue (Heath Ledger is on the cover), as the magazine salutes movies set in the 1930s. (I emphasize the word set, because some of the films they pay tribute to, such as “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and “Paper Moon,” were filmed several decades later.)

This is nothing new, of course — in the late 1950s, Marilyn Monroe did a photo shoot for Life magazine where she paid tribute to Jean Harlow and other screen legends of the past. And give Marsden credit for at least resembling the Gable character; it is, after all, a still picture, so he’s not trying to act like him.

The good news, for Carole Lombard fans, is that Vanity Fair is paying tribute to one of her films. Here’s their take on one of Carole’s classics, “My Man Godfrey”:

That’s Channing Tatum, a former model turned actor (he played Pretty Boy Floyd in the recent “Public Enemies”) as Godfrey, with Amanda Seyfried as Irene. (They’ll be co-starring in a film next year called “Dear John,” which I initially thought was a revival of an old sitcom. Then again, I haven’t watched any sitcoms since “Frasier” left the air.)

The costumes evoke the characters, but that can’t quite be said of the actors; it seems strange to see Godfrey without a mustache (whether it be William Powell or even David Niven in the pointless 1957 remake) and Seyfried frankly looks too cool to be a madcap. I frankly see more of Gail Patrick’s Cornelia in her than I do Lombard’s Irene.

Nevertheless, it’s a nice tribute. It was shot at the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles, and here are two photos from the shoot not used in the magazine:

The first one is about as stiff as the one that was published, but the second conveys a little of the dizzy romance that characterized the film. (Perhaps they should have tried to replicate the scene where Godfrey puts Irene in the shower, but since this photo spread is also being used to promote designers — we learn the designers of both stars’ clothes — that was probably a non-starter.)

As fate would have it, I uncovered two stills from the colorized version of the 1936 “Godfrey” — one representing the scene used in the shoot, the other the shower scene. See for yourself what they were trying to emulate, and what might have been:

I hope this criticism isn’t taken as an indictment of the spread, because anything that can get people interested in both this era of American history and the films being made in the 1930s is welcome. The Orpheum stage was used for a scene evoking the classic musical “42nd Street,” and another highlight has Mila Kunis, late of “That ’70s Show,” as that ’30s actress Joan Crawford — long before Faye Dunaway even existed — as “Letty Lynton.”

To see some of the outtakes from the sessions, visit

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Oakie-dokie, Jack

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.22 at 00:01
Current mood: impressedimpressed

Today’s entry concerns an actor who made a few films with Carole Lombard, was largely identified for his comedic work — but the films he made with Lombard weren’t comedies. His first name had four letters, his last name five.Cary Grant, you say? Well, all the above criteria apply to Cary, but that’s not whom we’re talking about. The actor in question is someone you’d never put in the same category as Grant.

We’re talking about…Jack Oakie.

If people remember Jack Oakie at all today, it’s probably for this — his comedic turn as Napaloni, an obvious lampoon of Benito Mussolini, in Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 classic “The Great Dictator.” (I think we all know who Chaplin was satirizing.) In later years, Oakie said, “I’ve appeared in hundred of movies (actually, he was in about 90 feature films, plus some TV work), but the only one people remember me for is Napaloni in ‘The Great Dictator.'”

That’s unfortunate, because Oakie was a pretty reliable actor. A convivial type, He made many other good films too, such as the hilarious Olympic spoof “Million Dollars Legs” (the 1932 film with W.C. Fields, not the unrelated 1939 film with Betty Grable) and “If I Had A Million.” Oakie appeared in many college comedies in the 1930s, soon being tagged as “the world’s oldest freshman” (he had been born in 1903).

In 1939 and 1940, he played a harried Hollywood press agent in two comedies with Lucille Ball, “The Affairs Of Annabel” and “Anable Takes A Tour.” (The first of these films had exteriors in what would become the Encino house Lombard would share with Clark Gable; at the time the film was made, it was still the property of director Raoul Walsh.)

Oakie’s films with Lombard, both made in 1933, were a bit atypical for him. He was in “The Eagle And The Hawk” (as was Grant), but neither appeared on screen with Carole — that was left to Fredric March. Earlier that year, Oakie did get screen time with Lombard in a barely remembered drama, “From Hell To Heaven.”

“From Hell To Heaven,” released in late February 1933, was Paramount’s take on the “Grand Hotel” formula that had worked so well for MGM, only this was set at a racetrack resort town, not a hotel, and the cast certainly didn’t rival the collective starpower of the MGM classic.

I’ve never seen it, but this apparently is a film that doesn’t get around much these days — no one has commented on the film at the Internet Movie Database — and its main claim to fame may be for a Lombard anecdote. Some exterior shots were being filmed around New Year’s Day or thereabouts, when Carole was shivering in summer attire. She turned to her warmly dressed crew and shouted, “All right, you warm, bloody bastards, what’s good for one is good for all! I’m not shooting till I see every one of you down to your jockey shorts!” To her delight, the crew complied.

From what I gather Oakie is not Lombard’s love interest in the film, but Paramount decided to pair them for a photo anyway:

This photo is currently being auctioned at eBay, and while you don’t have much time left — bidding closes just before 11 p.m. (Eastern) tonight — no one has bid on it as of this writing, and bids start at $9.99. (The actual photo is sepia-toned.) If you’re interested, go to for Oakie, he C39%3A1%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50.

As for Oakie, he continued acting into the 1960s, occasionally appearing on TV series including “The Real McCoys” and “Bonanza.” (He has a cameo in “Around The World In Eighty Days,” and also had supporting role in “The Rat Race” and “Lover Come Back.” He died in January 1978 at age 74.

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Four for the price of…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.21 at 00:01
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

…well, it depends upon how much you value Carole Lombard publicity stills.Currently on eBay, someone is auctioning what they label “early” Lombard pics. I presume by early, the seller is referring to them being originals or not associated with re-releases, because one of the photos (there are four in all) promoted a film Carole never got to see shown to an audience.

According to the seller, the pics have “nice consistent gloss, some toning.” They all appeared sepia toned to me; whether that was inherently part of the process or simply due to age, I’m not sure. So for purposes of clarify, I’ve converted them to grayscale.

No one has bid on these as of this writing..a bit of a surprise from my perspective, because the opening bidding price is $9.95. That’s pretty reasonable — particularly because I’m certain I’ve never come across three of the four before.

The photos are from an interesting cross-section of Carole’s films (and from four different studios, too). Here they are, shown in chronological order:

Most stills from Lombard’s first film for Paramount, 1930’s “Safety In Numbers,” show her cavorting in scanties or a dressing gown. Here, though, she’s fully dressed. Sorry, guys.

Here’s one from 1934’s “Lady By Choice,” made at Columbia, showing Carole with co-star May Robson.

Fast forward to 1940 RKO, where we see Carole with William Gargan in “They Knew What They Wanted.”

Finally, from Lombard’s last, “To Be Or Not To Be” (made for United Artists), her Maria Tura is secretly conducting espionage against Professor Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), while wearing a marvelously seductive gown.

As stated earlier, you might be able to pick up all four of those photos for just $9.95 before shipping and handling — but you don’t have much time to bid, as the auction closes at about 2:55 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. Interested? Then go to

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Moonlight Lombard

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.20 at 00:01
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Above is a photo of Buzz Aldrin, second man to walk on the moon, walking back to the Apollo 11 spacecraft after planting a lunar seismometer on the moon. As you might guess, the photo was taken by the first man to step on the moon’s surface, Neil Armstrong.

Yes, it was 40 years ago today that, for the first time, human beings trod upon a place other than our own planet. A pretty amazing feat, when you think about it. And the quest to get to the moon –- achieved less than a dozen years after Sputnik orbited the earth, and eight years after Yuri Gagarin became the first person to rocket into space –- led to many of the technological advances we take for granted today. Some say the “space race” between the U.S. and Soviet Union may have diverted funding that otherwise would have gone towards nuclear weapons. (It’s also hard to believe that no manned lunar missions have taken place since 1972.)

Whatever, all of mankind has been enthralled by the moon at one time or another — and it has long played a role in popular culture. Take this, for instance, released three years before Apollo 11:

“Moonlight Sinatra” isn’t one of Frank’s better-remembered albums, but it’s got a great deal of charm. It was Sinatra’s last official collaboration with his greatest arranger, Nelson Riddle, and all 10 songs have “moon” in the title. They include “Moonlight Serenade,” usually associated with Glenn Miller; the lovely “I Wished On The Moon”; an Irving Berlin favorite, “Reaching For The Moon”; and his third recording of “The Moon Was Yellow” (he cut one version for Columbia, Capitol and Reprise). Of course, Sinatra recorded a number of other “moon” songs over the years, such as “Old Devil Moon.”

The lunar anniversary got me thinking about how Carole Lombard would have reacted to Apollo 11 had fate not intervened and she had still been with us in July 1969. From what we know about Lombard and her keen mind, she would have been fascinated by the workings of the space program, just as we all were.

Carole would have been age 60 at the time, perhaps occasionally acting in character roles, perhaps producing movies (she was fascinated by aspects of filmmaking other than acting). Like Myrna Loy, she probably would have eschewed the Grand Guignol roles some of her contemporaries took during the sixties; somehow, I can’t envision Lombard, even at an advanced age, appearing in “Lady In A Cage.”

For this entry, I decided to run some photos of Carole that also included the moon; trouble is, such pics are difficult to find. That by itself shouldn’t be a surprise, given that relatively few publicity photos were set outside at night, moonlit or not.

However, I did find one:

It must be rare, because when it was showed to Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive — who has many Lombard photos in her collection — she replied, “That’s just about the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen!”, adding she had never run across it before.

I’d love to tell you more about it, but I’m not sure of its origins. There’s no marking on the photo, so I have no idea what studio it’s from. I recall that in the 1932 Columbia feature “No More Orchids,” there was a moonlit scene aboard a ship, so perhaps that’s the source.

Sampeck left me with this lunar comment from Lombard:

“She did tell a young actress once that the chart for her face in Paramount’s make-up department looked like a ‘relief map of the moon,’ which I always thought charming and disarming.”

True, but the moon never made us laugh or made bawdy comments. And while it too charmed us both then and now, it never had any inherent sex appeal.

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A photographic foreign affair

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.19 at 00:01
Current mood: confusedconfused

The first few decades of the 20th century was the time when the concept of the American-based multinational corporation came to the forefront. Coca-Cola began spreading its carbonated gospel far and wide: Ford and other automotive firms did likewise (many of them were based in Detroit, just across the river from Canada, so working in markets outside the U.S. became second nature).Movie studios were a natural for it, too. They had a product that went beyond borders…especially during the silent era, when all you needed for success in Europe or Latin America were language changes on the title cards. It could be a two-way process, too, but far more people outside the U.S. saw American films than vice versa.

Paramount was one of the pioneers of the Hollywood film industry, and its cultivation of the European market paid off, leading to the hiring of the likes of Ernst Lubitsch. Even after the arrival of talking pictures — a move many companies resisted because of the language barrier — Paramount product was still strong in Europe, luring Maurice Chevalier, Marlene Dietrich and others.

Here are three examples of the foreign side of Paramount — publicity photos of Carole Lombard. The pictures themselves aren’t particularly European or “continental” in style, but they all have this in common:

Some things to note about that caption:

* It simply announces, “Carole Lombard is appearing in Paramount Pictures.” No particular film is promoted, probably because films premiered at different times in different countries. (In the U.S., films normally initially premiered at the big-city palaces, then moved to urban “neighborhood” houses, and then to small-town theaters that ran product from multiple studios.)

* The note about exclusivity comes in two languages — English and Spanish, possibly because the Spanish-speaking marekt was Paramount’s second-largest, behind English-speaking lands such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and most of Canada.

* The person in charge of “foreign advertising and service,” one C.L. Gartner, worked out of the Paramount building in New York -- not the Paramount offices in Los Angeles. Perhaps Paramount believed it could communicate with its foreign branches (Europe in particular) more efficiently from the east coast than the west.

Anywya, here are the three photos of Lombard I found with the above message on the back:

That’s P1202-155, probably taken sometime in 1931.

This one, P1202-390, is likely from 1932, early ’33 at the latest.

This one I’m stumped on, probably because ithas no P1202 number (Lombard’s portrait code). Instead, it has the number “1369,” which probably refers to a film instead of an actor. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that two-piece swimsuit on her in some other publicity photos. Any ideas what film this photo might be from?

All three are attractive pictures, and I’m sure international editors welcomed them every bit as much as their American counterparts did.

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Don’t quit your day job

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.18 at 00:01
Current mood: amusedamused

That’s a picture from perhaps my greatest thrill as a baseball fan — David Cone’s perfect game, which happened 10 years ago today at Yankee Stadium (the old one, not its lavish successor a block north). Cone pitched it against the Montreal Expos…who, ironically, became the team I now root for, the woebegone Washington Nationals. To see more about Cone’s gem, including video highlights, go to

Cone was masterful on that Sunday afternoon, Yogi Berra Day at the Stadium (the beloved Yankees catcher and manager had recently ended a 14-year estrangement from the club). He never went to a three-ball count on any batter — something I don’t think has happened in any other of the handful of perfect games in baseball history — and also waited out a 33-minute rain delay in the third inning. It didn’t matter…27 up, 27 down. (Before this masterpiece, Cone was best known for striking out 19 Philadelphia batters while with the New York Mets on the final day of the 1991 season — and as fate would have it, I was at Veterans Stadium in Philly that afternoon.)

I’ve been a very fortunate baseball fan. Not only have I seen a perfect game, but I also witnessed an equally rare feat, an unassisted triple play, by Oakland’s Randy Velarde at Yankee Stadium on Memorial Day 2000. Millions of fans have gone entire lifetimes without witnessing either, much less both. Heck, I’ve even seen the National League win an All-Star Game (at the Vet in 1996; they haven’t won one since).

Where’s this leading? For many years, a side benefit of ballplayers’ fame was that they got to appear on TV shows, usually sitcoms. I can recall Dean Chance, the Angels’ sixties ace, appearing on “The Lucy Show” and hearing a Little Leaguer say he had pitched a no-hitter, but lost 8-0 — “no hits, but 32 walks.” (Cue the laugh track.)

But even before TV, athletes found their way into movies, and not just in cameo roles, either. On its “Silent Sunday Nights,” Turner Classic Movies occasionally shows a 1920 film Babe Ruth starred in, when he took advantage of his newfound fame as a home run slugger. It wasn’t much of a movie, but Ruth made up for it some 22 years later when he portrayed himself in the Gary Cooper biopic of Lou Gehrig, “Pride Of The Yankees.”

On April 2, 1932, Louella Parsons examined the track record, pardon the mixed metaphor, of athletes and other non-actors trying their hand on the big screen. In her opinion, most of them deserved a quick trip to the showers.

“Champions in any field can be assured of a contract with the movies. Producers just love to sign these celebrities and when they do, nine out of every ten make one picture and then blow up. A champion prize fighter, baseball player, football hero, runner, swimmer, aviator doesn’t necessarily make a champion movie star.”

Parsons said Johnny Weissmuller, who had just made his first Tarzan picture, had bucked the trend (as Buster Crabbe and Esther Williams did later — is there something about swimmers that makes them better actors?), but added, “If he had a picture in which he was inappropriately cast, Mr. Johnny Weissmuller would be back swimming in less time than it takes to write this.”

Another athlete who tried his hand at films was 1920s football legend Red Grange, of whom Parsons said:

“There are many more who were ballyhooed as coming into the movies at fabulous salaries and who lasted for a brief moment. Red Grange, football hero, crashed the gates of Hollywood with a noise that resounded throughout the world. He made one or two pictures and then after he ceased playing football, we heard no more about him as a movie star.”

I think Grange acted in silents, but he might have had the voice — if not the acting ability — for talkies. In 1931, a Chicago radio station hired him to broadcast White Sox and Cubs games, and radio reviews of the time were generally favorable.

Parsons didn’t limit herself to athletes in this column. She looked at singer-bandleader Rudy Vallee’s foray into film:

“What about Rudy Vallee? His fame has become synonymous for mob enthusiasm. Women and children stormed the door of every theater in which he sang. Here was a sure-fire thing for the movies. Rudy and his megaphone! He made one picture for RKO and while I never saw the box office receipts, I do know they weren’t sufficient to get him a return invitation.”

Vallee eventually repackaged himself as a capable character actor, as he proved in “The Palm Beach Story” and other movies.

To read the Parsons column in full, where she brings up names from Queen Marie of Romania to tenor John McCormack to aviatrix Ruth Elder, go to

I’m not sure whether Carole Lombard would have traded her film stardom for a singles title at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open (feats her good friend Alice Marble achieved), but I do know she worked with several actors who first gained fame in sports. Boxer Maxie Rosenbloom had a small role as a tough guy in “Nothing Sacred” and acted sporadically, while Nat Pendleton (with Carole, at right, in “The Gay Bride”) was a collegiate wrestling champion at Columbia and won a silver medal in the 1920 Olympics, He gained renown as a solid character actor, particularly in comedies.

As for Cone, he made his way to TV…but thankfully not in a sitcom. He’s an analyst on Yankees games for their YES cable network.

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Herald-ing a ‘Choice’ in the ‘nabes’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.17 at 00:01
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

New Yorkers affectionately called them the “nabes,” short for neighborhood theaters. They didn’t have the grandeur of those movie palaces in midtown Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn where the films premiered…but wait a week or two and those movies would come to your part of town, at a cheaper price. Just about every neighborhood in the five boroughs had that kind of theater.One of those places was the Olympia Theater, built in 1913 at 107th Street and Broadway, a few blocks south of Columbia University. Architecturally it wasn’t anything to speak of:

The Olympia, which seated about 1,200 before it was multiplexed in 1980, served its clientele well. For a few years in the 1970s, it was a revival house (as quite a few places in Manhattan were before the development of home video), as this marquee makes evident:

For all we know, Barack Obama might have seen a flick or two there while he was an undergrad at Columbia. (It’s known that Truman Capote, who grew up in the neighborhood, reguarly went there in his youth.)

But like so many other “nabes,” the Olympia is no longer with us. It shuttered in December 2002 and was demolished the following year.

With all this talk about the Olympia, you’re probably thinking, “there must be some Carole Lombard tie-in.” And you’d be right. Let’s go back nearly three-quarters of a century, to December 1934. You walk over to the Olympia, pay for your admission, and you are handed this, what’s known in the trade as a “herald”:

Okay, it’s James Cagney — always fun to watch — in “The St. Louis Kid.” (Incidentally, today marks the 110th anniversary of Cagney’s birth; Turner Classic Movies will honor him with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, followed by “Something To Sing About” at 3, “Love Me Or Leave Me” at 4:45 and a 1992 documentary, “James Cagney: Top Of The World,” at 7.) The second feature is “The Pursuit Of Happiness,” featuring Constance Bennett’s little sister Joan.

Wonder what the coming attraction is? You flip the herald to the other side to find out:

It’s that lovely lady Lombard, whom you liked so much in “Twentieth Century.” You liked “Lady For A Day,” too, and you wonder whether this is a sequel of sorts. (When you check it out a few days later, you discover it isn’t, but you enjoy it anyway.) Meanwhile, the second feature stars Joan Blondell in something called “Kansas City Princess.” (First St. Louis, then Kansas City — is Warners run by Missourians?)

It’s an interesting herald…and check out the ad at the bottom for a coal company. How many buildings in New York these days are heated by coal?

The herald is being auctioned at eBay, with a bidding deadline of just after 9:55 a.m. (Eastern) Sunday. The minimum bid is $4.50; as of this writing, no bids have yet been placed. If you want to bid, or simply want to learn more, go to

It might be a nice gift for a New Yorker who misses the “nabes.”

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Saluting Stanwyck on her 102nd

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.16 at 00:06
Current mood: rejuvenatedrejuvenated

Two years ago today, this community was in its infancy, barely over a month old and with relatively few members. That day, I did an entry on an actress other than Carole Lombard (one reason it’s called “Carole & Co.”); it was the centennial of an actress Lombard knew and respected, and the feeling was mutual.

We are, of course, speaking of Barbara Stanwyck, and above is a publicity still of her from Warners at the time of her 1931 pre-Code gem “Night Nurse.” We celebrated Stanwyck by putting her in a Lombard context, investigating what ties there were between the actresses — there weren’t many, but there were some (

Two years have passed, and we still have yet to find a photo of Lombard and Stanwyck together. (Perhaps only Jean Harlow is deemed more of a “holy grail” as a Carole co-subject in a photograph.) And while 102 doesn’t have the ring that 100 does, Barbara is so good, so marvelously versatile, that she deserves additional recognition.

No film actress excelled in more genres than Stanwyck — not Bette Davis, not Katharine Hepburn, not Joan Crawford. Unlike those three, she never won an Academy Award, perhaps because she did her job with a minimum of fuss. She was so reliable, so the consummate professional, that she was consequently overlooked — though thankfully she began to be more fully appreciated before her death in 1990.

I could write more about Stanwyck…but, thankfully, I don’t have to. Instead, I’m going to direct you to a Web site called “Classic Maiden,” run by a lady named Sebina whose areas of expertise include Stanwyck. For the past few days, she has been running a multi-part series on her, featuring rare photographs, articles and more. You’ll enjoy the salute as much as I did.

For part 1, which features some Stanwyck fashion spreads from the 1940s, as well as her on the cover of the January 1942 issue of Photoplay (issued in mid-December 1941, so Lombard likely saw it), go to

For part 2, featuring scans from Motion Picture of January 1948 and the American Movie Classics magazine of May 1992, visit

Part 3 has a 1987 article from American Film (when she received the AFI Life Achievement award) and an article and cover from Movies magazine in September 1941, one of the best years any actress ever had. It can be found at

And part 4 features a few magazine articles, and it’s at

Part 5 has an overview of the author’s Stanwyck collection, and she explains why she became a fan:

Here’s Part 6, featuring some three dozen photos of Stanwyck over the years:

In Part 7, four articles on Stanwyck (cover portraits of her too) from Lady’s Circle magazine between 1968 and 1972 ( The lady aged gracefully.

And finally, Part 8 has a story about “Ball Of Fire” and some portraits:

Turner Classic Movies will show a few Stanwyck films as well. At 6 a.m. (Eastern) is one of her first films, “The Locked Door” from 1929, followed by a pair she made with Fred MacMurray — the gentle 1940 comedy “Remember The Night” at 7:30 and the 1944 noir classic “Double Indemnity” at 9. At midnight Eastern time, TCM will show “Golden Boy,” with William Holden, as part of its salute to the films of 1939.

We’ll leave you with this rarity — Stanwyck, with then-husband Robert Taylor, at the March 1941 downtown Los Angeles premiere of her latest film, “Meet John Doe”:

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‘Take This’ — but hurry

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.15 at 00:41
Current mood: curiouscurious

Here’s yet another Carole Lombard auction item you don’t have much time to bid on, so you’d better act quickly. It’s a publicity still from the 1931 Paramount drama “I Take This Woman” co-starring Gary Cooper, one of Lombard’s rarest films…and one that nearly was lost (

And here’s the back:

With dialogue at the bottom of the photo (Cooper’s character is saying, “I don’t want you now — you’re not what I thought…”), a practice not uncommon at Paramount in the early 1930s, one would think this picture’s prime use was in theaters, where it could serve as sort of a lobby card. And maybe it was. But it found its way to other places, as a closeup of part of the back makes evident:

It reads “LIBERTY ART. DEPT.”, almost certainly referring to Liberty magazine. We see the notation “LOMBARD,” along with “Feb. 28″ and (page) “28.” But look to the end of the second line, and you can make out a “1942” on the stamp. Evidently this photo was used, or at least considered, for use in Adela Rogers St. Johns’ two-part tribute to Carole several weeks after her passing ( and

This photo is being auctioned at eBay.– and as I said earlier, you don’t have much time; bidding closes at 8:25 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. Two bids have been placed as of this writing, with the high bid at $27.

If interested, go to

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One-day sale on summer “camp”!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.14 at 00:54
Current mood: ditzyditzy

In the retail business, there are frequent one-day sales; the same thing applies to the travel industry. Now, here’s your chance to go to summer camp for the first time since childhood — but you need to act now.You won’t be alone on your sojourn. You’ll be accompanied by none other than Carole Lombard, Charles Laughton and Kent Taylor, and your port of call will be the steamy tropics of Malaya (yeah, I know it’s called Malaysia now, but did I mention that as a side benefit of this trip, you get to go back in time some 76 years?). Here, check out your surroundings:

Actually, that’s a publicity still from Lombard’s 1933 Paramount film “White Woman,” as many of you probably already knew. And for those of you who have never seen it, it’s arguably the campiest film Carole ever made, although, to be fair, that phrase wasn’t around at the time. (Hey, Susan Sontag was only 10 months old when the film was released in November of ’33.) “Whote Woman” is over the top, way over; Laughton is the main culprit, although Lombard does her best to keep up with him.

This is a fairly rare publicity still from the film, one I’ve never seen before, and it’s currently being auctioned at eBay. (The actual picture is rather faded due to age, and I converted it to grayscale for clarity.)

The photo is being offered for $79.99 — the seller is likely aware of its rarity — and no bids have been placed as of this writing. There isn’t much time left in the auction, as bidding closes at 9:15 (Eastern) tonight.

If you think you’d like to go “camp”-ing with Carole, Charles and Kent, simply go to

But hurry.

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Mistaken for a Jetta (and no, not the car)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.13 at 00:09
Current mood: amusedamused

Yesterday’s entry dealt with a “personality portrait” of Carole Lombard now being auctioned by Heritage Auction Galleries. As part of the research, I discovered more than 60 Lombard items auctioned off in recent years.One item in particular, from a 2006 auction, caught my eye. It’s a photograph of Lombard taken by Otto Dyar during her first few years at Paramount:

The photo itself isn’t all that unusual, or uncommon. What makes it stand out is the label on the package it’s enclosed in:

“Lost Hollywood Collection” is right.

This could be explained as a simple goof by someone whose knowledge of film history was lacking…but on the back, it is clearly stamped as a photo of Paramount’s Carole Lombard.

So, now you’re wondering, who was Jetta Goudal? And just what was “Business And Pleasure”?

Well, first of all, her first name is not pronounced like the Volkswagen car of recent years (which derives from the German word for jet stream); it is pronounced Zah-hetta Goo-dol. And here’s what she looked like:

As you can tell, Goudal, exotic in appearance and a stately 5-foot-7, looked nothing at all like Lombard.

Goudal’s story is quite interesting. She was a major star in the 1920s, as audiences considered her the epitome of Parisian chic. But like the later star Merle Oberon, she hid her origins; she was not from Paris at all, but the daughter of a Orthodox Jewish diamond cutter from Amsterdam. Furthermore, she was actually born Juliette Henriette Goudeket on July 12, 1891 — a full decade older than her professed birth date.

Goudal had worked on the stage in Europe during the teens, emigrating to the U.S. after World War I and giving herself a new identity. By 1921, she was appearing on Broadway, and after two small films, she was hired by Cecil B. DeMille, who put her on screen several times in the mid-twenties, usually in femme fatale roles.

While Goudal became a popular star, she soon also gained a reputation as difficult to work with. An infuriated DeMille terminated her contract with him; she in turn filed a lawsuit against DeMille — and won, an important boost for actors’ rights. But by this time, Goudal’s star had waned. and the arrival of talking films didn’t help matters (her accent was noticeable).

“Business And Pleasure,” a Fox comedy from 1932, turned out to be the final film she ever made. One of Will Rogers’ less remembered vehicles, he plays an American businessman on a Mediterrean cruise, with Goudal playing a slinky villainness. The cast also includes Joel McCrea and Boris Karloff.

Goudal, who made the film when she was 40 in real life, had married art director Harold Grieve in 1930. After retiring from the screen, she went into the interior decorating business. A fall in 1973 left her an invalid, and she died in Los Angeles in January 1985 at age 93.

By the way, despite the error on the label, that Lombard photo sold for $920.

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She’s got personality (and lots of it)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.12 at 00:01
Current mood: artisticartistic

One of the best things about collecting classic Hollywood memorabilia — whether it be of Carole Lombard or any other star — is that it comes in seemingly countless forms. For example, you’ve got publicity stills, lobby cards and all sorts of posters, And here’s a type being auctioned that I’d never come across before:

It’s from Paramount Pictures, and it’s referred to as a “personality poster,” although I’m not sure whether that’s its official title. It’s a jumbo lobby card, 14 x 17 inches — and in addition to its size, what makes it somewhat unusual is that doesn’t refer to a specific film, only to Lombard.

Apparently all the studios did something along these lines, particularly those that owned their own theaters, and was a practice that dated back to the teens. Depending upon the manager’s whim, they could be hung up or taken down if that particular star’s movie was then playing, or it could be displayed semi-permanently along with other notables on that studio’s roster. (Many of them were larger than the Lombard poster above, measuring 22 x 28 inches or even bigger.)

But getting back to the Lombard portrait, it’s quite well done; double-click on it to view it at roughly full size to completely comprehend its beauty. I’m guessing it was made about 1935 or so.

It’s currently being previewed at Heritage Auction Galleries, in preparation for a live auction on July 24 (one week from this Friday). It’s valued at $700, with the opening bid at $350. Want to learn more about it, or even bid? Go to

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Just add water!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.11 at 00:44
Current mood: refreshedrefreshed

Above is a photo I’m pretty certain I’ve never run here before — it’s Carole Lombard from her Jane Alice Peters childhood days, flanked by brothers Stuart and Frederic, oceanside. I’m guessing this photo was taken about 1916 or thereabouts…and for all we know, it may have been taken by Elizabeth Peters.

It’s a reminder that water played a major role in Lombard’s life — from youthful days such as this one, where the ocean brought new horizons to youngsters from places like Indiana…to early days as an actress, when being part of Mack Sennett’s swimsuit troupe helped hone her comedic acting skills…to the 1930s, when water would often be used in Carole’s publicity stills.

Since it’s a summer weekend here in North America, and tens of thousands are going to spend it near a lake or ocean, we thought we’d run a few photos of Lombard in the presence of H2O.

Here’s Carole during her Sennett days, having fun with a visiting executive:

Next, Paramount about 1933 or so, where Lombard nicely decorates the head of a yacht:

Finally, proof that Carole occasionally went in the water. Here’s a publicity still from her final Paramount film, “True Confession,” some of which was filmed at Lake Arrowhead:

Have a safe time in the water!

Gaby who?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.10 at 00:01
Current mood: curiouscurious

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that Carole Lombard gained fame more than seven decades ago, and as hard as we may try, no matter how voraciously we may read about that era, so much of it is utterly alien to us.

I would think many Lombard fans would be aware that the above photo is a publicity still for her 1936 Universal film “Love Before Breakfast”…and indeed it is, as the top half of a snipe on the back proclaims:

“Alluring Carole Lombard is the star of ‘Love Before Breakfast,’ Faith Baldwin’s Universal story which will soon be the attraction at R.K.O. Hillstreet and Hollywood Pantages Theatres.”

It’s the bottom half of the snipe that catches us off guard and leaves us folks in 2009 scratching our heads and thinking, “What?”

It reads:

“THE 1936 GABT DESLYS * * Bearing a striking resemblance to the late Gaby Deslys, CAROLE LOMBARD brings a fire and allure reminiscent of the famous French charmer to her role and love scenes in the Universal comedy-drama, ‘Love Before Breakfast’ in which she is forced to choose between Preston Foster and Cesar Romero.”

So who the heck was Gaby Deslys? Thanks to the Internet, we can find out.

Deslys (her stage name is an abbreviation of “Gabrielle of the Lilies”) was reportedly born in Marseille in 1881, although this wasn’t confirmed until about a decade after her death. She became an actress, singer and dancer, gaining fame in London and Paris dance halls.

Deslys had many wealthy admirers; she loved pearls, and once said she owned her weight in them. She became popular in both Europe and the U.S., and stories about her verge on the incredible:

* In mid-1909, King Manuel of Portugal met her and soon gave her a pearl necklace valued at $70,000 — and more gifts followed. A revolution occurred in Portugal in the fall of 1910, caused in part by the king’s reckless spending.

* When Deslys danced at Yale University in November 1911 shortly after its football game against Princeton, students rushed the stage and removed seats from the theater in protest over the event’s high price. The cost of tickets? $2.

In 1913, Deslys appeared on the Broadway stage with Al Jolson in “The Honeymoon Express.” Two years later, she appeared on film in “Her Triumph,” shot in Paris but released stateside through Paramount Pictures:

Deslys made five films during her lifetime; I’m not certain whether any of them have survived.

Unfortunately, like Lombard, Deslys didn’t live very long, She contracted influenza in December 1919, relatively late in the 1918-19 outbreak, and suffered a severe throat infection. She refused to let doctors scar her neck, and that vanity may have proved fatal; she died in February 1920, leaving her villa and possessions to the poor of Marseille. (Her swan-shaped bed was purchased by Universal and used in the 1925 “The Phantom Of The Opera” and a quarter-century later as Norma Desmond’s bed in “Sunset Boulevard.”)

Oh, and that Lombard photo, the one that triggered this whole discussion? It’s an oversized portrait, 10 1/2 by 13 1/2 inches, in pretty good shape. As of this writing, three bids have been placed, topped at $17.45. Bidding closes at just after 9:30 (Eastern) Saturday.

Interested? Go to

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A portrait ahead of its time

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.09 at 00:44
Current mood: impressedimpressed

I’ve often described Carole Lombard as perhaps the most timeless of the classic Hollywood actresses. By that, I’ve generally been referring to her personality, her iconoclastic yet enthusiastic approach to life, her prototypical feminism, even her zest for sports.But you could also make a good argument that Carole’s timelessness extended to her looks, too. And a stunning example of that quality just emerged on eBay, an enthralling image I have never seen before.

Take a look:

If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear it was taken during the last year or so of Lombard’s life. It isn’t, though; her hair is a shade lighter than it was in those final few months.

Moreover, there’s a stamp on the back:

That date is Jan. 5, 1937, but on the front, there’s a Paramount reference and a 1935 copyright below the image; its code number is P1202-1147.

However, for a portrait taken in the mid-thirties, there’s definitely a forties flavor to it, a coolness that shows had she lived, Lombard could have adapted easily to the changing trends in the film industry. She could have been a Hitchcock (dramatic) blonde or have appeared in film noir with minimal difficulty. It’s simply gorgeous.

As of this writing, no one has yet bid on this, possibly because the minimum bid is $99.99. But for something this stunning and relatively rare, the price seems reasonable. Bids can be made through 9 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday.

If you think you’d like to own this tantalizing Exhibit A of what might have been, go to

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Yes, she was a ‘Goddess’ — and here’s proof

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.08 at 09:59
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

Are actresses goddesses?

Well, at times they may play one, as Honor Blackman did when she portrayed Hera in the 1963 epic “Jason And The Argonauts.” (We think of Honor as a swingin’ sixties British chick, so it may surprise you to learn that her career began in 1947, and she will turn 84 this August.)

But in the strictest sense of the word, the answer is no. Whether they’re on stage, radio or the big or small screen, good actresses certainly command the power to project themselves into another person (real or fictional), and that in itself is a sort of magic. That’s as far as it goes, though, and the successful ones know it. If someone had told Carole Lombard she was a goddess, she probably would have reacted with a hearty laugh and, depending upon how well she knew the person, a self-deprecating, possibly salty comment.

However, some apparently disagree with that assessment. In his book “The Great Movie Stars — The Golden Years,” first published in 1970, David Shipman writes:

“Very early on, movie stars became confused with gods and goddesses. As the cinema grew up the concept went completely out of fashion, but there’s a strong case to be made for the divinity of Carole Lombard. One is certain that, at Olympian banquets, she’s right up there next to Zeus. If she’s not (invited), she’s probably throwing things.”

And in 1965, several years before Shipman’s book, we learned that Lombard was indeed a goddess of sorts. That’s because she was part of a documentary called “The Love Goddesses” that purports to tell the history of sex appeal in cinema from the silent days to sixties. It did reasonably well at the box office, though it’s rarely been revived.

Yes, Lombard was featured — but, truth be told, this Olympian “club” wasn’t all that exclusive; the film included archive footage from nearly four dozen actresses, including several who were still alive in 1965 (Lombard films featured were “No Man Of Her Own” and “Now And Forever”). But how many of the “goddesses” got their own lobby card to help promote the film?

The card is from the British release of the movie; it was distributed by Paramount in the UK, so an old Paramount publicity still was dusted off and used.

This lobby card is being auctioned at eBay; you’ve got just over a day to bid on it, as the auction closes just after 4 p.m. (Eastern) Thursday. As of this writing, one bid has been made at $9.99. If interested, go to

While that’s a nice photo of Carole, here are some I might have chosen, since to me, they more clearly reflect the “goddess” ideal:

Hollywood to U.S.: We’re not evil

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.07 at 00:02
Current mood: curiouscurious

Jane Peters, the future Carole Lombard, and her family had been living in Los Angeles for roughly a decade before her film career began in earnest. If that hadn’t been the case — had they still been in Fort Wayne — there’s a reasonable chance that mother Bess Peters might have been reluctant to let Jane try. Not that Mrs. Peters sought to shelter her daughter; far from it. By the standards of her time, she was a feminist, and encouraged Jane to take part in all sorts of endeavors.But the film community of the early 1920s had developed a rather raunchy reputation. The death of Virginia Rappe in the San Francisco hotel where Fatty Arbuckle was staying rocked a nation and ruined his career even though he was acquitted of any wrongdoing. Several months later, the mysterious and still-unsolved death of director William Desmond Taylor damaged the reputations of two top actresses, Mary Miles Minter and Mabel Normand. And in 1923, popular actor Wallace Reid, a stalwart on screen playing all-American roles, died after becoming addicted to drugs he took to make it through his busy work schedule.

Many people, including scores of girls, headed to Los Angeles for employment in films. Few gained acting work, much less stardom, and many young women turned to sordid behavior merely to make ends meet. It’s no wonder that parents tried to dissuade their daughters from pursuing a movie career.

Hollywood, sensing its reputation was at stake, fought back. One weapon in its arsenal was a book whose title sounds like an expose — “Can Anything Good Come Out Of Hollywood?” — especially since the cover features both a cross and a film camera.

Instead, this book — published in 1923 — took the opposite approach, telling its readers that Hollywood was full of upstanding people, and that one could make a good living without sacrificing their morals. The target audience was the midwestern Protestants who had spurred the growth of Los Angeles for several decades.

The operator of the fine site “Give Me The Good Old Days” ( picked up this book not long ago and found it fascinating…not so much for the prose but for the pictures. The Hollywood of 1923 was a toddler rapidly outgrowing her clothes, and these images are snapshots of a film community’s feverish expansion.

