Come to a movie palace’s rescue   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.06.11 at 21:00
Current mood: optimisticoptimistic

carole lombard clark gable fannie brice 1938a test pilot

What’s Fannie Brice (left) doing with Carole Lombard and Clark Gable? All three are either at a preview or premiere of Clark’s 1938 movie “Test Pilot.” I’m not certain what theater this was taken at, but it almost certainly was taken at a theater…and that’s the basis of today’s entry.

Yesterday, we wrote about “Hands Across The Table” showing tonight at the restored Elsinore Theatre in Salem, Ore. But another West Coast theater from the mid-twenties — one in southern California, in fact — is a bit down on its luck, and in definite need of a makeover. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena…but before we show you its current condition, some pictures of it over the years since its opening in 1925:

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rialto theatre south pasadena 02a
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Now, some pics of the Rialto in more recent times; considering it hasn’t been restored nor been open in about four years, it’s actually in pretty decent condition. As someone recently wrote at its Facebook site (, “Yes, it has been closed for years for safety and fire code violations, Yes it needs a lot of upgrades and improvements (and cleaning!) to make it competitive with other theatres, but the Rialto theatre is in remarkably original shape. Much of the interior is as it was in 1925, or could easily be restored.”

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What caused the Rialto’s decline? The usual suspects, to be sure (suburbanization, growth of multiplexes and television, etc.), but there are some other factors, too. It’s been owned by the same family since 1930s; the bad news is that they didn’t put all that much upkeep into the place, but the good news is that it left the Rialto largely in one piece, not divided into separate cinemas. Now, that family has finally agreed to sell the property (which is on the National Register of Historic Places, making it difficult if not impossible to tear down), with hopes a buyer can revitalize the place and convert it into a performing arts center, as has been the case with many vintage theaters (such as the Alex in nearby Glendale).

While some struggling theaters have found new life (converting to digital, etc.) via Kickstarter and other firms, an endeavor of this magnitude probably will need much more than that. Those who are interested should visit the Facebook site listed above to learn more about this landmark. I spent nearly a decade in Westfield, N.J., where there was, and is, a theater named the Rialto (its lineage dates back to 1922, even further than its South Pasadena namesake) has helped revitalize downtown and win the town awards…

rialto theatre westfield nj 00a

I’d like to see the western Rialto — which has been used for commercial and video shoots — similarly thrive.

Was the Rialto in South Pasadena ever used for a Hollywood preview, and did Lombard ever visit? Which of her movies may have been shown there? Until I can find proof, we only can conjecture. But we know at least one of her second husband’s films played there:

rialto theatre south pasadena 09a

Let’s hope that marquee once more will light up the South Pasadena sky.

Posted June 11, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Clap ‘Hands’ for Carole at a classic theatre   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.06.10 at 09:25
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

carole lombard hands across the table 49

Few things bring greater joy to a Carole Lombard fan than to watch her cavort, larger than life, on a theater screen in a group experience with fellow audience members. It’s even better to see her in action in a venue that conceivably could have shown that film when it initially ran.

Lombard fans in Oregon’s capital of Salem have a chance to do just that tomorrow night when “Hands Across The Table,” one of her better comedies — and arguably her best film for Paramount — is shown at the historic Elsinore Theatre, which nearly was a decade old when “Hands” was released in the fall of 1935.

Most movie palaces of the ’20s had an exotic appearance to them. In contrast, when the Elsinore opened in 1926, its exterior resembled a Tudor Gothic cathedral (a la Elsinore in “Hamlet,” hence its name), attractive yet austere:

elsinore theatre salem oregon 1926a

Its interior was similarly Gothic in tone, but seeing it today, restored and in color, makes one realize just how spectacular it must have been, and is now:

elsinore theatre salem oregon interior 02
elsinore theatre salem oregon interior 01
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The Elsinore was threatened with demolition in 1980, but a “Save The Elsinore” committee kept it from the wrecker’s ball and held a series of free events to promote the venue during the ’80s. It had been kept in reasonably good shape over the years, so while renovations were made, they were minimal compared to other classic-era theaters, and a fully restored Elsinore was opened in 2004.

The theater seats 1,275, and while it’s mostly used for concerts these days, films are an integral part of its schedule. “Hands” is part of a classic movies series held on Wednesdays, and tickets are only $5. That Wurlitzer organ played by Rick Parks in the last of the three interior shots will be heard May 18, when the Elsinore presents a trio of silent comedies — Harold Lloyd in “Now or Never” (1921) plus Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy in “That’s My Wife” (1929) and “Putting Pants on Philip” (1927). For more information on the series, go to

elsinore theatre salem oregon interior 04

I don’t know whether that’s the size of the screen the Elsinore uses for its movies…but in a wonderful venue such as this, in the midst of an enthralled audience, that screen certainly will seem bigger when “Hands” plays on it.

