Carole & Co. entries, March 2010   Leave a comment

Two chances to be negative

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.31 at 01:34
Current mood: confusedconfused

I frequently show Carole Lombard items up for auction on this site, and every now and then I’ll bid on one. However, I’ve never sold anything, so far be it from me to understand the mindset of the online dealer.

Here’s a case in point:

It’s an inverted negative of a 1929 Lombard publicity photo (if the date is correct, it almost certainly was taken at Pathe). You can obtain it for $10 through the “buy it now” option; simply go to http://cgi.ebay.com/Sexy-Glamour-CAROLE-LOMBARD-1929-NEGATIVE-PHOTO-U197_W0QQitemZ200424090016QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item2eaa34e9a0.

Not far from it on the listing of items is this image:

Yep, same picture, same “buy it now” option…but here, you’ll have to shell out $25. What gives?

Anyway, if you find the other image has already been sold, or you simply have $15 extra you’d like to burn, visit http://cgi.ebay.com/Sexy-Glamour-CAROLE-LOMBARD-1929-NEGATIVE-PHOTO-U197_W0QQitemZ200424083193QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item2eaa34cef9.

As I said, I’ll never understand this business.

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Mag-nificent movie research news

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.30 at 20:25
Current mood: excitedexcited

Above, Carole Lombard’s first appearance on the cover of Photoplay, the June 1934 issue with the memorable headline, “Blondes Plus Curves Mean War.” (Lombard isn’t part of the story, probably because “Carol of the curves” disappeared some years before, thanks to renowned masseuse Sylvia.)

Researching Photoplay and other vintage film-related magazines — whether they be fan or trade publications — can provide a real feel for what the industry was like during those halcyon days.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to track down such magazines. Only a relative handful of libraries stock them, and those that do either have them in bound volumes, which have the double hindrance of being both bulky and fragile, or on microfilm, which was convenient half a century ago but is outmoded today…especially since the print quality often leaves a lot to be desired.

That work Sylvia did on “Carol of the curves”? Turns out Photoplay did a story about it in April 1933. I found it on microfilm at the Library of Congress, and here’s what it looks like:


The page quality? Well, it’s readable, though there are some spots that aren’t entirely legible. And the images are muddled. Even the covers are in black and white because that’s how the roll was printed.

In all, not much of an aid to the online generation. But help is on the way.

A researcher named David Pierce has begun a project to digitize both trade and fan magazines, and the first group of them is now online and available through the Internet Archive. Publications include:

Photoplay — July-Dec. 1925, July-Dec. 1926, Jan.-June 1927, Jan.-June 1928 and all of 1929 and 1930

Motion Picture Classic — 1920

The Moving Picture World — April-June 1913

It’s a start, with more volumes and publications on the way. As Pierce writes in the blog “Strictly Vintage Hollywood” (http://strictly-vintage-hollywood.blogspot.com/2010/03/gold-in-them-thar-hills-photoplay-and.html), “As always with the Internet Archive, you can download high-quality PDFs, embed their viewer on your webpage, and download the original full-quality scans.”

You can access the initial batch at http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=%22media%20history%20digital%20library%22. Here’s something I uncovered from the July 1930 Photoplay:

It’s an ad from Fox for “The Arizona Kid,” although Lombard — who played a villainess in this western — isn’t shown. (The lady is Mona Maris, with Warner Baxter.) And here’s what the color looks like…witness this November 1930 cover of Loretta Young, then only 17:

Pretty alluring, isn’t it?

I am thrilled about this project, and look forward to more magazines coming online in the future. For more on this endeavor, go to http://bioscopic.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/photoplay-and-more/.

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Fit for a ‘Princess’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.29 at 00:04
Current mood: happyhappy

It’s always fascinating to come across a previously unseen portrait of Carole Lombard…and the phrase “come across” is appropriate, because this image was issued by Paramount to promote her film “The Princess Comes Across.” I think you’ll like it, too:

But what adds to the fun is that the snipe for the photo accompanies it (so we know it’s original), and here’s what it says:

“A new color combination is introduced in this luxurious costume Carole Lombard is wearing in THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS, a Paramount production with Fred MacMurray sharing the starring honors. Designed by Travis Banton, the outfit includes a short, one-piece dress of dull, light blue kasha, and a circular cape lined in dark brown and trimmed lavishly with blue fox. Miss Lombard’s accessories are dark brown. Her hat is a sophisticated turban with a swirling voil of dark brown chiffon. When you see the picture, you’ll understand why this costume is particularly important to the plot.”

So while no color images of Carole’s “Princess” costume are known to exist, we at least now know what it would look like. Colorizers, try your hand.

More things that make this item appealing: It’s 8″ x 10″, in very good condition and is doubleweight.

No one’s bid on this as of this writing; bidding starts at $9.99 and is slated to end at 8:39 p.m. (Eastern) next Sunday. If you’d like to bid, or just want to learn more, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/Carole-Lombard-ORIGINAL-1936-fashion-portrait-DW_W0QQitemZ260577067230QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3cab9a80de.

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Remembering the 71st

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.29 at 18:44
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

I’ve just been reminded that today is the 71st anniversary of Carole Lombard’s marriage to Clark Gable. So in honor of it, this photo.