In fact, the book had an example of “then” and “now,” photos taken at roughly the same location:

Film-related sights include the set Douglas Fairbanks used for “Robin Hood” in 1922, and the courtyard of the recently opened Grauman’s Egyptian Theater…

…or two photos at Paramount Studios, involving Pola Negri and pay day:

But the most crucial photos were meant to reassure moviegoers (and anxious parents) that Hollywood was indeed a proper, genteel destination for their daughters. For example, here’s the Hollywood Studio Club, where young women seeking work in the film industry could stay in a safe environment. Founded in 1916, the Studio Club would exist for nearly 60 years. Its alumnae included Zasu Pitts, Ayn Rand (a screenwriter in her pre-objectivist days), Maureen O’Sullivan, Dorothy Malone, Marilyn Monroe and Barbara Eden. Here’s the club in 1923 and its original home:

(The Studio Club moved to a new, larger facility designed by Julia Morgan of Hearst Castle fame in 1926. It’s now a YMCA-run Job Corps dormitory.)

Getting back to 1923, the book showed examples of virtue triumphing in the film capital, such as May McAvoy and Lois Wilson. Note how the caption spells the word “thoroughly” as “thoroly”; I’m guessing the author was or had been a reader of the Chicago Tribune, which for decades had its own peculiar approach to the English language (e.g.,”though” as “tho”).

McAvoy and Wilson were members of a “sorority” called “Our Club,” comprised of young actresses who didn’t “smoke, drink or gossip.” Some of the names still resonate with silent film buffs; others have been lost to history. At right, they’re shown visiting the biggest name among actresses of the silent era, Mary Pickford.

I doubt Bess Peters or Jane ever read this book, and it wouldn’t have made a difference one way or the other. Being based in Los Angeles, they knew their share of people in the movie industry, especially after Jane had played a supporting part in the 1921 movie “A Perfect Crime.”

If you want to view more photos from this fascinating artifact, go to

Quite a Head on that ‘Screwball’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.06 at 07:02
Current mood: enviousenvious

That’s the cover of what is still probably the best-known Carole Lombard biography, “Screwball” by Larry Swindell. It was published in 1975, which means it’s been out of print for a longer time than its subject’s lifespan — so long ago that for legal reasons, Swindell couldn’t print the name “Howard Hughes” as the person Lombard likely had her first affair with (

Despite its age, “Screwball” is still pursued by Lombard fans, and copies regularly appear for auction at eBay and similar sites…often for substantial prices. One copy now being auctioned has a starting bid price of $69.95, somewhat higher than final bids I’ve seen for the book. That it’s autographed by Swindell plays a part in it, but it’s probably more due on whom he autographed it for.

It just so happens this copy of “Screwball” was owned by someone who not only knew Carole personally, but worked with her professionally — longtime Paramount designer Edith Head.

Indeed, Swindell noted in the introduction that Head’s assistance “was greater than she might expect.” That was written in March 1975; when “Screwball” came out later that year, he wrote this inscription to Head, who had just finished costume work on the film “Gable And Lombard”:

It reads, “To Edith Head — with thanks upon thanks (It was quite a while back — remember?). Larry Swindell 11/1/75.”

According to the seller, the book is “from the Collection of Shirley Judge, Executive Secretary to Edith Head. Ms. Judge acted as Edith Head’s executive secretary during the last 8 years of Head’s career and assisted her on the studio lot and at home. Upon Head’s death, Judge was invited into Head’s office to take a few remembrances of her work with Head. Judge passed away in 2007 and for the first time, her collection of Edith Head memorabilia was made available through Julien’s Auctions. Book was recently acquired at Julien’s Summer Sale, June 27.”

The book itself is described by the seller as a “nice, clean copy. Inner pages are free of tears, dog-ears or writing. Binding is tight. Some wear to the dust jacket is present, namely bumping and tears along the edges and corners.”

So this copy includes the dust jacket, which means it has one of my very favorite Lombard photos on the back cover:

It’s a marvelously vibrant image of Carole, so wonderfully full of life. Yet in all my years of searching for Lombard memorabilia, I have curiously never come across it other than as this book’s dust jacket back cover. Was it a publicity photo from a studio, something taken for a magazine or newspaper article, or was it from someone’s personal collection — even Clark Gable’s? (Swindell also noted in the introduction that Jean Garceau, Clark and Carole’s personal secretary, was of assistance in this biography.) Perhaps someone here knows more about this memorable picture.

Getting back to the book, if you’re interested in possibly owning a copy of a Lombard biography that belonged to someone who actually knew her, go to

As of this writing, no bids have been placed. Bidding closes just after 9:20 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday.

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Carve your own mountain

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.05 at 00:03
Current mood: creativecreative

Even if you’ve never seen “North By Northwest” (and if not, why haven’t you?), you know what that image is. It’s the Mount Rushmore National memorial in the Black Hills of western South Dakota — a carving of four noted American presidents…from left, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

The memorial has become an American icon and a major tourist atraction. The idea of choosing four and memorializing them has also become part of popular culture; I’ve seen the concept used in discussions on sports, music and so on.

In that vein, let’s do a classic Hollywood Rushmore, one that deals specifically with actresses. Assuming Carole Lombard gets one of the four spots (and keep in mind this is a Lombard fan site, after all!), who are your other three selections?

You can base your choices on artistic achievement, historical impoctance, personal favorite, whatever — this is your mountain, and you can carve it as you deem fit. My lone requirement is that the actress must have had a starring role before 1960. (So as much as I may love Goldie Hawn and Michelle Pfeiffer, they’re not eligible to be carved onto my mountain.)

My three alongside Lombard are (in alphabetical order):

Jean Harlow: Say, aren’t sex symbols supposed to seem threatening to other women? That’s certainly not the case with Harlow, whose sheer likability draped her like one of those gowns she wore in “Dinner At Eight.” And the offscreen Jean was every bit as genuine.and generous. It’s no wonder the entire film community mourned her shockingly early passing.

Myrna Loy: She viewed the “men must marry Myrna” campaign with the same wry bemusement she frequently displayed on screen as “the perfect wife” (or companion). Yet she knew it was a big step up from her earlier stereotype of Asians and other one-dimensional ethnic roles. Loy’s intelligence and integrity shone in just about every part she played.

Barbara Stanwyck: Funny how you often hear the term “actor’s actor,” but never “actress’ actress” — because if you did, Stanwyck’s name would come up frequently. The lady defined versatility, from screwball to film noir, from biopics to straight dramas, from pre-Codes to westerns. Stanwyck could do it all — and what’s more, she did it for more than half a century. A consummate pro.

Okay, folks, start planning your mountain, with three companions for Carole.

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Posted by [info]lombardarchive on 2009.07.05 at 21:48

Okay, Vince — I know.  Too much time on my hands…or the critical will chime in “Actually, not nearly ENOUGH time on her hands!”

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Carole and Cary…but not ‘In Name Only’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.04 at 00:30
Current mood: okayokay

If any of you collected baseball cards during the 1960s (or collect cards of that era now), you are likely aware of a Topps concept called “rookie stars.” The company would take two prospects or young players from a particular organization and team them on one card. Perhaps it was done to save expenses and cut down on the number of cards in the set, but in retrospect it’s fascinating to view the pairings.

Take the card above, for instance (which I had in my collection in 1965), featuring a pair of “rookie stars” for the St. Louis Cardinals. On the left is a righthanded pitcher named Fritz Ackley, and you can tell from the pinstripes — a feature that hasn’t been on Cards’ uniforms since the 1930s — that the photo was taken while he was with another club…specifically the Chicago White Sox. Ackley pitched briefly for the Sox late in the 1963 season and early in ’64, winning one game and losing none. He even had two hits, one a double, in six at-bats. The Cardinals acquired him after the 1964 season, but he never again pitched in the majors and died in 2002 at age 65.

His career was in sharp contrast to the other player on the card, a lefthander named Steve Carlton. He came up to St. Louis in ’65 and soon became part of the rotation. He was a key cog in two Cardinal pennant winners in the late ’60s, but few people remember his St. Louis career. That’s because he was traded to Philadelphia for Rick Wise after the ’71 season in what may be the greatest trade in Phillies history. He won 27 games for the Phils in ’72, would capture several Cy Young awaards for pitching supremacy, was the ace of the Phillies’ first World Series champions in 1980 and eventually won more than 300 games. He’s now in the Hall of Fame, and a statue of “Lefty” stands outside Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

We have the movie equivalent of a “rookie stars” card as the subject of today’s entry. While it’s true Carole Lombard wasn’t a rookie when this photo was taken in 1932, the other person in the photo definitely was:

Yep, that’s Cary Grant, some seven years before he and Lombard would reunite in the drama “In Name Only.” Here, he has a supporting role, with Carole in the lead, in “Sinners In The Sun,” among the first films Grant had made. (And while Lombard and Grant were both in “The Eagle And The Hawk” in 1933, they had no scenes together. Carole only appeared on screen with Fredric March.)

The photo is now being offered at eBay, and as of this writing, no bids have been placed. Interesting, given the popularity of both Carole and Cary and the relative rarity of this photo. Bidding opens at $9.99, and time’s a-wastin’ — the deadline for bidding is just after 9:05 p.m. (Eaastern) Sunday. To bid, or simply to find out more, go to

Oh, and to those who might not have liked the analogy: Cary Grant likely would have appreciated it. Despite being from England, he became an avid baseball fan, and probably saw Steve Carlton pitch at Dodger Stadium several times. (Oh, and speaking of baseball and things American — happy Independence Day! The U.S. is 233 years old today.)

The play’s the thing (that could be a movie)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.03 at 00:31
Current mood: excitedexcited

Those of us still irked by the mediocre biopic “Gable And Lombard” (and many would say “mediocre” is a generous description) have long yearned for a Carole Lombard biopic. Well, there’s good news — we may be getting one. But first, some background on the source it’s coming from:

In the 1980s and ’90s, veteran screenwriter and film historian Michael Druxman (he wrote the Charlton Heston volume in the Pyramid series of film-related paperbacks) wrote a series of one-person plays about Hollywood legends such as Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles, Clara Bow and Clark Gable. Such a play about Carole Lombard seemed appropriate after the success of the Gable work. Druxman’s setting has Carole, following the success of her bond rally in Indianapolis, is back at her hotel room, awaiting word on whether she will be allowed to fly back to Los Angeles, where she suspects her husband is cheating on her. Lombard looks back at her personal life and profesional career with humor and determination.

“Lombard” has had three productions, according to Druxman, who directed all three. The Glendale News Press called it “an engrossing one-woman show.” (This play should not be confused with another one-woman play called “Carole” that ran for a few days in Los Angeles in February 2001 and received a tepid review. I myself have never seen either play.)

On June 17, Druxman — who moved to Austin, Texas, not long ago — made this announcement on Twitter:

“I’m going to adapt my 1-woman play on Carole Lombard into a screenplay. Maybe we’ll shoot it here in Austin.”

Three days later, he issued this followup:

“Adapting my 1-woman Carole Lombard play into a movie is presenting an interesting set of challenges. I like challenges.”

Those challenges include how much he’ll expand the story, adding more characters and scenes. Assuming the story is still set at the time of the bond rally, does he add more about the Indianapolis trip? Do we see her mother, Bess Peters, and MGM publicist Otto Winkler, both of whom accompanied her on this trip? Do you do “flashback” scenes about Lombard’s life, and if so, how many? Do you include Gable, Powell, Columbo?

Obviously financial constraints come to mind as well, although “Gable And Lombard” could have had a budget the size of “Cleopatra” and the script still would have sunk it. One would expect the actress who would play Lombard would be a relative unknown — although with Druxman’s decades of experience in the film industry, he might have a surprise up his sleeve.

Whatever, we wish Druxman well with his “challenge” in getting the job done, and await the finished product.

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RIP Karl Malden (the end of an era?)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.02 at 09:25
Current mood: melancholymelancholy

If you somehow hadn’t heard the news earlier in the day, you received it just before Turner Classic Movies entered its prime-time schedule last night with “Manhattan Melodrama”: The by now familiar image of windshield wipers in the rain signaled the passing of someone with ties to classic film, and in this case the person TCM remembered was Karl Malden, who died at his home earlier in the day.Obviously, TCM had stockpiled clips of Malden for this occasion; he was, after all, 97. And as some have noted, he died five years to the day after his longtime friend, Marlon Brando, had passed on.

Many of yesterday’s recaps of Malden’s career may have focused too much on his 21 years as American Express Travelers Cheques pitchman (“Don’t leave home without them”), but on the other hand, for someone who hardly had leading man looks to have held that role that long says something about him. Whether on the stage or screen (big or small) Karl Malden exuded integrity. That’s why he won both an Oscar and an Emmy; whether he was playing a hero or a heavy, he made you believe in a character, such as Father Barry in 1954’s “On The Waterfront” (below is Malden with Brando and Eva Marie Saint):

We’ve written about Malden before (, and he certainly will be missed for his many contributions to the entertainment industry. But there’s another angle to Malden’s passing: Who is now left that appeared on film with Carole Lombard? (Malden made his film debut with a small role in 1940’s “They Knew What They Wanted.”)

Sure, there are still people around who knew Lombard — Marsha Hunt, Gloria Stuart, Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine — but none of them ever acted with her. As someone reminded us, Shirley Temple from “Now And Forever” is still around, and perhaps there are a few others left who appeared in a film with Carole when they were juveniles (though no names come to mind) but remember those street urchins in the restaurant scene of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”? If any of them are still with us, they’d be at least in their mid-70s now.

Our condolences to Malden’s wife Mona — now widowed after more than 70 years of marriage — two daughters, and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Also note that TCM has revised its schedule for Friday, July 10 to commemorate Malden. It opens with “On The Waterfront” at 8 p.m. (Eastern), followed by Malden’s Oscar-winning performance in “A Streetcar Named Desire” at 10 and “Birdman Of Alcatraz” at 12:15 a.m.

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Two husbands, one fateful film

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.07.01 at 00:05
Current mood: productiveproductive

They were good friends in real life, sharing a studio for many years and, through marriage, one woman (at different times, mind you). But they made only one movie together, and if you have Turner Classic Movies in the U.S., you can see it tonight.Many of you have probably guessed we are referring to William Powell and Clark Gable, each of whom could claim Carole Lombard as his wife. And in 1934, they made their only film together, co-starring Myrna Loy (who set off plenty of on-screen sparks with both but was never actually romantically linked with either one). The movie is titled “Manhattan Melodrama,” and it airs at 8 p.m. (Eastern).

Directed by W.S. Van Dyke (who that year would direct Powell and Loy in the pivotal smash “The Thin Man”), “Manhattan Melodrama” is MGM’s take on gangster films. Compared to Warners, MGM gangster fare wasn’t quite as hard-bitten, nor did it teem with Warners’ urban sensibilities. But sheer star power and good storytelling made it work.

“Manhattan Melodrama” was sort of a return to roots for Gable, whose stardom had been established playing tough guys some three years earlier in “A Free Soul” and “Night Nurse.” By now, however, the Gable persona was less brutish, more stylish. In this film, Gable and Powell play boyhood friends who wind up on opposite sides of the law — Powell as a district attorney with gubernatorial ambitions, Gable as a gangster. They vie for the affection of the same woman (Loy). Sounds like a cliche, but the stars make you believe it.

Incidentally, Mickey Rooney plays the Gable character in his youth, and reference is made to the 1904 fire on the excursion steamship “General Slocum” in which more than 1,000 people died. Until the World Trade Center attack, it was the deadliest tragedy in New York City history.

As the lone teaming of Lombard’s husbands, “Manhattan Melodrama” is the answer to a trivia question — but chances are it’s better known as the answer to another trivia question: “What was the film John Dillinger saw before he was gunned down by FBI agents?”

The end came for “Public Enemy No. 1″ on the night of July 22, 1934, a sweltering day in Chicago in which nearly two dozen people died of the heat. So the air-cooled Biograph must have come as comfort to Dillinger and his two female companions — a waitress girlfriend, and his Romanian-born landlady, who ran several houses of prostitution and was being threatened with deportation.

When Dillinger suggested they see “Manhattan Melodrama” at the Biograph (he was reportedly an avid Myrna Loy fan), the landlady tipped off the law before they left. She wore an orange dress to make it easy for authorities to locate Dillinger; it appeared reddish in the light of the marquee, thus leading to the incorrect but famous reference of “the woman in red.” (The landlady was ultimately deported anyway, and died in Romania in 1947.)

Once the three left the theater and walked south on Lincoln Avenue, Dillinger noticed he was being lured into a trap and quickly ran into an alley. FBI sharpshooters killed him on the spot. (In her autobiography “Being And Becoming,” Loy — while not at all condoning Dillinger’s devious deeds — nonetheless felt a bit guilty for indirectly luring him to his doom.)

TCM could have waited another three weeks to show this movie and commemorate the 75th anniversary of that bloody anniversary — but today marks the premiere of “Public Enemies,” a retelling of the Dillinger tale with Johnny Depp as the criminal and Christian Bale as G-man Melvin Purvis. Some other gangster-related material is on TCM tonight, too, including “Fog Over Frisco” with Bette Davis at 9:45, “G-Men” with James Cagney at 11, and a 2008 documentary on Warners gangster films, “The Public Enemies: The Golden Age Of The Gangster Film,” at 12:30 a.m.

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Posted December 11, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, June 2009   Leave a comment

No Burr to this Mason

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.30 at 00:09
Current mood: curiouscurious

As you may have noticed, we’ve changed the display of “Carole & Co.” a bit. The new light-on-dark format for entries is, in my opinion, easier to read (particularly with the sans-serif fonts we’re now using). With that out of the way, let’s get to our entry.Film and television can help popularize works of fiction through their adaptations, but they can also have a Frankenstein effect, in essence turning upon their creation and obliterating the source.Perhaps the most obvious example of this is “The Wizard Of Oz”; the 1939 MGM movie came to eclipse the original book, especially after CBS made it an Easter tradition for decades. The Judy Garland film so worked its way into the public consciousness that many forgot author L. Frank Baum wrote a series of Oz books, still splendid examples of juvenile literature. (To be fair, Baum himself marketed Oz stories for the stage — they were enormously popular — and even oversaw silent film adaptations before his death in the late teens.)

And not to pick on CBS, but at roughly the same time, Bill Paley’s network was having the same effect on another series of novels, but this one while the author was still around to enjoy it (and the ensuing profits):

That’s Carole Lombard’s old friend Gail Patrick, in between actor Raymond Burr and author Erle Stanley Gardner, as Gardner holds an award commemorating the sale of his 100-millionth book. Most of them were a series of novels about defense attorney Perry Mason, whom Burr of course portrayed on TV for nine seasons. To many of us, Burr is Mason, and we probably can hum the melody of the TV show’s theme. (Patrick was executive producer of the series.) The show undoubtedly helped Gardner (a self-taught lawyer in real life) sell more copies of the books, but it’s safe to say that Perry Mason is now better known as a television than literary character.

Thus, it may surprise many to learn that two decades before the TV series debuted in 1957, Perry Mason stories — six in all — were adapted to film. If you’re a fan of the Gardner books, or merely want to see what a non-Burr Mason is like, you’ll have your chance Wednesday when Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. runs all six films. (Patrick tried to revive the series in the ’70s with a good actor, Monte Markham, cast as Mason, but the public demanded Burr, who resumed playing the character in several TV movies.)

All six were made at Warners. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

9:30 a.m. – “The Case of the Howling Dog” (1934). Perry Mason gets caught between feuding neighbors who claim to be married to the same woman. Warren William, Mary Astor and Allen Jenkins. Directed by Alan Crosland (best known for the 1927 “The Jazz Singer”)


11 a.m. – “The Case of the Curious Bride” (1935). Perry Mason helps a young woman whose supposedly dead husband suddenly returns to life. Warren William, Margaret Lindsay and Errol Flynn (before “Captain Blood” propelled him to stardom later that year). Directed by Michael Curtiz. (Above is William with Claire Dodd as Mason’s secretary, Della Street.)

12:30 p.m. – “The Case of the Lucky Legs” (1935). Perry Mason tries to stay on the wagon while investigating the murder of a crooked beauty contest promoter. Warren William, Lyle Talbot and Allen Jenkins.

2 p.m. – “The Case of the Velvet Claws” (1936). Perry Mason’s honeymoon with Della Street (the characters were never married on the TV series) is interrupted by the murder of a scandal-sheet publisher. Warren William, Claire Dodd and Winifred Shaw.

3:15 p.m. – “The Case of the Black Cat” (1936). Perry Mason looks into a trio of murders heralded by the shriek of a cat. Ricardo Cortez (who succeeded William as Mason, although here his marriage to Della never happened), Jane Bryan and Harry Davenport.

4:30 p.m. – “The Case of the Stuttering Bishop” (1937). Perry Mason tries to find out if a long-lost heiress is the real thing. Donald Woods takes over as Mason (he had played a supporting role in “Curious Bride”), Ann Dvorak as Della and Craig Stevens.

Warners was hoping for a successful series along the lines of the “Thin Man” films; each made six movies, but the Mason stories were lower-profile affairs. (Gardner reportedly wasn’t happy with most of these adaptations, and exerted more control when Mason stories were adapted for radio and TV.) But William and Cortez, both of whom had frequently played smarmy chracters in the pre-Code era, gave Mason some texture and dimension that the straitlaced Burr version often lacked.

Both William and Cortez also tackled Sam Spade on screen, Cortez in the 1931 “Maltese Falcon,” William in the 1936 quasi-remake, “Satan Met A Lady.” William had also earlier played another famed literary justice seeker, Philo Vance (

The films are hardly classics, but they’re worth watching for the different approaches to Gardner’s characters. And William, in some ways the male equivalent of Norma Shearer (increasingly recognized by film buffs in recent years for his outstanding pre-Code work), here shows that his talent didn’t fade after the Production Code was stringently enforced in mid-1934.

And who knows? Perhaps after seeing these films, you’ll head over to your local library and see if they have any of Gardner’s Perry Mason novels.

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Carole and chemistry

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.29 at 00:18
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

Many years ago, I saw a cover of Ms.magazine showing Goldie Hawn, standing near some laboratory equipment; the headline on the cover read, “Better Loving Through Chemistry?” So I checked Google, searching for the cover. Should be easy to track down, right?No luck, though I tried searching in a number of ways. I did find out the cover was from the August 1980 issue; unfortunately, the Ms. archive only goes back as far as its 1998 revival. I could find all sorts of Goldie Hawn magazine covers — even one from Voguein August 1969 — but not the one I was looking for.But this story has a happy ending. Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive tracked it down on the one place other than Google where you can find such items…eBay. And here is Goldie in all her 1980 glory, a few years before she found her own perfect chemistry with Kurt Russell:

Thanks, Carole.

As you might have guessed by now, the topic deals with chemistry, specifically Carole Lombard’s with her leading men. And we’re strictly referring to on-screen chemistry, so what Carole did with William Powell or Clark Gable (or, for that matter, with George Raft or John Barrymore — we know she was intimate with both) when they weren’t filming a movie doesn’t come into play here.

Here’s a famous cinematic example of bad chemistry:

Yes, Hope and Hepburn (Katharine, not Audrey) in the 1956 comedy “Thr Iron Petticoat.” This was likely intended as a Cold War version of “Ninotchka,” and if Kate thought this offbeat pairing could be the comedy equivalent of the similarly unconventional “The African Queen,” well, let’s just borrow a line from another Humphrey Bogart film and say she was misinformed. (Note that is from a VHS copy of the film; it’s one of the few from either star that has yet to make it to DVD.)

The “Ninotchka” Cold War concept worked far better as “Silk Stockings,” both on Broadway and on film, the latter featuring magnificent chemistry between Fred Astaire and that long-legged beaker named Cyd Charisse.

As far as bad Carole chemistry goes, I think many Lombard fans would say this pairing fizzled:

It’s Lombard and Fernand Gravet in “Fools For Scandal,” the 1938 film that halted Carole’s career momentum and shifted her to drama for about two years.

Now even the presence of a leading man with average chemistry couldn’t have turned “Fools For Scandal” into a winner; the script was lackluster at best, and Warners simply had no feel for late 1930s romantic comedy. But no real sparks generate between Gravet and Lombard.

Conversely, who had the best on-screen chemistry with Carole? You could make a good argument for…

…Fred MacMurray, shown in “Hands Across The Table,” his first of four collaborations with Carole. Others who would be up there are the aforementioned Powell, Gable and Barrymore, as well as James Stewart and Cary Grant (virtually every actress had good chemistry with those two).

So, who do you think had especially good chemistry with Lombard? And is there a leading man other than Gravet who doesn’t make the grade? Let us know before the beaker boils over and explodes, and we have to summon Goldie Hawn to the lab to clean up the mess.

By the way, if you’re a Hawn fan and want the above magazine, go to Bids start at $7.99 — none have yet been placed — and bidding closes at about 1:20 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday.

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These? Definitely Carole.

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.28 at 00:43
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

Part of me always has a little trepidation when I contact an eBay seller about an error in the description of a Carole Lombard item (as was the case yesterday, when a photo listed as that of Lombard was actually Marlene Dietrich instead). While I think accuracy is as all-important for the seller as it is for a potential buyer, there’s always the worry that a seller will have a “mind your own business” reaction.Fortunately, that’s not what happened yesterday; the seller quickly revised his description, and consequently you won’t find it in a listing of Lombard items at eBay. However, you willfind the following two photos, and they’re unquestionably of Carole. (Both are sepia-toned, probably due to age; I have converted both to grayscale and also enhanced their clarity.)First, here’s a Paramount publicity still of Lombard:

The seller isn’t certain what Paramount film Lombard is promoting, and frankly I’m not entirely sure either. However, from the coding in the lower right-hand corner, P1202-563, I’m guessing it comes from sometime in 1933. I’m also not sure which Paramount photographer took it, but we’re pretty certain where it was taken — from what’s on the walls, it’s likely the photo studio on the Paramount lot for its chief designer, Travis Banton. Several other Lombard photos were taken there.

It’s 8 x 10, in pretty good shape, and bidding begins at $49.99 — which sounds expensive to the uninitiated, but reasonable considering this must be a relatively rare photo (I’ve never come across it before, and it’s not in the photo archive at

Bidding closes at just after 11:45 p.m. (Eastern) next Friday; no bids have been placed as of this writing. If interested, go to

The other Lombard photo goes back some eight years further, to her days as a silent starlet at Fox:

The seller knows what film this is from — “Hearts And Spurs,” with Buck Jones. (The Fox studio print is on the back.) While the seller said this is from when Lombard was 17 years old, actually she was all of 16 when it was made. (According to the book “The Films Of Carole Lombard,” “Hearts And Spurs” was released on June 7, 1925 — nearly four months before her 17th birthday. Also note that the description has subsequently been changed.) It’s a charming photo of the young Lombard, with a darker hair shade than she had later in her career…especially since I can’t think of any other photo where she’s wearing a man’s necktie!

According to the seller, it’s in near-mint condition, remarkable for a photo that’s 84 years old. Because of the condition and its status as one of the earliest publicity photos of Lombard (for a film that apparently has been lost for decades), bidding starts at a decidedly higher $149.99. (As of this writing, no one has bid on it.) Bidding will close at about 12:05 a.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. Want to know more? Go to

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Nearly put through De Mille

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.27 at 00:12
Current mood: confusedconfused

Not long ago, I put up an entry of a photo because auctioned on eBay that I thought was of Carole Lombard and Clark Gable outside the Trocadero supper club in Hollywood — but after two comments and a further review of the photo, I discovered to my chagrin that it wasn’t of Carole (nor was it of Clark), and I hurriedly removed the entry and put up another one in its place.Well, it nearly happened again…but this time I caught the potential blunder before posting it (whew!).The item itself is tantalizing, promoted as Carole Lombard not only with Clark Gable, but with famed director Cecil B. De Mille (who had dismissed her from the female lead in “Dynamite” in 1929 after only a few days of shooting), as well as another man whom I can’t identify. I have never seen a photo of Lombard and De Mille together.

Anyway, here’s what the photo looks like. For now, resist double-clicking to enlarge it, and view it at that size:

The seller knows it’s a publicity photo from CBS radio, but could furnish little other information. Fortunately, we can; with De Mille on hand, it’s almost certainly from the program “Lux Radio Theater,” where De Mille served as host (he was billed as the “producer,” though he had little, if any, role in organizing the show). Lombard would appear several times on “Lux” (

However, Carole never worked with Gable on “Lux,” and while it’s possible he may have taken in the performance when Lombard appeared (or vice versa), it wouldn’t have made much sense for CBS to have run a publicity photo of that.

So let’s taken a closer look at that woman. Is it Lombard?

Nope — I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s Marlene Dietrich. Now at times during the 1930s, Lombard and Dietrich resembled each other (much to Marlene’s dismay, although she personally liked Carole).

It’s true you don’t think of Gable and Dietrich as co-stars, since they never made a movie together. However, they did make one joint appearance on “Lux” — and it so happened to be the program’s debut from Los Angeles on June 1, 1936. (“Lux” had begun as a New York-based program two years earlier, but its creators decided to move the series to the West Coast to take advantage of Hollywood star power.) Clark and Marlene appeared in “The Legionnaire And The Lady,” essentially an adaptation of the 1930 Dietrich film “Morocco” under a different title. It’s a historic photograph — “Lux” would be broadcast from Hollywood for nearly two more decades — but it simply isn’t one of Carole.

If you’re a Gable, Dietrich, De Mille or old-time radio fan, you may want it just the same. If so, prepare to shell out some bucks for it — the minimum bid is $149.99. While no bids have been placed as of this writing, bidding closes at about 11:55 p.m. (Eastern) on Friday, July 3. To see the photo or to bid, go to

(Note: I contacted the seller of the item, and a correction in the description has been made.)

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Fighting the good fight, and ensuring a legacy

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.26 at 00:02
Current mood: sadsad

Usually we focus on Carole Lombard and the classic Hollywood era, but since yesterday was such a shocking day in the entertainment industry, it will be the topic of today’s entry.First (not chronologically), the sudden death of Michael Jackson, about two months shy of his 51st birthday. True, in recent years he had gained more renown for legal battles than for any artistic achievements, but there was a period of nearly two decades when it was the other way around.Jackson was a remarkable singer even in his pre-teens, as he led the way for the Jackson Five, the last big act to come out of Motown while it was still based in Detroit (the company moved to Los Angeles in 1972). From the energetic “I Want You Back” to the brilliant ballad “I’ll Be There,” Jackson had it all down, precocious yet soulful. The hits diminished by the mid-’70s, though he managed a few at the end of the decade, both with the Jacksons and on his own. They were produced by pop-jazz veteran Quincy Jones, and they were a signpost for the future.

In late 1982, Jackson released “Thriller,” which became a huge hit and spanwed a number of singles. Jackson’s inventive videos made him the first black artist to get wide airplay on the still-new MTV, which was hailed as a breakthrough. (Given what MTV is now, it’s hard to envision it was that big a deal.) Jackson had a few more hits in the ’80s, but by decade’s end, he was better known for his rather bizarre behavior.

If the self-labeled description “King of Pop” was a bit too presumptuous, there can be no doubt that Jackson, at his best, was an inventive artist, spanning both the end of Motown’s glory days and the beginning of the video era. (Incidentally, 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Motown, and the Detroit Free Press has been doing a yearlong tribute to the company, well worth checking out. Go to

But the primary focus of today’s entry isn’t on Michael Jackson, but on the entertainment figure who died earlier in the day, and whose passing was somewhat upstaged by Jackson’s unexpected death. I am obviously speaking about Farrah Fawcett:

I think it’s only human nature that most of us contemplate how we’ll be remembered after we leave this mortal life. Obviously, others remember you by your words and deeds, but for public figures such memories tend to be encapsulated in an image. Images, after all, are what defines a celebrity.

Farrah Fawcett knew it all too well. There was that poster which, along with the hit TV series “Charlie’s Angels,” made her the sex symbol of the mid- and late 1970s. (And she had long been a beautiful woman; in the mid-seventies, I came across her picture in a University of Texas yearbook from a decade before, and she was stunning.) The poster and show made her famous, and marketable (remember there was a shampoo named for her?), but it also threatened to bring her down as quickly as she came up.

Fawcett tried to escape the trajectory. She left “Charlie’s Angels” to make films, just as Goldie Hawn did after leaving “Laugh-In,” but Fawcett wasn’t as accomplished an actress as Hawn, and her material was nowhere as good. Her first starring vehicle, the comedy “Somebody Killed Her Husband,” was dubbed “Somebody Killed Her Career” by wags in the press. By the start of the ’80s, she was yesterday’s news.

But Fawcett persevered. If theatrical movies weren’t going to work for her, then the TV movie genre would. (Think of how TV movies in the 1970s enabled Elizabeth Montgomery to escape the ghost of Samantha Stevens.) There was “The Burning Bed,” where Fawcett played the decidedly unglamorous role of an abused wife — and won plaudits for it. A biography of pioneering photographer Margaret Bourke-White followed, and it was also well received.

Suddenly, she was being recognized as a serious, capable actress -- but part of her probably realized that it might not be enough to dislodge the image of that poster, a symbol of ’70s kitsch. And while people within the industry generally liked her personality and professionalism, there were enough occasional weird incidents that left the public wondering about her.

But fate would hand one final role to her, a role no one would have asked for: cancer victim.

In 2006, Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer. While no form of cancer is pleasurable, for a one-time sex symbol to have anal cancer seemed like a raunchy, bitter joke. If she had retreated into a shell to live out the rest of her days, few would have blamed her.

But she didn’t. Maybe she noted how fellow TV icon Mary Tyler Moore had helped others by not only publicly admitting she had diabetes, but working hard to raise money for a cure (and she’ll be known for that role long after Laura Petrie and Mary Richards are forgotten). Or maybe Fawcett realized she had one card to play, so she might as well play it for all it was worth — and that’s not meant to sound cynical.

She made millions aware of the disease and its effects, taking her battle public and appearing on an NBC documentary released earlier this year. There was no glamour in this fight, only pain — but she had the courage to let us view what she was going through. If it made people aware of the risks of cancer — and how to approach it, with toughness and dignity — then she did her job.

Fawcett’s death came before longtime companion Ryan O’Neal could fulfill his promise that they would marry — but when the end came, he was there, as were the doctors who had aided her through this difficult fight. And perhaps, in the back of her mind as she breathed her last — an “angel day” for a TV “angel” — Farrah Fawcett realized that she had ensured a legacy that had nothing to do with a poster.

Godspeed, Ms. Fawcett.

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They knew what no one man wanted

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.25 at 00:37
Current mood: contentcontent

By now, the law of diminishing returns tends to come into practice when I scour online auction sites looking for Carole Lombard-related material. But a surprise pops up every now and then, and that’s especially true for what I’m noting today.For the seller in question not only has one Lombard photo I’ve never seen online before, but four -- and they’re from a pair of movies that sometimes are ignored when reviewing Carole’s career.Three are from the 1940 adaptation of the Sidney Howard play “They Knew What They Wanted,” directed by Garson Kanin:

With Lombard in each picture are Frank Fay, William Gargan and Charles Laughton.

The fourth photo is from one of her most obscure Paramount vehicles, 1932’s “No One Man”:

I believe that’s Ricardo Cortez who’s bedridden.

All four are rarities among Lombard film photographs, and all are being offered in one package. The three “They Knew What They Wanted” pictures are 8 x 10, while the “No One Man” photo is slightly smaller, 7 x 9 1/2, but is linen backed.

Bidding begins at $14.95, which would be a bargain for four relatively rare photos — and no bids have been placed as of yet. However, bidding doesn’t close until 7:48 p.m. (Eastern) next Wednesday, so there’s a good chance multiple bids may be made on this one.

If you have interest, go to

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Cashing in on Carole, posthumously

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.24 at 00:16
Current mood: pensivepensive

A few months after Carole Lombard’s passing in January 1942, several of her older films were re-released, as people wanted to remember the lady who had died returning from the nation’s first bond rally of World War II. Movies such as “No More Orchids” and “Nothing Sacred” briefly returned to screens.Some three years later, in February 1945, “Nothing Sacred” was again available to theater owners, as was another Lombard film, “Made For Each Other.” They were two of a David O. Selznick foursome being handled by a company called Film Classics Exchanges, with offices in Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinnati. An ad promoting the films ran in the Feb. 24, 1945 issue of Boxofficemagazine:

(Note that the other two films being offered — “A Star Is Born” and “Young In Heart” — also featured an actress born on Oct. 6, namely Janet Gaynor.)

This time, the films weren’t being re-issued as tributes — although Lombard remained beloved, recognized by many as a war casualty — but as product. Wartime travel and material restrictions were making times tight on the homefront, so many smaller theaters were seeking alternatives to high-priced, first-run fare from the major studios.

Of the four, “Made For Each Other” fared best, and a few weeks later, it received its own quarter-page ad from the exchange. I’m guessing this tender, domestic drama with some comedic overtones struck a chord with audiences, particularly younger ones who dreamed of marriage and family after victory was achieved.

In fact, before the year was out, “Lux Radio Theater” aired its second adaptation of the film. The first, in 1940, starred Lombard and Fred MacMurray, filling in for James Stewart, The ’45 version co-starred Stewart and Marsha Hunt, whose film career began at Paramount in the mid-thirties, while Lombard was there, and is still with us. (I’ve often wondered whether the same script was used for both versions — if so, you could theoretically create a version starring Lombard and Stewart…or MacMurray and Hunt!)

I’m not sure whether Selznick — who was trying to scrape up capital for his western saga, “Duel In The Sun” — sold these films lock, stock and barrel to Film Classics Exchanges. Whether, all four movies eventually fell into the public domain, explaining why you can find dollar DVDs of these films at your local discount retailer.

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(Many of) Carole’s greatest (portrait) hits

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.23 at 00:37
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Above is the cover of a 4-CD set called “Young Anita,” featuring the wonderful jazz singer Anita O’Day in recordings she made from 1941 to 1950. (I’ve owned this set for several years; it spotlights O’Day’s early work with Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton, and even some 1945 transcriptions she made with Nat Cole’s trio; her version of “Penthouse Serenade” is sublime.)It’s one of many sets (most of them jazz-oriented) from a British company named Proper. Almost without exception, these collections have complete recording session information, reasonably good sound quality and informative booklets. Moreover, they sell at an excellent price, under $30. The only drawback, if you’re a bit conscientious, is that in the UK, these recordings are in the public domain because they were at least 50 years old at the time of their release. Consequently, O’Day never got any money from these recordings before her death in 2006. (She did, however, get royalties from many other of her recordings, which continued to sell well among jazz fans.)

Carole Lombard never made a commercial recording, but if you want to consider her publicity stills in that vein, then there’s a lot to choose from when putting together a “greatest hits” compilation, photography style. And currently, someone at eBay is selling such a package, with 74 tracks, er, stills in all.

You won’t get this at a bargain price, however, since these are all original 8 x 10-inch photos. The seller’s price? It’s $250, under eBay’s “buy it now” option, which would come to about $3.25 per photo — not bad.

But what does this collection contain? The seller was kind enough to photograh all 74 shots in six groups (14 in one, 12 in each of the five others). Here are the group shots; double-clikc to view them at enlarged size:

For the most part, an interesting cross-section of Carole’s career. Most of them are from Paramount, although there are several stills from “My Man Godfrey.” I don’t really notice any rarities here. If you’re into collecting vintage Lombard pics, this looks like a dynamite deal; it’s also a good starter set for anyone seeking to begin collecting Carole (although at $250, any “starter” better be darn sure he or she isn’t going to “stop” with the hobby).