Posted June 10, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

At last, we can confess about that dress   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.06.09 at 07:08
Current mood: enviousenvious

carole lombard true confession 19b

We have finally learned which of Carole Lombard’s dresses from “True Confession” is being featured at the just-opened exhibit “Designing Woman: Edith Head at Paramount, 1924-1967″ at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio ( It’s the one above, which Carole’s character, Helen Bartlett, wears when she takes a job as a secretary…which turns out to be a pivotal moment in that 1937 comedy, Lombard’s last for the studio.

We have proof from longtime Carole & Co. reader Debbie Plummer Moore, an Ohio resident who went to the exhibit Sunday and posed with the dress:

carole lombard true confession dress debbie plummer moore 00a

Debbie is also seen in front of the building, which is in downtown Lancaster, Ohio, near Columbus:

debbie plummer moore decorative arts center 00a

Thanks for solving that “mystery,” Debbie. Now, some more images of the dress as seen in the film, the last group of which is from the British publication Cinegram:

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Had I been a sleuth with a bit more sense, I would’ve been able to guess which Lombard “True Confession” dress was being featured. It turns out that in late 2012, the Hollywood Heritage Museum — located at the famed barn Cecil B. De Mille used for “The Squaw Man” more than a century ago — exhibited that dress…and I had those photos in my collection, including one of it at the exhibit as well as a close-up:

carole lombard true confession dress hollywood heritage museum 00c
carole lombard true confession dress hollywood heritage museum 01a

But this also was among those pics — and it claims “parentage” not from Edith Head, but from another famed Paramount designer, one who’s far more associated with Lombard:

carole lombard true confession dress hollywood heritage museum 02a

That leads to yet another mystery.

Posted June 9, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Prepare for the weekend of William…Powell, that is   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.06.08 at 13:57
Current mood: amusedamused

carole lombard ladies man 12c

We’ve previously noted that one year after his ex-wife Carole Lombard was the featured star at the annual Capitolfest at the Capitol Theatre in Rome, N.Y., William Powell will receive similar honors this summer. And now that the event’s complete schedule has been announced, another delicious irony has popped up.

Capitolfest will run from Aug. 8-10…the middle day of which Powell will be saluted for the first time by Turner Classic Movies in its “Summer Under The Stars” program ( Anyone who comes to Rome for Capitolfest and is in lodging that includes TCM may experience Powell overload (not that it’s that bad a thing). However, the Powells programmed on TCM Aug. 9 and at Capitolfest that weekend will be two entirely different personalities; there is no overlap of films. In fact, none of the five Powell movies slated to be shown in Rome co-star the actress he’s most identified with on-screen, Myrna Loy (the latest is from 1931, three years before Bill and Myrna even met).

That most recent Capitolfest movie is “Ladies’ Man,” in which he’s shown with Lombard above and below…

carole lombard ladies man 05d

…the film, also starring Kay Francis, is slated for 8:10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, 90 minutes past the first Powell feature on the card, “The Bright Shawl,” a First National film from 1923 with a stellar cast — Richard Barthelmess, Dorothy Gish, Jetta Goudal, Mary Astor and, in one of his first film appearances, Edward G. Robinson.

The only Powell movie to run on Saturday will be at 8:30 p.m., a 1928 Paramount silent recently restored by the Library of Congress, “Forgotten Faces,” also featuring Clive Brook, Mary Brian and Olga Baclanova. (It’s directed by Victor Schertzinger, who would direct Lombard’s initial film for Paramount, “Safety In Numbers” in 1930.) Later in ’28, Powell’s distinctive voice would be heard on screen in “Interference,” sending his career in an entirely new direction.

william powell pointed heels 00a

Sunday features a Paramount Powell early talkie doubleheader. At 1:45 p.m., it’s “Pointed Heels,” where Bill co-stars with Fay Wray, Phillips Holmes (both of whom are shown above with Powell), Helen Kane and Skeets Gallagher. (When Wray was promoting her fine autobiography, “On The Other Hand,” she visited Larry King’s overnight radio show, and he was incredulous to learn she’d made a film with William Powell. Uh, Larry, she was much more than a “scream queen.”) This print will include a fully restored two-strip Technicolor sequence.