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Carole, Coop and cohorts — but where?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.28 at 10:50
Current mood: confusedconfused

Above, an ad for “The Apartment,” the 1960 best picture winner at the Academy Awards and one of Billy Wilder’s best films (also about the last time Fred MacMurray played a role with some bite before retreating into Disney dad mode for the rest of his career). Why are we bringing this up? An explanation will come, but first, the prime reason for this entry…an image of Carole Lombard I’d never seen before coming across it at flickr.com. To make things more delicious, it’s a group shot with some other stars:

Okay, there’s the image. Now some more about it:

Who’s with her? Thankfully, everyone here has been identified, and they’re all actors. Most, if not all, are with Paramount, Carole’s studio home at the time.

Top row, from left: Stuart Erwin, Eugene Pallette, Clive Brook, Kay Francis, Gary Cooper, Jack Oakie, “Skeets” Gallagher and William Boyd. Bottom row: Richard Arlen, Carole Lombard, Wynne Gibson, Rosetta Moreno, Norman Foster, Sylvia Sidney amd Lilyan Tashman. In front: Mitzi Green and Jackie Searle.

When was it taken? Don’t have an exact date, but we do know Tashman died in 1934.

Where was it taken? Technically, we can answer that…in font of the Cornwall Apartments.

But where are the Cornwall Apartments? They are (or were) presumably in Los Angeles, probably in Hollywood, not far from the Paramount studios. But a Web check for Cornwall Apartments with Los Angeles, Hollywood or Paramount as a directorial guide revealed nothing. Obviously, the apartments could have been renamed, or the building razed.

Or it doesn’t exist. It’s conceivable that this is a Paramount set, and Lombard and the others simply converged for some sort of group shot. If that’s the case, one would have to check every Paramount film during this period to see whether the “Cornwall Apartments” were used as a setting.

Who took it? We have no clue to the photographer’s identity, but it’s likely someone on the Paramount staff — not necessarily a portrait photographer such as Otto Dyar, but someone on the studio publicity staff.

And finally,

Why was it taken? Can’t answer that one, either.

It’s a charming picture, full of Paramount starpower. If only we knew more.

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Via Australia, a stamp of approval

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.27 at 09:00
Current mood: frustratedfrustrated

As a Carole Lombard fan, one of the things that regularly gets under my skin is her inability to receive recognition from the U.S. Postal Service as part of its “Legends Of Hollywood” commemorative stamp series. I was particularly riled a few months back when it was announced the Katharine Hepburn would be the honoree for 2010, even though she had died in 2003. It turns out that the 10-year period between death and stamp (other than for U.S. presidents) has been legally shortened. So while the action was perfectly ethical, there was still the feeling she had jumped ahead in line.

But while Lombard fans wait — and wait — for their lady to receive proper domestic philatelic recognition, at least several other countries have been picking up the slack. Most of them are tiny or impoverished lands that rely on stamps to produce revenue, but here’s something from another country. Moreover, it’s not just one stamp, but four –– and here they are, gathered in strips:

No country is listed on the stamps, but the person selling this item is in Australia, so I presumed that’s where the stamps hailed from. As it turned out, I was wrong. According to the seller, “these are a US issue, privately done vignette stamp.” In other words, part of a “print your own postage” program. What a surprise, particularly since I wasn’t sure use could use such images in this program. To appreciate them better, here’s a close-up of each one:


The wording along the left side of each reads “SCREEN GREAT”…and these stamps are great, too.

As stated earlier, the seller is from Australia — Adelaide, to be precise — and you’ll be having your own lament if you want this item but don’t bid. (No one has as of yet; bids begin at $25.) Bidding closes at just after 8 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. To bid, or learn more, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/CAROLE-LOMBARD-FILM-STAR-SET-OF-4-MINT-STAMP-STRIPS_W0QQitemZ150427043715QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item2306268783.

Meanwhile, we Lombard fans keep waiting for the U.S. Postal Service to get it…

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An auction of glamour

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.26 at 07:45
Current mood: artisticartistic

Today and tomorrow, the folks at ProfilesInHistory.com are holding an auction of what they term “glamour” — more than 1,300 items, most of them photographs and the vast majority coming from the “golden age.” Above is one of the most famous images being auctioned, the classic portrait of Jean Harlow relaxing on a bearskin rug. Fans of 1980s TV will recall seeing a large version of it in the judge’s chambers on the sitcom “Night Court.” And the man who took that iconic shot, George Hurrell, was still with us at the time the series was on; he lived until 1992, working until the end.

Many of the items are Hurrell portraits, and this auction has a decided MGM slant; searching through the list, you’ll find plenty of Harlow, Marion Davies, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo. But the good news for Carole Lombard fans is that several of her images are available, too…although even the cheapest will likely set you back a few hundred bucks should you want to own one. Nevertheless, it’s free to look, so here are a few. We’ll start with the batch being auctioned today, starting at 3 p.m. (Eastern):

We’ll begin, appropriately, with something from Hurrell — this was taken in 1937, and exactly half a century later it was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution as part of a salute to Hurrell’s impeccable work. It’s only 6″ x 8 1/2″, which may explain why its estimated sale value is only $1,000-$2,000.

That’s the same estimated value as this sultry shot, taken by William E. Thomas in 1929. The big news about this portrait, which has been available to collectors for quite some time, is that it was apparently taken to promote her upcoming film, “Big News.” However, I’m guessing this wasn’t actually meant to replicate a scene from the film, since Lombard portrayed a newspaper reporter…and whether then or now, no newspaperwoman would wear something like that.