Want to boy, or merely to find out more? Then go to×10-photos-photo-LOT-sale_W0QQitemZ370212337646QQcmdZViewItemQQptZArt_Photo_Images?hash=item56325ff7ee&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=65%3A1%7C66%3A2%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A4%7C294%3A50.

The item will be up for sale through 6:55 a.m. (Eastern) July 7, about two weeks if it lasts that long. If you end up being the buyer, sit down at your coffee table while you go through the 74 photos…and put some Anita O’Day music on in the background.

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Paramount, yes; the ‘e’, no

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.22 at 00:50
Current mood: determineddetermined

Here’s a photo from a pivotal point in Carole Lombard’s professional life:We can tell it’s from the early 1930s, but just how early? Fortunately, it’s an original vintage photo, with some things on the back that serve as clues:

It lists a “CAROL LOMBARD” as a “PARAMOUNT FEATURED PLAYER.” A misspelling of her first name? No — in the late twenties she went by “Carol” when she worked at Pathe Pictures, although evidence has also proven that she occasionally was labeled as “Carole” during the middle and late 1920s. It wasn’t until late 1930 that she added the “e” for good.

But what’s unusual about this photo is that the front has no coding listed. Lombard received the code number P-1202 when she arrived at the studio — and since this is a vintage portrait, we know it has not been cropped. So what’s the explanation? I’m guessing that it may have been a still photo taken of Lombard between her dismissal at Pathe and her eventual hiring at Paramount, and her new studio simply made copies to promote their new hire before she could receive an official session at Paramount. Her first movie there was “Safety In Numbers,” and she wasn’t offered a contract until after she made that film.

The photographer was listed in the lower right-hand corner of the back; his first name is “Herman,” and it appears the last name begins with a “Z.” Beyond that, I can’t make out the name. I can’t recall seeing any Paramount photographers named Herman, though I don’t claim to be an authority on that studio’s photographers.

Whatever, it’s a charming portrait, and it can be yours. It’s being auctioned at eBay, Bids begin at $49.99 (no bids as of yet), and bidding closes at just after 11:45 a.m. (Eastern) on Thursday. If you’re interested, go to

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A one-time sex symbol has a birthday

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.21 at 00:09
Current mood: happyhappy

When an actress is labeled a “sex symbol,” it sounds better in theory than it is in practice. Yes, it can lead to stardom, but very often it tends to box her in and ultimately limits her career.Of course, quite a few of them died young, sometimes accidentally (Carole Lombard, if you deem her a sex symbol, or Jayne Mansfield), sometimes due to health problems (Jean Harlow), sometimes under uncertain circumstances (Marilyn Monroe), so it’s difficult to gauge how they would have fared once they reached the point where they were suddenly yesterday’s sex symbol.

On the other hand, a few “sex symbols” who didn’t leave us at an early age overcome the limitations and developed respectable careers. Raquel Welch, certainly the top cinematic sex symbol of the 1960s, became a pretty good actress as time went on and film vehicles were no longer designed around her still-considerable sex appeal. Now in her late sixties, Welch still gets her share of character parts.

But our subject today is an actress who was a sex symbol two decades before Welch, a stereotype that could have doomed her. Instead, she evolved into a respected actress (and singer) who made her share of memorable movies, and turns 88 today.

We are, of course, referring to Jane Russell.

There’s a good chance that the above portrait, taken by George Hurrell, is the first image that comes to your mind when Jane Russell’s name is mentioned. It’s certainly an iconic photo — but for an actress making her film debut, it could’ve been disastrous. It was designed to promote “The Outlaw” (filmed in 1941, released in 1943), a Billy the Kid saga from Howard Hughes who probably hoped Russell could do for this film what the equally unknown Jean Harlow had done for “Hell’s Angels” in 1930. The difference was that “The Outlaw” wasn’t much of a movie once you got beyond Russell’s buxom figure; moreover, she was signed to a contract with Hughes which limited her work after “The Outlaw” became big box office.

It wasn’t until 1949 and the Bob Hope vehicle “The Paleface” — only her third film — that Russell began to escape the shadow of “The Outlaw.” Her next movie didn’t come until 1951, but it was another good one, the noirish “His Kind Of Woman” with Robert Mitchum. A year later, they would reunite for this film:

Russell had a toughness in addition to her sex appeal, a quality that in turn complemented Mitchum’s attitude.

By this time, Russell was no longer a curiosity, but a solid actress and competent singer (she appeared in a musical with Frank Sinatra called “Double Dynamite” and dueted with him on record). So in 1953, it was decided to team her with a sexy up-and-comer (Monroe) in a Technicolor musical, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Like Monroe, Russell was married to a future Hall of Fame athlete at the time — but the sport was football, and her husband, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield, was her school sweetheart at Van Nuys High.

“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (directed by Howard Hawks) was a smash, and Russell and Waterfield formed a movie production company that produced several films, not all of which featured Mrs. Waterfield. For example, they co-produced this Clark Gable vehicle, “The King And Four Queens”:

After 1957, Russell made some television appearances, then did a handful of movies in the sixties. A later generation came to know her as the spokeswoman for Playtex bras (if they weren’t catching her films on the late, late show).

Russell was unable to conceive, so she and Waterfield adopted three children. (In contrast to her image, Russell was, and is, a devout Christian who regularly reads the Bible.) She later founded the World Adoption International Fund, which has placed more than 50,000 children with adoptive families. She currently lives in Santa Maria, Calif., and occasionally performs in “The Swingin’ Forties” — a musical revue she created herself — at a local hotel.

We’ll leave you with my favorite photo of Jane. As I’ve stated before, “elegant” is not an adjective you normally apply to her, but it certainly applies here:

Happy birthday, Jane Russell, and thanks for becoming something more substantial than a “sex symbol.”

Look for the “union” label

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.20 at 00:06
Current mood: excitedexcited

Above is a commercial from 1978 promoting the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The ILGWU created several such spots in the 1970s and 1980s, all featuring the union’s famed anthem, “Look For The Union Label.” Perhaps some of you recall these commercials.So what’s this have to do with classic Hollywood?, you ask. Well, the key is that final word of the group’s name -- union.There’s now a “union” for classic film buffs, but there are no dues to pay, no 401(k) that could plummet in value during this recession…and no calls for strikes (or bust-ups from management goons).This “union,” the Classic Film Union, is courtesy of Turner Classic Movies — which, ironically, was founded in Georgia, a “right-to-work” state, although it may now be headquartered in New York along with other facets of the Turner broadcasting empire.

Here’s the CFU’s front page:

TCM already had some fine things for classic Hollywood buffs on its Web site, notably a solid database and some fine message boards. Adding this makes it even more praiseworthy of a site.

The CFU was founded this spring, and already has nearly 1,650 members as of this writing. I’m proud to say I’m one of them.

The union also has more than 150 groups — and guess who has a group of her very own?

Yep, it’s Carole. The group was founded two weeks ago and already has 30 members. Lombard currently ranks in a three-way tie for 69th, but many of those groups are dedicated to themes (e.g., Hollywood in the 1930s) rather than people. Among actors of both genders, Carole rates tied for 34th (Cary Grant and James Stewart lead the way); among actresses, Lombard ranks in a tie for 12th with Ginger Rogers and Maureen O’Hara. (The current leaders among actresses are Barbara Stanwyck and Myrna Loy.)

There are many nice things to be said already about the Classic Film Union, and I’m certain things will only get better in ensuing months. If you want to join — and I wholeheartedly recommend it — go to

Getting back to the song “Look For The Union Label,” I’m pretty certain it was derived from the old standard “Look For The Silver Lining” — and if you’ve been a TCM fan for at least a few years, you likely know that song, sung by the great West Coast jazzman Chet Baker and used as the intro to the channel’s “The Sunny Side Of Life” movies. I couldn’t find that clip, but I found the next best thing — the full-length recording of Baker’s vocal version of the song (later in his career he recorded an instrumental version of it). Enjoy…and remember — in union, there is strength!

Cast Carole…and company

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.19 at 00:19
Current mood: curiouscurious

In the past, we’ve discussed a Carole Lombard film biography, but we’ve basically limited it to whom you would cast as Carole. Let’s take it a step further. (By the way, that photo above is of Lombard and John Barrymore acting in “Twentieth Century” — arguably the pivotal film in Carole’s career — under the watchful eye of director Howard Hawks.)The idea came from an entry in the Classic Film message board at the Internet Movie Database — and no, I did not initiate it, although I did respond. (You can find the thread at The person who began the debate suggested these casting possibilities, though they’re only a few:

Carole Lombard – maybe Kate Hudson
Clark Gable – George Clooney
Jean Harlow – The only person I can think of is Gwen Stefani
Cary Grant – George Clooney or Taylor Hicks
Marion Davies – Kirsten Dunst
William Haines – Neil Patrick Harris
Lucille Ball – Amy Adams

Interesting choices, although I don’t think Taylor Hicks has done much acting and I wonder if Neil Patrick Harris would be suggested to portray William Haines if he were straight. This person suggested that the parts of William Powell, Fred MacMurray, Jack Benny, Alfred Hitchcock and Russ Columbo would also have to be cast, though no names were suggested. Other names seen as possibilities included Barrymore, Hawks, Gary Cooper, Robert Riskin and George Raft.

I responded with several other persons who I felt needed to be in the story — Ernst Lubitsch, Fredric March, Harry Cohn and Joseph P. Kennedy, not to mention Carole’s mother and two brothers.

Now let’shear from you. Below is a list of names who could inhabit a Carole Lombard biopic; I’ve placed them in my order of importance to the story. Cast as many as you can, though I concede this is a difficulat task (for example, is there an actor today who could successfully evoke William Powell? There well may be, but his name hasn’t yet come to mind). Many of these characters will only appear in a scene or two where they intersected with Carole’s career, so keep that in mind. If you want to add some other characters, be my guest; if you’re going to give screen time to Lombard’s trip to Indiana for the war bond rally, Otto Winkler, the MGM press agent who served as a de facto chaperone, should be included.

Happy casting!

Carole Lombard –
Clark Gable –
William Powell –
Elizabeth Peters –
Stuart Peters –
Frederic Peters –
Russ Columbo –
Robert Riskin –
John Barrymore –
Howard Hawks –
Mack Sennett –
Madalynne Fields –
Ernst Lubitsch –
Fred MacMurray –
Harry Cohn –
Alfred Hitchcock –
Robert Montgomery -
George Raft –
Gary Cooper —
Cary Grant –
Fredric March -
Lucille Ball –
Jean Harlow —
William Haines –
Marion Davies –
Orson Welles –

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A studio story: What if?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.18 at 01:52
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Imagine, if you will, an alternate Hollywood universe, where the slightest of changes could send a career in a completely different direction. For example, had Carole Lombard not suffered that automobile accident in her teens, she might have continued as a relatively minor player in quickie westerns and possibly would never have had the chance to prove herself when sound arrived.Our “what if” theme instead takes place in 1930, when Lombard — having been released by Pathe a few months before — made the rounds of the studios, attempted to latch on as a player somewhere. As we all know, she did, signing the standard seven-year contract with Paramount. (The photo above is a publicity still from early 1933 promoting one of her Paramount films, “From Hell To Heaven.”)

But imagine things had gone differently, and some studio other than Paramount had signed her to a contract instead? How might her career have changed? (And keep in mind, back in those days each studio had a distinctive personality, identified with particular genres and styles with actor and director rosters to match.)

For the sake of simplicity, we are going to exclude three studios from this discussion — Columbia and Universal, since they were smaller outfits with relatively small rosters of actors (they tended to borrow stars from larger studios) and United Artists, a consortium of producers and not a studio in the traditional sense.

Paramount, and the other four remaining majors, were deemed the “big five” because of their larger resources; unlike the three mentioned above, they owned many theaters, especially in larger cities, which enhanced their revenue. Let’s examine the other four and try to gauge how Lombard would have fit in at each had she been there, instead of at Paramount, from 1930 to ’37. (Also note that this discussion is strictly about her professional career, not her personal life.)

* Fox – Lombard, of course, had made silent westerns at Fox in the mid-1920s, and returned to the studio in 1930 for a one-shot supporting role in “The Arizona Kid.” At the time, Fox was still a big name in the industry, having nearly taken over MGM the year before. Its early talkies included many racy musicals, including curiosities such as the offbeat sci-fi “Just Imagine.” However, Fox was headed for a fall in the early thirties, and soon discovered its strongest business came from rustic Americana films starring Will Rogers. Somehow I can’t see Lombard thriving in that type of environment, and she might have wound up elsewhere. On the other hand, if Carole had stuck it out, she would have been there in 1935 when Darryl F. Zanuck merged the ailing Fox with his year-old Twentieth Century Films. Perhaps Carole, and not Loretta Young, would have become Tyrone Power’s most notable leading lady. (Below is Power with Lombard and Clark Gable from later on in the decade.)

* MGM – :It’s easy to believe that Lombard at MGM would have become a bigger star than she ever was at Paramount, but before jumping to that conclusion, consider that her lone film at MGM, 1934’s “The Gay Bride,” was at best a programmer. There’s no guarantee that with all the stars on MGM’s roster, it would have known what to do with her…especially since at the start, Lombard didn’t know herself. Carole surely wouldn’t have been on the same rung as Joan Crawford or Norma Shearer, much less Greta Garbo. However, if Lombard had been on the roster in 1932, MGM might not have been so eager to hire another blonde — one named Jean Harlow. It’s interesting to envision Carole doing “Red-Headed Woman” or “Red Dust”; they might have been as good as the Harlow versions, but they certainly would have been different.

* RKO – The youngest of the “big five,” RKO ended up assimilating Pathe in 1931, which would have meant Lombard would have been at the same studio with the actress who reportedly bumped her off Pathe, Constance Bennett. It might have been deja vu all over again. RKO’s output was a mixed bag in the early thirties — on one hand, they did many sophisticated dramas and witty drawing-room comedies; on the other, the racy musicals of Wheeler & Woolsey. By the mid-thirties, RKO had found its stride with Astaire-Rogers musicals and Katharine Hepburn vehicles, and it’s difficult to see Lombard usurping either Ginger or Katharine from those films.

* Warners– To me, this is the most tantalizing alternative to Paramount, if only because this was a studio where Carole might have climbed to full-fledged stardom before she did so at Paramount (and ironically, that was engineered by a Columbia loanout, “Twentieth Century”). In the wake of the lackluster 1938 film “Fools For Scandal,” it may be difficult for some to envision Lombard succeeding there. However, early thirties Warners was a completely different animal (Zanuck was there before leaving to found Twentieth Century Films), with fast-paced urban stories, many of them comedies. It’s quite possible Warners could have drawn out Carole’s comedic skills working with the likes of James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Then again, with Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell on the roster, would Warners have wanted another blonde? (In this scenario, it’s possible that if Lombard had wound up at Warners, the studio might not have been interested in yet another blonde, one named Bette Davis. Send her somewhere else, and movie history becomes drastically different.)

So, based upon what you know, if Lombard had not signed with Paramount in 1930, how well would she have fit in at the other four studios? Which one would have been best for her career; which would have been worst?) Think about it, then give us your answers.

Myrna vs. Jean vs. Clark (and vs. Jimmy, too)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.17 at 00:11
Current mood: creativecreative

This entry doesn’t have much to do with Carole Lombard, but it does feature two of her female friends in the industry, a past co-star and future husband and a future co-star who would playher husband. We’re referring to “Wife Vs. Secretary,” an MGM release starring Myrna Loy as the wife, Jean Harlow as the secretary, Clark Gable as the man they share (at home and in the office, respectively) and, in one of his earliest roles, James Stewart as a supporting player. It’s MGM star power at its brightest (well, perhaps it was exceeded by 1936’s “Libeled Lady,” in which Loy and Harlow were joined by William Powell and Spencer Tracy).While MGM’s publicists certainly had a lot to work with, they were nonetheless tireless in getting the word out about its product — and that was true on both sides of the Atlantic. Exhibit A is this spread from a German movie publication, Film-Kurier. It was created by Alfred Weiner, a Prague native, in 1919 and quickly became a success. But after the Nazis assumed power in 1933, Weiner– who was Jewish — emigrated to the U.S. But the publication continued, printing its final issue in March 1945.

Film-Kurier covered many facets of the film industry, with movie reviews, stories on technical innovations and more. But one of its most popular features were photo spreads on top films of the day, and even in the early years of Nazism, MGM product was big in Germany. So it should come as no surprise that this magazine went to town with “Wife vs. Secretary.”

The following pages were recent additions at the Jean Harlow Yahoo! group, which does an excellent job covering Harlow’s career and legacy. Here they are in the magazine’s original sepia tone — and if any of you know German, please feel free to translate some of the copy (which can be read by double-clicking on the image). Enjoy!

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After a goof, a gem

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.16 at 08:53
Current mood: embarrassedembarrassed

As was said in “Some Like It Hot,” nobody’s perfect, and that certainly applies to me. I work in the late night/early morning hours coming up with entries for “Carole & Co.”, and sometimes my judgment thus isn’t what it should be. Upon further review, I have removed an entry of a picture that was not of Carole Lombard (with Clark Gable), and I apologize for the error.In its place, a photo that’s definitelyof Carole Lombard, taken by arguably the greatest of all portrait photographers, George Hurrell:

Need proof of its authenticity? Here it is:

It’s being sold at eBay (“auction” isn’t the right word, since the price is $475 under the “buy it now” option), but you do have 20 days or so to scrape up the cash before someone else claims it; the deadline is just after 3:16 p.m. (Estern) on July 6.

For more info, go to×10-Photograph-of-Actress-Carole-Lombard_W0QQitemZ110399458752QQcmdZViewItemQQptZArt_Photo_Images?hash=item19b4520dc0&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=65%3A1%7C66%3A2%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A5%7C294%3A50.

Mea culpa.

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“Code”? What’s this “Code” you’re talking about?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.15 at 00:44
Current mood: confusedconfused

Over the past two decades or so, film buffs have become increasingly aware of what American movies were like during the roughly five-year period between 1929 and mid-1934, when there was either no Production Code in the film industry (it was adopted in 1930) or it wasn’t seriously enforced. Once studios harnessed sound’s technical aspects, movies were able to tell stories in a mature and thrilling manner.True, there occasionally was exploitation of a sort, as you frequently saw actresses in their underwear (although male viewers hardly complained), such as, from left, Carole Lombard with George Raft in “Bolero,” Wynne Gibson in “If I Had A Million” and Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell in “Night Nurse.” But in return you also got effective storytelling about subjects of the day such as Prohibition, the Depression, and of course the latest salvos in the war between the sexes.

So let’s play the “what if” game one more time. Imagine an alternate classic Hollywood universe, an environment where the same films are made from mid-1934, but without the strict imposition of the Code. How different would those movies have been?

Take “My Man Godfrey,” for instance. Despite the shower scene shown above, there is an undercurrent of propriety between Godfrey and Irene Bullock’s pursuit of him. But how different would the story have been in our eyes if we had seen Godfrey seeing Irene in the same intimate outfits that William Powell saw Lombard in when they were husband and wife? Think of some other of your favorite films from that era — whether or not Lombard was in the cast — and try to perceive what they might have been like in a world where directors, writers and actors were unencumbered by the Production Code.

Keep in mind that in this alternate world, there has never been a Production Code, so it’s as if they were playing by pre-Code ground rules rather than reacting to the sudden absence of a code. (It was this vacuum in the early ’70s that led to exploitation fare that dominated many theaters for a time before George Lucas and Steven Spielberg discovered the blockbuster.)

Think about it for a bit, then describe how you think some of your favorite post-Code movies would have been altered by pre-Code conditions.

‘To Be’ one last autograph

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.14 at 00:31
Current mood: melancholymelancholy

At first, it sounds like a juxtaposition that simply isn’t possible — an autographed Carole Lombard item from “To Be Or Not To Be,” a film not issued until several months afterher death?But if may well indeed be the case. Not long ago, we noted that some publicity stills from the film may have been issued prior to Lombard’s fatal accident in mid-January 1942 ( And now, here’s another such photo taken by Robert Coburn, this one with a Lombard autograph:

Since you can’t see the autograph well there at all — even if you double-clicked the photo to view it at full size — I’ve copied the autograph area, enlarged it further, then lightened the background a bit to make the autograph more legible.

Now what do you think?

I wasn’t sure myself, so I consulted with someone who may know more about Lombard autographs than just about anyone — Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive. And what does she say?

“The handwriting and signature are absolutely authentic. “

Aside from items Carole may have signed during the Indianapolis war bond rally, this would be among the final things she ever autographed, coming either during late 1941 or the first few days of 1942.

There remains a mystery to this photo, however — not so much whether Lombard autographed it, but whom she was signing it for…or what her message on the photo meant. It reads, “‘To Ben, Please Don’t Cut Me Out. Always, Carole Lombard Gable.”

OK, so who was “Ben”? And just what did she mean by the phrase, “Please don’t cut me out”?

Sampeck believes the Ben in question may have been a film editor on “To Be Or Not To Be,” but a check of the Internet Movie Databse crew for the film shows it was edited by one Dorothy Spencer — in fact, no one on the IMDB crew list was named Ben. Since “Coburn” is embossed in the lower right-hand corner, I’m tempted to think “Ben” was someone on Coburn’s staff and this was Carole’s thank you to him. To be sure, that wouldn’t fully explain the phrase; perhaps Lombard was joking about being cropped out of the photo.. The precise meaning will likely remain a mystery.

As for the photo, it’s 11 by 14 inches and is in excellent shape, save for a white spot in the upper left-hand corner. You would guess a Lombard super-rarity such as this one would go for a handsome sum, and you’d be right — $2,500 under eBay’s “buy it now” option. No one has stepped forward yet, but there’s still plenty of time; this will be on the market for aslightly more than three weeks. If you’re an ultra-serious Carole collector who happens to have plenty of money, or you simply want to check it out, go to×14-Mat-Fin-Coburn-Photo_W0QQitemZ180365606438QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item29fea0be26&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=65%3A1%7C66%3A2%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A5%7C29

Oh, and one more thing to note: If it was indeed signed for a film editor, there is a terribly sad irony here. After Lombard’s death, but before “To Be Or Not To Be” was released, one of her lines was edited out of the film. The line: “What can happen in a plane?”

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Turning two is not so ‘terrible’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.13 at 00:01
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

It was June 13, 2007. A fan of classic Hollywood in general and Carole Lombard in particular was seeking a way to convey those interests to the world. The solution came through LiveJournal — a site dedicated to Ms. Lombard and the film industry of her era.It was called “Carole & Co.” to show both that Lombard was the focal point of the community, but entries would not be limited to her.

Of course, that fan of Carole and classic Hollywood was me, and I thought at the time, “Well, contribute a few entries every week to keep it fresh and see where it goes.”

And look where it went.

That “few entries every week” became one entry every day — day after day after day (most, but not all, by me). It would be another 21 months before the “streak” ended, and that only because of severe pain that precluded me from doing virtually anything. (I’m past that now, thank you.)

“Carole & Co.” now has more than 830 entries in its archive, along with all sorts of rare photos of Carole and people she knew and worked with. This “tribute” site soon evolved into a research site, as I increasingly tried to collect as much data as I could about Lombard’s life and times. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned about her over the past two years.

But no matter how much information you may gather, it doesn’t mean that much if no one is at the other end. Thankfully, that’s not the case. “Carole & Co.” now has more than 125 members — and many of you have contributed entries from time to time (and they’re always welcome). If you have friends who enjoy the era of classic Hollywood, by all means let them know about this site.

If this community were a living, breathing human being, the next few months might bring difficult times to this “parent.” After all, this stage of toddlerhood isn’t known as the “terrible twos” for nothing.

But a more accurate comparison might be with other mammals. We’ve all heard about “dog years” or “cat years,” and if we used a canine or feline age scale (what would we call it? “Blog years”?), this site would be a lively young adult, full of vigor. (My family owned a dog for about 15 1/2 years, and the cat they currently own just celebrated his 12th birthday last week.)

Thank you for all the nice things you’ve said about this site, as well as any constructive criticism. We strive to get better and better as time goes on, thanks to your support.

And as my way of saying thanks, here’s a photo of Lombard I’m pretty sure I’ve never run here before. It’s from the spring of 1941, arriving in the San Francisco Examiner photo file on June 10 of that year. I’m certain it was taken at RKO, likely by its longtime photographer Ernest Bachrach, and I think it’s stunning. You’ll probably feel that way, too.

Again, thanks.

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Made in the shade (of hair)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.12 at 00:21
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

As many of you know, one of my favorite actresses of recent decades is Goldie Hawn. And why not — she’s a talented comedic performer with likability and sex appeal. And as her name implies, she’s a beautiful blonde.Well, not always.

That’s Goldie looking gorgeous — but not golden — in the special effects-driven 1992 black comedy “Death Becomes Her.” It felt a bit weird to see a reddish-haired Hawn on the big screen.

Such shade shifts take place on the small screen, too. Naturally red-haired Laura Prepon became a blonde a few years ago and hasn’t switched back, while blonde Melissa Joan Hart spent one season as a red-haired “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” before reverting to the blonde shade she was born with.

Altered hair colors have been part of movies since the 1920s, and Carole Lombard changed shades even more often than she changed the spelling of her first name. Here are some examples of Lombard locks over the years:

A dark-haired Lombard in the 1925 Fox western “Hearts And Spurs”…

In 1929, hair considerably lightened, for the Pathe feature “Big News”…

In 1932, when Carole, now at Paramount, sought to cash in on the “platinum blonde” craze ignited by Jean Harlow (actually, Lombard’s look is more ash blonde than platinum)…

Fast-forward another three years, to 1935, and Lombard’s hair is now a more subtle shade of blonde for “Hands Across The Table”…

Here’s Carole in her only three-strip Technicolor feature, “Nothing Sacred,” in another darkened blonde shade…

…and that’s more or less the shade she retained for this 1940 color portrait shoot.

But Lombard was hardly the only star of her era to change hair color. (And lest you think this is solely a female domain, just remember seeing Gene Raymond as a blond for a few years in the ’30s.) Many movie buffs are aware that Joan Bennett, whom as a blonde looked a bit too much like big sister Constance to make any impact, gave her career a jump-start by becoming a brunette in the late ’30s…or that Harlow began to be taken seriously as an actress not as a “Platinum Blonde,” but as the “Red-Headed Woman”…

So you know about Joan and Jean deserting blondeness (for a while, at least), but here are examples of three stars who temporarily went in the other direction. It’s no secret that during the early thirties, Bette Davis was a blonde…

…but did you know that one of filmdom’s most famous redheads made about half a dozen films as a blonde in 1930 and ’31? I am referring to none other than Myrna Loy, who at the time was seemingly cast as a blonde when she wasn’t playing an Asian (as far as I know, she never played a blonde Asian)…

…a peroxided Kay Francis, a tall pseudo-blonde…

…and finally, here’s a photo that will knock you for a loop -Claudette Colbert as a blonde!

Yes, as long as films and TV shows are being made, hair-coloring companies can expect to remain in business.

A return to the ‘Circle’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.11 at 08:53
Current mood: satisfiedsatisfied

A while back, we discussed Carole Lombard’s appearances in the original incarnation of Family Circle magazine, which then had a “The” in front of its name and was a free publication distributed by the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain (, another Lombard appearance in the magazine has been discovered. Here’s the cover of the issue dated May 20, 1938:

The portrait is a colored rendering of a black-and-white publicity still…but next to it is a small caption. What’s it say?

“CAROLE LOMBARD … and Clark Gable have been written about so much that it seems as if there’s little more to be said about their relationship. But you may get a new slant on it from what they told Harry Evans when he met them both at a dinner recently. See his ‘Hollywood Diary.'”

Wonder what Clark and Carole told him? (Probably nothing earth-shattering — but at the very least it made for more interesting copy than discussing Lombard’s latest film, the lackluster “Fools For Scandal,” then making the rounds of theaters.)

It’s a 24-page, 8-by-11 inch publication filled with black and white illustrations along with features, homemaking advice and menus (after all, the sponsor was a supermarket chain!).

If you’re a collector of Lombard-related magazines, this might be of interest. It’s currently at eBay (, with bidding beginning at $12.99.

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Carole, the editor (with a very special message)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.10 at 00:56
Current mood: contentcontent

For someone who was an admittedly awful speller, Carole Lombard sure managed to be active in the media business.As many of us know, this is a photo of Lombard from July 1938, when she spent a week handling publicity for Selznick International Pictures. But did you know that about 2 1/2 years earlier, she had been working (so to speak) the other end of the line?

It’s true. Want proof? Check the April 1936 issue of Screen Book magazine:

Screen Book occasionally brought in stars to serve as “guest editors.” And while they probably didn’t do much more than select some photos (somehow I just can’t picture Lombard with one of those old thick red pencils editors used then, striking a line through sections of copy that didn’t make the grade), the stars enjoyed dropping by a fan magazine to see “how the other half lives.” This was probably particularly true of Lombard, who more than most of her acting contemporaries was keenly interested in the workings of the publicity process.

(Is that a pencil she’s holding in her hand, or is it a cigarette?)

Carole wasn’t the first star to serve as a guest editor. in fact, she got a congratulatory “welcome aboard” telegram from one of her predecessors, Ginger Rogers. There were, naturally, some Lombard-related items in the magazine, but to me, the most interesting is a “guest column.” Lombard either wrote it herself or was interviewed by a staffer, who transcribed it in her name.

It’s an open letter to prospective actors and actresses dreaming of stardom in Hollywood. Carole doesn’t deride such ambition — after all, she admits, she’s in that business herself, so why should she? — but she does offer helpful, realistic advice to those wishing to make screen acting their living. Rather than retype the column, I’ve enlarged it to the point where it should be able to be easily read. Double-click on it to do so.

All in all, Lombard did a nice job of “editing” — but as one who’s in the business myself, I’d have to say she made a wise decision to portray journalists (as in “Big News,” where she played a reporter) rather than to actually be one.

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Carole’s got some zip

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.09 at 00:34
Current mood: determineddetermined

During Carole Lombard’s seven-year tenure with Paramount, the studio issued more than 1,700 publicity stills of her — but that doesn’t mean every one of them were issued in the same numbers. It depended upon a number of conditions.For example, early on Lombard was a newcomer, fairly low on the studio totem pole, so relatively few copies of photos were sent to the press as compared to later in the ’30s, when Carole was big box office. If she was working on an A-grade production, stills promoting that would get more copies than if she were working on a programmer expected to be in and out of theaters in a week. And some images of her turned out to be more popular than others, so more copies were made, sometimes for Lombard’s own personal use.So over the years, some photos of Carole have become rather common among collectors (including many that were reprints of vintage pictures), while others fell by the wayside for whatever reason. The following is an example of the latter:

I’ve been searching for Lombard stills for quite a few years, and this is the first time I’ve come across this no-nonsense portrait. For the record, it’s p1202-1041, and was likely issued in early 1935. How do we know? Well, it helps that this is an original photo, so there’s a caption on the back:

This photo promoted Carole’s movie “Rumba,” which was issued in early 1935 — just before Paramount, guided by new production head Ernst Lubitsch, boosted the level of her films. That may explain its relative rarity. What does the caption say?

“THERE’S A ZIP TO ALL NEW FADS — that’s why Carole Lombard has selected this brown calfskin bag with a talon fastener. Appearing opposite George Raft in ‘Rumba,’ her current Paramount picture, Miss Lombard uses this practical bag with a chic tailored street costume.”

An addenda read,

“This dress is the ever-popular shirt maker dress in brown ribbed crepe — extremely tailored”

This particular photo ended up on page 11 of the April 1935 issue of Movie Mirror, and someone on the staff added the phrase “to the right” after “This dress,” probably meaning it was used as part of a photo spread. (If any of you have a copy of that issue, perhaps you can corroborate my guess.)

Okay, now you’re asking, “what the heck is a ‘talon fastener’?” Very simple — it was a name often used in the 1930s to describe a recent innovation in apparel and other items — something we now know as the zipper. Here’s a 1937 ad for a talon fastener, which became as valuable on men’s suits as in ladies’ handbags:

Getting back to the Lombard photo, you can now understand why the minimum bid for this photo on eBay is $99.99. No one’s bid on it yet, but there’s still time — bidding is scheduled to close at 9:07 p.m. (Eastern) next Sunday. If you want to learn more about it, simply go to

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Gable: A star with drive

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.08 at 00:02
Current mood: energeticenergetic

Yesterday in Greenwich, Conn., a classic car auction was held. What makes this of particular interest to us is that it’s very likely that Carole Lombard rode in one of the automobiles; heck, she may have even gotten behind the wheel every now and then.That’s because the car in question was owned by her husband, Clark Gable, and a beautiful car it is.

Specifically, it’s a 1938 Packard Eight Convertible Victoria. The coachwork is by Howard “Dutch” Darrin, an American who established a design house in Paris. Gable’s car was one of 12 being auctioned from the estate of noted car collector Ted Leonard.

We all know Gable loved automobiles; in fact, one of his hobbies was tinkering around with them. Many of the cars he owned were average cars — some, such as the famous “hearts” car Lombard gave him as a Valentine’s Day gag, were little more than jalopies. This wasas high-end as Gable generally got.

Clark probably paid good money by 1938 standards to get this car…but nowhere near what it was being auctioned for yesterday. According to the site (, bidding was expected to range between $175,000 and $225,000. A pretty hefty price to pay to give you and the love of your life a chance to go out for a drive and pretend you’re Clark and Carole.

Then again, Clark and Carole didn’t necessarily need fancy cars. Here’s Mr. Gable driving Mrs. Gable to work in a decidedly less luxurious vehicle — only the work is several hundred miles north of their Encino home.

That’s director Garson Kanin welcoming Carole for location scenes in the Napa Valley for “They Knew What They Wanted.”

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Separately, icons; together, a goldmine?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.07 at 00:14
Current mood: sadsad

Each possessed incredible beauty, but while both seemed ethereal, each were down to earth and liked by just about everyone in the business.Both had rough beginnings on screen, but honed their skills and eventually became renowned actresses, particularly in comedies.Each had ties to one of filmdom’s most revered actors and gentlemen. One discovered that friendship with him was both stronger and more successful than marriage; the other loved him deeply, but we will never know how their romance would have turned out.

Technicians and crew members vied to work on their films — not just because they were nice to look at, but because they were nice to be with.

Both were popular with many segments of the moviegoing audience, which back then was just about everybody.

They occasionally socialized with each other as part of a friendship.

Both helped define a very special era in American movies.

And neither lived for even one-third of a century.

We are, of course, speaking of Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow, the latter of whom died 72 years ago today. She was only 26.

And one more thing about them — in 1931, it was reported that Harlow and Lombard would make a film together (, although both would have been in supporting roles.

So Carole and Jean had a lot in common, personally and professionally. They liked each other and socialized every now and then. Which leads not one fandom, but two, into asking this question:

Where is a photo of Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow, together?

Jean’s not the only star Carole’s never been photographed with (ever seen a picture of Lombard with Barbara Stanwyck? Neither have I), but both were so popular, so beloved, and had a marvelous way in front of a camera that it seems inexplicable that they were never photographed together.

The most likely opportunity for a Harlow-Lombard photo probably came in early 1937, when Lombard was up for a best actress Academy Award (which of course she didn’t win). It just so happened that they were seated at the same table. (Also remember that in those days, the Oscar ceremonies were not televised, and there was no “red carpet.” The event was held at a large hotel ballroom.) Were any pictures taken? If so, none have surfaced, whether they be stills from photographers or frames from newsreels.

I will add this, however: Anyone in possession of a photo of Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard has something very valuable, a photo that would generate at least five figures from an auction house if in good condition. If it’s in mint or near-mint shape, make it six figures.

For now, let’s remember Jean Harlow as a beloved, classy lady, just as Lombard and Clark Gable did when attending her funeral:

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A Lombard fireside chat

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.06 at 00:02
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

A week ago, we noted that the house where Carole Lombard resided during her marriage to William Powell was up for sale ( Here’s a photo inside the house as it looks today:See that fireplace? Well, it just so happens that in March of 1932, Lombard gave a rather illuminating interview near it, and until recently it had been lost to posterity for decades.

I’d like to take credit for the discovery, but actually the honors should go to a fine blog called “Hollywood Heyday” (, one I recommend you visit if you want to capture a feel for the film capital circa 1932. The headline accompanying the interview is, “AMERICAN WOMEN AFRAID TO BE ORIGINAL, SAYS CAROLE LOMBARD”

I wish I could tell you what magazine or newspaper this was from, but I can you the identity of the author — one Alice Tildesley. A search showed Tildesley had written for both daily papers and film magazines from the mid-1920s (she apparently was among the first to interview Norma Shearer, in 1925) to the 1950s (in ’50, she did a magazine piece on the up-and-coming operatic star Mario Lanza). She even interviewed Walt Disney in 1933, after his “The Three Little Pigs” had become a huge hit.

Tildesley draws a number of intriguing comments from Lombard, especially when Carole compares American women to their European counterparts. Carole also reviews her professional and personal life up to that time.

It’s a long piece, so I’ll hide it under a cut — then follow it with some comments of my own. It ran in newspapers across the U.S. in late March of ’32.



Tied Up With the Red Tape of Convention, They Live Their Lives According to What People Will Think and Say;

They Have Yet to Acquire Poise and a Sense of Proportion, Says Petite Film Star

In an interview with
Alice Tildesley

The modern American woman is used to having adjectives such as hard, cold, fickle and temperamental hurled at her by representatives of other nations or by the opposite sex. To these she merely shrugs and smiles. But now comes Carole Lombard, one of her fairest sisters, and makes another charge.

“American women are afraid to be original,” declared Carole, holding a slim white hand toward the fire leaping in her living room hearth.

“Perhaps it is because we are new and haven’t acquired poise and a sense of proportion; but whatever the reason we are tied up with the red tape of convention. We live our lives according to what people say and whether or not it is the ‘thing’ to do what we should like to do.

“Abroad, people are much freer. They do as they please in everyday life without bothering about how, when or where their neighbors would behave under the same circumstances.

“For instance, if it is the ‘thing’ in our set to have luncheon at 1 o’clock, we have luncheon at that time, no matter how inconvenient, or whether or not we are hungry. The time to serve this meal is at one hour after noon, and that’s that.

“In Europe or in England, if a woman felt like having the meal served at 12 or at 2 or even at 5 o’clock, she would do so and think no more about it.

If it is the ‘thing’ to be seen walking in the park at a certain hour in the town where we live, that is the time we will walk in the park. It may be sunnier at an early time, or cooler later on, but no, we will go when everyone else does.

“If we see a woman wearing a black satin dress, a gray fox fur and a small black hat, we all rush out and buy black satin dresses, gray fox furs and small black hats. That is, if we have been told authoritatively that such a combination is smart. It doesn’t occur to us to regard ourselves in the mirror and decide if we shall look well in the costume, or if something green or blue or a larger hat would suit us better. There we go, a parade of women all alike.