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At 2:50, Powell stars in the 1930 drama “Shadow Of The Law,” alongside (from left, above) Marion Shilling, Regis Toomey and Natalie Moorhead.

Five Powell films, you say. What else does Capitolfest have to offer? Its usual blend of rare silents, early talkies and shorts. Perhaps the best-known film on this year’s docket has a Rome theme — “Roman Scandals,” starring Eddie Cantor. Check to see the complete schedule. And the Capitol is a worthy venue for the festival, a theater with a heritage dating back to 1928.

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That vintage organ is used for accompaniment on silent films, and all movies shown are restored 35 mm prints. Registration for the entire session are $55 through July 31. To register for one or all of the three days, and for information on nearby lodging, visit the Capitolfest link above.

rome ny capitol theatre 2014 capitolfest logo

In the June 1931 Photoplay, a review of “Ladies’ Man” included this comment: “You wouldn’t believe that William Powell could play a gigolo and yet retain the sympathy of his audience. Somehow he does just that….An entertaining picture.” Get ready to be entertained in Rome, N.Y., this August.

Posted June 8, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

There’s no place like home   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.06.07 at 19:35
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

carole lombard hollywood boulevard home 17b

The house at 7953 Hollywood Boulevard that Carole Lombard called home from 1934 to 1936 long has fascinated her fans. She moved into the house, decorated by former film star William Haines, during her ill-fated romance with Russ Columbo, and moved out soon after falling in love with Clark Gable; in between, Lombard briefly gained renown as the film community’s premier party-giver, while her stature in Hollywood rose.

Now, the photo at top and three other vintage pics, all taken by esteemed photographer John Engstead, are available at eBay. All have a minimum bid of $24.99, or you can buy each one for $39.99. Unfortunately, all four have “eBay only” markings, such as on the one above:

carole lombard hollywood boulevard home john engstead 02a

The good news is that all of the photos have been marked in such a way that Carole’s appearance isn’t affected (all are to the side), so I’ve cropped them out of the other three images without any adversity to them. So here’s Lombard, clad in white…

carole lombard hollywood boulevard home john engstead 01b

…back in black again…

carole lombard hollywood boulevard home john engstead 00b

…and at her piano:

carole lombard hollywood boulevard home john engstead 03b

According to the seller, these photos are 8″ x 10″, in great condition and “so much sharper in person.” Bids will end between 9:52 and 9:54 a.m. (Eastern) Thursday.

To buy or bid on the photo at top, visit For the second, go to The third can be found at And as for the last, with Lombard at the piano, check out

And Carole hopes you enjoyed her photographic open house.

carole lombard hollywood boulevard home 38c

Posted June 7, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Sew, choose your size for this Hollywood Pattern   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.06.06 at 09:44
Current mood: creativecreative

carole lombard  p1202-1344a

By the mid-thirties, Carole Lombard had gained a reputation for style, and many women who saw her films (pretty much women throughout the world) sought to emulate her. No wonder Hollywood Pattern, a division of Conde Nast, regularly used her among the stars on its pattern packages — not so much for slinky gowns as shown above, but for everyday wear a woman of the time could imagine one of Carole’s characters wearing on screen.

One of those patterns are being offered at eBay…and while that phrase’s grammar sounds clumsy, it’s technically correct. That’s because the pattern, No. 1307, is available in two sizes — what then was labeled size 14 (fitting a woman with measurements of 32 bust, 27 waist, 35 hips)…

carole lombard hollywood pattern 1307aa

…and size 20 (measurements 38-32-41, or what Jane Russell used to call “us full-figured gals” on those Playtex bra commercials):

carole lombard hollywood pattern 1307ba

The outfit is a misses’ one-piece frock, and the seller describes it this way:

“The five gored skirt joins the blouse under a wide crushed girdle and the blouse is gathered at the neck, front and back, finished with narrow band and tie. Short sleeves. Collarless bolero.”

Tissue pattern pieces and sewing instructions are included; the rest, including the fabric, is up to you. I can recall that my mother sewed many of her own outfits using patterns (though I never asked her if she had heard of Hollywood Pattern), and this should be fun for those who enjoy being their own seamstress and love ’30s fashion.