This Otto Dyar portrait for Paramount dwarfs the others in value ($8,000-12,000), probably because it dwarfs the others in size (10¾” x 13½”). “Oversize” photos such as this invariably have a substantial value.

ProfilesInHistory lists this Eugene Robert Richee shot as promoting “Nothing Sacred.” Uh…don’t think so. Richee was a Paramount photographer (the pic has the studio’s stamp), and “Nothing Sacred” was a Selznick International film. This likely was used to promote her final Paramount movie, “True Confession,” which ran concurrently. It’s part of a multiple-photo item that includes a Richee image for “Bolero,” Scotty Welbourne for Warners’ “Fools For Scandal” and Ernest A. Bachrach for RKO’s “In Name Only.” The estimated value for this set: $A mere $200-300.

A few more Lombard items will be auctioned Saturday, also starting at 3 p.m. (Eastern); for me, here’s the highlight:

What do I like about it? Let me count the ways…

1. It’s a stunningly beautiful image (look at those eyes!), taken by John Miehle.
2. There’s a lot of it; it’s 11″ x 14″. Oversize!
3. It’s autographed by Carole Lombard, and the message makes it clear this was done by her, not reproduced : “To Syd – Thank you for your kind words to me, Always, Carole.” (Who’s “Syd”? Don’t think it’s Grauman, since his first name was usually spelled “Sid.” It might be Sydney Chaplin.)

So why is this portrait’s value only estimated at $200-300? Probably because of a half-inch tear at the top, though it’s not very perceptible. Not much of a blemish, if you ask me.

For more on this event, officially known as the Michael H. Epstein & Scott E. Schwimer Glamour Photography Auction, go to http://www.profilesinhistory.com/upcoming-auctions/michael-h-epstein-scott-e-schwimer-glamour-photography-auction.html.

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Carole’s in the News

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.25 at 10:49
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

“It was so easy living day by day
Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
But now I need a little give and take
The New York Times, the Daily News”

— “New York State Of Mind,” Billy Joel

When Joel wrote that song in the mid-1970s, New York City was reeling. Suburbanization had weakened much of its tax base, many parts of Manhattan were deteriorating, and it faced a financial crisis. As some of the leading Wall Street banks would do a third of a century later, it sought help from the federal government. However, the response was quite different:

That’s one of the most famous headlines in the history of the New York Daily News (one of my journalism professors at the University of Maryland, likely a New York native, taped a copy to his office door). Back then, the News was New York’s dominant paper, at least in terms of circulation, and had held that honor since the 1920s when its tabloid style revolutionized the newspaper business. However, its circulation waned in ensuing years, and while it’s still around today and is a favorite of “straphangers” (subway riders), it sells far fewer copies than the Times. It’s even abandoned its famed home on East 42nd Street, where a huge globe sits in the lobby, for cheaper digs on the West Side.

But let’s turn the clock back nearly 74 years, to March 29, 1936. It was a Sunday, and guess who the News featured on the cover of its magazine? None other than…

…Carole Lombard, looking pretty stunning (as per usual). In later years, the News would run genuinely full-color photos of her; I’m not certain whether this qualifies or is merely a black-and-white photo enhanced by the art department.

I’m not sure what’s on the inside of the magazine, but I know what’s on the back:

It’s an ad for Maxwell House coffee, featuring future Lombard co-star Jack Benny. (Maxwell House would be followed by Jell-O and Lucky Strike as notable sponsors of Benny’s hugely popular radio show.)

As the News then had a circulation of more than 1 million, many people probably saw this magazine — perhaps even my parents, then both adolescents in Brooklyn.

This magazine is currently being auctioned at eBay; as of this writing, no bids have placed (the minimum bid is $7). Bidding closes at just after 7:55 a.m. (Eastern) on Friday. If you’re interested, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/Sunday-News-Cover-Carole-Lombard-1936-Maxwell-House-AD_W0QQitemZ350330369754QQcmdZViewItemQQptZMagazines?hash=item51915136da.

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“It’s a chancy job…”

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.24 at 01:25
Current mood: restlessrestless

I know some of you have been interested in my health following my corneal transplant surgery earlier this month, so here’s the update. First, the good news — my right eye, where the transplant took place, is progressing nicely; my vision has substantially improved. The bad news? My left eye is deteriorating (no real surprise based upon previous examinations). Vision there is blurry. I’m still in no condition to drive safely, so a follow-up visit will determine what course of action to take next.

Since I haven’t been able to see that well in recent weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to old-time radio in general and one series in particular — “Gunsmoke,” which I wrote about last August because Robert Stack, who had a supporting role in Carole Lombard’s final movie, “To Be Or Not To Be,” was pushed by some executives at CBS to portray U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon, a role that eventually went to William Conrad (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/229988.html).

I’ve been listening to just about everyone episode from the series’ inception in the spring of 1952 — I’m up to early 1954 now — and there’s scarcely a clinker in the bunch (in terms of writing, acting and sound effects, not necessarily in the aural quality). The episodes are literate, textured, reflecting the violent realism of Dodge City, Kansas in the 1870s. It was truly the first radio western geared for adults.

That’s Brad Pitt, left, and Ryan Reynolds, both of whom are reportedly being considered to play the marshal in a planned big-screen version of “Gunsmoke.” While I rave about the radio “Gunsmoke” (many have called it the finest dramatic radio series regardless of genre) and it aired for nine years, most people better remember the TV “Gunsmoke,” which also had a lot going for it. Dillon was played on TV by James Arness, who certainly had the visual presence for the role:

Responses to a story about possible Matt Dillon casting fell into two camps — one strongly for Pitt, the other not for or against Reynolds but for …Tom Selleck, who’d have been just right for the role a decade ago but is now probably too old for it.