“We’re not original. We’re too used to doing what we’re told, too accepting as true any statement made with the ring of authority.

“If it is the ‘thing’ to dine at a certain hotel or restaurant, that is where you will find the so-called smart American woman. It won’t matter that the charges are exorbitant, the food is inferior, the service casual, all that counts is that ‘everybody’ goes there.

“Yes it may be true that many American women wear the clothes they can afford, or those they happen to find in their local shops, but the same lack of originality is shown by women who can and do buy their garments in Paris.

“French women never take gowns, hats or wraps that are given them by their modistes simply because ‘it is all the rage this season.’ They insist that the line and the color and the silhouette become them, that the garment will enhance their charm and set off their personality.

“When American women go to the great clothes designers in Paris, they take whatever these experts are pleased to give them.

“At the studio, Travis Banton, who is to my mind one of the best clothes creators in the business, uses discretion for us. If he is dressing Ruth Chatterton, the browns set off Ruth Chatterton’s personality; if he is dressing me, the style will be entirely different, since I am not at all like Ruth; if Anna May Wong is to be outfitted, his ideas for her will be tinged with her exotic individuality. Thus the garments for the three of us will really belong to our separate selves.

“But if Ruth and Anna May and I were all well-to-do residents of any American city, or any three American cities, and we all went to Paris for our clothes, we should very likely come marching out of Lanvin’s or Patou’s or Schiaparelli’s exact duplicates of one another, like three puppets of a toy theater, every trace of individuality gone.

“European women are sure of themselves. We are not.”

The firelight gleamed on the ivory satin and lace of Carole’s pajamas and brightened her blonde hair; it struck tiny flashes from the silver and glass on the table between us; it sent tiny shadows flickering across her serious young face.

“It takes daring to be original. I am not so myself and I don’t wish to be, because to be original is to be conspicuous in a sense, and picture people are conspicuous enough as it is. We are made to do foolish and startling things for publicity purposes; we are stared at all the time; when we can blend in with the scenery we find it a grateful relief.

“But the average American woman would do well to study herself, to develop originality in dress, to try to set off her personality.

How few women could wear the Eugenie hat -– and how many tried to do so! Don’t be a Eugenie addict unless you are the Eugenie type.

“Decide for yourself. Don’t believe all people tell you, even if those people are experts in their line.”

Charges hurled against American women by the American Circle of the London Lyceum club find Carole undertaking the defense.

“They say American women haven’t as much emotion as European women,” she recollected, her cigarette making a faint blue haze between us.

“That may be true, if you mean that we are not so likely to show the emotion we feel. We are used to independence, to taking what we want instead of asking for it; we are used to managing our own lives. Husbands are not omnipotent, and we accept without question things that European women would consider favors. Perhaps we grow hard in the process of fighting for our living, but too much softness is not good for anyone.

“Temperament, which is showing emotion, has no place in a home. I have seen actresses use it as a weapon. I’ve seen them put it in as an act to get their own way; I’ve even done it myself in isolated instances when it seemed necessary for business reasons. But it isn’t to be tolerated as a domestic accomplishment.”

She laughed over the Circle’s statement that American men have hard-and-fast rules as to what constitutes the ideal wife, and then they marry an exception to their own rules.

“I have to admit that one. I think every man, American or not, believes that what he likes is a nice, domestic, docile, modest young female, whose entire world is centered on her husband, who will sacrifice herself for him, give in to him on every point and spend her life catering to his slightest whim.

“Faced with just such a woman, however, what does he do? Turns around and marries a girl who has none of those traits but who can amuse him, look well and hold her own in an argument. It is no longer fashionable to be a doormat, and I doubt if it ever paid.”

That all American women are devoted mothers may be stretching the truth a bit, according to Carole.

“But I have a most satisfactory parent,” she confided. “Her idea on bringing me up was that I should be permitted to have and to do the things that would make me happy.

“So many girls have had to fight their families in order to follow stage or screen careers. But my mother never made it difficult for me.

“When I was 10, our next door neighbor, who happened to be Al Kaufman, a director, asked me how I’d like to play Monte Blue’s little sister in a picture he was about to make. Would I like to play Monte Blue’s little sister? I nearly went mad with joy. My mother rejoiced with me, and I had a glorious time for a few weeks. After that, somehow or other, that marvelous woman persuaded me to go back to school.

“It was shortly before this opportunity came along that I had my name changed. A numerologist, a friend of my mother’s worked out my numbers because she knew how much I hated my name. I was Jane Alice Peters then. I never felt like a Jane, and was I pleased when I was presented with the name of Carole!

“Jane seemed to me a most girly sort of girl, who did girly things, and I was a tomboy of tomboys. I wasn’t interested in dolls or playing house. I played on the girls teams at school in baseball, basketball and track, but I preferred to play with boys. Girls weren’t rough enough for me.

“My model mother never once remarked that little girls might do well with a few less bruised knees and battered noses. She was always there to cheer when I won.”

Though Carole hates the term “lucky break,” she feels that her real entry into pictures was the result of just such a stroke of luck. She was 15 and in high school. Invited to a private dinner party, she was seated next to an executive of one of the larger studios.

“How would you like to be in a picture?” he enquired.

Since everyone knows the answer to that one, Carole was presently taking a screen test, as the result of which she began her career as a leading woman, never once having had to play extra roles.

“I was dreadful,” she confessed, candidly. “Even I knew that. But they let me make three more films; nobody knows why.

“I loved the work. It was fun, especially the Westerns I did with Tom Mix and Buck Jones. But I felt that I hadn’t enough experience and I saw no way to get there, so when Mack Sennett offered me a contract I accepted.

There was no training better than Mr. Sennett’s in silent-picture days. Look at the stars who graduated from that comedy lot -– Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, Marie Prevost –- dozens of them!”

Luck isn’t a term to use about romance according to Carole.
But her own romance was as sudden and unexpected as any lucky break could be.

She had been called back from a season of picture-making in New York to play a part in William Powell’s starring film, “Ladies’ Man.”

“Perhaps you’d better meet Mr. Powell,” somebody suggested, when Carole arrived at the Hollywood studio.

“Perhaps,” said Carole, who has a reputation for causing less trouble and being a better sport than any one else on the payroll.

She was ushered into an office. Someone mumbled the two names, moved out and closed the door. She and the star talked about the picture. They must have gone on to other topics, for after an interval they discovered that it was 6 o’clock and four hours had passed since the closing of the door.

“I haven’t said half I had to say,” complained Bill. “Couldn’t we have dinner together?”

They had it together.

Other dinners following. Presently all Hollywood knew that Bill Powell was “that way” about Carole Lombard.

Once upon a time, when I asked Bill’s opinion on time-limit marriages, he scoffed: “Sure, I believe in them. The time limit should be 24 hours.”

That was before he met Carole.

After he had seen her fragile-looking loveliness, that isn’t really fragile at all, he changed his mind. “When will you marry me?” was the recurring burden of his conversation. At length Carole decided the only way to make him talk about something else was to set the day.

She calls him “Junior” or “Willie,” and refuses to chant: “We’re so happy!” according to regulation Hollywood custom. It’s bad luck. Most of those who rave about Hollywood bliss land in divorce courts before the year is ended.

“No woman is very original in love,” she laughed. “I’m not finding fault with my sex on that score. We all think our choice in husbands can’t be improved upon; we all believe our man is the man; some of us keep our illusion through life.”

Bill Powell, who had refused to come down to share the little table before fire, appeared as I was saying goodbye.

“I left you alone because this was Carole’s story,” he explained. “I remember times when I’ve been supposed to be interviewed on the set, and along would come another actor and sit beside me and I’d let him talk. When the story came out, I would be merely mentioned and the other actor would have the whole thing. Don’t take chances, Carole.”

“Is that original?” smiled Mrs. William Powell.

Some assorted thoughts:

* In the great “just how tall was Carole Lombard?” debate, here’s one in favor of the short side, no specific height is given, but a headline refers to the film star as “petite.” Sort of a retort to a 1930 reference to her as “tall” in the New York Times.

* This quote confounds me:

““Abroad, people are much freer. They do as they please in everyday life without bothering about how, when or where their neighbors would behave under the same circumstances.”

Just how would have Carole known? True, many people in the film industry hailed from outside the U.S. and Lombard certainly knew her share. However, the word “abroad” infers having actually been there. From all biographies I’ve read about Lombard, none of them state that she ever journeyed outside of north America (assuming you count Hawaii as part of that continent). Is it possible that she or her family made a journey to Europe we know nothing about? Yes, but not likely.

* A nice quote about celebrity, a lesson some “reality” TV stars are learning all too well:

“It takes daring to be original. I am not so myself and I don’t wish to be, because to be original is to be conspicuous in a sense, and picture people are conspicuous enough as it is. We are made to do foolish and startling things for publicity purposes; we are stared at all the time; when we can blend in with the scenery we find it a grateful relief.”

With the WNBA season opening today, we discover that Carole Lombard indeed played basketball in her youth — a sport not listed by previous biographers (and from what we know about her athletic prowess, I’ll bet she was pretty good at it, too):

“I wasn’t interested in dolls or playing house. I played on the girls teams at school in baseball, basketball and track, but I preferred to play with boys. Girls weren’t rough enough for me.

“My model mother never once remarked that little girls might do well with a few less bruised knees and battered noses. She was always there to cheer when I won.”

* While Lombard refrains from discussing the traffic accident that nearly sidelined her from films, she does talk about her early career, specifically “Marriage In Transit,” with some candor:

“I was dreadful,” she confessed, candidly. “Even I knew that. But they let me make three more films; nobody knows why.”

To sum up, this provides interesting insight into Lombard’s mindset in 1932, before her marriage with Powell turned out to be nowhere as substantial as their friendship. Thanks to “Hollywood Heyday” for uncovering this gem.

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What Paramount had planned

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.05 at 00:29
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

It’s early May of 1932, and Carole Lombard’s latest film, “Sinners In The Sun,” is ready to hit theaters across America. (I believe that’s director Alexander Hall watching Carole; a decade later, he directed “They All Kissed The Bride” for Columbia, the movie Lombard was to have made had she not died in 1942.)But officials at Paramount are already planning the upcoming roster of films for 1932-33, and they let exhibitors know them through the trade press. The following was issued in the May 12, 1932 issue of the New England Film News, one of a series of regional publications printed by the people who ran Boxoffice magazine:

It’s fascinating to examine, because it shows how much things changed between the initial announcement and what actually came to the screen. This is certainly true from a Lombard perspective; as all three of the films announced for Carole were ones she never made — “Pick-Up,” co-starring Geoege Raft, and an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s book “The Glass Key,” with an as yet unnamed co-star (, and “Hot Saturday,” in which Nancy Carroll would get the part initially planned for Carole.

The movie that would become known as “No Man Of Her Own” is listed under its initial title, “No Bed Of Her Own,” but whereas later trade ads had this teaming Clark Gable and Miriam Hopkins (, here the co-stars were to have been Raft and Adrianne Allen, a British actress who made a handful of films — most notably “Merrily We Go To Hell” — before returning to England. (She was also announced for a lead role in Cecil B. De Mille’s “The Sign Of The Cross.”)

To be fair, quite a few titles were made as initially advertised, including “Love Me Tonight” with Maurice Chevalier, “Blonde Venus” with Marlene Dietrich, “Horse Feathers” with the Marx Brothers and “The Big Broadcast” with Bing Crosby. So not every plan of Paramount’s went awry.

One more interesting thing about this article, though: A relative unknown supporting player in “Sinners In The Sun” was announced in a few lead roles for upcoming Paramount productions. However, someone at the publication’s copy desk must’ve thought the spelling of his first name was a misprint, so the New England Film News would up with this:

If the actor in question ever saw this item, he might have wondered whether he should’ve just kept his old moniker of Archie Leach. (Before 1932 was out, he’d end up working with Dietruch in “Blonde Venus” and with Carroll in “Hot Saturday.”)

Finally, check this “brief” item next to the Paramount piece, about a play whose adaptation would serve as a Lombard vehicle some 16 months later:

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Carding Carole again

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.04 at 01:06
Current mood: pensivepensive

For the third time, the Donruss card company is honoring Carole Lombard by including her among its Americana collection. We discussed the first set, and her card in particular, in early 2008 ( Later that year, with relatively little fanfare, Donruss issued another set, called “Hollywood Icons,” and this one also featured Lombard:

Sorry we missed that one — I sense a lot of folks did.

Lombard is back in the third collection of classic Hollywood greats, and as was definitely the case with the first set and possibly with the set, premium versions of the card come with a swatch of Carole’s clothing:

Donruss issued 500 of those cards with the clothing. (There is also a super-premium variation, of which only 25 have been issued, featuring a swatch about 50% larger than that shown above.) And I’d like to show you what the back of the card looks like, but I haven’t found an example yet.

A “co-stars” variation is also out, and some of the pairings make obvious sense — Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power, and so on. So who is Lombard teamed with? Fred MacMurray, her most frequent co-star? Nope. Either of her famed actor husbands, William Powell or Clark Gable? Uh-uh. (None of the three are included in the series — one presumes their estates couldn’t reach an agreement with Donruss.) Instead, Carole is co-starred with…

…George Raft. Okay, they did make two films together, but few link them as co-stars. Raft was rather promiscuous in real life, and here he does likewise (but with both genders; in the world of cards, not that there’s anything wrong with that!), being “teamed” with two people he worked with in “Some Like It Hot” (Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis), along with William Holden and Edward G. Robinson.

This would normally be the part where I would link you to an eBay seller, but I’m not going to do so this time. I found about a half-dozen sellers of the Lombard Donruss cards — impressive because the cards were only made available earlier this week. Go to, type in “Carole Lombard Donruss” and you should come up with at least a few.

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Carole, and buddy

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.03 at 00:01
Current mood: curiouscurious

How many of you have seen, or even remember, the film shown on the poster above? It was called “Outrageous Fortune,” and it came out in 1987, starring two actresses who have ties of sorts to Carole Lombard. Shelley Long, as many people know, is from Carole’s hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind., while Bette Midler’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is adjacent to Lombard’s on Hollywood Boulevard. (Bill Cosby’s on the other side of Carole’s.)”Outrageous Fortune” wasn’t a classic by any means, but it was plenty of fun. The ladies play rival actresses in training, Long’s wealthy and prissy, Midler’s earthy and streetwise. Through ties to the same man, they become involved in intrigue and a chase that leads them far from their New York theater roots. (The title, of course, is derived from Hamlet’s solilioquy, as of course was the title of Lombard’s final film, “To Be Or Not To Be.”) It’s worth a rental at your video store or through your mailing service.

Why is this film being brought up here? Well, for some time I’ve thought that if the premise of this script had been attempted some 50 years earlier, in 1937, it might’ve made an interesting vehicle for Carole Lombard, as a flighty character similar to Midler’s, and Myrna Loy, as a more reserved type along the lines of Long’s character. In ’37, Lombard and Loy were arguably at the peak of their careers, popular comedic actresses whose styles and approaches to comedy certainly were different. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have complemented each other.

Of course, we’ll never know, because Lombard and Loy never made a movie together. And even if they had, they wouldn’t have been the two leads; in those days, such billing was never done. Films then invariably had a male and a female lead, normally in some sort of romantic relationship — and in the event two lead actresses appeared together, their characters were usually vying over a man who got equal or superior billing.

When women co-starred in a comedy, it normally was a short subject. Before her untimely and still mysterious death, Thelma Todd was paired in two-reelers with Zasu Pitts and then with Patsy Kelly:

Here’s our “what if” assignment: Take a movie story that you could “adapt” into a female “buddy” picture in the 1930s, with Carole Lombard as one of the leads. Also name an actress of that era who would co-star with Carole. (Since there haven’t been many films with two female leads, you can use a male film and give it a gender change.) Also tell us why you think this pairing would work.

Carole’s waiting for her co-star.

One more thing about “Outrageous Fortune”: Long and Midler had both been promised top billing (oops!), so the producers compromised. Long received top billing in marketing west of the Mississippi River, while Midler was top-billed in marketing east of the Mississippi. (And I have no idea who got the edge in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, a market on both sides of the Mississippi.)

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It’s good to watch King

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.02 at 00:01
Current mood: pensivepensive

This month, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is shining the spotlight on directors, and even if you don’t necessarily subscribe to the auteurtheory, there are many good films on the horizon from many good directors. The focus on this entry is a director who never worked with Carole Lombard (though I’m certain they had at least a passing acquaintance in this industry town called Hollywood), but he’s one of my favorites — and chances are after watching a few of his films, you may join that group, too.His name? King Vidor. Sounds kind of haughty, regal, doesn’t it? Well, don’t let the moniker fool you; there was little pomposity about the man. (“King” was a not uncommon first name in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.) While Vidor worked in a variety of genres, as most directors did in the classic Hollywood era, his best and most personal films have a genuine humanity about them. TCM is showing several of them Wednesday night, and before I tell you about the movies, let me tell you about the man:

Born in Galveston, Texas in 1894, Vidor was six when a hurricane hit the Texas gulf town, causing widespread damage and casualties. In his teens, he became interested in motion pictures and became a cameraman in the embryonic newsreel industry; in 1913, he directed his first film, “Hurricane In Galveston,” recreating the 1900 disaster on a minimal budget. A few years later, he moved to Los Angeles, the new capital of the film industry. but he didn’t initially direct there; instead, he wrote screenplays and soaked up as much experience as he could (he was even an extra in “Intolerance”). By 1918, he was ready to direct, and made 14 two-reelers that year alone; the next year, he directed his first feature, “The Turn In The Road.”

Vidor’s reputation continued to rise, and he earned a long-term contract with Goldwyn Pictures in 1922 after “Peg O’ My Heart,” starring Laurette Taylor, became a hit. Goldwyn eventually was absorbed into MGM (long after founder Samuel Goldwyn had left the company), and Vidor was part of the move. He initially directed films under the “Metro-Goldwyn” or “Mayer” companies, but his first directorial outing for the now fully-marged Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was a smash, one of the best films of the 1920s — “The Big Parade”:

The film, a tale of the World War, propelled John Gilbert (above, with Renee Adoree) into a star.

Vidor contined directing for MGM into the early thirties (making the first all-black musical, “Hallelujah!”, in 1929), but eventually chafed under Louis B. Mayer’s producer-oriented philosophy. He began freelancing, and continued to make big films into the 1950s (“War And Peace”). In fact, when Victor Fleming left “The Wizard Of Oz” to work on “Gone With The Wind,” Vidor directed the Kansas scnes of the movie, including Judy Garland’s c;assic “Over The Rainbow” performance (something I was not aware of). Vidor died in 1982.

The Vidor salute on TCM actually begins with a 1973 documentary (and interview) at 8 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday, part of Richard Schickel’s series, “The Man Who Made The Movies.”

Now, here are the Vidor films TCM will show Wednesday evening into Thursday morning:

* 9 p.m. – “The Crowd” (1928). From the famous opening shot, where we peer in on a huge office, eventually focusing on one man’s story, this is ine if the very best silents ever made, full of humanity and charm. (It was one of two classics Vidor directed in 1928; the other, “Show People,” will be aired exactly two months from now, when TCM does a 24-hour tribute to Marion Davies as part of its “Summer Under The Stars” series.) “The Crowd” is wonderfully realistic — apparently too much so for Mayer, who never warmed to the picture, deeming it too downbeat — and while there are sad moments, it remains on the whole a life-affirming experience. (Unfortunately, James Murray, shown above, never was able to duplicate his success here, and drowned, a penniless alcoholic, in 1936.) Every film buff should see this film at least once.

* 10:45 p.m. – “The Champ” (1931). Wallace Beery is endearing in this story of a broken-down boxer seeking to retain custody of his son, but it’s Jackie Cooper as the child who wowed the audiences. Still a crowd-pleaser.

* 12:15 a.m. – “Duel In The Sun” (1946). Vidor directed this sparwling western spectacle for David O. Selznick, who hope to duplicate the epic success of his “Gone With The Wind.” Not quite, David O. With Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten and Gregory Peck. One revirwer at the Internet Movie Database commented, “For those who prefer soap operas instead of horse operas, this western might be for you.”

* 2:45 a.m. – “The Fountainhead” (1949). Vidor might seem like an odd choice to convert objectivist maven Ayn Rand’s work to screen (that’s Rand, who wrote the screenplay, in between Vidor and star Gary Cooper), but he does reasonably well under the circumstances. This tale of an architect who refuses to compromise also stars Patricia Neal (who was chosen by Warners over the likes of Barbara Stanwyck, Ida Lupino and Bette Davis) and Raymond Massey.

* 4:45 a.m. – “Our Daily Bread” (1934). Fifteen years before and 180 degrees removed from Rand’s philosophy is this tale of a collective farm formed to fight the depression in America. (It was meant to be a followup of sorts to “The Crowd”l in fact, the lead characters share the earlier couple’s names of John and Mary Sims. Vidor wanted James Murray to reprise his role, but Murray, now drunk and unreliable, refused to get himself into shape to play the role.) A stirring film at times, Vidor largely escaped the communist tag during the red scare of the late 1940s. Such was not the case for the film’s female lead, Karen Morley.

Morley, an Iowan born in 1909, had appeared in “Scarface” and “Gabriel Over The White House,” among other films, but left MGM when she wanted to not only marry but have children, something deemed unbecoming a studio starlet. Far to the left of Hollywood progressives such as Lombard and Myrna Loy, Morley became active in left-wing causes and unionizing in the 1940s, and her career was sunk when she pleaded the Fifth Amendment testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 (“Our Daily Bread” was cited as proof of her communist ties). In her later years, she regularly spoke on Pacifica radio (including WBAI in New York) and was featured in a 1999 Vanity Fair article on blacklist victims. She died in March 2003.

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Still in the present tense?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.06.01 at 00:24
Current mood: morosemorose

Most Carole Lombard fans know that her final film, “To Be Or Not To Be,” did not play in theaters until after her death. However, as is the case for every movie, the publicity for it began well before its released. For example, take the promotional still:How do we know this picture may have been released before that fateful evening of Jan. 16, 1942? We obviously can’t tell from the picture itself, likely taken by Robert Coburn (and a striking image it is, too, one I’ve never come across before). No, one senses it from the caption on the back of this linen-backed portrait:

“”Carole Lombard returns to the screen after a year’s absence during which she has played the role of Mrs. Clark Gable in real life, in Ernst Lubitsch’s hilarious melodrama, To Be or Not to Be.””

No posthumous sense about it at all. Of course, by the time it reached its intended recipient, Lombard may have already been lost to history.

This 8″ x 10″ photo is currently being auctioned at eBay, specifically at

The minimum bid is 9.99 — no bids have been placed as of this writing — and bidding closes at 4:28 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday.

The portrait — and the caption — provide a glimpse of what might have been had fate not intervened.

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Posted December 11, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, May 2009   Leave a comment

Be it ever so humble…part 2

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.31 at 00:05
Current mood: contentcontent

Yesterday, we examined the house Carole Lombard lived in for most of her marriage to William Powell. Following her divorce from Powell in mid-1933, she briefly resided in Beverly Hills, but she didn’t own it, and now she desired to have her own property — something now affordable due to her growing stature as an actress. She found a home, bought it, and moved into it 75 years ago this spring:

Among the Los Angeles-area houses Lombard lived in, only the Encino ranch she shared with Clark Gable is more renowned. Located at the far western end of Hollywood Boulevard, where it was no longer the main drag of the Hollywood central business district but instead a wide thoroughfare through a luxury neighborhood, Carole only resided there for about two years…but many of the legendary stories about Lombard originated here. The array of offbeat parties she hosted, for instance. Or the splendid interior design by former actor William Haines, to whom Carole once appeared nude because she knew he was homosexual and wouldn’t be aroused.

The other day, we asked how Lombard’s legacy might have been different had Gable not entered her life (, Had her romance with Clark never happened, she might have stayed in the Hollywood Boulevard house considerably longer. Once they began a relationship, it soon became apparent to her that her home was in too public a location for potential trysts with someone like Gable (who was considerably more high-profile than her two other principal post-Powell lovers, Russ Columbo and Robert Riskin).

Before you get excited about where this is all leading, let me break the news that this actual house is not for sale. However, the above photo of the house is; it’s an original 8″ x 10″ photo, taken April 28, 1934, at about the time she moved in. No one has bid on it yet, perhaps because the opening bid is $49.99 — and bidding closes at 8 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday, If you want to find out more, go to

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Be it ever so humble…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.30 at 00:01
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

“…there’s no place like home.”

For much of Carole Lombard’s marriage to Wiilliam Powell, the couple resided in this house on Iris Circle in the Whitley Heights section of Los Angeles, in the hills above Hollywood Boulevard:

The house was built in 1926, at a time when Whitley Heights was the neighborhood for the elite of the film industry. (Rudolph Valentino, who died in ’26, was arguably Whitley Heights’ most famous resident.} By 1931, several other areas, most notably Beverly Hills, had stolen some of Whitley Heights’ thunder, but the area still had (and has) plenty of cachet.

I don’t know if this photograph of the newly-married couple in 1931 was taken at the Iris Circle house, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that it was:

Well, it just so happens that this house (with four bedrooms, four bathrooms and about 3,200 square feet) is now on the market. The house is being listed for $1,395,000 — a lot of money by the standards of mere mortals such as us, but for luxury real estate, especially a house that two of Hollywood’s legends called home, it’s pretty reasonable. (It would seem even more reasonable if the 401(k)s most of us possess hadn’t shrunk like Alice after consuming that ‘drink me’ bottle.)

Now here’s more interesting news, especially if you’re in the Los Angeles metro area: There will be an open house of this property from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. If this whets your interest, I respectfully ask — just for courtesy’s sake — that you call the agent, Tim Swan of Prudential California Realty, at 310-777-2817 or e-mail him at If you’d like to see the official listing, it’s at

Incidentally, I found it interesting that among the 17 photographs used in marketing the property, Prudential ran this photo, taken about two years after the couple divorced:

But at least Lombard is represented; poor Powell goes unnoticed. If their spirits somehow inhabit this house (and if they do, I’m certain they are benign), I’m certain Carole is having a laugh at Bill’s expense.

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Dramatic Clara Bow

Upcoming Julien’s Sale – June 26-27, 2009

Posted by [info]silentsgirl on 2009.05.30 at 12:09
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

I found out about this sale because of the Marilyn Monroe items being offered, but when I paged through the catalog, I found out that a portion of the Edith Head estate was being auctioned as well, including numerous Carole Lombard costume sketches.

The catalog can be seen here

and the Edith Head pages begin at Page 72 or so (though I recommend paging through the whole thing – lots of pretty/interesting/fascinating items related to classic Hollywood).  Oh to be wealthy instead of so darned good looking…. ;-)

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Lombard – Gable = ?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.29 at 06:21
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Since the inception of “Carole & Co.” nearly two years ago, we’ve occasionally asked some “what if” questions regarding Carole Lombard. But here’s one we haven’t asked, and I don’t think I’ve seen it addressed elsewhere: What would Lombard’s legacy be like if she had never been in a romantic relationship, then marriage, to Clark Gable? (The two are shown at the Northridge Horse Show in June 1938, at the time Gable was making “Too Hot To Handle,” as well as on the cover of Warren G. Harris’ book, “Gable & Lombard.”) In other words, how much of Carole’s reputation is tied in to Clark’s?

For argument’s sake, let’s assume everything else in Lombard’s professional life proceeded precisely as it did, including the war bond rally and fatal accident. We aren’t discussing whether her life would be different, but instead whether later generations perceive her differently.

This isn’t like discussing how Myrna Loy would be remembered without the presence of William Powell, since Gable and Lombard made only one film together, long before they were linked as lovers — and while “No Man Of Her Own” has some charm, it probably isn’t a high point for either actor. (And getting back to Loy, she made all sorts of fine films without Powell.)

Would Carole’s career and memory hold up as well in our eyes had she not been involved with Gable? While most of us here would probably say “yes,” keep in mind we are preaching to the congregation. Classic film fans who aren’t enamored with Lombard might feel differently. (Keep in mind that many casual movie buffs aren’t aware that Powell and Lombard were once married.)

It’s a fascinating question to ponder.

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Lombard looks at herself

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.28 at 00:05
Current mood: exanimateexanimate

And while that Eugene Robert Richee photo is stunning, we’re not referring to Carole Lombard looking at her reflection. Rather, it’s Carole reflecting on her print.

If you picked up a copy of William Randolph Hearst’s Los Angeles Examiner on May 20, 1934, you received a bonus of sorts: A “first-person” article by Lombard (actually, as told to reporter Muriel Babcock) where she discusses her appearance, gauging her strengthes and weaknesses with a reasonable degree of candor — not easy in an industry where “your face is your fortune.”

Thanks to the great work of G.D. Hamann ( — who’s every bit as excellent in his Hollywood newspaper detective work as Philo Vance and Nick Charles were sleuthing on the big screen — we have this article to share with you.

Here’s the piece. Enjoy:

Nobody in the movie business has a perfect face, as far as I can see.

Lots of stars have to tie their faces up with fish skin to keep those sagging muscles under control.

Why, I know one handsome Romeo who has to tie his face so tightly that he doesn’t dare bend over too far in a scene. He’ll yell, “hey, not that angle! My face is slipping!” And they’ll have to move the camera for him, for after beauty is beauty.

My face? Well, I’ve never worried much about it, although perhaps I should. I had an accident once and had nine stitches taken across the left cheek. But you can hardly see the scar now.


My upper lip was so stiff from this accident that for several months I could hardly move it. There’s nothing so expression-less as a woman with a stiff upper lip, so I’m really glad that it came back to normal. Massage did the trick. It is all right now.

However, if you’ll notice my jaw, you’ll see that I’m really moon-faced. Instead of having the perfect oval line of a true beauty, I’m very full through the jowls. I used to paint this cheek line with white makeup. You can narrow your face easily, especially for camera work. But I don’t do that any more. I figure it is just a Carole Lombard face and a part of my personality.

It was difficult to do much with my hair when I was younger. It was so very fine. Gradually, it has coarsened through lots of hair treatments which makes it much easier to handle. Yes, it is really blonde. I have tried it several shades lighter and even experimented with brunette coloring, but I’m back to its natural shade.


My eyes frankly — and motion picture people are trained to look at themselves impersonally — are my best feature. You can see they are large and luminous. In my makeup, I accentuate them with dark lines, make them stand out as much as possible.

I like my nose, too. As a youngster, I didn’t. I wanted a cute, turned-up nose like Gloria Swanson’s, and so I used to spend a great deal of time pushing it up. I used also to bare my teeth because I liked Gloria’s smile. But I didn’t succeed in being a very good Swanson imitation, so now I’m just Carole Lombard.

Want to compare Carole with Swanson? Here they are together on a Paramount set:

An interesting read, especially for those of you fascinated by vintage makeup and such.

Also in the Examiner that day was another piece in which Carole plays a part. It concerns an event held by the newly-formed Screen Actors Guild on the current site of CBS Television City, not far from Farmers Market:


The Film Stars Frolic will present final performances today at the Gilmore Stadium, Fairfax and Beverly, in Hollywood, with Miriam Hopkins as queen of the festival at the matinee.

More than 50,000 persons thus far have visited the stadium to see scores of screen stars and featured players taking active part in the circus, rodeo and Mardi Gras entertainment.

Fifty members of five actors’ organizations in Hollywood present the pageantry of old-time minstrelry, nursery rhymes, ladies of the masque, and repertoire of Shakespearian characters. A gypsy chorus of twenty voices also is on the program.


Maurice L. Kusell conceived the pageant of the nursery rhymes, for the Thalians; Charles Thurston is handling the Shakespearean group for the Troupers Club and Mrs. Ben Piazza is staging “Ladies of the Masque” for the Dominos.

Other organizations cooperating include the Assistance League, Studio Club, Junior Screen Actors Guild, Hollywood Legion Post 43 American Legion Band, Victor McLaglen’s California Light Horse Cavalry Troop and the Southwest Mounted Patrol.


Following stars of the Screen Actors Guild have been appearing in the three-day engagement: Adolphe Menjou, Fredric March, Paul Muni, James Cagney, Robert Woolsey, Lee Tracy, Ralph Bellamy, Boris Karloff, James Gleason, John Boles, Spencer Tracy, Ralph Morgan, Bela Lugosi, Jimmy Durante.

Others are Bing Crosby, Mary Brian, Claudette Colbert, Edward G. Robinson, Stuart Erwin, Dolores Del Rio, Carole Lombard, May Robson, Dick Powell, Pat O’Brien, Minna Gombel, Ralph Forbes, Robert Armstrong, Richard Arlen, Clive Brook, Gloria Stuart, Charley Chase, June Collyer and Edmund Lowe.

The story makes it sound like a rousing success. The Screen Actors Guild online museum tells a drastically difference story:

“The public frolicked elsewhere” was the Guild’s lament, in the face of its second fund-raising event. Held at Gilmore Stadium (now the site of CBS Television City, by the Farmers Market), May 18-20 1934, only about 150 Guild members, out of 3,000 (!) showed up, and the losses wiped out the Guild’s meager treasury! The Guild was saved through the generosity of $1,000 loans from President Eddie Cantor, 1st Vice-President Robert Montgomery, 2nd Vice-President Ann Harding, 3rd Vice-President James Cagney, and Board member Fredric March. The “Frolic” featured a rodeo, circus acts, a chariot race (manned by the same teams as were in Eddie Cantor’s film Roman Scandals), and appearances by stars like W.C. Fields, Jeanette MacDonald, Pat O’Brien, Mary Astor, Jimmy Durante, Spencer Tracy, Edward G. Robinson, Claudette Colbert, Ralph & Frank Morgan, Carole Lombard, Dick Powell, Gloria Stuart, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.

This probably explains why the “first annual Film Stars Frolic” also turned out to be the last.

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Philo x 6

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.27 at 00:01
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

We all know that Carole Lombard’s nickname for second husband Clark Gable was “Pa.” But what nickname did she give her first husband, William Powell? According to some Lombard biographers, one of them was “Philo.”


As in Philo Vance, the second most-famous detective Powell ever portrayed on screen.

Philo Vance, the creation of S.S. Van Dine (the pseudonym of author Willard Huntington Wright), was a tremendously popular sleuth in the late 1920s and early 1930s — urbane, knowedgeable, shrewd. (The character was popularly deemed “the society sleuth.”) For at least the first several books of the series, Van Dine’s volumes had a formula, at least where the titles were concerned: They were always called “The —— Murder Case,” with the missing word having precisely six letters.

And speaking of six, today Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is showing six Philo Vance films from 1930 to 1940 — in which the detective is portrayed by six different actors. (Wright sold his novels to film studios individually, a likely reason the film series never gathered much traction.) Moreover, four of the six Vances seen in this marathon worked with Lombard at one time or another. I apologize for announcing this on such short notice.

Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6:30 a.m.: “The Bishop Murder Case” (1930) — Powell portrayed Vance in the first two films of the series, “The Canary Murder Case” and “The Greene Murder Case,” both made at Paramount. This one, however, was made at MGM, which cast Basil Rathbone, fresh off his success in the original 1929 “The Last Of Mrs. Cheyney” with Norma Shearer. Here, the murders are inspired by Mother Goose rhymes. The cast also features Leila Hyams and Roland Young, a full seven years before he became Cosmo Topper. While Rathbone never made a movie with Lombard, he co-starred with her on radio, in a 1938 “Lux Radio Theater” adaptation of the Bette Davis-Henry Fonda drama “That Certain Woman.”

* 8 a.m.: “The Kennel Murder Case” (1933) — Powell played Vance once more at Paramount, in “The Benson Murder Case” (1930), before moving to Warners in 1931. (Well, he also played Vance in a segment of the 1930 revue “Paramount On Parade.”) But the character followed him to Warners for what many consider the best film in the series, as Vance investigates a murder at a Long Island dog show. Eugene Pallette is in it too, three years before he and Powell would cross paths in “My Man Godfrey,” and Mary Astor is Powell’s leading lady. Michael Curtiz directed. A year after this came out, Powell would be over at MGM, playing another detective with a dog in his life.

* 9:15 a.m.: “The Dragon Murder Case” (1934) — Warners filmed the next Vance movie too, but with a different William...Warren William. He had played a variety of fascinating characters in the pre-Code era, and is among that era’s actors whose legacy has been rehabilitated. Here as Vance, he isvestigates a drowning in what legend has labeled “the dragon pool.” Margaret Lindsay is his co-star, and the supporting cast includes Pallette again and another Lombard co-star, Lyle Talbot (“No More Orchids”).

It’s rather ironic that the first three actors to portray Philo Vance onscreen are all better known for playing other literary characters — Powell as Nick Charles, of course; Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes; and William as Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason, more than two decades before Raymond Burr gained lasting TV fame in the role.

* 10:30 a.m.: “The Casino Murder Case” (1935) — Paul Lukas was a respected actor for the likes of “Watch On The Rhine.” (In 1932, he acted opposite Lombard in “No One Man,” one of her weaker Paramount programmers.) But how many of you were aware he played Philo Vance? He did here (with a slight accent, no less) for MGM, investigating a series of murders at a dowager’s mansion (said dowager is played by Alison Skipworth, who acted with Lombard in “Sinners In The Sun” and “The Princess Comes Across”). This was also one of Rosalind Russell’s earliest films.

* noon: “The Garden Murder Case” (1936). — Another MGM Vance production, at a time when interest in the character was slightly waning. And the portrayer of Philo went way back with Lombard — back to her first starring role while a teenager! We’re referring to Edmund Lowe, Carole’s leading man in the 1925 Fox film “Marriage In Transit.” In this case, Vance looks into a series of suicides…but were they? With Benita Hume and Virginia Bruce. (I couldn’t find any photo from the film, so I settled for this Spanish poster.)

* 1:15 p.m.: “Calling Philo Vance” (1940) — By now, the bloom was definitely off the rose, so much so that Wright/Van Dine made two changes in the series: He took Vance out of his milieu of society crimes and placed him in foreign espionage, and the titles no longer followed the old “murder case” formula. In this Warners programmer, so relatively obscure I couldn’t find a publciity still or poster. Vance investigates the murder of an aircraft manufacturer, a reworking of “The Kennel Murder Case” minus the kennel. The role is played by British actor James Stephenson, the same year he got an Oscar nomination in “The Letter.” Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack in July 1941, only in his early fifties.

According to the Internet Movie Database, 10 different actors portrayed Philo Vance between 1929 and 1947. (One of them was Wilfred Hyde-White, a fine British character actor regularly seen on American TV in the 1970s and early ’80s.) The character also appeared in a 1940s radio series, with longtime radio actor Jackson Beck playing the detective..

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Back to the beach!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.26 at 00:16
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

Now that the first signpost for summer, Memorial Day, has passed, many are now thinking about the beach…whether it be adjacent to an ocean (such as Santa Monica Beach, shown above) or a lake. And note that this year, “summer” — at least in the unofficial sense — will be at its maximum length. That’s because Memorial Day fell at its earliest (May 25) and Labor Day will fall at its latest (Sept. 7).