Each pattern has been “gently used,” and each is being sold, not auctioned. The size 14 sells for $38 and can be found at; the size 20 is only $32 and is at

Through a pattern, develop your own sense of Lombard style.

carole lombard p1202-1212b

Posted June 6, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Playing the Hollywood time travel game   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.06.05 at 01:11
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

carole lombard photoplay july 1931a paramount group portrait

Above is a group portrait of Carole Lombard and 16 other Paramount notables which ran in the July 1931 Photoplay. It’s an intriguing mix of stars alongside her — one genuine legend (Gary Cooper), a few other long-term stars (Kay Francis, Sylvia Sidney, Jack Oakie), and many who achieved only fleeting success and are barely remembered today. A month later, Motion Picture ran another Paramount group shot, this one showing Carole with Groucho Marx and Fay Wray, among others (judging from Lombard’s outfit in both pics, they may have been taken on the same day):

carole lombard motion picture august 1931a group shot
carole lombard motion picture august 1931b group shot

Now, let’s pretend we’ve traveled back to 1931 and can have either or both groups of stars join us in 2014, in a universe where they somehow don’t have their previous identities (we’re not trying to do a Second Coming-style resurrection here, folks). Who’d succeed in today’s business, and who wouldn’t?

Someone recently asked this question to San Francisco Chronicle film critic and syndicated columnist Mick LaSalle, author of the invaluable pre-Code tomes “Complicated Women” and “Dangerous Men”:

Dear Mick: Is a great actor a great actor regardless of the time period, or are there actors you feel only “worked” because of the time period? Would, for example, Carole Lombard or Tyrone Power find work in Hollywood today, or would Tom Hanks be popular in the ’20s?
Tom Torriglia, Ravenna, Italy

It’s every bit as fascinating a question as whether Ty Cobb or Rogers Hornsby in their prime could star in the major league baseball of 2014, or if Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera could have cut it in the deadball era (assuming the color line wasn’t a factor)

Here’s the opening part of LaSalle’s reply:

Dear Tom: To become world famous before the age of 30 (which usually is the case with movie stars) requires incredible luck, the equivalent of rolling sevens over and over and over, so it’s very possible that removing any career from its time period would prevent its happening at all. But just for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that the same stars have the same luck — as in, the same opportunities – in another era to show what they have to offer. Would they have the same appeal? I think most would. Obviously, they would have to adjust, but they had to adjust to the tastes and fashions of their own time, too. Most would manage our era just fine.

Anyway, in some cases, we don’t have to guess. For example, we know that Carole Lombard would succeed in any era because she does succeed — show her in a movie from 75 years ago, and everybody still falls in love with her. I’m less sure about Tyrone Power, but he looked a lot like Zac Efron, and Efron’s career is doing just fine, so maybe Power would be like him.

(Somehow I can’t picture Power starring in “High School Musical,” or Efron doing “Nightmare Alley.” But I digress. Oh, and speaking of Tyrone Power, here he is with Carole and Clark Gable…)

carole lombard clark gable tyrone power large

Later, LaSalle adds this qualifier:

As for Tom Hanks, it’s hard to imagine this phenomenon in reverse. By that I mean, I can easily imagine Carole Lombard if she knew about our world, but I can’t imagine who Tom Hanks or George Clooney or anyone modern would be if they knew less than they know, as in nothing of our era — although I have said before that Jennifer Aniston would have made a very good silent film actress.

(Methinks Mick is using a bit of sarcasm here — I doubt he’s trying to compare Jen to Constance Talmadge or Colleen Moore.)

I’ve long maintained that if that aforementioned time machine could thrust classic stars into today’s world, Lombard — with her sense of modernity (she was a feminist by 1930s standards) — would have less difficulty adjusting than most of her peers…that might not be true for the 1931 Carole, who still was a work in progress, but it certainly would have been for the more fully formed actress of mid-decade. (A Lombard born in October 1988 instead of October 1908, shaped by our environment and her own personal history, would of course feel right at home.)

However, Tom from Italy asked would the 2014 edition of Carole find work? With her talent, she certainly would, but it would be a different sort of work than she’d have found 80 years ago.

The entertainment industry has drastically changed from that of the so-called golden age of Hollywood, before television arrived and developed (not to mention cable, satellite and the multitude of media available to consumers). The motion picture industry Lombard so loved during her brief lifetime isn’t very female-friendly; few big-budget features starring women get the green light today. It’s a far cry not just from the ’30s and ’40s, but only a few decades ago. Think of Goldie Hawn, a box-office giant at the start of the ’90s who not only starred in, but produced her own films:

goldie hawn bird on a wire 00a

A current-day Carole might show more interest in television, though one wonders whether she’d be happy playing one role on a series that might be a long-running success rather than being able to explore different facets of her acting personality.

But Mick was right about one thing — Carole Lombard has the power to make us still fall in love with her more than 105 years after she was born, more than 70 years since she left us. And that kind of magic transcends time machines.

carole lombard p1202-907b front

Posted June 5, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized


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