But one response struck a chord with me. Here’s part of it:

“I’m a huge fan of the original show, and the movies they released later and personally don’t want to see Gunsmoke ruined by New Hollywood remakery/remade at all. I’ll probably cry at the first hint of CGI. I wish they could go back to making movies the way they were meant to be made. Especially westerns. There’s no place for graphics in a western. It doesn’t have to ALL be explosions. There are such things as characters to explore, you know those things that talk and occasionally show emotions?”

Couldn’t agree more. I don’t recall ever watching westerns in my youth or having “cowboy” toys. What makes “Gunsmoke” the western for people who don’t like westerns (definitely on radio, and to a lesser extent on TV) were the characterizations, the sense of community developed in Dodge City. The people there faced all kinds of challenges, and with Dillon leading the way, it’s fascinating to see how those citizens reacted.

I have no idea who will ultimately be cast as Marshal Dillon. I simply hope the producers stay true to the vision of its creator, Norman Macdonnell, and stay away from juvenile cliches, graphic violence (as opposed to implied violence, which was a part of the program) and substituting special effects for intelligent writing. One wishes everyone associated with the movie would be given, and listen to, a set of the nearly 500 episodes from the radio series to learn how it should be done.

If you check the entry from last August, you’ll find a phot of the four principal radio actors — Conrad, Parley Baer as Chester Proudfoot, Howard MacNear as Doc Adams and Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell — in period clothing as they (unsuccessfully) tried to make the case they should be considered for the TV version of “Gunsmoke.” Well, here are two more photos from that effort, taken at Knott’s Berry Farm.

First, from left, Conrad, Ellis, MacNear and Baer:

The next photo, showing Dillon and Chester walking around Dodge, was taken by veteran radio actor Harry Bartell, who played all sorts of supporting roles over the years and appeared on many other series:

That picture sums up Conrad’s portrayal of Dillon, something he noted in the introduction to most of the radio episodes: “It’s a chancy job, but it makes a man watchful. And a little lonely.”

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Of love (and lingerie)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.24 at 09:25
Current mood: impressedimpressed

I normally don’t write more than one entry each day, but 1) I’ve been writing a lot of late about things only peripherally related to Carole Lombard, and here’s something that changes that; and 2) it’s about an item that won’t be available for very long (and one I’ve never seen before).

It’s the December 1932 issue of Movies magazine, and one of its articles is entitled “Why Hollywood Loves Carole And Bill.” This story on the popularity of the couple is reportedly four pages long; I’ve only been able to see the first two pages, and the copy is a bit difficult to read, but there’s an image that more than makes up for it:

Lombard in lingerie…pardon me while I melt. (Does anyone know where this picture is from, or what film it may be advertising? It’s pretty stunning.)

With that image of Carole, there were probably many men who wished they were William Powell. The reality was a bit different. Powell may have been viewing Carole in such scanty attire…but apparently so was screenwriter Robert Riskin. Bill and Carole were quickly learning that they probably made better friends than lovers. (If only they’d loved each other as much as Hollywood loved them!)

The irony, from a Lombard perspective, is seeing who’s on the cover of Movies:

Yep — her current co-star (and future second husband) Clark Gable. Moreover, the accompanying story was on a topic Carole and her mother were fascinated in…numerology (alongside a steamy still of Gable and Jean Harlow).

This rare magazine is being auctioned at eBay (http://cgi.ebay.com/MOVIES-32-CLARK-GABLE-CAROLE-LOMBARD-HARLOW-VELEZ-Sexy_W0QQitemZ400109978892QQcmdZViewItemQQptZMagazines?hash=item5d2869c50c). No bids have currently been placed; bidding begins at $69.99 and will end at 11:15 a.m. (Eastern) on Thursday..

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More than you know (about Mayo Methot)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.23 at 14:19
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

Some famous selections from the “Great American Songbook” were introduced by people we don’t normally associate with singing. For example, “(You’d Be So) Easy To Love,” written by Cole Porter for the film “Born To Dance,” was first sung by, of all people, James Stewart. That came in 1937; the following year, in the Broadway show “Knickerbocker Holiday,” Kurt Weill’s “September Song” was introduced, and popularized, by none other than Walter Huston.

As it turns out, there’s another standard that was first performed by someone who, like Stewart, once worked on screen with Carole Lombard. It came in the fall of 1929, as part of a Broadway show featuring the work of Vincent Youmans.

The song? “More Than You Know.”

The person who sang it?

Mayo Methot, shown with Carole in a publicity still Columbia issued for the 1932 film “Virtue.” (Alas, I haven’t be able to find a copy of the still as is; this features a racy caption used in the magazine “Film Fun.”)

Not many people are aware Methot introduced “More Than You Know.” Heck, the only thing people seem to know about her is that she was Humphrey Bogart’s wife (his third) before Lauren Bacall. And that’s as much an injustice to her as it would be to view Lombard solely within the context of Clark Gable.

Moira Finnie, who has an excellent blog, “Skeins Of Thought” (http://moirasthread.blogspot.com/) and occasionally writes for Turner Classic Movies’ perceptive Movie Morlocks blog (http://moviemorlocks.com/), did a superb piece on Methot nearly two years ago that I recently uncovered, and much of the information in this entry comes from it.