Of course, in Carole Lombard’s time, Memorial Day always fell on May 30. And whether her beach was in front of the Pacific Ocean, op at Lake Arrowhead or merely an imaginary one at poolside, Carole was always ready for fun — and to show herself off in the process.

One Lombard photo session showed her in beachwear…but there wasn’t a speck of sand in sight. The shoot was done indoors, but nobody was complaining — not when you came up with this:

That’s P1202-1071, probably taken in 1934 and a fairly common picture among Lombard’s Paramount publicity photos. Some months ago, another photo from the same session emerged, one that’s noticeably less common — P1202-1080:

Well, a third photo from that session has now surfaced, and it’s being auctioned at eBay:

I would love to provide more information, such as the Paramount P1202 number…but I can’t find one on this photo. Alas, according to the seller, it was “trimmed on borders” to 7 x 9 inches, so that code number probably won’t be known unless a full, unaltered copy crops up. The seller also labels it a “1939 vintage fashion still,” somewhat unlikely since Lombard was by then next door at RKO. (However, Paramount did occasionally re-issue her films, such as “The Eagle And The Hawk,” after she left, so it’s possible the studio photo staff released some previously unissued stills.)

Whatever, it’s a fun photo. And don’t you love Lombard’s pose, hands on hips, stretching out a shapely leg while resting her other one on the chair, bursting with pride. It’s as if she’s telling the competition, “Yeah, I’m sexy — so what’re you gonna do about it?” That’s attitude, ladies and gentlemen..

The seller has set the minimum bid at $39.99 — and had it not been trimmed, I’m certain bidding would go much higher on this one. If you’re interested, go to; bidding closes at 9:17 p.m. (Eastern) on Friday.

I should also note the seller has another trimmed Lombard picture, but thankfully in this one the Paramount code number is visible. It’s P1202-16, from 1930 and one of her earliest publicity photos there:

The minimum bid here is also $39.99, and you can bid until 9:15 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. (Note that as of this writing, no bid has been placed on either photo.) Go to

See you at the beach, a place full of beauty day — or night:.

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America remembers…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.25 at 00:25
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., and President Obama will continue the tradition of past commanders-in-chief by visiting Arlington National Cemetery and placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

This is a day we commemorate America’s war dead. A year ago at this time, we paid tribute to the Army Air Corps personnel who died with Carole Lombard in the January 1942 crash in Nevade (

Today, we remind you of the many who have given their lives for the U.S. (several hundred thousand of whom are buried at Arlington alone). In 1994, the Los Angeles Times ran a lengthy piece about the cemetery’s history — from its Civil War origins to the people who maintain its traditions — at

Sure, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer…but let us not forget what it really stands for.

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Another card capture

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.24 at 00:08
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

Nearly two weeks ago, we ran an entry on the most intriguing series of cigarette cards ever produced in the 1930s, issued by the Garbaty Tobacco Comany of Germany after the Nazis’ rise to power (

Another card of Carole Lombard from the collection has just surfaced on eBay; this one is from 1934, and it’s as aesthetically pleasing as the others I’ve seen:

We also get the opportunity to view the back of the card, which has no biographical information on Lombard. I’m not versed in German, so I cordially invite anyone who is to translate the copy for me.

Pretty nice, doncha think?

If you want it in your collection, simply go to
No one has bid on it as of yet; the opening bid is $9. Bidding closes just after 10 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday.

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Worthy is the LAMB

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.23 at 00:07
Current mood: pleasedpleased

Regardless of your age, you probably know who that puppet is. That’s Lamb Chop, of course, familiar to several generations of television viewers as ventriloquist Shari Lewis’ woolly companion. Clever, charming, with an impish personality, Lamb Chop and Shari were beloved on both TV and in nightclubs — an act that appealed to adults as well as children.

Who’s that with Lamb Chop? It’s Mally Lewis, Shari’s daughter, who has continued the tradition since her mom’s passing in 1998.

And speaking of lambs, we at “Carole & Co.” are proud to have joined the flock. In this case, lamb isn’t an animal — not even a hand puppet — but an acronym: LAMB, the Large Association of Movie Blogs. I’m delighted to proclaim that this site has become member #294 in the group.

LAMB members comprise all areas of the movie-blogging spectrum (although I’m glad to note that recently, several classic film-oriented blogs have joined the fold). Just getting acquainted with these fellow bloggers alone makes this a treat, but the LAMB has so much more to offer, things I’m only starting to became familiar with.

For example, there are awards given to blog sites in a variety of categories — and they’re called the LAMMYs. Here’s what the trophy looks like:

Ther are also “lamblogathons” and “events” on a theme, illustrated by a noted movie poster altered to fit the LAMB motif. For example, here’s the “Lamb Action Hero”:

BTW, we know Carole Lombard loved animals, and had all sorts of them over the years. But has anyone ever seen a photo of her with a lamb? I don’t know whether she and Clark Gable had any at the Encino ranch.

If you’re a movie buff, you’ll find plenty of goodies here. And since I just realized I’ve gushed about this site without providing a URL, here it is: (I was going to say I felt a bit sheepish about the near-omission, but…)

So check it out. This is one LAMB even vegetarians can feast on without feeling guilty.

A Lombard starter kit

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.22 at 00:03
Current mood: impressedimpressed

So you say you’re sort of a neophyte when it comes to Carole Lombard, that you’ve just begun learning about her life and career? Well. you’ve come to the right place — or should I say, one of the right places ( is an equally helpful site).

But if you want to immerse yourself in Lombardiana, something’s just come up on eBay that will help you. I unofficially call it a “Lombard starter kit,” because it has all sorts of goodies related to Carole.

* Eight movies on DVD — the six films in the “Glamour Collection” (including “Hands Across The Table,” shown below), plus “My Man Godfrey” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”;

* Three hardcover books — “Screwball” by Larry Swindell, “Gable & Lombard” by Warren G. Harris and “Carole Lombard: The Hoosier Tornado” by Wes D. Gehring;

* One softcover book, “The Films Of Carole Lombard” by Frederick W. Ott;

* And in the words of the seller, “Extensive magazine cutouts, pictures of birthplace, and photos of Carole Lombard and her life.”

Here’s what the collection looks like:

Looks pretty impressive, assuming everything is in good condition.

This will be on auction at eBay through about 1:50 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday; as I write this, only one bid has been made, for $9.99, but frankly, I expect this to go considerably higher (by itself, “Screwball” normally auctions for several times that amount). If you want to try your luck, go to

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An out-of-doors experience

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.21 at 07:19
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Above is a reminder that Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is showing “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” at 2:45 p.m. (Eastern) today as part of a Robert Montgomery birthday anniversary tribute. But did you know that when “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” came out in 1941, you possibly might have been able to catch it at a venue more associated with the 1950s and ’60s?

I’m referring to drive-in theaters, which have largely faded from the scene these days but were a major part of the lives of millions of baby boomers. I remember being a child in 1963, when my family went to a drive-in in the suburbs of Syracuse, N.Y. to see “Cleopatra,” with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. Being about eight years old at the time, I fell asleep during the film (given the so-so reviews this hugely-budgeted film received, many adults did likewise).

Drive-ins began to fall out of favor by the late 1970s, especially since soaring land costs made the property more valuable as housing subdivisions or shopping centers. These days, drive-ins are relatively few and are mostly found in rural areas.

While drive-ins were largely deemed a postwar entity, the truth was that by 1963 the concept was 30 years old. The first drive-in theater opened in June 1933 in Camden, N.J. Adolphe Menjou starred in the first film shown there, but chances are you’re never heard of it. It was a 1932 British movie called “Two White Arms,” but retitled “Wives Beware” in the States. According to the Internet Movie Database, this was selected as the initial film ” because it had played for only one week in theaters a few weeks earlier and they wanted a film that would not conflict with major releases.”

A year later, California gained its first drive-in theater — in Los Angeles:

Located at Pico Boulevard and Westwood, it was initially known as the Drive-In Theatere but by the late 1940s, when many other drive-ins had popped up, it became known as the Pico. The theater initially broadcast the sound over a large loudspeaker, but many filmgoers had trouble with the sound so in mid-1935, individual speakers were established, and in a flyer, the theater promoted this technical advance:

According to the Drive-In Theater Web site (, the Pico was the fourth drive-in established nationally, and by the end of the 1930s a total of 18 drive-ins had been opened. By January 1942, the month of Lombard’s death, there were 95 drive-iins in 27 states. (Incidentally, the site lists drive-ins still operating — more than 500 — along with a list of “dead” theaters. The Dewitt Drive-In where my family once saw “Cleopatra” has bitten the dust, as has the Nedrow Drive-In not far from where we lived.)

Since many studios also owned theater chains, one presumes that they initially weren’t thrilled with the concept of outdoor screens they didn’t control, and drive-in theater owners probably were treated like owners of small neighborhood houses when it came to distribution. In fact, drive-ins didn’t really boom until the 1948 Supreme Court ruling forcing studios to divest of theater chains. But even before then, as this item from the 1945 Theatre Directory shows (found in the database at, drive-ins were seen as a growth industry for postwar America once full-scale automobile production resumed and gasoline and travel restrictions were removed:

Did Carole Lombard ever go to a drive-in (in addition to the Pico, one opened in Burbank in 1938)? We may never know. Did a Lombard film play a drive-in during her lifetime? One would think so, but I’ve never seen an advertisement to indicate as such. (If you come across one, forward us a copy.)

An intriguing thing to ponder the next time you go to a drive-in:

King rescues queen…but did he?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.20 at 00:01
Current mood: confusedconfused

It’s a chilly evening, so one understands why Carole Lombard and Clark Gable are bundling up. On a hunting trip in the wilderness, one guesses, probably in early spring or sometime in fall.

But no, this was shot in early June, in 1938 to be exact. And according to the caption, the setting was southern California, either on the MGM lot in Culver City or someplace not far away, because Clark is taking a break from work on his latest film, and Carole dropped by to keep him company (and perhaps make sure he doesn’t stray to some studio starlet).

The irony? The movie Gable is making is called…”Too Hot To Handle.” Clark’s co-star is Myrna Loy, whom Lombard correctly regards as a friend, not a threat. Loy, at the time, was happily married to film producer Arthur Hornblow Jr. (whose producing credits include Lombard’s “The Princess Comes Across”).

A year or two earlier, in a reader poll conducted by New York Daily News columnist Ed Sullivan (many years before he became an unlikely television legend), Gable won honors as “King of Hollywood,” and Loy took the title of queen. (Both were aided considerably by MGM’s peerless publicity machine.)

They had made a number of films together; “Too Hot To Handle” would be their last. Gable portrays a newsreel photographer, Loy an aviatrix. Early in the film, there’s a scene in which the plane Loy is landing catches fire, and Gable’s character — not knowing who the pilot is — rushes in for a rescue. Only after pulling the pilot from the flames does he discover it’s a woman:

There’s been some conjecture that not only did Gable’s character rescue Loy’s character, but Gable actually rescued Loy. Obviously, Myrna didn’t pilot the plane (although some years earlier, when she portrayed a pilot in “Night Flight,” she was advised on the set by none other than Amelia Earhart), but reportedly some of the special effects used to simulate a fiery crash went awry, and Gable — without regard for his own safety — pulled Loy from the “wreckage.”

Or at least that’s what MGM’s publicists said.

Did it actually happen? Gable never said anything about it. And in her autobiography “Being And Becoming,” Loy — admirably honest throughout the book — said she herself wasn’t sure whether or not she had actually been in danger.

So there’s a good chance this was so much Metro hyperbole. But it’s not overstating things to say that “Too Hot To Handle,” directed by the ever-reliable Jack Conway, was one of MGM’s biggest hits for 1938, blending comedy, action and adventure. It’s still rollicking fun, despite several plot loopholes that render the story unbelievable when you stop and think about them. If you’re going to watch this, be warned that while in the Brazilian jungle, Gable utters some lines that might be deemed racist from a 2009 perspective.

(Maybe it’s me, but it seems that in every movie ad I see from this era, the second feature invariably stars Lynn Bari.)

A few days ago, we ran a photo of Lombard and Loy, which we learned was probably taken at a benefit broadcast for Greek war relief in January 1941, shortly after Clark and Carole returned from their eastern trip. Well, here’s another photo of Carole and Myrna, this time with Gable and several other Hollywood celebrities:


I Just Bought This From Ebay

Posted by [info]amy_jeanne on 2009.05.20 at 14:15

Memorial magazine printed shorty after her death.

A tragic document

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.19 at 01:12
Current mood: gloomygloomy

An item of Carole Lombard memorabilia is now being auctioned at eBay. It’s a copy, not an original, and certainly has interest from a historical perspective…but so many of us wish it had never been used, at least not for several decades after it was actually legally executed.

We are, of course, speaking of her will, dated Aug. 8, 1939. The will itself is a two-page document, signed by Lombard. Less than two and a half years later, this was added to it:

The seller adds in the description that the package also has “33 pages of related documents.” When queried what those ducments were, the seller wrote back that “The Copy Will and documents all relate to the person concerned.They are Documents relating to the Estate of this person etc. Sorry we cannot be more specific.” One guesses they may be an inventory of items deemed to be in Lombard’s estate at the time of her death.

If you have interest in items such as this, go to Note this is from eBay in the United Kingdom; no bids have been placed as of this writing, and the minimum bid is just under five pounds in British currency. (With the exchange rate, that would be $7.57 in American dollars.) Also note you don’t have much time to bid — the deadline is 5:07 a.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday.

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You lucky dog…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.18 at 00:09
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

We all know Carole Lombard had a major love for animals, and we’ve seen plenty of photos detailing that fact. I’ve got one more to show you, one I’ve never come across before; it shows her carrying a canine, most likely her beloved dachshund, Commissioner.

Here’s the photo:

Don’t you just love that marvelous Lombard smile? (You do notice her smile, don’t you? Or are your eyes riveted to Carole’s legs, particularly since it appears she’s wearing the shortest shorts in her wardrobe.)

Anyway, it’s a charming photo, encapsulating both Lombard’s personality and her sex appeal — and it can be yours, if you post the winning bid in an auction on eBay.

The item can be found at×10-Blk-Wht-Original-Photograph_W0QQitemZ180356894872QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item29fe1bd098&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A4%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A200.

One bid, for $9.99, has been placed as of this writing. Bidding closes at 7:14 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday.

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Long live linen!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.17 at 00:19
Current mood: mischievousmischievous

Above is a photograph of the Palace Laundry in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood in 1925. The chain eventually grew to more than 50 outlets in the D.C. area before it was sold in 1948.

The Palace Laundry is interesting for two reasons: First, it was owned by George Preston Marshall, who used his washday wealth to buy a pro football team, the Boston Redskins, whom he moved to Washington in 1937.

Marshall was one of the NFL’s great showmen, developing the concept of divisional play and a championship game (the forerunner to today’s Super Bowl), the Pro Bowl all-star game and other promotions. (Conversely, under his ownership the Redskins were the last team in American pro sports that refused to sign black players, not doing so until the early ’60s. Many believed Marshall did so to protect his huge radio network, which had affiliates throughout the South.)

Second, Marshall marketed the Palace Laundry through this memorable slogan — “Long live linen.” Any Washingtonian who grew up there in the twenties and thirties probably remembers it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the tie-in to today’s item of Carole Lombard memorabilia. No, it’s not anything she wore, but a publicity still…a linen-backed publicity still:

This is from Carole’s 1931 Paramount film “Up Pops The Devil,” and she’s sharing the picture with Norman Foster, her co-star in the earlier “It Pays To Advertise.” Foster, later a film and TV director, was at the time married to Claudette Colbert; he subsequently married Sally Blane, one of Loretta Young’s sisters. (And don’t confuse him with Preston Foster, Carole’s co-star in the 1936 “Love Before Breakfast.”)

If you’d like to own this Lombard in linen original, go to Bids begin at $9.99 (no bids as of yet), and bidding closes at 4:23 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday.

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Capra before the corn, then Monday with Myrna

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.16 at 00:29
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

These are the only photos I could find of Carole Lombard with Frank Capra and Myrna Loy. The Capra photo is with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, from a 1935 Actors Fund charity event -- before the Clark and Carole romance began. (Note that Colbert’s wearing more or less the same outfit her Ellie Andrews character wore in “It Happened One Night.”) I’m not sure when the photo with Loy was taken, but can tell you the guy Lombard’s sharing a laugh with is Tyrone Power.

Carole actually worked with Capra, though the tie-in is obscure and rather spurious; he co-wrote the screenplay for her 1928 Mack Sennett short “The Swim Princess.” They could have worked on that “bus picture” with Gable, but Lombard was looking forward to making “Bolero” with George Raft at Paramount, and thus was one of several actresses (Loy included) not interested in the role. And Lombard never worked with Loy, no surprise since two A-list actresses rarely teamed onscreen. But in Myrna’s fine autobiography, “Being And Becoming,” she speaks highly of Carole, and I’m sure the admiration was mutual.

Monday, those of you who have Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. can savor the artistry of Capra (during the day) and Loy (that night), and most of the films on the schedule aren’t very well known, another reason to tune in.

Monday is the anniversary of Capra’s birth, and TCM is focusing on his early (1929-32) directorial efforts, successes he’d had under his belt by the time he filmed “It Happened One Night.” It’s a different Capra than that of his later films; these efforts have a bit more bite and a lot less sanctimony. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6:30 a.m. – “Flight” (1929) A Marine flyer and his flight school mentor fall for the same beautiful nurse. Capra first became known for directing fine aerial sequences.

* 8:30 a.m. – “Ladies of Leisure” (1930) A wealthy artist faces family pressure when he falls for a model with a past. Here’s the film that put Barbara Stanwyck on the map.

* 10:15 a.m. – “Rain or Shine” (1930) A young woman inherits her father’s financially troubled circus. Among Capra’s most obscure efforts.

* 11:45 a.m. – “Dirigible” (1931) Romantic rivals vie to be the first to fly to the South Pole. Fay Wray, before she was typecast as a “scream queen,” is the leading lady.

* 1:30 p.m. – “Platinum Blonde” (1931) A heartless heiress (a 20-year-old Jean Harlow) seduces a hard-working reporter (Robert Williams, who died soon after this film was released) into a disastrous marriage. Also in the cast is Loretta Young, two years Harlow’s junior.

* 3 p.m. – “The Miracle Woman” (1931) A phony faith healer (Stanwyck) fights the temptation to go straight when she falls for a blind man. Somewhat derived from the story of Aimee Semple MacPherson.

* 4:45 p.m. – “American Madness” (1932) A banker (Walter Huston) fights to keep his independence and protect his customers. Given our current financial turmoil, this film should resonate with today’s audiences.

* 6:15 p.m. – “Forbidden” (1932) On an ocean voyage, a librarian (Stanwyck) falls for a married man (Adolphe Menjou). A good pre-Code tale.

The Myrna mix has five films — two pre-Code goodies as Loy was escaping her Asian phase, a vehicle with Gable, a late-forties entry and a non-“Thin Man” effort with William Powell:

* 8 p.m. – “Penthouse” (1933) The mob frames a lawyer for murder, so he enlists a call girl’s help in finding the real killer.

* 9:45 p.m. – “When Ladies Meet” (1933) A female novelist (Loy) doesn’t realize her new friend (Ann Harding) is the wife whose husband (Frank Morgan) she’s trying to steal. With Alice Brady (shown with Harding, left, and Loy) and Robert Montgomery.

* 11:15 p.m. – “Too Hot To Handle” (1938) Rival newsreel photographers (Gable, Walter Pidgeon) vie for scoops and a beautiful lady flyer (and Loy looks great as an aviatrix).

* 1:15 a.m. – “The Red Pony” (1949) A rancher’s son learns a valuable lesson when he’s given a pony. John Steinbeck adapted his own short story. This was Loy’s first three-strip Technicolor film, and it co-stars Robert Mitchum.

* 3 a.m. – “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936) Lavish biography of Florenz Ziegfeld (Powell), the producer who became Broadway’s biggest starmaker Loy plays his wife, Billie Burke, while Luise Rainer won the Best Actress Oscar (beating out Lombard, among others) as Anna Held.

A day worth examining two of the greats in a slightly different way. (Although one wonders why TCM didn’t use “Broadway Bill,” directed by Capra and starring Loy, to link the segments.)

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On the Jersey side

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.15 at 00:01
Current mood: thankfulthankful

Nearly 12 years of my life, on two separate occasions, were spent as a resident of New Jersey. I have many fond memories of life in the Garden State. However, outsiders’ perception of the state tends to run like this:

(Note the cartoonist, who works for the Bergen Record, was poking fun at the state’s image as perpetuated by programs such as “The Sopranos,” not the state itself.)

Most of the “Jersey jokes” emanate from that city on the other side of the Hudson River (specifically you, Manhattanites!), the people who deride “the bridge-and-tunnel crowd” — a term that, to be fair, is also used to knock those from the city’s outer boroughs.

But this weekend, you New Yorkers who love classic Hollywood have a chance to take in a Jersey jewel…and you won’t have to get in your car (or rent one!) to do it. I’m referring to a movie palace in Jersey City called the Loew’s Jersey.

This weekend, three vintage films, all considered classics, will be playing at the Jersey. The lineup is called “Legendary Laughs,” and kicks off tonight at 8 with “It Happened One Night,” starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert:

Saturday, there’s a twin bill. At 6 p.m., Jean Harlow is among an all-star cast in “Dinner At Eight”…

…followed by Buster Keaton’s silent gem “The General” at 8:30:

The Keaton film will have live organ accompaniment, recreating a 1927 moviegoing experience. But it’s one largely foreign to the Jersey, since it opened on Sept. 28, 1929, and from the start showed only talking films, such as its debut feature, “Madame X” with Ruth Chatterton:

Harlow’s spirit is probably pleased one of her films is playing the Jersey this weekend, because in early 1932, not long after signing with MGM, she appeared on its stage while making a promotional tour of the Eaat. A year later, the Jersey welcomed another star:

In the audience that night was a teenager from nearby Hoboken who had taken his girlfriend, Nancy Barbato, on a date — and after seeing Bing Crosby perform, he vowed he would become a singer too. And did he ever, because that teen’s name was Frank Sinatra (and Nancy Barbato became his first wife). Stage shows continued every now and then in later years; for example, New Jersey’s own Four Seasons gave a concert there in 1968.

The Jersey, seating about 3,000, was one of five theaters Loew’s built in the New York-New Jersey area in 1929-1930…and thankfully, none of them have fallen prey to the wrecking ball. (The others are in upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.) But the Jersey came close to meeting that fate.

After World War II, suburbanization encroached on urban areas such as Jersey City’s Journal Square district. Commerce declined, and theaters struggled. In the ’70s, the Jersey was triplexed, but that didn’t help, and in August 1986 it closed.

The theater lay fallow for several years while the future of the site was up in the air. Would it be razed for an office building or an urban shopping mall?

Fortunately, a band of preservationists saved the day. Recognizing how irreplaceable the Jersey was as a civic landmark, they persuaded the city to let them try to renovate the place, or at least prevent further deterioration. About 10 years ago, the theater was determined to be sufficiently adequate to host an occasional movie. Work continued, and by its 75th annoversary in September 2004 (when I visited the Jersey for a showing of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”), significant progress had been made — though it was still a ways away from completely recapturing its old grandeur. (The theater is dormant in the summer, enabling restoration work to proceed unimpeded.) Here’s what the interior looks like now:

Here’s the Jersey’s marquee at night (for a recent showing of “Journey To The Center Of The Earth,” hosted by one of the film’s stars, Arlene Dahl), and the theater’s original marquee:

(Since the Jersey’s rebirth, I don’t believe it has shown a Carole Lombard film. We’ll have to work on that.)

As I said earlier, the Jersey is easy to reach — even for New Yorkers. Take the PATH train, which links Newark, Hoboken and Jersey City with midtown and lower Manhattan (and connects with several New York subway lines, although the fare is separate), and get off at the Journal Square station. The Loew’s is across Kennedy Boulevard, in easy walking distance.

For more information, simply go to, which has all you need to make your Jersey experience a good one (the site has plenty of historic photos as well). Once you visit, you won’t be making jokes about this Jersey joint.

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Something to bear

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.14 at 00:10
Current mood: confusedconfused

Carole Lombard’s fondness for animals is well known. Whether it be cats, dogs, goats, cows or horses, she made many friends among the four-legged set. But the following may be the most unusual Lombard animal still of them all:

That’s right — it’s Carole with…a bear.

Of course, many Lombard fans are aware that a bear was featured in one of her films, “We’re Not Dressing,” shot at Paramount in early 1934. The bruin, named Droopy, was the pet of Carole’s character, spoiled heiress Doris Worthington. (Sometimes in the film, a real bear was employed; in other scenes, it’s obviously a person in an ursine costume.) However, this is the first time I’ve ever run across a still photo of Lombard posing with the bear.

The original nitrate negative of the still is now being auctioned at eBay, specifically at×10-Nitrate-Negative_W0QQitemZ180356433975QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item29fe14c837&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A4%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A200. Bids start at $19.99 (none have been placed as of this writing), and bidding closes at 2:20 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday.

It’s an unusual picture, to be sure. Unfortunately, there’s more information about the bear’s participation in the film, and this story isn’t very cheerful.

Ray Milland, then a relative newcomer to films, had a supporting role in “We’re Not Dressing.” In his autobiography, “Wide-Eyed In Babylon,” he wrote that the trainer of the bear instructed the cast and crew that any females whose time of the month it was should not report to the set that day, because the bear would be hormonally affected. Unfortunately, one female disobeyed instructions, and the trainer was severely injured and later died. (One wonders if the human in a bear costume was brought in to work with Lombard during her menstrual cycle as a precautionary measure, was used after the mauling, or both.)

From what I can gather, the incident was kept out of the newspapers; G.D. Hamann makes no mention of it in his book compiling press accounts of Lombard during the 1930s.

The seller of this photo is auctioning another Lombard nitrate negative:

Who’s that person with Carole? (With heels on, she looks slightly taller than he is.) The seller has no idea of his identity, and neither do I. If you do, tell us. If you’re interested in the negative, go to×10-Nitrate-Negative-2_W0QQitemZ180356435140QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item29fe14ccc4&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A4%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A200.

Like the other one, no bids have yet been placed and bids start at $19.95. Unlike the other one, you’ll have three extra minutes to snap this up, as bidding closes at 2:23 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday.

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It’s what’s up front (?) with Carole

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.13 at 08:19
Current mood: bouncybouncy

Above are two film images that certainly qualify as iconic: Anita Ekberg in the fountain from the 1960 Federico Fellini classic “La Dolca Vita,” and Janr Russell, from two decades before, in a publicity still for “The Outlaw.” (The photo, by George Hurrell, was made in 1940, although Howard Hughes wouldn’t release the film until 1943.) Ekberg and Russell are still with us, and whatever you may think about them as actresses, there can be no denying that both were not only glamorous, but, shall we say, well-endowed.

That’s probably not a phrase you would ever use to describe Carole Lombard. Her figure was sleek, in tune with ideals of 1930s fashion (it was, after all, the “streamline” era).

Even in her youth, when she gained a few extra pounds to work as a “bathing beauty” for Mack Sennett — a man who liked his actresses to have curves — Lombard could never be labeled as top-heavy. (She in fact occasionally joked about her relatively meager upper half.)

So recently, I came across a Lombard item on eBay in which the headline refers to her as “busty.” Did we stumble into some alternate universe? Did Carole briefly get a 1930s version of a breast enhancement, similar to what Goldie Hawn did for her 2002 film (and last to date), “The Banger Sisters”? No. (Incidentally, this week the 63-year-old Hawn — who has established a foundation to help youth — said she likely won’t be acting again. For those of us who loved how Hawn continued the Lombard comedic tradition, that news is unfortunate, though not unexpected.)

Anyway, here’s the Lombard photo in question. Can anyono honestly describe this as “busty”?

It’s from 1930’s “Fast And Loose,” Lombard’s second Paramount film (and the only movie she ever filmed in New York); that’s Henry Wadsworth with her.

If you want it, go to It’s an original 8 x 10 print, and the minimum bid is $39.99; as of this writing, no bids have been placed. Bidding closes at 8:10 p.m. (Eastern) on Friday.

It is a nice photo…just don’t mix it up with this one:

I somehow doubt you will. (That’s Jayne Mansfield, of course, with Tom Ewell in one of the best rock ‘n’ roll films ever made, 1956’s “The Girl Can’t Help It.” And yes, the symbolism is a little obvious.)

Cards with a special story

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.12 at 00:04
Current mood: artisticartistic

In the 1930s, Carole Lombard and other film stars were frequently featured on trading cards, many offered by tobacco companies ( Here are some cards that not only are stunning in their beauty, but came under unusual conditions. Look at them:

Those are cards of Lombard, the first from 1934, the others from 1936. Each card is embossed with an individual pattern, and have a varnish coat; some cards in the set have a die-cut border as well. Exquisite.

What makes these cards all the more fascinating are who made them, and where they were made. These were produced by the Garbaty Cigarette Company, which issued a variety of cigarette brands. And they also happened to be made in…Nazi Germany.

That in itself isn’t that surprising. We have previously noted how Lombard and other American film stars were popular in Europe and were subjects of picture postcards, many issued in Germany (

Three series of Garbaty cards, almost all of them featuring actresses, were made: Moderne Schönheitsgalerie (Gallery of Modern Beauty) in 1934; Galerie Schöner-Frauen Des Films (Gallery of Beautiful Women in Film) in 1936; and Film-Lieblinge (Film Favorites) in 1937. The collections blended actresses working in both American and German films. Here’s one of Lombard’s good friend, Jean Harlow; I’m not certain which set this was from, but I’m guessing it’s the 1934 collection:

Many leaders in the Nazi regime were not happy with Hollywood — reasons included the Jewish background of many of the moguls, as well as some of the themes of the films — but American movies, and their stars, were quite popular with German audiences, and it wasn’t until late in the decade that Hollywood studio product was heavily suppressed.

However, the Garbaty family, which had owned the cigarette firm for nearly half a century, was Jewish. In late 1938, the Nazis staged Kristallnacht, where several hundred Jews were murdered and their property seized. Owner Moritz Garbaty hid out at the home of his Catholic secretary, and his wife and 8-year-old son Thomas were visited by the Gestapo, which was seeking his father. Several days later, Moritz was reunited with his family; he sold the company for a fraction of its worth and left for America, securing the family’s safety with a million-dollar bribe to authorities. His son is now 78 years old.

It’s a fascinating and chilling story, and you can learn more about it in a remarkable essay at You can see an incomplete checklist for the 1936 set at

And two of the Lombard cards above are being auctioned at eBay. The second card is at As of this writing, two bids have been made, with the top bid at $2.25. Bidding concluded about 10:35 a.m. (Eastern) next Monday.

The third card,, has a starting bid of $1.99, and no bids have yet been made. The deadline is 9:45 p.m. (Eastern) next Monday. (Note that since the 1936 set was issued with the relatively unpopular Passion cigarette brand, those cards are comparatively rarer than the other sets.)

Beautiful cards with a remarkable backstory.

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Entry #800: Appearing in…what?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.11 at 00:03
Current mood: weirdweird

The above was about the only thing I could find online illustrating the number “800,” appropriate because this marks the 800th entry at “Carole & Co.” since its inception nearly 23 months ago. Most of the entries have come from me, but I wish to thank those who have contributed to the success of this community…with a reminder that you are always welcome to post entries dealing with Carole Lombard and classic Hollywood.

With that out of the way, here’s today’s entry.

In late 1973, it appeared that the San Diego Padres, who had posted dreadful teams and equally poor attendance during their five years of existence, were about to be sold to a Washington, D.C., group and moved to the nation’s capital. As a result, the Topps company, which has been issuing baseball trading cards since the early 1950s, decided to issue cards of Padres players with the phrase “Washington, Nat’l. Lea.” (since no one knew what the team would be called).

As it turned out, midway through the Topps run, McDonald’s executive Ray Kroc stepped in and bought the franchise, keeping the team in San Diego (much to the dismay of Washingtonians such as myself — and little did we know we’d have to wait another 31 years for a team!). Topps reprinted the “Washington” cards (such as one with future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, shown above) as San Diego cards, leaving the alternate cards rare and valuable.

Just as those cards represented a “phantom” team, here’s an item of Carole Lombard memorabilia representing a “phantom” movie. Imagine it’s 1936, and you’re living in California. You decide to buy some ice cream:

You go to the store, and here’s what you find atop the container:

You might say to yourself, “Hmmm…Carole Lombard in ‘Concertina.’ I’ll have to go see it.”

As it turned out, no one saw “Concertina” — or, should I say, no one saw a film by that name. That’s because during production, Paramount decided to rename the movie. So when the production was sent to theaters, it wasn’t called “Concertina,” but…

It should be noted there is a song in the film called “My Concertina.” One wonders whether Paramount asked the ice cream company to do a second pressing, changing the film’s title.

If you’d like this fairly rare piece of Lombardiana, you can bid for it on eBay. Simply go to The minimum bid is $1.99, and no one has yet placed a bid. The auction ends at 8:48 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesday, so you don’t have much time.

Again, thanks for helping us reach 800 entries.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.10 at 00:06
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

Longtime members of “Carole & Co.” may recall that last year at this time, we paid tribute to Carole Lombard’s mother, Elizabeth K. Peters ( This year, here are a few more photos of Carole with her beloved mother.

Here is Mrs. Peters with her three children, Frederic, Jane and Stuart, in the early teens, while they still resided in Fort Wayne:

Roughly two decades later in mid-1931, here’s Mrs. Peters, second from left, as part of the party before her daughter, now known as Carole Lombard, and her new son-in-law, William Powell, head off to Hawaii on their honeymoon:

To all the mothers at “Carole & Co.”, and all of you with mothers (which, of course, means everybody!), a most joyous Mother’s Day.

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Carole does some rib-bing

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.09 at 01:04
Current mood: hungryhungry

For a stretch during the mid-1930s, Carole Lombard was renowned as a partygiver and hostess ( That sort of faded later in the decade, probably because 1) her star had sufficiently risen to a point where she didn’t need it to enhance her career, and 2) her deepening relationship with Clark Gable precluded big partygiving. From 1936 on, any social gatherings Carole organized were small in scale.

Well, as it turns out, Lombard apparently had some cooking skills, too. Sure, she had help available, but since she lived a relatively unostentatious life considering the money she made, she probably did her share of actual work in the kitchen. Keep in mind that less than five years before that article above ran in the February 1935 issue of Photoplay, she lived with her mother and two older brothers in a middle-class Los Angeles home (,

By 1930, Lombard had been acting for several years following her recovery from an automobile accident, and one guesses that she contributed her share in making meals, especially during those periods when she was between pictures.

What’s the angle here? Well, in 1939, authors Kenneth Harlan and Rex Lease issued a cookbook called “What Actors Eat — When They Eat.” It featured 247 recipes from noted actors and actresses. Here’s the book’s cover, along with an entry of two recipes contributed by Henry Fonda (one wonders whether Peter and Jane ever had these items for dinner):

Heck, even Roy Rogers provided a recipe, although it probably wasn’t for a Double-R Bar Burger (those of you who recall the Roy Rogers fast-food chain will get the reference).

Lombard contributed a cooking idea of her own. I don’t have the original page, alas, but I do have the recipe, courtesy of the “Flapper Jane” Web site ( Note that the site also features recipes from Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert, Gloria Swanson and author/screenwriter Anita Loos.

Here’s Carole’s recipe for barbecue spareribs. I believe the comment preceding it also comes from her:

Here is a dish that I am sure everyone will like, and it doesn’t require any course in cooking to prepare, if you follow the directions. Hot, it is swell, and when cold -— well, you’ll just want to make enough to have a nibble, later.

3 to 5 lbs. spareribs

1/2 c. soy sauce

3/4 c. honey

2 tsp. prepared mustard

1 clove garlic

1/4 c. water

2 Tbs. flour

Combine one-half cup soy sauce, three-fourths cup honey, two teaspoons prepared mustard and one clove of finely chopped garlic. Mix well together. Place three to five pounds of spareribs in a roasting pan, pour the sauce over the ribs, cover and place in oven. Bake at three hundred degrees for two hours or more. Remove ribs from the pan (be sure to stir occasionally while cooking to make sure all the ribs are covered with the sauce). Drain off all the fat, with the exception of about two tablespoons. Add one-fourth cup of water to the remaining liquid and cook on top of the stove until well-blended, then add two tablespoons of flour mixed with a little water and cook until the sauce is thickened. Replace the spareribs in the pan with the gravy, and stir. Return to oven to keep hot until serving time.

Sounds tasty. I hope some of you try your hand at it (of course, reduce the ingredients proportionally if you plan on making smaller portions).

Incidentally, the book is now being auctioned at eBay ( The opening bid is $49.95, and as of this writing no one has yet made a bid. The auction closes just after 10 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday.

So maybe you can’t dress like a star…but perhaps you can eat like one.

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Hollywood glamour in Dollywood country

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.08 at 00:03
Current mood: artisticartistic

This is the image many of us have when “Knoxville, Tennessee” is mentioned — orange. Lots and lots of orange. It’s the color of the University of Tennessee, a school with a magnificent athletic heritage and a solid academic institution, too. But Knoxville is more than just a college town; it’s the principal city of east Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains and an assortment of tourist sights, both natural and man-made.

And beginning this weekend, a bit of vintage Hollywood is calling the city home for several months.

You may recall that some years ago, Knoxville hosted a world’s fair. It received a mixed reaction, but did leave a number of distinctive buildings — and one of them has been converted into the Knoxville Museum of Art:

Starting today and lasting through Sept. 6, that museum hosts an exhibit, “Made In Hollywood,” showcasing more than 90 vintage prints from the golden age of film portrait photography – and yes, Carole Lombard is included in the mix. We’ll get to her later, but first, an overview:

These photos, taken between 1920 and 1960 (the approximate end of the classic studio system), are from the collection of a man who, more than any other, helped promote the art of Hollywood portrait photography. His name was John Kobal.

Born in Austria in 1940, Kobal and his family emigrated to Canada in 1950. Upon reaching adulthood he wanted to become an actor, eventually settling in London although he also spent time in New York freelancing for the BBC.

Kobal began collecting film memorabilia in his youth, at a time when relatively few saw the value in such items. His passion for old Hollywood stills led him to meet many stars; he was befriended by the likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Marlene Dietrich, Miriam Hopkins and many others.

However, Kobal was more than merely star-struck; he became a knowledgeable Hollywood historian. He had a hand in writing or editing more than 30 titles, many of them familiar parts of library collections – “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance” (about musicals, of course), “People Will Talk” (interviews with people who worked in Hollywood during its golden age) and many others.

Moreover, Kobal played a major role in not only preserving thousands upon thousands of vintage Hollywood stills (some of which ended up in his 1976 book, “Hollywood Glamor Portraits: 145 Photos of Stars 1926-1949”), but telling the stories of the people who took them.

In his 1980 book, “The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers 1925-1940,” Clarence Sinclair Bull, George Hurrell (who took the portrait of Kobal above) and many other photographers were interviewed at length about their art, and as a result, many of them gained a recognition that had largely evaded them during their heyday.

Wanting to keep the legacy of his huge collection going for generations to come, in 1990 Kobal established a foundation to oversee his items and promote research. His timing was prescient, because in October 1991, Kobal died of pneumonia at age 51.

The photos on display in Knoxville, all from the John Kobal Foundation, cover stars from Mary Pickford and Ramon Novarro to Kim Novak and Marilyn Monroe (shown putting on lipstick in a 1952 pose that shows a casual, relaxed Monroe).

Best of all, the exhibit is free.

OK, now to those two Lombard photos. In response to a query, the museum sent information about the images -– without forwarding the images themselves.

The first was taken by William E. Thomas for Pathe in 1929. I’m guessing it’s this one, which is not only stunning, but reveals a sensual side of the young Lombard unfamiliar to those who only know of her as a thirties screwball queen:

The other photo is described as of Lombard, Fred MacMurray and Una Merkel from “True Confession,” Carole’s final film at Paramount in 1937. It was taken by William Walling, a Paramount staff photographer I was heretofore unfamiliar with — but some research showed he had photographed the likes of Dietrich, Ray Milland and William Holden. For all I know, he may have photographed Lombard on other occasions.

Searching through my photograph files, I found three Lombard/MacMurray/Merkel shots:

For more on the exhibit (note the museim is closed on Mondays), go to For information on the John Kobal Foundation, visit

Check out the exhibit if you’re going to be around Knoxville over the next few months…even if you don’t plan to wear orange.

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The “Lombard of the silents”?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.07 at 07:19
Current mood: curiouscurious

The analogy game is one fraught with peril. While comparisons can be illuminating, there’s always the temptation to go too far. For example, in his fine book on pre-Code actresses, “Complicated Women,” Mick LaSalle, trying to explain the popularity of such women among youth of their time, analogizes them to 1960s British rock bands:

“Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer became the Beatles and the (Rolling) Stones, respectively. Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow became, one could say, the Who and Led Zeppelin — with Marlene Dietrich becoming, say, the Animals.”

LaSalle then adds, “Obviously, this analogy has snapped” (too bad — who were the pre-Code equivalent of the Searchers? Gerry and the Pacemakers? Freddie and the Dreamers?). So, here’s another analogy question, one that at least is in a film vs. film context: Who was the Carole Lombard of the silents?

You’re likely thinking to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be Carole Lombard (shown above in Mack Sennett’s “The Campus Vamp”)?” Not in the way I’m envisioning the question. Sure, Lombard made quite a few silent films, but how many ot them were features with her in the leading role? More specifically, how many of them were vehicles for the type of energetic romantic comedy she came to symbolize?

The answer? None. The silent comedies Carole made for Sennett were part of an ensemble, and two-reelers at that. So perhaps the question should be rephrased as this: “Who in the silent era presaged Carole Lombard as a romantic comic actress?”

According to one esteemed writer and film historian, the answer could well be an actress whose first name was Constance, and whose sister was also a star of note. Constance Bennett, you say? Nope, although she did have some success in mid-twenties silents. (She left the film scene for a few years, and upon returning to the business in 1929, it was her previous silent fame that led Pathe to sign her…which, as we have previously noted, led to the dismissal of the similarly blonde Lombard and her friend Diane Ellis.)

The “Constance” here referred to by Jeanine Basinger in her thorough book, “Silent Stars,” is largely forgotten today — partly because she never made a talking picture, partly because many of the films she did make are now considered lost. Her name? Constance Talmadge.

In the late teens and early 1920s, two of American film’s top actresses were Constance Talmadge and her older sister, Norma. (If there was any sibling rivalry, it was all good-natured; they were not Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine by any stretch of the imagination.) Norma was a petite brunette who specialized in drama, while Constance was a tall blonde (5’6″, considered statuesque in those days) whose forte was comedy. What kind of comedy? She defined it in a 1920 interview:

“Although no less than sixty manuscripts are submitted to me every week, it is exceedingly difficult to get exactly the kind of comedy I especially want. I want comedies of manners, comedies that are funny because they delight one’s sense of what is ridiculously human in the way of little everyday commonplace foibles and frailties -– subtle comedies, not comedies of the slapstick variety.”

So she obviously wasn’t treading on Mabel Normand’s turf.

Talmadge, born on April 19 with uncertainty as to the year (most believe it to be 1897, although supposedly the year 1896 is listed on her passport), began making films in 1914. Two years later, she made the movie she’s probably best known for today, but one atypical of her career. It’s D.W. Griffith’s epic, “Intolerance,” in which she plays the vivacious “Mountain Girl” in the Babylon sequence; she even drives a chariot. (In 1919, Griffith added new footage to the Babylon segment, this time giving Constance’s character a happy ending, unlike her death in the original. Released on its own as a solo story, this new version was also popular.)

In 1916, Talmadge co-starred with Douglas Fairbanks in one of his comedies “The Matrimaniac,” which is part of Flicker Alley’s 5-DVD set of early Fairbanks (( Unfortunately, it turned out to be their only on-screen teaming.

By the late teens, Talmadge — now aligned with Norma’s husband, Joseph Schenck — had graduated to starring roles, making several comedies a year. As Basinger writes, “Constance Talmadge made a name for herself by being very good at deftly handling material that was never meant to be anything but fun.”

One of them was this 1919 comedy-drama for Lewis Selznick (David and Myron’s father), “Who Cares?”

Her leading man in this and several other films was the original Harrison Ford, no relation to the current actor of the same name.

Talmadge, nicknamed “Dutch,” was a fun-loving sort who, like Lombard, took her craft seriously but didn’t apply the same standards to her life away from the screen. In 1920, she and good friend Dorothy Gish (the comedy-oriented Gish sister) ran off and had a double elopement, although neither marriage lasted all that long. Speaking of marriages, here are the three Talmadge sisters — middle sibling Natalie (who never achieved much success on screen, but did marry Buster Keaton), Constance and Norma, the eldest — attending a wedding in the early 1920s:

Guided by their mother Peg, the Talmadges were always careful about their money. Constance and Norma invested in real estate, including a San Diego development that has streets named after them. Constance would marry four times, none producing children, and was in a heated relationship with Irving Thalberg before Norma Shearer came on the scene. He reportedly wanted to marry Constance, but his mother disapproved of the relationship. Had it happened, Hollywood history might have changed considerably.

By the mid-twenties, Constance was still popular, but a new type of comedic actress had emerged — the flapper, personified by Colleen Moore and Clara Bow. Talmadge belonged to a slightly older generation, so while Moore and Bow may have respectively epitomized “Flaming Youth” and “This Plastic Age,” Constance was doing the comparatively restrained (and deliciously-titled) “The Duchess Of Buffalo”:

This 1926 comedy, where Talmadge plays an American dancer caught up in royal intrigue in pre-revolutionary Russia, was issued on DVD a few years ago by Grapevine Video.

Cosntance Talmadge was also among the first stars to have hand and footprints immortalized at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard…although she walked across her block, giving her five footprints:

The block is still there today, although few, if any, moviegoers or tourists probably recognize her name.

But times were changing, and Talmadge’s stature as a star was waning. The arrival of talking films was the final blow. Sister Norma made a handful of talkies and then retired; Constance didn’t even go that far. I’ve never heard her voice, but contemporary sources say it was accented with the tones of her native Brooklyn — and while that didn’t hurt Bow in the transition to sound, Constance apparently figured it wasn’t worth the bother.

After retiring, Talmadge lived fairly quietly, resisting offers to return to the screen. She was a nurse during World War II, and continued such work after the war. Near the end of her life, she battled alcoholism in her final years and died in November 1973, outliving Norma by 16 years.

I have learned that Constance Talmadge met Carole Lombard, and here’s photographic proof — a pic of them together with Clark Gable at a party on June 7, 1933:

I’ve never seen any comparisons with Talmadge made during Lombard’s lifetime. But given Constance’s popularity in the teens and twenties, I think it safe to say that Carole saw at least some of her films, and perhaps was influenced by her comedic persona. In the biography “Screwball,” Larry Swindell writes that in the late teens, Jane Peters told her family she wanted to be a movie star “like Constance Talmadge or Mary Miles Minter.” (Minter was the star whose career fizzled after she was implicated in the 1922 death of director William Desmond Taylor.)

Personally, I’m not that familiar with Talmadge’s work; the only film of hers I’ve seen is “Intolerance,” which would be like having only seen Lombard in, say, “The Eagle And The Hawk.” (Oops, another analogy.) But based upon what I’ve read, Constance Talmadge is a worthy subject for future viewing research. If only Turner Classic Movies would show some of her films on its “Silent Sunday Nights”…

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A happy (belated) 15th to TCM

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.06 at 00:01
Current mood: thankfulthankful

Above is the marquee for the New Beverly Cinema, a much-loved revival house in Los Angeles for more than 30 years, and it’s still going strong with an eclectic mix. (This Friday and Saturday, for example, it’s paying tribute to Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim by showing both “Sunset Boulevard” and the reconstructed 1929 film Swanson starred in and von Stroheim directed, “Queen Kelly.”)

There are still several other theaters around the country that show vintage fare, such as the Stanford up the coast in Palo Alto, the AFI in Silver Spring, Md., and Film Forum in lower Manhattan. But their number has drastically dwindled in recent decades; in New York City alone, once home to a healthy revival scene, houses such as Theater 80, the Thalia, Regency and short-lived Biograph have found themselves, to borrow the title of a Bob Dylan song from “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid,” knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Fortunately for those of us who don’t have access to a repertory, we probably have access to the next best thing, there through your cable or satellite provider. It’s called Turner Classic Movies, and its original American version celebrated its 15th anniversary last month.

I apologize for the belated tribute, but those of us who have the channel are aware what a treasure it is. Old movies 24/7, all without commercials, plus special goodies such as short subjects (which TCM calls “One-Reel Wonders”), vintage trailers, themed programming and occasional specials on classic Hollywood. TCM has complemented film history books in giving us a feel for the product from film’s golden age.

Truth be told, TCM wasn’t the first cable channel to do this. American Movie Classics, now better known as AMC and for fare such as the much-lauded series “Mad Men,” played vintage movies (George Clooney’s father Nick, a popular columnist and radio-TV host in Cincinnati, often introduced films). However, AMC’s library was rather limited, and its owner, Cablevision, had to rent much of its product.

That wasn’t a problem for cable maven Ted Turner, founder of TBS and CNN. In the mid-1980s, he acquired the MGM/United Artists studio, but he soon sold off the studio and land. He kept the film library, which included not only MGM and UA product, but pre-1948 Warner Bros. and RKO titles. In 1988, he premiered a new channel, Turner Network Televsion, or TNT — but back then, it didn’t “know drama.” It knew old movies.

From its inception in October 1988 (with Turner’s favorite film, “Gone With The Wind”) into the early nineties, TNT was the TCM of its day, showing close to everything in its 5,000-film catalog…because frankly, it didn’t have much else. The films were a revelation to many viewers; many of the titles hadn’t been screened in decades, and quite a few had been withheld from the “late, late show” era of TV because, well, they were a bit too racy for the Levittown crowd. In an unintended way, TCM played a role in the pre-Code revival.

However, the early TNT had two main drawbacks: 1) it ran commercials, disrupting the flow of these films, and 2) it did relatively little with them, or with performers largely unknown to modern audiences. In other words, TNT night show some films featuring Anita Page, but it gave you little, if any, information on her.

(A few of TNT’s films were, ahem, colorized, something Ted Turner was often loudly criticized for. But he also did so much for film preservation as a whole that it’s more than compensated for this short-lived mistake. Heck, when was the last time you came across a colorized classic film?)

TNT gradually diminished its old movie showings, but Turner planned a new channel for its vintage product, one that would adapt the AMC model and improve on it. And it did, thanks in part to a former actor and film raconteur named Robert Osborne becoming its genial face of the channel.

Sure, he makes an error in his movie introductions every now and then, but for the most part he’s a cinematic Gold Glove. He’s also been a reliable interviewer of stars, directors and others involved with classic film.

Over the years, TCM has acquired the libraries or gained leasing rights to more and more studio product. For example, over the past year or so, it’s been showing a lot of Columbia films, meaning plenty of Rita Hayworth and Frank Capra (eight of his early talking films will be aired on May 18). And TCM has also secured the rights to Paramount and Universal product which, from our perspective, may lead to lots and lots more of the early Carole Lombard — always welcome news. “Safety In Numbers,” for instance?

About the only studio off-limits to TCM is 20th Century-Fox. Most of its films are shown on the Fox Movie Channel, which is available on some — but not all — cable systems. So you won’t see much Will Rogers or Betty Grable on TCM, alas.

TCM also does special programming for niche audiences among classic film fans, such as one of my favorites, “Silent Sunday Nights.” It’s given me an appreciation for the artistry of the silent era. It also has a fine online presence and database, which can be found at

To sum things up, TCM — the American version, anyway — is indispensable for any film buff. (Over the years, TimeWarner, TCM’s parent company, has expanded the brand to other countries, but due to film rights, their libraries are often more limited than their American counterparts.)

For a nice salute to TCM, go to,8599,1895469,00.html.

Continued success to Turner Classic Movies, the one non-news cable channel I would want to have on my mythical desert island. You may argue that classic movies are still best viewed on a big screen, and I wouldn’t disagree, but TCM has made these films more accessible — and more appreciated — than ever.

Carole + Clark + color = clicks!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.05 at 00:10
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

My friend Carla and has done a masterful job of collecting Carole Lombard photos. She’s accumulated more than 2,000 images, and one of the things that makes her archive so wonderful is that you can examine it in a variety of ways.

For example, which Lombard photos have been the most viewed at her site? Well, it should come as no surprise that the most clicks belong to shots of Lombard with Clark Gable. In fact, the top three (the only photos to exceed 400 clicks as of this writing) also have another thing in common…they are in color.

Here’s the most popular:

Part of me is a bit skeptical that this was originally shot in color; for one thing, the pose looks eerily similar to a fairly common black-and-white photo of the couple, and the colors themselves look a bit too artificial.

In contrast, the color on the next two are unquestionably the real deal — and both are gorgeous:

The most popular photo of Carole sans Clark? This publicity shot from “Twentieth Century,” to which color has been added:

And what’s the most-clicked Lombard solo shot in its original black and white? This one, believe it or not, showing Carole on the set, knitting:



‘Nothing Sacred,’ everything glamorous

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.04 at 01:36
Current mood: flirtyflirty

“Nothing Sacred” is renowned as the only feature Carole Lombard made in three-strip Technicolor. But, as we all know, Lombard didn’t need color to exude glamour, and here’s proof — a black-and-white publicity still for “Nothing Sacred.” I don’t believe this was actually from the film, which is just as well, because it would be hard to imagine the character of Hazel Flagg — who honestly couldn’t be defined as sexy — looking anything like this:

If you don’t believe this is from “Nothing Sacred,” here’s the bottom of the still, showing that it indeed is from the Selznick picture:

You can own this original alluring portrait of Lombard…but a word of warning: many others want it, too. As of this writing, four bids have already been made on this 1937 still — and while the high bid to date is only $7.80, the bidding doesn’t expire until 10L26 p.m. (Eastern) next Sunday. So with just under a week to go, expect the price on this one to go quite a bit higher. (And deservedly so.)

Want to try your luck winning this gem? Go to

We’ll leave you with a close-up of Carole, a woman who could make the plainest of characters seem glamorous:

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The Fairbanks you don’t know of

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.03 at 00:28
Current mood: optimisticoptimistic

It’s amazing, and unfortunate, that the perceptions and legacies of so many performers of the silent movie age — people Carole Lombard watched in her youth and admired into her adulthood — have been horribly misconstrued over ensuing decades. Mary Pickford is viewed as a saccharine “sweetheart,” something she almost never was on screen (and certainly wasn’t off-screen). Rudolph Valentino is now deemed almost a fey figure by those who have only seen his stills and have never watched his magnetism in motion. And Douglas Fairbanks Sr. (shown above in “The Thief Of Bagdad”)? He was the original swashbuckler, the man who paved the way for Errol Flynn. Heck, each even made a Robin Hood movie.

Actually, the last of those perceptions isn’t wrong…only partially correct. Beginning with “The Mark Of Zorro” in 1920 and continuing for nearly a decade, Fairbanks epitomized derring-do on screen, and millions around the world loved him for it. But for about half a decade prior to that, a very different Douglas Fairbanks ranked among the top stars of the day. In fact, this was the persona Fairbanks owned at the time of his marriage to Pickford in 1920.

He was a comedian.

I know more than a few movie buffs, people who are otherwise knowledgeable about classic Hollywood, who might be shocked at the previous sentence, but it is indeed true. And no, the comic Doug didn’t wear a tramp suit a la Charlie Chaplin.

Perhaps the closest classic silent comedian we can compare the early Fairbanks to is the Harold Lloyd of the 1920s…although Fairbanks’ character is distinctly more athletic and aggressive than those Lloyd played. (These comedies were normally set in the present day and dress.) Doug was a go-getter, just right for the can-do American spirit of the late teens. Several of the scripts were written by Anita Loos, and directors on these films included Allen Dwan (who would direct Lombard’s first film appearance) and Victor Fleming. This facet of Fairbanks, his gently comedic optimism, continued into his costume films. Jackie Chan, who many have compared to Fairbanks for his athleticism, cultivated the same persona in his films, and it made him a worldwide star.

The comedic part of Fairbanks’ career began falling by the wayside as the swashbucklers became more and more popular. By the 1930s, relatively few people remembered they existed. Fortunately, they have been preserved for current audiences to enjoy. Flicker Alley has compiled a five-disc DVD set of the early Fairbanks, from 1916 to 1921, and it’s worth checking out (

I saw a few of these comedies at Film Forum in New York nearly 20 years ago; Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (a talented actor in his own right) was in the audience, and after the films I met and talked with him and shook his hand. Class act, like his dad. Not long before his death in December 1939, the elder Fairbanks donated his extensive film collection to the Museim of Modern Art in New York, helping to set up its foothold in the cinema, and he earlier played a major role in establishing film studies at the University of Southern California.

If you’re in the Washington, D.C., area, you’ll have a chance to see a Fairbanks comedy later this month. On May 15 at 7 p.m., Films on the Hill, a cinema buff society, will present the 1916 “His Picture In The Papers,” a movie that may speak to us today, since its theme is the nature of celebrity; Loos co-wrote the script. Fairbanks plays the son of a health-food magnate who has to prove his worth to his wealthy prospective father-in-law.

This is part of a silent double feature with the 1928 German “Homecoming,” and to see both, you pay only $5. For more on the films, go to Films On The Hill is located, as one might guess, near the Capitol Hill section (only two blocks south of the Eastern Market Metrorail station). To learn more about the society, visit

The other, more familiar Fairbanks can be seen on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. at 8:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday, as TCM kicks off its “Latino Images In Film” series with “The Mark Of Zorro.”

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Training in L.A. for 70 years

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.02 at 00:06
Current mood: restlessrestless

When it comes to Los Angeles, what method of transportation do you associate with the city? The car, perhaps; after all, didn’t Hal David write (for Burt Bacharach) “L.A. is a great big freeway”? Or maybe you think of airplanes — not just for LAX and the several other area airports, but for the aerospace industry that’s been an integral part of the southern California economy for a number of decades.

But the train has also played a major role in the growth of Los Angeles, dating all the way back to the 1880s, when railroads engaged in a price-cutting war to lure people to this orange-blossomed paradise. (In 1885, one could travel from Kansas City to L.A. for just a dollar!). Trains were the dominant mode of transportation before commercial air travel grew and a capable road system was developed.

Downtown L.A. had several terminals, each operated by various railroads. The facilities weren’t very good, and many felt they weren’t worthy of the notable city Los Angeles was becoming. So a call came out to build a first-class terminal, the western equivalent of eastern rail palaces such as Pennsylvania or Grand Central Station in New York, 30th Street Station in Philadelphia or Union Station in Washington.

Seventy years ago this week, the dreams of many southern Californians came true, as its super-terminal — also called Union Station — opened for business. It would be the last of the deluxe major rail stations to be built and cost $11 million, a three-way effort among the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.

What did Union Station replace? Well, the Santa Fe station was located at East Second Street and South Santa Fe Avenue. Here it is on Jan. 26, 1939, in its waning days of operation:

The Southern Pacific terminal was on Central Avenue between 4th and 5th streets; in 1924, it also housed Union Pacific trains after the UP depot was damaged by fire. Here are colorized 1915 postcard illustrations of the Southern Pacific’s exterior and waiting room:

The Los Angeles Times, the city’s dominant newspaper, was among the major drumbeaters for a new, larger rail station. A site was chosen not far from City Hall (and the Times building), and in December 1935, the paper ran photos of the site as construction was beginning. Note City Hall’s colossal shadow in the bottom picture:

Nearly 3 1/2 years after those photos were taken, Union Station was ready to open, and the Times -- as well as the rest of the city — celebrated the occasion. This ran on April 30:

The following day, the Times ran a full-page guide to the city’s latest attraction:

And here’s the Times from May 2, about a special VIP inspection given of the station before the general public got their chance:

The grand opening drew hundreds of thousands to check out this new palace for rail passengers:

That last picture might seem offensive, or at least patronizing, by 2009 standards, as it supposedly commemorates the work of the Chinese in building America’s railroads. (Ironically, Union Station was built on the site of L.A.’s original Chinatown; a new one was built nearby.)

Here’s a Times pictorial of the ceremonies from its May 4 issue:

With Carole Lombard’s sense of curiosity, it wouldn’t be surprising if she had dropped by sometime during 1939 just to check out the place. (When she and Clark Gable headed east in late 1940, they boarded at Pasadena, where many celebrities preferred to start their train journeys.) However, we do know of one time Lombard entered Union Station — on Monday, Jan. 12, 1942 to board a train to Chicago, where she would get instructions for her upcoming war bond rally in Indianapolis. As we all sadly know, Carole, her mother Bess Peters, and MGM publicist/chaperone Otto Winkler would never return to L.A. (The alleged biopic “Gable And Lombard” filmed a scene at Union Station, one of many movies and TV programs to do so.)

Union Station remains a gem — architecturally blending the classic southern California mission style with 1930s streamline moderne — and after a period of decline is now used more than ever. Amtrak still runs trains, both long-distance and short hops, but Metrolink commuter trains have become increasingly popular. Union Station has also become a venue for local mass transit, serving three Metro rail lines and a number of buses at an adjacent terminal. It’s well worth dropping by the next time you’re in L.A. — even if you aren’t planning to board a train.

Queen, for a day…queen of the May

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.05.01 at 00:31
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

Today marks a somewhat important anniversary in the life of Carole Lombard…or, to be more accurate about it, Jane Alice Peters. Why? Because it was on this day 85 years ago — May 1, 1924 — that she was chosen Queen of the May at Fairfax High School, which had just opened that year.

It was an honor for the 15-year-old sophomore, but the competition in this ersatz beauty contest was winnowed somewhat in that it was a custom that the queen should always be blonde. (The photo above was taken slightly later, as I unfortunately do not have any photos or articles about the event. My information comes from Larry Swindell’s biography, “Screwball.”)

A nice honor, you say, but what’s so important about it? This: when the school held a May Day carnival in which Jane “presided” over her court, one of those attending was a man named Alfred Reeves. who just so happened to be general manager of Charles Chaplin’s film production unit. He talked with Jane, with her mother Bess (who was attending the carnival) and set up an appointment with Chaplin the following day, and reportedly filmed a screen test for Chaplin’s next feature, “The Gold Rush” (

While she didn’t get the part, enough buzz was created in the film community that by fall, just after her 16th birthday, she had signed a contract with Fox. By that time, she had taken Carol as her first name for films, and Fox would help christen her last name of Lombard.

We haven’t discussed her time at Fairfax High (shown above in the mid-1920s) very much, perhaps because she dropped out early in her junior year to pursue work in pictures (once she turned 16, she could not be classified as a truant). But she competed in sports, notably track (sprints, broad jump, javelin) and tennis, and also participated in school theatre. Ironically, she did not win a lead role in the school play (that went to Sally Eilers, who also would have some success in films), but won the character part of a white-haired grandmother. According to Swindell, she gained the part “by spicing her audition with all of her Grandmother Knight’s physical and vocal quirks.”

And believe it or not, that auditorium where Jane Peters played the grandmother is still standing…and looks to be secure for years to come.

The auditorium and adjoining rotunda are all that’s left of the original Fairfax High building; the rest was razed in the late 1960s for inability to meet earthquake-proof standards, and a newer facility was built on the site.

According to the Los Angeles Times (,0,6282212.story), the L.A. Unified School District may team up with the city of West Hollywood to renovate the 1,400-seat auditorium at the corner of Fairfax and Melrose avenues — near the fabled Silent Movie Theater — into a performing arts center. West Hollywood would fund the renovations, and in return several performing arts groups would use the auditorium on a nonprofit basis. A nice way to keep a historic venue alive.

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Posted December 11, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, April 2009   Leave a comment

Ain’t nobody here but (Clark, Carole and) us chickens

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.30 at 00:09
Current mood: contentcontent

Remember this photo we ran some time back?

Just your everyday husband-and-wife Southern California chicken farmers in the summer of 1939 — except, of course, that he has an Academy Award to his credit and she was among the nation’s most highly-salaried women. However, that wasn’t the only shot taken of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in their new rural roles. Another photo has just cropped up:

It was taken on Aug. 7, 1939 by the Wide World photo syndicate, which provided this information on the back of the photo:

If you’d like to own this souvenir of Clark and Carole gone country, you can. It’s being auctioned at eBay (

The minimum bid is 99 cents (no bids have been placed as of yet). However, bidding is scheduled to end at 10:39 p.m. (Eastern) on May 6, so expect the price on this to soon top the cost of a bucket of chicken at your local KFC or Popeyes.

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Yet Another Chicken Pic!

Posted by [info]lombardarchive on 2009.04.30 at 19:27
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Courtesy of Jeannie Garceau…another shot taken that afternoon. 

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Carole, and Cooper(s)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.29 at 00:48
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

I have a friendly rivalry with Carla over at, which is a wonderful site you should frequent regularly. But in all honesty, I think our sites complement each other, as she approaches Lombard in a slightly different manner than I do. So I hope she won’t mind if I highlight a few pictures that have recently entered her vast “Carole Lombard Photo Archive.”And to give further credit where credit is due, these photos were supplied to her by a certain Kendra, one of the many contributors I salute there for a job well done. I’m showing them here to give them a little extra recognition.

First, we’ll start with a theme of several Paramount photographs about 1933 or so — the nautical Carole. We see her on a boat — sometimes in long sailor’s pants, othertimes in shorts, the better to show off those lovely Lombard legs. We see those glamorous gams in the following photo, but look at the special guest star beside her. It’s none other than Gary Cooper, who didn’t grow up around much saltwater in Helena, Mont. Ahoy!

Here’s another pic of Carole and Gary, but this time they’re joined by two others. One is the debonair Leslie Howard, who like Lombard would ultimately be an aerial casualty of World War II. The other is a dog on whom Carole concentrates her attention:

Finally, here she is with Cooper again...Jackie Cooper, that is. She’s giving him a little help as he races down a street of the Paramount lot against Groucho and Harpo Marx (so this likely was taken no later than 1933, when the Marxes made their last film at Paramount, the classic “Duck Soup”). I’ve seen film footage of this, probably on one of the “Paramount On Parade” short subjects, but this is the first still I’ve ever seen of the event.

Thanks, Carla…thanks, Kendra…and thanks, Carole, the Coopers and company.

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Slightly off-topic, but could use your help!

Posted by [info]lombardarchive on 2009.04.29 at 18:55
Current mood: curiouscurious

Hi, Gang –I have got a handful of vintage original snapshots whose subjects I cannot identify.  All are Hollywood performers, as they were included in an auction lot of all-vintage Hollywood snapshots.  These faces look familiar, but I cannot identify them.  There was a note on the back of Mystery Star #3 saying she is June Havoc, but I am relatively unfamiliar with Havoc (other than knowing her as the sister of Gypsy Rose Lee).

Here goes:

Mystery Star No. 1

Mystery Star No. 2

Mystery Star No. 3 (Is this June Havoc?)

Mystery Star No. 4 (I think he looks like Robert Walker somewhat – what do you think?)

Mystery Star No. 5 (She looks familiar, but I am drawing a blank.)

Thanks, in advance, for the use of the bandwidth.

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How soon they forget

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.28 at 00:52
Current mood: impressedimpressed

We’ve occasionally discussed how several of Carole Lombard’s films were reissued during her lifetime ( and Well, here’s another example — one that made a lot of sense.To borrow that catchphrase from “Law & Order,” it was based on something “torn from today’s headlines” (that is, if you were looking for headlines from the likes of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons) — the romance of Lombard and Clark Gable, which had taken hold in 1936 and grown more intense by the spring of 1937.

So naturally, somebody got the idea, why not reissue that film Clark and Carole made together? And that’s what happened, at least at the Ambassador Theatre in Indianapolis, as it showed their lone on-screen collaboration, “No Man Of Her Own”:

The result — boffo box office, or so we learn from Boxoffice of April 3, 1937. But examine this item carefully; what is wrong with it?

The answer, of course, is that the studio that made this film was incorrectly identified — it’s not an MGM film at all, but Paramount product. Of course, by this time Gable had become synonymous with Metro (though I doubt the same mistake would have been made with “It Happened One Night”).

Here’s what the Ambassador looked like, in a photo from June 1936. It’s the building just to the left of the one on the corner:

The Ambassador began as a vaudeville house, eventually converting to motion picture use. It only seated about 850 or so, likely a bit smaller than newer palaces expressly built for the movies. It was razed some years ago.

Of course, in the nearly 4 1/2 years between the film’s initial release and its reissue, a little thing called the Hays Code was being more emphatically enforced ( I’m sure the reissued version eliminated a scene in which Carole’s character removed her dress in front of her husband, as well as one where Gable lasciviously looks up at Lombard’s legs while she’s on a ladder, shelving books (she plays a small-town librarian).

Elsewhere in the report from Boxoffice’s Indianapolis correspondent was more evidence of Carole’s popularity — and this time, she did it without Gable. It occurred on the other side of the Ohio River:

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Still unseen…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.27 at 00:01
Current mood: curiouscurious

One of the joys of being a fan of a classic Hollywood star such as Carole Lombard is the process of discovery. There’s so much you can learn about her — and that even applies to someone like me, who’s been a fan of hers for many years. (It’s also one of the reasons I created “Carole & Co.”, so that as I continue to research and learn more about her life and career, I can share it with you. It not only helps keep her legacy alive, but presents a more accurate portrayal of her accomplishments. Or so I hope.)

Among the ways of learning about Lombard is watching her films, of which she made a goodly share despite a relatively brief life. So that will be the topic of today’s entry: What’s the one Carole Lombard film that you most keenly want to see?

Now, as the kids today say, let’s be keepin’ it real. Restrict yourself to Lombard films that we know to be available. So as much as we may want to view “A Perfect Crime,” “Marriage In Transit” or any of the films she made before her 1926 automobile accident, they aren’t in the equation because, as far as we know, none of them have survived. (Pity.)

Moreover, give us a reason why you want to see this film. Is there a director or co-star who holds your interest? Does Carole play an especially interesting character? Or is it simply a film you haven’t gotten around to yet? (And even if it’s a fairly common film, don’t be afraid to mention it — the joy of discovery isn’t restricted to rare films.)

Before you provide your choice, let me give you mine:

It’s “Big News,” a Pathe release from 1929 starring Lombard and Robert Armstrong. Why do I wish to see it? Several reasons:

* It’s reportedly the best of the three talking features Lombard made at Pathe. I’ve seen the other two, “High Voltage” and “The Racketeer,” and concede that isn’t an especially high hurdle.

* Lombard portrays a newspaperwoman for the only time in her film career. (She played a reporter on a 1941 broadcast of the “Silver Theater.”) I’m in the newspaper business, so that’s of particular interest.

* It was directed by Gregory La Cava, a full seven years before he directed Lombard in her screwball triumph, “My Man Godfrey.” At the time that film was being made, Carole was interviewed and fondly recalled working with La Cava in “Big News.” Did he elicit something from her that her other 1929 Pathe director, Howard Higgin, did not?

I suppose number two on the list would be “I Take This Woman,” from 1931 and co-starring Gary Cooper:

Probably the rarest Lombard talking feature that’s known to survive, it was feared lost for many years until a copy — a 16mm print — was found at the home of the author of the novel that was adapted into the film ( A copy was presumably made, and was shown at Film Forum in New York in the summer of 2001. It hasn’t received much exposure since, and has not been released on video or DVD. I’m certain I’m not the only Lombard fan who would love to see this.

So, what films of Carole’s have you yet to experience? And which, more than any other, do you want to see? Tell us.

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Marion swam here — and now, so can you

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.26 at 00:01
Current mood: pleasedpleased

A little bit of classic Hollywood sprang back to life Saturday…in Santa Monica.What we mentioned in an entry last year on Marion Davies’ oceanfront property ( finally came to pass, as Santa Monica hosted the grand opening of what is now known as the Annenberg Community Beach House (the Annenberg Foundation provided about four-fifths of the roughly $35 million needed to renovate the facility):

But don’t fret — Marion has not been forgotten. The guest house itself, all that’s left of the original Ocean House mansion (these also were servants’ quarters), has been named for her:

The building was open for tours Saturday, and it’s been decorated with photos and other memorabilia from Davies’ heyday as a star and partygiver:

Beginning in June, reservations can be made to host events at the house starting in October.

And the marble-tiled pool where Marion and friends (likely including Carole Lombard) swam will be open as well, beginning on weekends in May. It’s the only swim club on the California coast that doesn’t require membership. Here’s what the pool looked like in its heyday, as well as what the pool looks like after its renovation along with an aerial view of the entire estate when all the buildings were up:

The generous Davies, who founded a children’s medical clinic at UCLA and was among the most popular personalities in Hollywood, would no doubt be pleased to learn that what is left of her beloved complex is being put to good use. Here’s Marion with Carole, Clark Gable and Raoul Walsh at a late-thirties premiere at the famed (but, alas, now-demolished) Carthay Circle Theatre:

For more on the facility (including several dozen photos), go to

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Goodbye celebrities, hello Aquarius

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.25 at 00:13
Current mood: morosemorose

Last year, we did an entry on the famed Earl Carroll Theater on Sunset Boulevard and one of its trademarks — large concrete slabs signed by celebrities and hung on the theater wall. Carole Lombard was among the stars who provided their signatures when the theater opened in 1938 (

The slabs apparently remained hung on the theater wall following Carroll’s death in a 1948 plane accident, after which the building was used for other entertainment purposes.

By the spring of 1969, however, change was in the air. Old Hollywood was in eclipse; studios such as MGM and 20th Century-Fox began auctioning off prized artifacts and selling land once used for sound stages. There was a new breed taking over, a younger generation.

This applied to the Earl Carroll Theater as well. It was renamed the Aquarius Theatre (as in “this is the dawning of the age of…”), and to commemorate the change, down went the slabs, and up went a mural, one of Brobdingnagian proportions.

The mural was estimated at about 12,000 square feet — roughly one-third larger than the huge “Crucifixion” mural hanging at Forest Lawn in Glendale. Part of the mural was worked on by a Dutch design collective called “The Fool” (who had previously worked with the Beatles’ Apple Corps), and artwork slowed Sunset Boulevard traffic for several weeks, according to a Los Angeles Times report of April 23, 1969. In fact, here’s what the Times wrote about the mural:

But what of the signatures? Never fear, said Seemon Posthuma, leader of The Fool. They were to be restored, forming a single row at the bottom of the mural. “We could have done anything we wanted to with them, but we felt we should put them back,” Posthoma said. “I mean, what they did then in a way makes possible what we’re doing now. Everyone is a stepping stone, you know?”

I’m now trying to conjure up an image of Carole Lombard in 1969 hippie garb, responding with a “far out” or something to that effect. (Below is the closest approximation I could find to a flower-power Carole; it’s one of her last photos, taken by Robert Coburn to promote “To Be Or Not To Be.”)

Then again, given Lombard’s iconoclasm, she might have had an entirely different — shall we say, saltier? — reaction to the Aquarian sensibility.

I don’t know whether the slabs were indeed placed on the bottom of the mural, much less whether Lombard’s was among them. Nor do I know what subsequently happened to the slabs (let us hope they were not destroyed). I do know that the mural apparently didn’t last very long, falling out of favor at about the same time the Age of Aquarius did.

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Where the magic happened

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.24 at 00:03
Current mood: curiouscurious

The above is a map of the Paramount Pictures lot from 1992, giving one an idea of all the activity going on at the Hollywood-based complex. And here’s the famed original Paramount entrance, shown at night, a scene Carole Lombard probably saw frequently during her seven-plus years at the studio:

Motion picture studios, particularly those in the Los Angeles area, hold a great deal of fascination. For nearly a century, they have been the world’s primary magic factories, shrines to legends on both sides of the camera. And now, there’s a site dedicated to these remarkable places.

It’s a relatively new Yahoo! group — founded only last November — called StudioBacklots ( The group examines studio lots of the past and present, and despite its relative youth there are already plenty of artifacts available.

For example, there are hundreds of photos of backlots (including ranches). Among them are eight photos of studios taken in 1923 and used in a publication called “The Blue Book Of The Screen.” We know a teenaged Jane Alice Peters visited several of these places in 1924, hoping to get her foot in the door of the film industry. In alphabetical order, they are the studios of Charles Chaplin, Samuel Goldwyn, Thomas Ince, Jesse Lasky, Mary Pickford-Douglas Fairbanks, Hal Roach, Universal and Vitagraph. Double-click to read the descriptions of each studio:

We know the future Carole Lombard tested for “The Gold Rush” at Chaplin’s studios (, and also made the rounds of Vitagraph and Pickford-Fairbanks before signing with Fox. The Ince studio (she occasionally dated Thomas Ince’s son, Bill) would play a role later in life, first as the home of Pathe, later as the Selznick International lot. In fact, here’s a photo of Lombard during the shooting of “Made For Each Other” alongside a shot of the Selznick studios some four decades later. It appears both were taken along the same pathway:

I’ve visited Los Angeles three times — and on each occasion, I took a studio tour. In 1989, I visited the Burbank Studios, longtime home of Warner Brothers, for their “VIP” tour, and seven years later I had an equally satisfying time taking Paramount’s guided tour. I returned to Paramount in 2000 to attend a filming of a “Frasier” episode, but before that I went on the Universal tour, which to be honest is more of a theme park, less of a behind-the-scenes experience for the movie buff. (I understand that Sony studios in Culver City — where Ince had his first studio in the teens, but is best known as the home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during its glory years — now conducts a tour. I’ll have to check it out on my next trip to L.A.)

If you’re as interested in the moviemaking experience as I am, visit the StudioBacklots group. You’ll definitely enjoy it.