We often note the many New York stage stars of the 1920s who flocked west once talking pictures were popularized, and many of them became big stars. Methot’s story can’t completely be called the flip side — she hadn’t quite become a top-tier stage success by the time she switched coasts in 1930 — but she never quite found her niche in films.

That’s Methot as a blonde in the 1920s, when stage critics hailed both her beauty and the deftness of her acting. She had been discovered by George M. Cohan, who put her in one of his plays in late 1923, when she was age 19. (Mayo was a native of Oregon whose father was a sea captain.)

From all accounts, Methot looked attractive on stage, but she was one actress whose qualities just couldn’t be captured well on screen. Perhaps some of this was due to darkening her hair, but on film her beauty didn’t quite come over. Consequently, she soon found herself limited to character parts.

One of those, of course, was in “Virtue,” where she superbly complements Lombard — one can argue it’s Carole’s best film before “Twentieth Century” — and both are aided by the cynical script of Robert Riskin.

By 1933, Methot was under contract to Warners, She appeared in a number of good films, including “Counsellor-At-Law” with John Barrymore (they would fall prey to similar demons), “Jimmy The Gent” with James Cagney, and has a nice comedic turn in “The Case Of The Curious Bride,” with Warren William as Perry Mason. In 1937, she was part of the cast of the Bette Davis vehicle “Marked Woman,” which brought her to the attention of co-star Humphrey Bogart. They married the following year, the third marriage for each.

Bogart and Methot married seven months before Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, but the similarities end there. Bogie was mired in mostly “heavy” roles at Warners; Mayo’s delicate appearance was by now completely gone, largely due to alcoholism. And she was no genial drunk, like Barrymore; she had a violent temper (even drawing a gun out on one occasion, according to Gloria Stuart). The idyllic life conveyed in the photo above was anything but accurate The press dubbed them the “battling Bogarts.”

Methot’s final film was 1940’s “Brother Rat And A Baby,” where she had a small part. She then focused on being Bogie’s wife, and some (such as Louise Brooks, who had known both of them in the 1920s), maintain she helped give him the drive that led his star to rise in the early forties. However, it came at a heavy cost to both. She reportedly battered him a great deal; by 1945, he’d had enough and divorced her for a young, sultry co-star, Lauren Bacall.

Methot returned to Oregon with her mother, and her health continued to decline. In June 1951, while Bogart was filming “The African Queen,” he learned from Bacall that Methot had been found dead in a cheap Portland hotel, only 47 years old. Alcoholism was cited as the reason, although Methot was also reportedly undergoing cancer treatment.

What might Methot’s career had been like if she hadn’t touched the bottle? Or suppose she had returned to New York, where her skills seemed to be more appreciated, once she discovered that in films, she’d be a second lead at most? We’ll never have the answers.

“More Than You Know” has been recorded hundreds of times; Methot even reportedly recorded it, though I’ve never heard her version nor could I track it down. It’s been done by everyone from Ann-Margret to Lee Wiley, Frank Sinatra to Mildred Bailey. One version I like is by Michelle Pfeiffer in “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” though it’s not the song most people remember her for in the film. (Pfeiffer did her own singing; the piano music in the film was done by Dave Grusin.) While embedding for this was declined by whomever put it up, you can link to it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jNrEjHBVOc.

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Radio to zoom by

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.22 at 13:21
Current mood: excitedexcited

Above, a landmark of my youth: The transmission building for WSYR radio in my hometown of Syracuse. Located on Valley Drive at the city’s southern end, a few blocks south of my family’s house, WSYR’s trio of towers loomed above our neighborhood (they’re easy to spot as you travel along Interstate 81), broadcasting its 5,000 watts throughout central New York. The antennas had been there since the 1940s, predating our fifties subdivision.

Perhaps those towers had something to do with my fascination for radio since my childhood. In the mid-1960s, I discovered that at night, you could pick up stations far removed from Syracuse. (Let me emphasize that I’m talking about AM radio. Back then, FM was basically limited to college radio and characterless “beautiful music.”)

I could pick up WABC out of New York, digging “Cousin Brucie” Morrow and the latest news of Beatlemania. I could listen to sports events from out of town; in fact, one memorable night I could hear an NBA game being played in Syracuse through KMOX out of St. Louis (I believe it was the 1967-68 season, the year before the Hawks moved to Atlanta).

I have a feeling that radio has a similar hold on many of you, just as it has on the American public since the 1920s and 1930s. But sad to say, many of us have become disconnected from radio of recent years. There’s bombastic “talk” radio, sports radio that sometimes seems to be more about attitude than sports, or music formats you simply can’t relate to.

Am I sounding like a crusty old you-know-what? Gee, I hope not. But I sense those of you who reguarly read “Carole & Co.” have a fondness for the popular culture that enveloped the U.S. from the 1920s to, say, the 1960s — culture Carole Lombard was part of during her too-brief life, in radio as well as films. And aside from a few pockets, that culture is pretty hard to find on radio these days.