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From the scrapbook…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.23 at 00:01
Current mood: hopefulhopeful

Many of us, at one time or another, have assembled scrapbooks of sundry items to remember good times or people we’ve known or admired. Somewhere among my possessions, I have a scrapbook detailing my transcontinental train trip I took in September 1996 from New York to Los Angeles, highlighted by a trek through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: every American should travel cross-country at ground level — whether it be by train, bus or automobile — at least once in their lifetime. It gives you a sense of the geographic magnitude of the continental U.S., and what it meant to the development of the nation.)

Over the years, quite a few movie-related scrapbooks were created by fans, particularly during the Golden Age between the world wars, when filmdom grasped the American public consciousness in a way it hasn’t before or since. Carole Lombard likely got her share of scrapbooks from fans, collections that sadly turned into memorials to her after Jan. 16, 1942.

Now, one of those scrapbooks is being auctioned at eBay by someone from Missouri. The description says, “This is a lovely old vintage scrapbook filled with old news articles and real vintage photographs by Clarence Sinclair Bull, Robert Coburn, George Hurrell, Otto Dyar and many others. It also contains photos that are unpublished of Jane Peters as a baby and young girl. It was kept by an avid fan in the day and contains many rare items.”

Here’s the cover of the scrapbook, along with three of the photos:

The photos look in good shape; the last of them is one I don’t think I’ve seen before.

But here’s where it gets interesting. The seller notes, “The selling of this book will help pay for some upcoming surgery I must have done.” That may help explain the selling price: $2,000.

At first glance, that sounds steep. But if there are a lot of rare photos there — and if they’re in tip-top shape — it may well be worth it for the serious collector (original Lombard portraits from the likes of Bull and Hurrell would be pretty valuable). Unfortunately, the seller doesn’t list how many photos or items are in the scrapbook, and many collectors may consequently be skeptical.

I’m hoping to find out more specific information because, having had recent health problems myself, I’d like this person to have a successful sale and get the money necessary for surgery.

Update: Here’s part of the reply I received:

“Sorry for there not being more digital photos. When I tried to upload some of them I had a terrible time with eBay’s picture system. I have been meaning to upload more. Besides the surgery, I have puppies to try to find homes for. I have some people coming to look at them today. If not anything else, I may relist this and try to put more information on. There are 50 pages in the book and many photos. The book measures big at 12 1/4 x 14 1/4 inches. So there are some big photos and some smaller ones around them. I hope this helps. I will try to put more information about the book as I can with what time I have. Thanks for your interest and my best to you.”

Check out the scrapbook at The sale is scheduled to close at about 1:25 a.m. (Eastern) on Saturday.

Oh, and good luck with those puppies.

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One for the (Screen) Book

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.22 at 00:09
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

During her decade-plus of Hollywood stardom, Carole Lombard frequently appeared on the cover of magazines, and why not? She was photogenic, popular among many moviegoers and possessed a winning personality.Of the many Lombard covers produced, I’d have to place the following somewhere in my top dozen or so. It’s from Screen Book magazine of May 1937, and it’s exquisite:

What makes it all the more interesting is that the illustrator was a woman, Zoe Mozert, whom we’ve written about before ( Later in ’37, she would design a poster for Carole’s final Paramount film, “True Confession.” Mozert frequently drew covers for Screen Book, a popular fan magazine for much of the 1930s, as well as for other publications. In fact, she had illustrated Lombard on the June 1936 cover of Romantic Movie Stories:

Inside Screen Book, I’m told there are “leggy pics” of Lombard, Ginger Rogers and Sonja Henie (probably with ice skates on). Others featured in photos include Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astaire, Myrna Loy, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Marion Davies, Joel McCrea, Jean Harlow…even Lombard’s tennis champion buddy, Alice Marble. From those names alone, it sounds like fun reading.

Interested in owning this? Well, you can — just go to

However, note that it will cost you. The opening bid is $59.99, which no one has yet placed as of this writing. Bidding closes at 10 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday.

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Coca-Cola and Carole

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.21 at 00:19
Current mood: thirstythirsty

Many companies used the magic of Hollywood as an advertising tool during the 1930s, and one of them was Coca-Cola. The above is a 1934 ad tying Coke with Ernst Lubitsch’s latest film, “The Merry Widow.”

Lubitsch was certainly among the most recognized directors in the industry, but as one might expect, most of Coca-Cola’s movie-related advertising used film stars to sell the product, such as Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald above. Or take this one, for example, featuring Fredric March and Claudette Colbert:

If you’ve read biographies of Carole Lombard, you know she was an enthusiastic Coca-Cola drinker too, and while filming she often bought cases of the drink for herself and the crew. So it should come as no surprise that Lombard apparently appeared in an ad for the product. I use the qualifier “apparently” because I personally have never seen a Coca-Cola advertisement featuring Carole — and I’ve kept watch for Lombard items for quite a few years. But one may have indeed been made, and proof can be found at eBay.

There’s a photo on hand showing Lombard in a dark swimsuit, raising a glass of Coke along with an unidentified male. I can’t precisely pin down a date for this, but judging from her hairstyle and shade, it was probably taken between 1933 and 1935.

Note the photo has some cropping and marking notations, including the words “color & enlarge” in the lower left-hand corner. One presumes that if this was used in an advertisement, color was added to the image (it wouldn’t be until later in the 1930s that full-fledged color photography was perfected, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the March-Colbert ad above was artifically colored):

The seller of this item describes it as “rare,” and I would certainly have to agree. It can be found at The minimum bid is $14.95 (no bids have been placed as of this writing), and bidding closes at 8:06 p.m. (Eastern) next Monday.

Now excuse me while I go get a soda out of the refrigerator. (Oh, and if any of you know of a Lombard Coca-Cola ad, please provide us with the image, or at least a link.)

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Belatedly uncovering a blog gem

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.20 at 00:01
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

The world of blogging is a wonderful thing; you can find all sorts of writing on all sorts of subjects, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Use a search engine for blogs on a particular topic, and there’s no telling what you may find.That’s what I did last night, using “Carole Lombard blog” as my starting point. What were people, particularly those with film-related blogs, writing about her? This inquiring mind wanted to know.

Most of what I initially found covered ground I’d trod already — blogs I was already familiar with. But digging a bit deeper led me to some writing on Lombard’s career that may not have a particularly revolutionary perspective, but nonetheless provides a nice insight.

The entry was written last November by a man named Dan Callahan, who’s one of the contributors to a site called “The House Next Door.” I glimpsed through the site ( for a bit, and it looks to be smartly written, covering not just classic film but more recent movies and television as well. It certainly warrants further exploration.

But back to the matter at hand: In November, Film Forum in New York was preparing to show a festival of Lombard films to honor the centennial of Carole’s birth (, so it was appropriate for Callahan — who’s written for a number of film blogs and publications — to discuss her work. And he does so, beautifully.

We occasionally mention Lombard’s “big four,” the movies she’s best known for: “Twentieth Century,” “My Man Godfrey,” “Nothing Sacred” and “To Be Or Not To Be.” In Callahan’s eyes, she cinematically had “seven wonders,” as he also adds “Hands Across The Table,” “True Confession” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” to the mix. He noted all of them had been shown by Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. when Carole was its star of the month in October.

However, he added, “these seven testaments to Lombard at her best were garnished with select samplings from her frustrating early sound years…” He said that Columbia seemed to know how to use Lombard better than her home studio of Paramount did — a statement we’ve often agreed with — citing “No More Orchids” and “Brief Moment,” both of which had been shown in the TCM retrospective. (Why he didn’t mention her first Columbia film, “Virtue,” which to my mind is better than either “Orchids” or “Moment,” surprised me.)

Callahan comments, “…in the first scenes of ‘No More Orchids,’ where she’s cannily cast as a flighty, drunken heiress, Lombard’s sense of fun shoots off the screen, as does her frank sexuality (she strips to her underwear with no self-consciousness). And she’s nicely tough/tender in ‘Brief Moment,’ even if her face sends unintentional signs of her uncertainty with her role…”

Nevertheless, he says, at least Columbia had a clue about how to use her, a claim that generally couldn’t be made at Paramount. Witness: “Paramount still didn’t know what Lombard was good at. They used her as an all-purpose leading lady, which might begin to explain her presence in the hilariously awful ‘White Woman’…Lombard looks great, but she seems exasperated and tired throughout the film, as if she’s acting badly to protest the assignment.”

Moreover, Callahan calls her 1934 dance film “Bolero” with George Raft even worse, but notes it contains what he terms a defining moment for her in the twilight of the pre-Code era: “…she strips down to her slip again, and Raft dares her to dance something for him. Lombard’s face lights up, as if she’s thinking, ‘What the hell,’ (or ‘What the f—,’ since she was addicted to longshoreman language). She stomps across the screen in her slip and stockings, while Raft and everyone in the audience thinks, ‘This woman must be one of the best lays in the world.’ ” (Raft got to find out firsthand.)

But it took a while for her sensibility to catch up to her sensuality. Even after her triumph in Columbia’s “Twentieth Century,” Carole was still misused (for “Now And Forever” and “Rumba” at Paramount, and “The Gay Bride” at MGM). “The dominant mode for Lombard in these films is censoriousness: she’s something of a pill, dressing down her male lead and looking fiercely angry and restless in most of her scenes. But it only took a gentle modification of this impatient quality for her star persona to really take shape,” and it did with “Hands Across The Table,” which Callahan calls “the first real Carole Lombard movie.”

Callahan sums it up this way: “It took her a while to find her métier, but when she did, there was no stopping her. If you were to screen ‘Up Pops the Devil,’ and then ‘To Be or Not to Be,’ you might be forgiven in thinking that the early, unsure Lombard and the Lombard at the summit of her skill for a great director in a great, perilously bold movie were two different people. But her struggle to improve herself and find the right material is what makes Carole Lombard such a quintessentially American, do-it-yourself movie star.”

All in all, a very well thought-out description of Lombard’s strengths and weaknesses, and it’s worth a look. Go to

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“They used to tell me I was building a dream…”

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.19 at 00:01
Current mood: cynicalcynical

The photo above was taken in New York City in 1932, during the nadir of the Great Depression, as a long line of men, jobless and/or homeless, wait for a free dinner at a municipal boarding house. And if you’re familiar with the music of that era, you know the subject title are the opening words from the Depression anthem, “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” Here’s Bing Crosby’s definitive version; it spoke for the desperation of many Americans in 1932:

Many of us have parents or grandparents who lived during those dreadful days, so we can hear firsthand the stories of their struggles. And certainly there are many differences between the plight of 2009 and that of 1932. But with the drastic change in the public mood from just a year ago at this time, there may be an artistic silver lining of sorts…or so says one of the nation’s more esteemed film critics.

More than anyone else, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle has generated renewed interest in what has come to be known as the pre-Code era, that period between 1929 and mid-1934 when Hollywood, harnessing its sudden new voice and learning the freedom that came with it, made some of its toughest and most honest films. His books, “Complicated Women” and “Dangerous Men,” are must-reads for anyone interested in this remarkable half-decade.

But LaSalle isn’t just a historian; he writes effectively on contemporary cinema, and I recommend his blog, “Maximum Strength Mick” (

In Friday’s Chronicle, LaSalle wrote, with a sense of what goes around comes around, that “The Depression has clues about coming films” ( “Are great movies guaranteed in an economic meltdown?” he writes. “Not exactly, but like Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, I’m basing my projections on Great Depression models.”

He cites as an example the “We’re In The Money” song and dance from “Gold Diggers Of 1933.” Pure escapism from Busby Berkeley, right? Not exactly. If you’ve seen the film, he notes, “The police come in and bust up the rehearsal before the dance is even over! The backers have all gone broke, and all the costumes have to be returned.”

So what can we expect from movies over the next year or two, given the lag time from writing to production? This, says LaSalle:

* Anti-authority themes. Yesterday’s plutocrats are today’s AIG and Citigroup.

* Shady heroes. Not necessarily villains or anti-heroes, but folks who will occasionally break the rules…even if they’re the good guys. Back in the early thirties, James Cagney made such portrayals an art form. In “Virtue,” perhaps Carole Lombard’s best pre-Code film if you take “Twentieth Century” out of the mix, she is somewhat shady as the one-time streetwalker Mae.

* Social protest dramas. So, what will be our “I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang”?

* Political themes. Last year, we mentioned “Gabriel Over The White House” (, but it wasn’t the only film of its time to explore politics. Many other movies discussed topics of the day, such as Prohibition (“The Wet Parade”).

* Zaniness, harshness, strangeness. LaSalle tells of a ’32 film called “Parachute Jumper,” starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as the protagonist — one who smuggles heroin in a small plane. According to LaSalle, “The comedy ends with his shooting down government patrol planes guarding the Canadian border — and he’s the good guy.”

LaSalle adds, “In the coming months, comedy will become even harsher, and the usual moral markers that make up our movie formulas will vanish. Good guys won’t be good guys, and bad guys won’t be bad guys. There will be confusion — the kind of confusion that sometimes leads to fresh, focused thinking and rich, complex filmmaking.”

I hope he’s right — of course, one major difference between 1932 and today is the nature of the film audience. Back then, just about everyone went to the movies (well, when they had some spare change available); today, moviegoing is largely the domain of teens and twentysomethings at the mall. If there is cynicism, it will probably be bolstered with the unsubtle vulgarity this audience demands.

Please check out his article, with hopes that we’ll see you at the movies, and not at the unemployment office.

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Isn’t that Swede?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.18 at 01:32
Current mood: calmcalm

Not long ago, we had an entry about Carole Lombard’s appearance on the cover of a 1934 Swedish fashion magazine ( Two years later, Lombard appeared on the cover of another Swedish publication, this one apparently specializing in movies, because its title was Film Bilden.It had only 24 pages, but more than compensated through sheer size — each page measured a whopping 13 1/2″ by 10″. And Lombard’s cover photo showed her in tennis whites, stretching out those magnificent legs of hers, relaxing after a hard-fought match, cigarette in hand (making it one of the rare instances where a photo of Carole appears dated).

The magazine was so large that the seller couldn’t fit it into one picture. Therefore, I’ve had to use two separate shots and try to blend them into one…

Not bad. Now what about that caption? It appears to say somethimg about her as both a tennis player and actress. (Precisely what, I’ll leave for you folks fluent in Swedish to describe.)

Inside, there are some film reviews, as well as a feature on Robert Taylor, who was rapidly becoming as popular overseas as he was with American audiences.

If you’d like to make this a part of your collection — and if you’re a Carole collector, why wouldn’t you? — simply go to No bids have been made as of this writing; the minimum bid is $9.99. Bidding closes at just after 4 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday.

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Press credentials

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.17 at 00:01
Current mood: satisfiedsatisfied

Publicity, exploitation, salesmanship — no matter what you called it, marketing was as much a part of selling movies in the Golden Age as it is today. But back then, things were done a bit differently. No television…no Internet…so the primary marketing tool was something called the daily newspaper. And in those days, that business was thriving.Two examples of how Carole Lombard’s films were marketed back in the day are now up for auction. They’re known as pressbooks, and they were sent to both theater owners and newspaper advertising offices. They contained a variety of items to promote the picture, including advertisements that could be used, information on the film…even “prepared reviews” for papers who either had no reviewer of their own or simply had no shame.

Our first example hails from Columbia Pictures in late 1934. Earlier that year, Lombard had achieved her breakthrough at Columbia in “Twentieth Century,” a moderate hit that won Carole critical acclaim. Now she was back at the studio, starring in “Lady By Choice,” a film Harry Cohn and company hoped would have the same audience appeal as its 1933 Frank Capra hit, “Lady For A Day” (although Capra had nothing to do with this one, and no characters carried over from the previous film).

So Columbia came up with this pressbook:

That would be Lombard’s last film at Columbia. The other film represented here is also a finale of sorts, Carole’s last movie at Paramount, “True Confession.” However, this pressbook hails from Paramount’s British division, and given the usual time lag between release dates in the U.S. and UK, this probably was issued sometime in the first half of 1938:

The “Lady By Choice” pressbook is not in the best of condition. Two of the pages have been torn up (whether through age or actual use to promote the movie, I don’t know), and the other eight pages have some stains. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating artifact. View it at Bidding will continue through 10:06 p.m. (Eastern) April 26. The minimum bid is $7.99; no bids have been placed as of yet.

For the British “True Confession” pressbook, a 14-page brochure in somewhat better condition, visit As of this writing, one bid has been placed, at $6.99; bidding will close just after 12:15 p.m. (Eastern) next Wednesday.

Like the Three Stooges in two of their shorts (“Three Little Beers” and “Even As IOU”), you can pretend you’re a member of the press, though you won’t need a “PRESS” button (or, in Curly’s case, a “PULL” button) to do it.

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“…and Carole never looked lovelier.”

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.16 at 00:01
Current mood: frustratedfrustrated

Actually, the line is “…and Marion never looked lovelier,” a satirical reference to how Louella Parsons and the Hearst press would play up the beauty of Marion Davies, who just so happened to be the longtime mistress of William Randolph Hearst. (And, as everyone should know by now, Davies didn’t need the gushing; she was a talented, popular star throughout much of the 1920s and ’30s.) But the subject of our entry today is a Carole Lombard film, so that should explain the paraphrase.

The film in question came during a time when Lombard was establishing stardom at Paramount; trouble was, no one there could yet quite pin down what type of stardom it would be. The Lombard of the early thirties hadn’t yet been solidly defined, and while two of her main rivals at the studio, Claudette Colbert and especially Miriam Hopkins, hadn’t firmly established their star personas, both were further along at the game than Carole.

As evidence, we note a film Paramount had released in mid-May of 1932, a programmer called “Sinners In The Sun.” Here’s a flyer for the film from 1933 — the late date, not to mention the “From Tuesday 6th June 1933,” leads one to believe this was issued in Great Britain:

But exhibitors on both sides of “the pond” had difficulty marketing this movie, because there was nothing really outstanding about it. (In retrospect, it’s chiefly of interest due to the presence of both Lombard and supporting actor Cary Grant, for whom this was one of his first films. It’s also cited as an example of pre-Code sensibility in Mick LaSalle’s excellent book, “Complicated Women.”) What was the film’s problem? To find out, we go from old England to New England, specifically the New England Film News of May 26, 1932:

” ‘Sinners In The Sun’ is unfortunately in sin on the screen. It is just one thing after another with the people in this film and such capable actors as Chester Morris and actresses as Adrienne Ames and Carole Lombard meander through the sets without any purpose. Miss Lombard is beautifully clothed in a number of Paris creations and that is the best thing that can be said for the picture.”

Ouch! And from the flyer, the “beautifully clothed” reference seems more to apply to Carole in swimsuits — although Otto Dyar took two photos of Lombard in gowns from the film:

In its “Selling Seats” notes, the publication observes, “The title is a bad misnomer, so forget it. Sell the stars and the wonderful array of gowns worn by Miss Lombard.”

And that’s what many theaters did. It would take another year or two to transform Carole into more than a clotheshorse.

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Showing her horse sense

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.15 at 00:13
Current mood: chipperchipper

Carole Lombard probably became acquainted with horses in the mid-1920s, when she was a starlet at Fox appearing in westerns. Little more than a decade later, she had matured into an expert horsewoman — and was making enough money to afford her own ranch.Paramount celebrated Carole’s equine skills with a photo shoot in the fall of 1937, when it issued a few publicity photos in support of what would be her last film for the studio, “True Confession.” Here’s P1202-1589:

The back of the photo lists Lombard as a “farmerette,” praising her talent as a horsewoman and an athlete:

P1202-1590, full of her fabled energy, covers much the same vein, on both front and back:

These photos are being offered on auction at eBay. P1202-1589 is at, while P1202-1590 can be found at

One bid has currently been placed on each, both at $9.99; bidding on both closes at about 8:25 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday. So if you’re interested, don’t horse around.

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Lombard’s Pathe pix, part 5, another interview; a voice silenced

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.14 at 00:01
Current mood: sadsad

How about two more photos of Carole Lombard from her Pathe days (when she often would have more accurately been described as Carol Lombard)? They span the spectrum from sublime to…well, you know the rest, and neither are currently up for auction.Here’s CL-108, probably from early 1929, showing Lombard in a bridal gown. Very pretty:

Shortly thereafter, Lombard posed for CL-125 — but you’re going to have to find a different adjective other than “pretty” to describe it. (No, I take that back; you can use “pretty,” all right, but only if it’s followed by a word such as “absurd,” “ridiculous,” “silly,” etc.)

This photo cries for an explanation why it was made, much less released. Was this the “before” pic in a two-part shot showing how Carol’s hair was dressed? (At least that would explain her smile.) Otherwise, it looks as if Lombard’s locks were infused with a sudden jolt of electricity. Weird.

Next up, another 1929 interview, uncovered by the resourceful G.D. Hamann — but unlike most of his finds, this doesn’t come from a Los Angeles newspaper. Rather, it’s from the Olean Evening Times, a small upstate New York daily. One doubts a paper of that size would have its own full-time Hollywood reporter, so this may be syndicated; then again, for all we know, it may have come from a staff writer who was vacationing in southern California and was able to visit a few of the studios. From June 4, 1929, here’s an interview by Dan Thomas…and note he refers to her as “Carole.” Ah, more moniker confusion:

Hollywood. Calif, June 4. —- Out of sight, out of mind.

“Carole Lombard can’t tell you the exact phrasing of that old proverb but she’s a strong believer in it just the same.

” ‘I don’t give them any chance to forget me,’ laughed Carole -— ‘them’ being officials at the Pathe studio where she is under contract. ‘When I’m working I have to be at the studio every day and when I’m not I go out just the same. In that way I don’t give anybody a chance to forget about me if a part comes up which I might play. You know, having a contract isn’t everything. It is still necessary to do a lot of plugging in order to get the real breaks.’


“Carole’s idea seems to be a pretty good one. At least it has kept her plenty busy. She has made five pictures in the last eight months and while quantity isn’t everything, it counts for quite a lot when a girl is still on the upward grade.

“The blond actress already has joined the class of Mack Sennett grads who have made good. That alone is a point in her favor because it is a big class containing a lot of prominent names. And the only change to be found in her since her days as a bathing suit comedienne is that she is more reserved than she was then.

” ‘I don’t know what to tell you,’ Carole replied after I had asked her four or five times to tell me something about herself. ‘You know more about me now than I know myself. All I’m doing is working like the very devil. And when I’m between pictures, I spend a good deal of time posing for publicity pictures. Publicity is an important factor in this game and I am not overlooking that fact.’

“Carole comes about as close to being a native Californian as anybody in the film colony. She missed that distinction by just seven years, having been born in Ft. Wayne, Ind., just a few doors from the house in which Buck Jones first saw light of day. She was christened Jane Peters and used that name until a little more than two years ago when she started her celluloid career.

“When the girl was seven years old her family moved to Los Angeles and it was here that she received her entire schooling, including three years in a dramatic art school. She had had only two small roles when she was in an auto accident. That kept her from the cameras for six months. Then she signed a contract with Mack Sennett and went to work in that famous old studio where so many film folk started on the road to fame.


“About a year ago Carole decided to follow the lead of so many Sennett graduates and try dramatic roles. That is where she found her real success. After working in one picture, Me, Gangster, for Fox, she signed a long-term contract with Pathe where she has appeared in five films.

” ‘I like dramatic roles the best but don’t think I don’t appreciate the comedy work I did,’ she declared. ‘That gave me marvelous training better than I could have gotten in any other way. And now that we have talking pictures, I am getting the full benefit of my three years in dramatic school.’ “

If yesterday’s article didn’t show that the young Lombard knew where she was going and had a pretty good idea how to get there, then this interview will.

Finally, it’s been a tough week to be a baseball fan. The old saying goes that death comes in threes, and that unfortunately has proven true over the past few days. Last week, Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart was among three people killed by a driver who police said was drunk. On Monday, former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych, the 1976 American League rookie of the year, died in a farm accident at age 54. And a few hours before Fidrych’s death, Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas, 73, longtime voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and NFL Films, died in Washington, D.C., only hours before he was to broadcast the Phillies-Nationals game.

I lived in Philadelphia for nearly a decade, and Harry’s rich, deep, honest voice made him one of the city’s most beloved figures. He used that voice to convey the excitement of baseball day after day, night after night, always adding a bit of droll humor (especially alongside his good buddy Richie Ashburn, the Hall of Fame outfielder who worked in the booth with Kalas for 26 years until his own death in 1997).

No one called a home run like Harry — his “outta here” call was one of the game’s trademarks, especially when hit by the Phils’ great third baseman, “Michael Jack Schmidt.” But unlike some announcers, he never shoehorned his calls, but made them apply to the moment. If you hear his famed call of Schmidt’s 500th homer in 1987, a ninth-inning shot that enabled the Phils to rally for a win at Pittsburgh, he doesn’t say “outta here” — and appropriately so, because if you see footage of Schmidt’s historic homer, it’s not a booming fly ball but a line-drive blast that quickly reached the stands.

Kalas broadcast many of the greatest moments in the history of the Phillies, a franchise whose history for years could best be described as woebegone. Due to a shortlived rule banning local radio broadcasts, he wasn’t on the air when the Phils won their first World Series in 1980 (if you see his “call” of Tug McGraw’s Series-clinching strikeout, it was a re-creation). Thankfully, last October Harry did get to actually call a World Series winner, and many fans were glad he finally got the chance.

Harry grew up in Naperville, Ill., the son of a minister, and the first baseball game he saw was a doubleheader at old Comiskey Park between the White Sox and Washington Senators. Harry, about eight years old at the time, went to the Washington dugout to get autographs, and when it began raining, Senators first baseman Mickey Vernon brought him inside the dugout. Harry became a Senators fan…but here’s a Paul Harvey “rest of the story” twist: Mickey Vernon lived in Marcus Hook, Pa., just south of Philadelphia, and got to hear Kalas broadcast Phillies games for decades until he died a few years back. (Harry was master of ceremonies several years ago when a statue of Vernon was unveiled in Marcus Hook.)

Kalas — one of the nice guys in the business — won many friends in the game and in Philly. When he won the Ford Frick Award for baseball broadcasting in 2002, thousands of Phillies fans converged on Cooperstown, N.Y., for the celebration (I know — I was one of them). A few months before, when word came that Kalas had won the honor, I suggested that when the Phillies played in an interleague series at Detroit, he should do an inning with another broadcast icon, the Tigers’ Ernie Harwell. And that indeed took place, as part of a season-long celebration.

A good baseball announcer is the voice not only of his team, but his city. Kalas, Harwell and another legend, Los Angeles’ Vin Scully, proved that for decades. A voice in Philadelphia may now be stilled, but the memories he gave millions will live on.

Thanks, Harry.

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Lombard’s Pathe pix, part 4…plus an interview

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.13 at 00:05
Current mood: pleasedpleased

We’ve been running quite a few items of late on the early Carole Lombard, largely because her career at that time is largely foreign to most of us, underreported through the decades.We’re going to continue the series of Pathe publicity photos with two more from this era. To start with, here’s a fairly early — and sultry — photo of Lombard, CL-18, probably taken during 1928:

We’ll follow it up with CL-74, which I’m guessing is from late 1928 or early ’29. Note that Lombard is wearing an outfit that includes Pathe’s well-known rooster logo:

Neither of these portraits are currently being auctioned; I simply thought you should see them.

But that’s not all we have in this entry. Thanks to G.D. Hamann’s research, here’s one of the earliest interviews of Lombard I’ve ever found, written by Edward Stodel of the Los Angeles Evening Herald (a Hearst newspaper) on May 25, 1929, while Lombard was working on the film that would later be titled “Big News”:

I think it’s a pretty vivid portrait of the young Lombard. Enjoy.


By Edward Stodel

“Carol Lombard is answering the challenge of the “Gabbing celluloid” armed with a good sense of humor and an ability to be herself.

“Of course, her long experience before the speechless cameras will be put to good stead, but Carol is relying upon her aforementioned attributes to develop a clicking talkies personality for her.

“After having spirited her away from the newspaper city room set of For Two Cents, at Pathe Studio the other afternoon, while she was trading smart sayings with the thespic reporters, I can vouch for her sense of humor.

” ‘And me what’s a lady,’ she flung back at them as we retired to the seclusion of a portable dressing room for a chat. ‘That’s my patented comeback around the studio,’ she obligingly explained.

“Carol is the official feminine jester at Pathe. No matter how hard she has been working or serious a scene may be, she’ll be there in between shots with a laugh for the crowd or to join in some general fun.

“I asked her if she ever relaxed while on the set.

” ‘I’m funny that way,’ she replied. ‘I keep my energy at speed point all during the day. When I get home I slow down. I can never rest on the set during waits, and I don’t believe in isolating myself to get into the mood of a character. Why, early one morning last week a bunch of us got up in the rafters of this stage and had a real water fight.

” ‘A few minutes later we enacted a tense sequence of a picture. I’ve watched a very successful actress waiting on a set to begin a scene. She was smoking a cigaret and sat slumped up in a chair with anything but a look of concentration on her face.

” ‘She was given two warnings to prepare for her entrance before the camera. Her mood didn’t change a particle. Yet on the signal to shoot she changed like a chameleon, stepped into the scene and assumed a remarkably contrasting personality to her own.’ “


“This blonde young lady with her very big blue eyes got quite a frigid shock in the making of High Voltage, in which she is featured at the Hillstreet tomorrow. Her part in this picture is mainly to appear half frozen during most of the reelage. It didn’t call for any extra effort from Carol to be natural in doing that. The company journeyed up to Lake Tahoe in the dead of last winter to take the picture.

” ‘It was the coldest proposition I ever met,’ she exclaimed. ‘Four below zero and I had to wade through the snowbanks in French heels.’

“Carol Lombard’s voice is said to be well suited for the talkie ‘mike.’ It is well modulated and has considerable depth to it. She attributes the culture of it to her mother, who, even when Carol was a child, insisted upon her cultivating a rich quality to her voice. As cultured as it is, she never allows it to become artificial.

“‘I have discovered,’ she told me, ‘from sitting in the recording box while a former legitimate actor was speaking a role, that the well-known stagey manner of delivering lines is taboo.’ “


” ‘In this film that we are doing now, a former footlights player tried to make a dramatic masterpiece out of slapping fellow journalists on the back and bidding them the time of day. It nearly drove the sound expert crazy keeping him in control.

” ‘I’ve taken every small speaking bit I could get my hands on around here until I was ready for something big. I have found that keeping yourself in evidence brings home the old bacon. A ‘cheerio’ into the offices every day keeps you freshly stamped in the higher-up’s mind. It’s easy to forget one over night, and little Carol is not going to be forgotten if she can help it.’ “

I think it safe to say that she has not been forgotten.

Two days later, Stodel reviewed “High Voltage”:

“Human energy supercharged to white heat and tempered by the chill blasts of a Sierra Nevada blizzard, supplies the current for William Boyd’s first talking production, ‘High Voltage,’ at the Hillstreet.

“The story is a unique one in that practically all the action takes place in a mountain church where a party of bus passengers and their driver take refuge from a snowstorm. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this picture is the five distinct characters and their reaction to their serious predicament.”


“Carole Lombard is the attractive prisoner who is being taken east to complete a sentence. Owen Moore plays the detective, her captor. Diane Ellis enacts the innocent girl who is headed for Chicago and the altar. Phillips Smalley plays a flabby financier and Billy Bevan is the dumb but good natured bus driver whose blundering causes the trouble.

“The travelers find Boyd ahead of them in the place of refuge and as he has the only edibles, he assumes dictatorship over the situation.

“While there is little more to the story than this contrast of personalities with their nervous systems at high voltage, excellent dialogue in a number of sequences aids things materially.

Boyd’s voice is natural and blends well with his character, Miss Lombard’s has considerable warmth to it and she manipulates her tones with intelligence. Moore also gives a good vocal display as the hard-boiled detective. Bevan displays a satisfactory flair for comedy.”


“The stage bill is topnotch. There is Long Tack Sam, who is the most entertaining of oriental performers. His company is a show in itself. The Pavley-Oukrainsky group presents an interesting dance novelty.

“Charles Derickson has a fine singing voice. Billy Glason has a load of laughs in his patter and Kelley and Jackson dispense some pleasing wit in their sketch.”

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Her (new) name in the paper

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.12 at 00:01
Current mood: excitedexcited

In the field of Hollywood historical prospecting, nobody mines more gold than G.D. Hamann. Over the years, he’s collected countless bits of information about the classic era of movies and the people involved in it.Hamann goes through all sorts of newspapers, large and small, most of which bit the dust long ago and perhaps were preserved on microfilm. (Some never got that far, and at times the articles he collects might be incomplete clippings, which he’ll note with dismay.) Is there a bit of hokum present at times? Sure, but that was true for much entertainment reporting of the time.

Recently in his blog,, he ran some items on Carole Lombard. In a way. that’s nothing new, because he’s printed his share of Lombard-related items. Most of those, however, were from the 1930s and early ’40s. This new batch covers the 1920s, up to about 1930 — and material on Lombard from this part of her career isn’t all that easy to find.

In fact, the following item could well be the first time the name “Carol(e) Lombard” appeared in a newspaper. It’s from the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 4, 1925:

Society Girl Into Silent Drama
“Another lovely society girl has succumbed to the lure of the movies. She is Jane Peters, daughter of Mrs. Elizabeth Peters, society leader, living at North Wilton Place. Incidentally, Miss Peters has taken the name of Carole Lombard.

“One of those things that never happens outside of story books has happened then to Carole Lombard, a beautiful little miss of 16 years of age. About two months ago Carole, without any preliminary appointment, went to the Fox West Coast Studios and applied for work in the pictures. Her beauty and dramatic possibilities won for her an interview with Sol M. Wurtzel, general supervisor of the Fox Studios, who had a test made. She was called upon to exhibit every type of emotion from light comedy to the darkest tragedy. The next chapter in this fairy tale relates that Carole is now signed on a five-year contract with the Fox organization and is playing her first role as leading woman in support of Edmund Lowe, whose current starring vehicle is The Best Man, directed by R. William Neill.

“Carole four years ago made a picture with Monte Blue as the star, but that terminated her picture career until the present, because her mother insisted that she finish her schooling before launching into her chosen Profession.”

Lombard was all of 16 years old when this was printed, and had not yet reached the halfway point of her brief life. One can imagine her excitement over such publicity. Assuming the spelling of her first name is accurate here, it adds yet more confusion to the “Carol vs. Carole” controversy. We also learn that her mother, Elizabeth Peters, was as involved in Los Angeles society as she had been in Fort Wayne — and that Lombard resided on North Wilton Place for several years (it was her address in the 1930 census).

Little more than a month later, on March 8, Lombard was mentioned in a piece by the Times’ Edwin Schallert (at the time, his son, William, was all of two):

“Instead of abating, the interest of picture producers in newcomers appears to be waxing stronger from day to day, and the question is being raised everywhere as to what it is all going to come to.

“Girls who have the least suspicion of talent are not only being given small supporting leads in the pictures, but in several instances they have been put right into leading roles. It isn’t confined either just to those who were so fortunate as to appear in ‘Peter Pan,’ like Betty Bronson or Mary Brian, who are already assigned to leading parts in other features. There are also Sally O’Neill, who has the outstanding role in Marshall Neilan’s new picture called Mike; Greta Nissen, who is to be featured by Famous Players-Lasky in the story In the Name of Love, and Lucille LeSeuer, who is to do important parts in several forthcoming MGM features. Constance Bennett, Dorothy Sebastian, Georgia Hale, Jane Winton, Carole Lombard and Jane Mercer, comprise others who have been elevated from virtual obscurity to featured prominence. Only a few like Miss Nissen and Miss Bennett have had any professional experience either on the stage or screen.”

“Lucille LeSueur” (whose name Schallert misspelled) would go on to far greater fame after being renamed Joan Crawford.

And not too long after Schallert’s item, Lombard indeed was appearing in theaters as the feminine lead, opposite Edmund Lowe, in the now-presumed lost “Marriage In Transit”:

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carole lombard 01

70 years ago today, the second time around

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.12 at 23:12
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

We’ve previously noted that some of Carole Lombard’s movies were re-released during her lifetime ( Here’s another one I just discovered, thanks to the great Los Angeles Times blog, “The Daily Mirror.” In fact, this particular revival occurred 70 years ago today. Here’s the ad that ran on the Timesmovie page of April 12, 1939:

It was an appropriate time to run a “war” film, since things were tensing over in Europe due to Germany’s recent territorial expansion. (On the front, the Times was more concerned that day with the divorce of Joan Crawford from Franchot Tone.)

In addition to the ad, the paper ran a large portrait of Lombard as well as a review. The writer noted that some of Carole’s scenes had been snipped from the revival, but didn’t disclose the reason why:

“As I remember the original, there was more torrid romance between Miss Lombard and March when he meets her on leave. But there’s only two scenes now, and not even the briefest of embraces.”

Damn, oops, darn Production Code (curse you, Joe Breen)!

I wonder what Lombard thought of seeing some of her Paramount product reissued, but I suspect she was spending more time exploring the joys of wedded life with Clark Gable, in addition to making plans for their new ranch out in Encino.

We’ll leave you with a photo from the film showing Carole with Fredric March, a few years before they reunited for “Nothing Sacred”:

The “Mirror” entry can be found at

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Lombard’s Pathe pix, part 3 (chiffon and fur)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.11 at 00:01
Current mood: productiveproductive

I hadn’t anticipated making a regular series of the photos of Carol Lombard taken while she was a contract player at Pathe in the late 1920s (before she permanently added the “e” to her first name). However, I’ve discovered that as more or them become available, I find they have nearly as much fascination as her more renowned Paramount portraits.These shots were taken beginning in Lombard’s late teens, probably ending around the time she reached age 21 and was released from Pathe’s roster. Her adult beauty was in its embryonic stage, and she was learning the subtle tricks of photography that would bear fruit in the 1930s.

We’ll begin with this photo, CL-127, probably taken sometime in the spring of 1929, where Carol is draped and draped in layers of chiffon:

Later that year, Lombard is enveloped in fur for CL-189, adding a veneer of sophistication to still a relatively young woman:

If you’d like to add these original photos to your collection, you can — because both are up for auction at eBay.

For the chiffon, go to

For the fur, visit

Minimum bids on each are $9.95; no bids have been placed on either one as of this writing. Bidding closes for the chiffon pic at 11 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday, while bidding on the fur pic ends 15 minutes later.

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Announcing a cutback

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.10 at 00:17
Current mood: hopefulhopeful

The following is news about a cutback — but it has nothing to do with the economy.

First of all, let me say at the outset that I am feeling better, and haven’t experienced any pain in quite some time. The eye doctor said this week that my progress was better than he had expected. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I am hoping the worst is behind me.

That said, I have decided, for my own peace of mind, to cut back (slightly) on my entries to “Carole & Co.” Instead of writing an entry every day — which I did for 1 3/4 years until my recent affliction — I expect to write four or five entries a week…so if you see me absent here for a day or two, don’t panic. (And remember, you are always encouraged to contribute entries of your own, and I hope you do.) To paraphrase the famous Garbo line from “Ninotchka,” we intend to have fewer, but better, entries about Carole Lombard, her life and times, and people she knew and worked with.