That’s why I’m pleased to let you know about a radio station, just across Lake Ontario from Oswego and Syracuse, that’s keeping the tradition of full-service AM radio alive. It’s at 740 on the dial, and if you’re anywhere in the northeast quadrant of the continental U.S., you can pick it up at night…or just go to your computer and visit http://www.am740.ca

The station calls itself “Zoomer Radio” and is geared toward people 40 and up. But it’s a lively station, with an intriguing array of programs. Among them (all times Eastern):

“The Sixties At Six” (6 to 7 p.m.) — This is hosted by the knowledgable Robbie Lane, who with his band the Disciples had a number of Canadian hits in the sixties and still performs regularly. The ’60s show airs Monday to Friday; on Saturday, Lane hosts a British Invasion show that’s just as good.

“Sentimental Journey” (7 to 10 p.m., Monday to Thursday) — Three hours of standards, mostly from the ’40s and ’50s.

“Theater Of The Mind” (10 to 11 p.m., Monday to Thursday) — if you like old-time radio, you’ll enjoy this program. The first half-hour usually is dramatic fare, followed by a comedy

“Stardust” (11 p.m. to midnight, Monday to Thursday) — Nat Cole’s “Stardust” opens this hour of thoughtful romantic songs, hosted by a lady named Ziggy.

“Midnight Blue” (midnight to 1 a.m., Monday to Thursday) — the station amusingly promotes this as “radio’s only X-rated program”; it’s actually an hour of double-entendre songs (e.g., the Midnighters’ “Work With Me Annie” or the Dominoes’ “Sixty-Minute Man”).

“Friday Night Bandstand” (7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays). This program focuses on rock through about 1963, including a featured artist, a top five flashback and a half-hour of Elvis Presley at 10.

There are a number of weekend music programs, too, focusing on Broadway, big bands and more.

Some things for American listeners to keep in mind:

As is Canadian custom, temperatures are normally given in Celsius and, less frequently, Fahrenheit. So if you hear it’s “four” in Toronto, it’s actually what we Americans would call about 40.

There is something called “Canadian content” in that nation’s media, where radio stations that carry music by law must broadcast a certain percentage of material by Canadian performers. So on 740, expect to hear a lot of Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Paul Anka and Jack Scott. (I’m not saying they aren’t good artists, just that you may hear more of them than you’d expect.)

Nevertheless, this is a wonderful station to listen to, no matter which side of the border you’re on. Give it a try, either on your computer or some night if you’re within distance of their considerable signal.

To leave you, here’s the first hit by a Canadian band you’ll hear a lot of on AM 740 — the Guess Who — but this was a hit four years before “These Eyes” established them in the spring of 1969. It’s their definitive version of the British rock chestnut “Shakin’ All Over.” Enjoy.

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Gingerly seeing what might have been

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.21 at 14:19
Current mood: cynicalcynical

While “Twentieth Century” wasn’t a massive hit, it was enough of a critical and commercial success for the public to begin viewing Carole Lombard in a different light, that of a comedienne. You can see flashes of that in some of her earlier sound films, but in retrospect, the nagging question is: Why did this take so long? (Especially due to what we know about the off-screen Lombard.)

It’s often said Paramount didn’t know what to do with her, especially since the studio had such a large stable of young actresses. That’s certainly true to some extent. Lombard can’t be completely absolved; she simply wanted to be a film star, not really knowing (or at times even caring) just what kind of star she wanted to be.

It’s difficult to gauge the direction her career might have taken had she been more sure of her goals at the start. But you can take educated guesses, and one of them can be seen through a film released at RKO in mid-1933, roughly the time Lombard was being seen on-screen in “Supernatural,” which isn’t a bad film for its genre but isn’t really tailored to her talents.

The movie in question is called “Professional Sweetheart” (which played in Great Britain as “Imaginary Sweetheart,” as censors deemed the phrase “professional sweetheart” a bit too risque) and it was the first film at RKO for a Warners player named Ginger Rogers. (She had tested for a contract at Columbia and was turned down because her smile was deemed too big; moreover, mogul Harry Cohn had made a pass at her.)

Yep, it’s a pre-Code comedy, all right, as well as a satire on the radio business. (The screenplay was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, who had written the hit 1925 play “Chicago” — the basis for a later Rogers cinematic success, “Roxie Hart.”)

Ginger plays Glory Eden, a radio singer known as “The Purity Girl” for the program’s sponsor, a washcloth company. She’s supposed to be the epitome of wholesomeness, but in reality, she wants to break loose and go to Harlem nightclubs.

That’s sheet music for a song from the movie…but the irony is that for the only time in Rogers’ career, she was dubbed — by a black singer, Etta Moten. Forget that Rogers had introduced “Embraceable You” on Broadway, or that she would soon introduce “We’re In The Money” in Warners’ forthcoming “Gold Diggers Of 1933” (where Moten can also be heard in a segment of “Remember My Forgotten Man”).

Rogers (shown above with Zasu Pitts) plays a mercurial character that’s sort of along the lines of later Lombard films such as “The Princess Comes Across” or “Nothing Sacred” — someone who isn’t what she appears to be. Could Carole have pulled something like this off in 1933? I see no reason why not; it’s not that big a stretch. It simply wasn’t the type of role she was getting.

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Clubbing with the Powells and Truexes

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.20 at 14:41
Current mood: amusedamused

In 1962, at the height of the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. cut a single of the old pop standard “Me And My Shadow,” with some lyrics specially tailored for Frank and Sammy. It wonderfully encapsulates early sixties “Camelot” (there’s even a line that says “we’re closer than Bobby is to JFK”), and there are also references to their favored hangouts, nost notably Jilly’s (run by Sinatra’s good friend “Jilly” Rizzo). Another place mentioned was “The Little Club,” a place I’d never heard of.

Perhaps I simply didn’t make the connection, but apparently the Little Club they were referring to was part of a place I’ve written about here before — the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles (in a sad irony, the place where Robert F. Kennedy — the “Bobby” in the lyric — would be assassinated in June 1968). And the Little Club was part of the Ambassador since its inception in 1921.

That’s Carole Lombard, husband William Powell and Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Truex at the Agua Caliente racetrack in Mexico in early 1933. However, in 1932, when Sinatra was a teen in Hoboken listening to the likes of Bing Crosby, the couples were photographed at the Little Club.

I converted the image to greyscale for clarify; I did the same for the snipe that accompanies the photo, but my vision still hasn’t sufficiently recovered to make it out yet. Double-click on it, and perhaps you can inform us of what it reads.

The photo, which I believe was taken for Hearst’s International News Service, measures 6½ by 8½ inches. It’s in reasonably good condition considering its age and fragility.

If you’re interested in owning it, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/William-Powell-Carole-Lombard-Little-Club-1932-photo_W0QQitemZ120543558649QQcmdZViewItemQQptZArt_Photo_Images?hash=item1c10f4bbf9. Bidding begins at $14.85 (no bids have been placed as of this writing), and bids close at 11 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday.

To close this entry, I have not one, but two versions of Sinatra and Davis doing “Me And My Shadow.” First, the aforementioned recorded version, which I believe was released under Davis’ name on Reprise with Sinatra as “guest star.” This captures the early sixties zeitgeist perfectly:

Second, a more conventional reading of the song, presumably taken from one of Frank’s late-fifties TV specials. It’s plenty of fun, especially seeing these two pals dance:

 

My moviehouse memories (Syracuse version)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.19 at 11:49
Current mood: artisticartistic

As many of you are probably aware, I hail from Syracuse, N.Y., where film stars Richard Gere and Tom Cruise spent part of their youth. (No, I did not know either one.) I’ve written about the Salt City in a movie context before, first as a lead-in to an entry on RKO (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/141316.html) and then as a tie-in to last year’s annual Cinefest (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/190086.html).

This time, I’ve decided to write my personal recollections of two Syracuse moviehouses I visited multiple times…and yes, the idea for this derives from the entry earlier this week about the theaters my mother attended in her youth.

The similarities probably end there, though; my mom saw lots of movies in her youth, as there were several theaters within walking distance of her home. I never had that luxury. The neighborhood I grew up in was strictly residential, built in the mid-fifties as quasi-suburban within the city limits, and while we had supermarkets, restaurants and a bowling alley not far away, there were no movie theaters in the Valley, the part of town where we lived. So while I was a movie fan, watching plenty of them on TV, the distance sort of discouraged my attendance. And the family left the area when I was 15.

My older sister took me to a few movie theaters, once for a cartoon festival at RKO Keith’s, the other to see Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in “The Facts Of Life” at the Paramount. Both theaters closed in early 1967 and were razed as part of an urban renewal project.

However, there were two venues I attended multiple times. One was an old-time palace, still considered one of the better examples of the genre, and thankfully, it’s still with us. The other was a smaller-scale theater whose end was drawing near when I patronized the place, although I didn’t know it.

With the help of http://www.cinematreasures.org, a site I can’t recommend highly enough for people fascinated with movie theaters, I was able to learn more about the histories of these venues – and much of it surprised me.

We’ll begin with Syracuse’s best-known movie house, called the Landmark Theater today, though it opened in February 1928 as the Loew’s State. It was designed by Thomas Lamb, one of the very best filmhouse architects, and it was every bit as luxurious as its Loew’s brethren downstate.

It seated more than 2,900, blending several architectural styles, mostly in shades of red and gold, and wowed the throngs who came, initially for silent movies; the first talkie shown their was “The Broadway Melody” on March 30, 1929.

In the first few years, film actors made personal appearances. For example, in early October 1929 “Sunshine Sammy,” who I believe was the black kid appearing in the “Our Gang” shorts of the time, appeared on stage. Loew’s State also had an outstanding Wurlitzer organ.

Note the ad mentions that Gloria Swanson’s “The Trespasser,” a Pathe film, would be playing there the following week, meaning the Loew’s State occasionally showed non-MGM product. (One doubts any of Carole Lombard’s Pathe talkies were deemed high-grade enough for the Loew’s, but it’s possible some of her non-Paramount or RKO product did play there.)

Of course, Lombard husbands William Powell and Clark Gable were regularly featured at the State. Here’s the marquee in 1936 promoting Gable’s “San Francisco”:

The marquee was later made more utilitarian, and people associated with the theater hope to someday replicate the style of the old one.

As decades elapsed, Loew’s slowly began to deteriorate. Once kept in meticulous shape, that eventually changed. By the 1960s, the organ was long gone, although it found a new home at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto, Calif. Moreover, Syracusans were increasingly going to suburban venues (one theater showed “The Sound Of Music” for a year and a half). But I went a few times to the Loew’s, just as my older sister (and parents) had.

Our family left Syracuse in 1970, by which time there was talk that Loew’s would raze the theater and the eight-story office building that accompanied it. The theater was still showing first-run films, but not many came to see them. By 1973, the place was so defeated that it began showing X-rated fare, the upstate equivalent of that era’s cinematic tawdriness on 42nd Street.