This community has been a great learning experience for me, and I hope you have felt likewise. If all goes right, it will continue that way.

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Identifying others–PART 1

Posted by [info]lombardo42 on 2009.04.10 at 12:36

If anyone can identify the people in these photographs (other than Carole) I’d appreciate it. It is all part of my collection so I intend to do this periodically.

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A salute to Stanwyck

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.09 at 00:31
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

Barbara Stanwyck once called Carole Lombard “so alive, modern, frank, and natural that she stands out like a beacon on a lightship in this odd place called Hollywood.” I can’t think of any comments Carole ever made about Barbara, but I’m sure there was a similar admiration. They weren’t the closest of friends, but they occasionally socialized together, especially when Lombard was coupled with Clark Gable and Stanwyck with Robert Taylor. And both actresses were renowned for their professionalism on the set.

We’ve written about Stanwyck before, notably on the centennial of her birth back in July 2007 ( We’re writing about her now because the Los Angeles Times blog “The Daily Mirror” has just reprinted an April 1987 interview with Stanwyck, days before she was to receive a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute. It’s an extended piece that really gives you a feel for how Stanwyck — three months away from her 80th birthday — approached both her craft and her life. (She was still working at the time, and died in 1990.)

The blog reprinted the Stanwyck interview as part of a series of pieces on Billy Wilder, who wrote “Ball Of Fire” (an ad for which is above) and directed “Double Indemnity.” But Stanwyck worked with so many greats — think of the array of wonderful films she made with Frank Capra — and excelled in so many genres…comedies, dramas, film noirs, westerns. The lady could do it all.

In the interview, she credited Capra for teaching her a key to acting. “These are the greatest tools in film,” she said simply (pointing to her eyes). “Mr. Capra taught me that. I mean, sure, it’s nice to say very good dialogue, if you can get it. But great movie acting…watch the eyes.”

For more than 60 years, millions of eyes watched Stanwyck, both on film and TV. And no matter what part she played, she always delivered.

You can read the interview at–6.html#comments. It’s a long read, but well worth it. (There’s also a clip from “Ball Of Fire.”)

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Lombard gets Lip(pman) service

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.08 at 00:01
Current mood: artisticartistic

Carole Lombard’s breakthrough role came in the spring of 1934, when Columbia Pictures released “Twentieth Century.” Thinking it had another winner along the lines of its earlier “It Happened One Night” (it ended up doing good business, particularly in urban areas, but didn’t quite click in smaller towns and rural regions), Columbia — somewhat smaller than rival studios such as Lombard’s home base, Paramount, or MGM — nevertheless used all its publicity skill to put “Twentieth Century” over. And that includes this portrait of Carole, portraying salesgirl Mildred Plotka transformed into Broadway star Lily Garland:

It’s a lovely photo, and you can especially appreciate Lombard’s beauty in a close-up:

This particular copy of the photo was used by Shadoplay magazine, a subsidiary of the more successful publication Photoplay ( On the back, it’s imprinted “May 1934,” though I’m not sure whether that refers to the month it was received or the issue it was printed in.

The caption reads, “Carole Lombard, in her costume as ‘Lily’ in the first act of ‘Twentieth Century’ sits before her dressing table at Columbia. Carole loves fresh flowers; two pots of them stand beside her mirror.”

Above the caption, we also see the imprint, “Photo by Irving Lippman, Columbia Studios.” I knew nothing about Mr. Lippman before this, so I searched for his listing at the Internet Movie Database and discovered quite a bit of information.

For one thing, he reached the age of 100, as did “Twentieth Century” actor Charles Lane ( Lippman died Nov. 15, 2006 — exactly one week after achieving his centennial.

Lippman worked for nearly half a century, mostly at Columbia, first as a still photographer. “Twentieth Century” was apparently his lone Lombard assignment, but he also took stills for such notable films as Frank Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes To Town,” “You Can’t Take It With You” and “Meet John Doe,” as well as “You Were Never Lovelier,” “In A Lonely Place” and “From Here To Eternity.”

From there, he branched into cinematography, handling several of the later Three Stooges shorts as well as features such as 1957’s “Hellcats Of The Navy” (yep, the film with Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy Davis). In the 1960s, as Columbia increasingly emphasized television through its Screen Gems branch, Lippman was active in small-screen cinematography, working on many episodes of “The Monkees” as well as “I Dream Of Jeannie,” “McHale’s Navy” and “Here Come The Brides.” His last assignment was an episode of “The Love Boat” in 1979. He must have led a fascinating life.

Somehow this photo made its way to Australia, because the seller on eBay hails from Melbourne (and I don’t mean Florida). Three bids have already been made as of this writing, with the lead bid at $51.50 (that’s in American dollars). Bidding will continue through 8:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. If you’re interested, go to

Finally, here’s something that has nothing to do with Lombard, but everything to do with mothers — and since Carole dearly loved hers, I think she’d have no objection to my including it here. Perhaps some of you watch Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” show on MSNBC; whether you do or not — or whether you agree or disagree with his politics — is beside the point. Olbermann’s mother passed away Saturday, and to close Monday’s show he paid her tribute in a touching, personal and humorous manner.

In 2000, Marie Olbermann, a devout baseball fan since the 1930s, was watching a game at Yankee Stadium, seated a few rows behind the Yankees’ dugout. An errant throw by New York second baseman Chuck Knoblauch wound up in the stands, hitting her in the face. (Thankfully, she was not hurt.) What made this unusual was that the game was being telecast on Fox, where her son was then serving as the pre-game and studio host! It caused a stir in the New York tabloids for a few days, and Marie — showing the same wry humor she infused her son with — thanked Knoblauch (who at the time was in a midst of having problems with his throws to first base) for making her famous.

A transcript of Keith’s tribute can be found at You’ll enjoy it even if your mom doesn’t like baseball (thankfully, mine does at age 88, going back to following the Brooklyn Dodgers in the late forties; she now rarely misses a Washington Nationals game on TV).

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Something new to report

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.07 at 00:12
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

When Carole Lombard married William Powell in late June 1931, they immediately celebrated by going on their honeymoon, traveling by ship to Hawaii. Legend has it that after reaching the mid-Pacific paradise, Lombard wired a friend of hers, “Nothing new to report.”Some have viewed that remark as a rather pithy comment on Powell’s approach to intimacy (remember that he was more than a decade and a half older than his bride). More likely, it was Carole’s way of disguising her rather shaky health now that she was a newlywed. Lombard — always a contradiction in that she was active and athletic, yet often laid low by illness — had apparently caught some sort of malady (possibly food poisoning, perhaps the flu) that kept her Hawaiian fun to a minimum.

With that in mind, I’d like to present an artifact of that honeymoon that I only recently discovered — a rare photograph of Lombard and Powell. Each are wearing leis, so there’s a good chance that it was taken soon after they had arrived in Hawaii, with the bride’s medical troubles yet to come:

This was one of many pictures in a scrapbook of celebrities visiting Hawaii during the 1930s — most of them film stars, but also including a few shots of Franklin D. Roosevelt (I’m not sure whether they were taken before or after he became president — we know he wasn’t campaigning in Hawaii, because it wouldn’t become a state until 1959). Lombard was listed as “Carol” in the scrapbook, several months after she had adopted the “e”; she was far less established than Powell, still perceived as a budding star.

You can find these pix at “Give Me The Good Old Days!” ), at a site that describes itself as “A blog about El Brendel, old film, and any other s— I feel like writing about.” (El Brendel was a comic actor in early talkies known for speaking in a mock Swedish dialect, though I don’t believe he himself was actually Swedish. His best-known film is probably the 1930 sci-fi musical — yes, you read that correctly — “Just Imagine.”)

A great find, and a nice addition to our collection of Lombardiana.

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Making a ‘Picture Play’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.06 at 01:24
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Mention the company “Street & Smith’s” and this is probably the image that comes to mind for most of us: Its baseball annuals, a ubiquitous sign of spring on American newsstands. That’s Houston knuckleballer Joe Niekro on the cover of the 1980 edition; he and his Astros teammates — oh, those “rainbow” uniforms! — would win the franchise’s first division title, only to lose a classic National League Championship Series to Philadelphia. (Incidentally, baseball begins for most of us today — I’ll be watching on TV as my Washington Nationals open the season in Florida, intent on some sort of improvement from last year’s 59-102 disaster.)

Street & Smith’s sports annuals are currently printed under the auspices of the Sporting News, which it now also owns (it also publishes Sports Business Journal, sort of a barometer of the “show me the money” direction the sports industry is going in). But Street & Smith’s has a long and varied publishing history, printing magazines in a wide range of genres. It even published dime novels for many years. (Syracuse University has archived much of Street & Smith’s output; for more on the company and its remarkable history, go to

One of those genres was movie magazines, and Street & Smith’s contribution was a publication called Picture Play. It began in May 1926, initially as a weekly, but soon converted into a monthly format similar to most of its competitors and would last through the fall of 1959.

As you might expect, it featured Carole Lombard on its cover several times. Here she is in July 1932 (part of me doubts that she and that little terrier actually posed together!):

In May 1938, Picture Play invited you to “take your own screen test.” Twelve years before Norma Desmond’s creation, you could ostensibly tell Mr. De Mille that you were ready for your closeup:

That December, we saw Carole in furs, and with that red and gold decal, one guesses she might be going to the Coliseum to watch some Southern Cal football:

But our main subject today is the Picture Play issue of January 1937, which has a very lovely Lombard cover:

Inside is a story entitled “The Real Low-Down On Lombard,” written by one Ben Maddox. I’ve never read it, but in his “Carole Lombard: A Bio-Bibliography,” Robert D. Matzen describes it this way: “Indifferent interview with Lombard touching on rumors surrounding her relationship with Gable, and her practical nature. Maddox makes no effort to look beneath the surface of his subject.” Doesn’t sound like must-read material.

The item can be found at, although it has a rather unusual bidding angle. The starting bid is $29.99…or you can “buy it now” for the same price. Huh? If no one bids, the auction will end just after 6:10 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday.

Also note that the four covers of Picture Play had four different versions of the logo, evident of a lack of continuity and consistency at the magazine. In baseball lingo, Street & Smith’s sports annuals might have been pennant-winners, but its movie publication was strictly second-division.

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More on the Harlow mural

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.05 at 00:01
Current mood: artisticartistic

Those of you who have been longtime followers of this site may recall that in November 2007, we ran an entry about Carole Lombard’s good friend Jean Harlow and about the platinum blonde star’s association with one of the most unusual items of Hollywood memorabilia I’ve ever come across — a 13-foot wide mural of Jean and other MGM stars, directors and officials ( That in itself is remarkable, but here’s an added twist — they are all in Elizabethan garb, as if William Shakespeare had just been hired as a screenwriter in Ye Olde Culver City.

At the time of the earlier entry, the owners had put the mural up for auction at eBay, with a minimum bid of $125,000. No serious offer materialized. The owners still have interest in eventually selling the mural to a worthy buyer, but now — due to the interest from classic movie buffs such as us — they have created a Web site about this work of art that certainly defines the term “unique”:

The site contains just about everything you ever wanted to know about the mural; you can even download it as wallpaper for your computer.

The mural was a wedding gift to Harlow in the summer of 1932 from her second husband, MGM executive Paul Bern. Unfortunately, the marriage was to be short-lived, as Bern died under mysterious circumstances in early September; whether it was by suicide or at the hands of his long-ago common-law wife (who herself died several days after the incident) has never been conclusively answered.

Here’s part of the mural; from bottom left, going clockwise, are Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Willis Goldbeck (noted writer and producer), Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Irving Thalberg, Jean Harlow and Irene Selznick. Bern reportedly positioned all the personalities involved, and it’s unknown why he had Crawford — one of the few people at MGM who loathed Harlow — seated next to her.

Others in the mural, but not pictured here, are Irene Harrison (Bern’s secretary), Gene Markey (a producer who was married to Myrna Loy, Hedy Lamarr and Joan Bennett), Bebe Daniels, Lawrence Tibbett (operatic and film star), John Gilbert, Carey Wilson (famed screenwriter and producer), David O. Selznick, B.P. Fineman (producer), Edmund Goulding (writer/producer) and Ben Lyon (who starred opposite Harlow in “Hell’s Angels”).

All in all, a fascinating artifact of Hollywood, specifically MGM, in mid-1932.

I’m not sure what Harlow’s initial reaction to the mural was — since she was so down-to-earth, she probably deemed the whole thing a bit pretentious — but we do know that following Bern’s death, she wanted nothing to do with it, and understandably so. If Jean’s spirit is out there, we acknowledge your trepidation, but we’re glad the mural’s been preserved for future generations to view.

Oh, and Jean, let me repeat what I wrote some 17 months ago: You make one fine-looking wench.

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Confronting a bully

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.04 at 00:01
Current mood: uncomfortableuncomfortable

The drawing above is how we usually picture a bully, but you don’t need a pair of rugged fists or large size to be one. Indeed, much bullying is done with words — and while Internet access can provide people with ways to give and receive information, so too can it be used to frighten and intimidate others. And, sad to say, over the past two days or so we’ve had plenty of that here.

The catalyst is one David Bret, an author whose work we have discussed on occasion, specifically “Clark Gable: Tormented Star” (, which is now out in softcover, and his forthcoming book, “Jean Harlow: Tarnished Angel” (

Many of our readers were critical of his books, and left comments saying so. Mr. Bret — who apparently recently discovered this site — naturally sought to defend himself, and I have no qualms with that. But if writing were boxing, the nature of some of his responses would constitute hitting below the belt. They include:

“Such a pity you were not a real silents girl–you would be dead by now.”

“Next year on 16 January take a plane and do your best impersonation of the too magnificent for creeps like you Carole Lombard.”(He suggested another person go on the same trip.)

(To someone writing a Lombard biography who said it would be done “with truth, respect and love”) “And you will be lucky to sell 1,000 copies.”

(To someone who said she planned “to speak out plenty about this tripe”) “In adopting the same principal as yourself, I therefore assume that you are a bigoted piece of manure, almost certainly a closet lesbian who takes your vibrator to the foot of the mountain each January in the hop that the gorgeous Carole will smile down on you. I am certain that only the dead would wish to have contact with as vile a harridan as yourself, and would wish you only the very friendliest of heart-attacks, though not of course until you have read my ‘tripe.’ “

“The crux of the matter is this: you describe Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls as one of the worst books of all time, which to me is an honour. To be denounced alongside one of the great authors of all time, even by Fatty Arbuckle in drag, is indeed a great honour. Indeed, I even now have a little admiration for Venereal Princess 19.”

Uh, David, I (vp19) happen to be male, as most people around here know; since you’re a relative newcomer, I’ll take the error in stride. (He earlier referred to my site as “minuscule,” which it may well be, but is done with love, a keen sense of humor — most of the time, anyway — and interest in classic Hollywood history.)

Bret’s caustic comments led some of his targets to fire back and make remarks about his sexuality and appearance. I thought that was uncalled for; fighting fire with fire isn’t my style — it only leads to more things burned. Instead, I invite you to visit his Web site, (note that he refers to my Web site, but doesn’t provide a link).

Ignore that slight — and please, don’t send any malicious messages his way. However, do note that David wishes a happy 85th birthday “to the wonderful, wonderful Doris Day” (it occurred April 3). I would hope most of you would agree with that — Doris was a splendid vocalist (some of my favorites of hers include “My Dreams Are Getting Better All The Time” from her Les Brown days, the magnificently sexy ballad “Pretty Baby” and the lively “I May Be Wrong (But I Think You’re Wonderful)”) and a top-flight film star who for much of the ’50s and ’60s was bigger box office than many more celebrated actresses (“Teacher’s Pet,” her lone film with Clark Gable, in an intelligent, sophisticated comedy). Yes, he wrote a book about her (“Doris Day: Reluctant Star”), but even if he hadn’t, I’m sure he would admire her.

Speaking of admiration, in one of Bret’s responses, he said he had “enormous admiration for Lombard.” And I’m sure he does. But one of the qualities that made Carole so beloved among film crews and regular folk in the industry was that she always looked out for them, always used her star stature to protect them from being bullied by directors and studio executives who misused their power. In an interview in the November 1938 issue of Motion Picture magazine (, Lombard had this to say:

“I do walk off sets but not for the reasons you might suppose. I’m not temperamental about myself. I can take care of myself, all right. But I do get temperamental when I hear some little would-be Napoleon of a director, some little killer-diller of a petty czar cursing out extras, grips, electricians. I’ve walked out sets when things like that happen. And will again, if and when they happen again. I’ve said to the pettifogging Nappies, ‘Why don’t you bawl me out if that’s the way you feel about it? You don’t dare to bawl the stars out, do you? They could bark right back at you, couldn’t they? So you have to light on the little fellows, the ones who can’t talk back, don’t you?’ It’s an obsession with me,” said Carole, savagely, “the bullying of men who can’t defend themselves by men who, not necessarily stronger, are in stronger positions. I’ve tweaked more than one nose, twisted more than one ear until it rasssppped for that sort of thing.”

You want to defend your work, Mr. Bret? Fine — you have every right to. But making it personal against those who criticize makes you one of the high-powered people Carole was inveighing against. That’s all I’ll say.

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‘Monster’ vs. Sweden

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.03 at 00:01
Current mood: amusedamused

Meet Ginormica, the towering character formerly known as Susan Murphy, from the hit movie “Monsters vs. Aliens” (it had the highest weekend box office take so far this year). Voiced by Reese Witherspoon, Ginormica is sort of an homage to the 50-foot woman of sci-fi’s heyday (although poor Susan topped out at a mere 49-foot-11 after being sprayed with falling meteor gunk a few hours before her wedding). She and several other misfits inspired by classic sci-fi films save the world (and prove their worth) by successfully repelling an alien attack.

Ginormica came to my mind when I was looking through Carole Lombard memorabilia and found a 1934 Swedish magazine, with her on the cover, entitled “Allers Monster Tidning.” The thought of a colossal, Ginormica-sized Carole, stomping through the streets of Stockholm, possibly looking for plenty of Swedish meatballs (I don’t believe Ikea had been created yet), was rather amusing, but I knew something was awry. Then I noticed on the cover two little dots above the “o” in “Monster.” That probably made all the difference, I thought.

A run through a Swedish-to-English translator, and I discovered that “Allers Mönster-Tidning” stood for “Allers Pattern Magazine.” Nothing monstrous about patterns…well, unless they really fail aesthetically. Oh, and here’s what the cover looks like:

I’m no expert on Swedish magazines, but from what I can gather during a Google check, Allers Mönster-Tidning existed between 1899 and 1944. It focused on fashion and had several film stars on covers during the 1930s, including Anna May Wong.

The seller is Swedish; the minimum bid is $7 (no bids as of yet), and bidding closes at about 2:20 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. If interested, go to

Whether that’s a ginormous value is for you to decide.

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The biopic that almost was…or was it?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.02 at 00:07
Current mood: frustratedfrustrated

The place is Movie Star Heaven, a Valhalla for the greats of the silver screen. The year is 1965. The two stars talking are good friends Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow.

Harlow: Carole, you know you’re my pal, and I kind of hate to bring this up — but do you see down on earth there are not one, but two films about me in the theaters. That’s two more than you have. What happened?
Lombard: Listen, you platinum hussy (giggles sarcastically), my day will come. Someday they’ll tell my story — maybe it’ll be my own, maybe it’ll be mixed in with Clark’s. But there’s one thing you overlooked, my friend. Well, actually two.
Harlow: Huh? What?
Lombard: First, both actresses playing you are named Carol. Okay, neither has an “e,” but one has one “r” and one “l,” while the other has two of each. I may be a lousy speller, but at least I remembered that! Second, I doubt either of those films would have been made had it not been for that Irving Shulman so-called biography, you know, the one Bill Powell came out of Palm Springs to speak publicly against. And for your sake, I’m glad he did it.
Harlow: #*&#@*#*@!! (gets up and leaves)
Lombard: Jeez, my vocabulary is finally rubbing off on you. Wait till I tell Pa!

Yes, in 1965, two films were released about Jean Harlow (both titled “Harlow”) — one starring Carroll Baker, the other Carol Lynley. Neither were frankly all that good or faithful to the personality that made Harlow such a beloved figure in the industry as well as a sex symbol, and having them in the box office more or less simultaneously doomed both.

But did you know that in the mid-sixties, we may have come the closest to having an honest-to-goodness Carole Lombard biopic made? I didn’t until recently, when the archives of Boxoffice magazine, a film industry trade publication, became available.

Here’s an item from the issue of Dec. 2, 1963:

Slightly more than eight months later, in the Aug. 10, 1964 issue, Boxoffice had a followup on the project:

And that was it. Obviously the film never came close to fruition.

Lombard would have been portrayed by Constance Towers, a multitalented actress who had experience with both stage and film and could also sing (she was trained at Juilliard). In 1963 and ’64, Towers was riding high, gathering critical acclaim for two films she made with cult director Samuel Fuller, “The Naked Kiss” and “Shock Corridor.” She definitely could have captured Carole’s sex appeal.

Younger audiences may know Towers, now 75, from the five years she spent on the ABC soap “General Hospital,” portraying the evil Helena Cassadine. On prime time, she’s guested on “Frasier,” “Caroline In The City” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Since 1974, she’s been married to actor John Gavin, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

I was hoping she might be able to answer questions about the project -- Why did you want to portray Lombard? Does a treatment survive? Was a script ever written? What caused the project’s downfall? -- but not long ago, I received this reply from her publicist:

“I spoke with Constance Towers today and she says,she cannot even remember the project. So I am sorry, but she cannot be of help. Many projects that never come to fruition often come across an actor’s desk that they don’t remember if it didn’t happen. Sorry, she says she looked and cannot find anything from that era.”

Unfortunate, because I’d dearly love to learn more about this, but it happened some 45 years ago, and actors are approached about so many projects that they can’t be asked to recall every one. It’s too bad it never came about, because I sense she would have infused Carole’s character with the integrity she deserved. (Jill Clayburgh probably tried to do likewise in the 1976 “Gable And Lombard,” but with so-so direction and an awful script, the deck was stacked against her.)

One of these days, someone will film a Carole Lombard biography, and let us hope the actress, script and direction are worthy of her. It would delight one lady in Movie Star Heaven.

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Not an April fool, just an honest mistake

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.04.01 at 02:22
Current mood: mellowmellow

Today is April Fools’ day, and today the joke (so to speak) briefly happened to be on someone selling movie memorabilia at eBay. Let me say at the outset that I’m certain the seller is an honest person with a good track record towards his or her customers (I’ve never sold anything through eBay myself). Moreover, this is not intended to be malicious; I think many of us might have made the same error.Anyway, when I checked eBay’s list of Carole Lombard memorabilia last night, I came across an entry listing “Vintage young Carole Lombard Photo Oversize London.” For the record, here’s what it looks like:

It’s oversize (15 1/4″ x 12″, no border), and has a London agency stamp. And while the picture is attractive, and seductive, was it Lombard? There was something about the face that didn’t look quite right. So I examined the lower right-hand corner, and found this:

It showed a code number of P1167, whereas Carole’s code number at Paramount was P1202. I then recalled an entry I had written on Sept. 25, 2007 about Lombard’s Paramount code number (, and a glance at the entry revealed that P1167 belonged to…Marlene Dietrich. (This must have been among the first batch of photos she made for Paramount after arriving in Hollywood; whether they were done prior to or during her first film there, “Morocco,” I have no idea.)

In the early 1930s, Dietrich often complained that Lombard borrowed her styles, although Carole invariably expressed herself in a uniquely American manner while Dietrich was distinctly European. It would be easy to see how one might be mistaken for the other. While they weren’t the closest of pals, they got along reasonably well. Here they are together during Carole’s famous 1935 party at a Venice amusement park:

But getting back to the picture — if you’re a Dietrich fan and want it, go to The minimum bid is $14.95, and bidding closes at 8:07 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday.

Update: I pointed out the error to the seller and got this note back this morning: “Hello and Thank You for sharing your expertise, We carefully compared the other photos we have and you are right, we have made revisions.” The eBay item number remains the same (260386304474), but it’s now listed as “Vintage early Young Marlene Dietrich Photo Oversize N/R.”

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Posted December 11, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, March 2009   Leave a comment

Lombard’s Pathe pix, part 2 (young and sexy)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.31 at 23:32
Current mood: hornyhorny

Earlier this month, I showed you three photos taken while Carole Lombard was at Pathe in the late 1920s ( Now we have two more from that era, and both show that while Lombard may not have had all her acting skills down pat yet, her sex appeal was certainly evident.

Take a look at this, for example. It’s CL-36 at Pathe:

Pretty luscious, dontcha think?

Here’s another one, CL-115, showing Lombard in black lace…and not much else:

I’m sure that somewhere, Carole is laughing uproariously at those of us who are harboring, er, lustful thoughts.

Now for the pictures…they’re available at eBay, but you better act fast.

For the first photo, visit The deadline is 10:45 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday.

For the second photo, go to The deadline is 11:30 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday.

The minimum bid for both is $9.95; one bid for each has already been placed.

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Ameche’s misdirection play

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.29 at 11:31
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

The man at the bottom of the picture, No. 35, is Alan “The Horse” Ameche, the Baltimore Colts’ running back who just scored the winning touchdown in overtime as his team defeated the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium to win the 1958 NFL championship. The first NFL game of consequence to go into OT (a few exhibition games earlier in the decade used overtime as an experimental option), it helped put pro football on the map, paving the way for the sport’s explosion during the 1960s.

Today, we’re going to examine how another Ameche helped pave the way for the marriage of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, which happened 70 years ago today in Kingman, Ariz. We are, of course, referring to the fine actor Don Ameche — and specifically to the role he’s best known for…

…the title role in “The Story Of Alexander Graham Bell.” (That’s Loretta Young with him; this was the only film to feature Loretta and her three sisters.) It became such a hit that for many years, people referred to the telephone as “the ameche” (sort of an early precursor of the “Al Gore invented the Internet” hyperbole).

Twentieth Century-Fox was premiering “Bell” in San Francisco in late March, and many members of the Hollywood press corps had gone up the coast to cover the proceedings. This enabled Clark and Carole to make a getaway in an eastward direction, where they were finally able to tie the knot, away from Hedda, Louella and their ilk.

Ameche, a Wisconsin native, never acted with Carole on screen but worked with her on radio ( His stardom faded somewhat in the 1940s, though he was never lacking for work, but his career revived with an important supporting role in “Trading Places” (1983). Two years later, he won a best supporting actor Oscar for “Cocoon,” and continued acting until his death in late 1993 at age 85.

So happy 70th anniversary, Clark and Carole…and make sure and thank Don Ameche for helping make the day possible.

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Now, er, then in theaters!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.28 at 22:19
Current mood: bitchybitchy

Came across this recently in the Los Angeles Times fine local history review, “The Daily Mirror,” as part of the paper’s movie listing page for March 27, 1976:

Some thoughts:

* Note that the word “terrific” is misspelled. The film most associated with the word in its advertising, “Citizen Kane,” at least got the spelling right (and, compared to this film, many, many other things).

* The Miami News, which referred to the film as “totally delightful,” went out of business several years later. I’m not necessarily saying the review had anything to do with its demise — the News was an afternoon paper, a form that began to fall out of favor in most major metropolitan areas in the late 1970s — but you never know.

* Art Murphy’s plaudits for Jill Clayburgh as Carole Lombard in Variety may well have been the only compliments he gave the film. Certainly Clayburgh, who became an A-list actress for several years, was far less villified than cohorts James Brolin (as Clark Gable), director Sidney J. Furie or screenwriter Barry Sandler.

* The film played the fabled Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, as well as another important cinema site, the Bruin Theater in Westwood. Thankfully, both venues survived.

* Above the ad, Universal promoted its theme park studio tour, which probably received more tender loving care than “Gable And Lombard.”

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Carole passes her penmanship

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.26 at 22:06
Current mood: energeticenergetic

“Good health to all, from Rexall!”
— opening slogan of the “Phil Harris & Alice Faye Show,” sponsored by Rexall drugs

For decades, Rexall was an integral part of American life, supplying pharmaceutical products to independent drugstores throughout the U.S., many of whom posted the blue and orange Rexall logo over the door or on their awnings (assuming Coca-Cola didn’t get there first).

Well, for many years Rexall also sponsored a monthly magazine for its customers, full of health and living tips. And guess who was on the cover in July 1935?

Yep — Carole Lombard, looking lovely and leggy in a photoshoot likely taken somewhere on the Paramount lot. But inside, the story dealt with an analysis of Carole’s handwriting, which won approval from Rexall’s “graphologist”:

While the entire story isn’t visible there, if you click and enlarge, you can read enough to get a feel for it…along with a photo of Lombard, atop a diving board, that I’ve never seen before. Regardless of her penmanship, that summer, many Americans probably wished they could invite her to their swim party.

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Mapping it out

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.25 at 21:44
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Mot much of an entry today, but I think you will like it nonetheless. It’s a copy of a 1937 Hollywood map auctioned at eBay some time ago. I didn’t run it at the time because it had an imprint over it, but if you can get past that, it’s a lot of fun. Carole Lombard’s picture is at center right. Click to enlarge, and enjoy!

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Clark/Carole icons and banners

Posted by [info]girlyevilon 2009.03.24 at 01:37

carole lombard 02

Wondering where I’ve been?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.24 at 21:38
Current mood: sicksick

Some more health problems. Hope to be over them soon. Keep me in your thoughts.

Welcome to Carole’s Wrigley Field*

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.21 at 08:52
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

* Big Ten frat boys not included.

We try to do many things with “Carole & Co.” We review Carole Lombard’s milestones, both professional and personal, discuss people she knew and worked with, and catch up on Carole-related memorabilia floating around auction sites and such.

One of our other goals is to give readers a feel for both the “Hollywood” and Los Angeles of Lombard’s time. The film industry was certainly substantially different then than it is today, but so is the city in which the lady resided for most of her 33 years.

Then as now the biggest metropolitan area on the Pacific Coast, while there were some Mexican-Americans residing in town, there were few if any Hispanics of other ethnicities. Quotas, official or otherwise, had limited the number of Asians, and the black American migration from the deep South was a few decades off. Most residents were former midwesterners who began emigrating in the 1880s. In short, instead of being a polyglot of cultures that it is today, the L.A. of the 1920s and ’30s was essentially Council Bluffs with a beach.

These midwest expatriates (such as the Peters family from Fort Wayne) searched for recreational venues — some natural, others man-made. One notable in the latter category met its demise 40 years ago this week.

We are speaking of Wrigley Field, which was actually named for the Wrigley family before its better-known Chicago namesake. (The Chicago Wrigley was built in 1914, some 11 years before the L.A. version opened, and was initially constructed to house the Chicago franchise in the short-lived, upstart Federal League. The Cubs, not yet a Wrigley property, moved in from West Side Park in 1916.)

Carole Lombard, herself a fine athlete and an avid sports fan, was no stranger to Wrigley Field. Here are two photos of her inside the ballpark:

At left is Carole in March 1932 or 1933, showing her pitching form to the New York Giants, who were holding spring training in town. Because she was wearing high heels, she probably wasn’t allowed to take the pitcher’s mound — but with those legs in shiny silk stockings, Lombard would have been Lorelei to just about any batter.

At right are Carole and Clark Gable in late May 1937 watching ringside as heavyweight contenders Bob Pastor and Bob Nestell battle it out. (Like many ballparks in that era, Wrigley was used for boxing matches during the summer.)

Wrigley was primarily home to the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels, although it also hosted the PCL rival Hollywood Stars and, in 1961, the initial season of the American League’s L.A. Angels. The NFL’s first Pro Bowl was held at Wrigley in January 1939. When a film or TV shoot needed a ballpark scene, Wrigley was there; it was used in the syndicated series “Home Run Derby.” And in 1963, more than 20,000 packed Wrigley to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak on civil rights.

The stadium itself met the wrecking ball in March 1969…but the site is still being used for sports purposes. For more on the place that meant so much to so many Angelenos, go visit

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Of news, and cigarettes, in Memphis

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.20 at 00:20
Current mood: worriedworried

Earlier this week, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a Hearst property for many decades, bid farewell to print and became a solely online publication with a drastically curtailed staff. A few weeks before, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver gave up the ghost completely. They join many American newspapers whose presses have gone silent over the years, throwing thousands of good people out of work. (And as someone in the newspaper business myself, watching their demise is painful.)

A quarter-century ago last October, the same fate befell the afternoon Memphis Press-Scimitar, a Scripps paper like the Rocky. But between the world wars, the P-S was a thriving, and feisty, newspaper. Two pages from that era, each with Carole Lombard-related items, are now available on eBay.

We’ll start with this ad from the July 11, 1934 issue:

Tell me frankly, “Does Old Gold’s throat-ease make it a better cigarette for Women?” (Lombard is described as a “recent Old Gold convert.”)

The P. Lorillard Company concedes that all smokers, “both men and women, prefer a cigarette that’s easy on the throat…”, then says its Old Gold tobaccos are designed to be pure, with an absence of artificial flavoring.

Beneath Lombard’s picture is a plug for her upcoming picture, “Now And Forever.”

Cigarettes had been seriously marketed to women for at least a decade, often as a way to control weight (“Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”). So Lorillard understandably wanted in on the action, figuring Lombard and other actresses could give it some pull among the female audience. (A few years later, of course, Carole switched her endorsements to Luckies.)

Let’s fast forward nearly six years, to May 1940. The paper’s Hollywood reporter, Duncan Underhill, notes at the outset, “It was by no fortuitous circumstance that Pigtail Peters of Fort Wayne went West and became Carole Lombard. If she had gone East she would have become…president of United States Steel. If she had gone South she would have become Huey Long. Wherever she might have happened to go, she would have become one of the main guys.”

We learn that Mrs. Gable has liquidated Mr. Gable’s stable of racehorses, selling them off because they weren’t making any money. (Clark’s inability in the thoroughbred business had been a running — or should that be non-running? — joke for several years.) The “blond ranchero” added she planned to become a producer “as soon as I get a couple of bad pictures out of my system.” However, she said her dream job was to be general manager of a news service — AP, UP or INS. (This was nearly two years after her famed week-long stint as Selznick International’s publicist.)

Interesting stuff about an interesting gal who — if she were around today — likely wouldn’t touch a cigarette and would probably aspire to run a cable news outlet.

You don’t have much time to get these pages, as the deadlines are about 8:55 p.m. (Eastern) tonight.

For the Old Gold ad, go to The minimum bid is $12.95.

For the 1940 interview, plus a few movie ads on the page, go to Bids start at $16.95.

(As of this writing, no bid has been made on either page.)

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Only her hairdresser…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.19 at 00:09
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

At 6838 Sunset Boulevard, just a few blocks west of Earl Carroll’s famed nightclub, there was a salon that drew many customers from the film industry. It was called the “Ann Meredith Beauty Salon,” and to be frank, I’m not certain whether there actually was an Ann Meredith. It was owned by the husband-and-wife team of Ted and Henrietta Lapsey (she did the hairdressing work), shown below:

For some reason, this salon never quite achieved the same fame as its cosmetic brethren (e.g., Max Factor). Nevertheless, over the years, much of the clientele provided autographed photos to Henrietta as thank yous for service well done. One of them was 1930s Paramount star Wynne Gibson:

But, taking nothing away from Ms. Gibson, she’s not the reason we’re writing this entry. It turns out that one of Henrietta Lapsey’s clients was none other than…Carole Lombard:

The autograph reads, “To Henrietta, my best to you, always, Carole L Gable” (so we know this was presented no earlier than spring 1939), although the end of the signature is a bit smudged.

You want this photo? Then you better 1) hurry, and 2) have a deep bank account. Bidding ends at noon (Eastern) today, and as of this writing, 19 bids have been placed, with the top bid at $710. (In contrast, the Gibson photo is being offered for $75.) This is one of those things I would’ve gotten to sooner had I not been temporarily knocked out of the box for a few days. My apologies.

To see the Lombard pic — and bid, if you’re able — go to

I have no idea what stands at 6838 Sunset Boulevard today — but I’m guessing it’s not a beauty salon.

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Lombard’s Pathe pix

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.18 at 00:23
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

We’ve talked a lot about Carole Lombard’s publicity stills since this community began, primarily focusing on her work at Paramount — understandable because of the sheer number of photos she posed for there (more than 1,700). But Carole had spent plenty of time in such sessions before she landed on Melrose Avenue — about two years at Pathe (initially splitting her time there with Mack Sennett for comedy shorts). She apparently made more than 200 such photos for Pathe before the studio mysteriously dismissed her in late 1929, probably for bearing too close a resemblance to a blonde Pathe had just signed, Constance Bennett.

Three of these photos are now available at eBay, and as luck would have it, they include the first still taken of her at Pathe, apparently one of the last, and one sort of in-between. We’ll show them chronologically.

Here’s Pathe CL-1, probably taken in late 1927 or early ’28. She’s still a teenager, and the innocence shows. (Judging from the hat, it appears to be from the same session used for publicity pictures for the Sennett short “The Girl From Everywhere.”) I’m not sure who took the photo, but it is known William E. Thomas took many Pathe publicity photos, so it may well be his doing.

Next up, CL-138:

It appears the now-far more worldly Carol (no “e” yet, remember!) is staring at a carving of a cat — but given the slinky, low-cut gown she’s wearing, who cares about statues? Judging from the closely cropped hair, the photo was likely taken in early 1929. Again, the photographer is unknown.

Finally, CL-219. Was this Lombard’s final Pathe still? Maybe not, but it’s likely one of the last:

It’s the fall of 1929, and Lombard — at about her 21st birthday — shows signs of the sophisticated “look” that would carry her at Paramount. But weeks after this photo was taken, she was likely an ex-Pathe player. Once more, I do not know the photographer’s identity.

Interested? You can get these photos, but hurry — bidding on all three ends tonight.

For CL-1 (bidding ends at 11:15 p.m. Eastern), go to

For CL-138 (bidding ends at 10:45 p.m. Eastern), go to

For CL-219 (bidding ends at 11 p.m. Eastern), go to

The minimum bid is $9.95; as of this writing, none have been placed on any of the photos.

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From the archives: An interview with Edwin Schallert’s son

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.03.17 at 15:19
Current mood: impressedimpressed

This is sort of the print equivalent of what people in the TV business call a “clip show” — using samples of past work to fill up space. However, it’s highly unlikely any of you have ever read this…unless you resided in central New Jersey circa 2002.

This was an interview I conducted with William Schallert when he appeared in a production at the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey. We sat down in a converted schoolhouse that serves as the company’s home and talked for well over an hour. He was, as you would expect from his TV and film persona, a gentleman — courteous, knowledgeable, genuine. At the time, I had known that his father Edwin had covered drama for the Los Angeles Times for many years — but I was unaware he frequently wrote about the movie business as well (so did his wife, for fan magazines), as shown in this column from Dec. 12, 1938:

So you figure his parents knew Carole Lombard, though I’m not certain William ever met her. More’s the pity; had Lombard lived, I’m sure she would have respected Schallert’s acting skills, professionalism and the work he has done on behalf of those who act for a living.

So, without further ado, may I present…