And like what happened in Manhattan, there would be a happy ending…but it didn’t occur overnight. In fact, Loew’s was closed for several months in mid-1975.

A community group volunteered to clean up the place and was able to purchase the theater portion of the building. In October 1977, Harry Chapin performed in a sold-out fundraiser, the first of many acts to use the house as a concert venue. Performers who have trod the Landmark stage range from Lena Horne, B.B. King and Tony Bennett to Jerry Seinfeld and Rockpile (the roots-rock band featuring Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe).

The Landmark has occasionally struggled at times; downtown Syracuse is no longer the shopping mecca it was during my youth, although the growth of nearby Armory Square as an arts/nightlife scene has somewhat eased the pain. If you’re in town and there’s a show, check out the place and indulge yourself in the feel of a real movie palace. For additional information on the Landmark, go to http://www.landmarktheatre.org/home.html.

Yep, that’s Syracuse in snow, which it gets more of than any other major city in the continental U.S.

Sadly, I could find no photo of the other theater I will discuss. Like the Loew’s, it was on South Salina Street, the city’s main road, though it was a few miles down on the South Side. It was called the Riviera, and I was prepared to dismiss it as a Syracuse “nabe” (neighborhood house) until I learned more about it at CinemaTreasures.

The Riviera opened in 1929 with a coral color scheme designed to give a feel of an Italian garden; it was also a bit less showy, which allowed it to hide its age a bit better.

It seated about 900 and was even built with an organ, something that by 1929 wasn’t deemed a prerequisite for a new theater. For several decades, it played second-run fare, but in the early sixties in became a bit of an art house (the theater was a short distance from Syracuse University), showing lots of foreign films, especially those from Italy. I believe our family was on their mailing list, because we regularly received postcards from the theater advertising upcoming films.

My father may have gone to those movies, but I didn’t. I think the only times we went to the Riviera were on weekend afternoons, when it showed matinees geared for children. I recall seeing the godawful “Santa Claus Conquers The Martians” (whose cast included a pre-teen Pia Zadora) around 1964. A few years later, the Riviera capitalized on the “Batman” fad by showing a string of 1940s serials starring the caped crusader. They may have reflected Bob Kane’s vision of the character, but at the time I found them boring.

The neighborhood around the Riviera was changing, falling prey to white flight. The theater closed in 1968 when the roof caved in following heavy snow. It was razed in 1975.

Theaters have fascinating stories, and I’d appreciate learning about your favorite filmhouses, whether they be Golden Age palaces or more recent venues. Go to CinemaTreasures.org, get the history of the places you patronized the (or now), and then tell us.

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Sorry, no freebies

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.18 at 09:55
Current mood: rejectedrejected

Carole Lombard was renowned for her generosity. But it only went so far…especially when it came out of the pockets of the company she was working for.

As proof, here is a postcard sent to a Sacramento fan on Nov. 5, 1936:

The flip side has a message from Lombard saying it was impossible for her to send a free picture.

The reply reads,

Dear Friend:

Thank you so much for your letter. Your cordial interest in me and my work surely is appreciated.

I wish it were possible to send you a photograph, but as you cannot know, there is a ruling that no pictures be mailed out free of charge. I feel sure that you will understand the situation and will realize my position in the matter.

Thank you again and my best personal greetings to you.

Sincerely,

Carole Lombard

The autograph is a facsimile.

One presumes that similar cards were made for all Paramount notables, and that other studios had a similar practice. After all, requests for such pictures was incredible at the time.

If you decided to spring the cash for a Lombard photo, how much would it have cost you? There’s a price list just to the left of her signature:

This fascinating artifact of interplay between star/studio and fan is up for auction at eBay. The minimum bid is $24.99, which to me sounds a bit steep (although the seller thankfully admitted the autograph was a facsimile), and bidding closes just before 5:45 p.m. (Eastern Daylight) on Sunday. If interested, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/1936-Paramount-Studios-Carole-Lombard-Reply-Postcard_W0QQitemZ260569068517QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3cab2073e5.

We have no idea how this McLennan person in Sacramento reacted to the news. However, he or she could take a bus or train to Los Angeles and, with luck, take a photo of Carole. Heck, she might even autograph it.

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Much more than a wizard

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.17 at 16:03
Current mood: creativecreative

Carole Lombard made films with all sorts of actors, including those you usually don’t associate with her. Take this photo, for instance:

Who’s that with Lombard, in a still from the 1930 film “Fast And Loose”? Chances are you already know his identity, but just in case you don’t, here’s another shot of the guy…with his name:

Yep — that’s Frank Morgan, from the trailer for the 1938 Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy operetta, “Sweethearts.”

Morgan is as synonymous with classic-era MGM as the gates on Washington Boulevard, but “Fast And Loose” wasn’t an MGM product, but a Paramount film. (Moreover, it was made in New York, not California.)

When “Fast And Loose” was filmed, Morgan was already a 14-year veteran of movies. He debuted in “The Suspect” under his real name, Frank Wupperman, then changed his surname to Morgan. He did quite a few films in the teens, then focused on stage work during the 1920s.

The arrival of sound films boosted Morgan’s career, just as it did William Powell’s; both owned voices that complemented their screen personas. You can find Morgan in early thirties movies such as “Laughter,” with Nancy Carroll and Lombard’s ill-fated close friend Diane Ellis, “Hallelujah I’m A Bum,” “Bombshell” and “The Affairs Of Cellini,” where he was nominated for best actor in 1934 but lost to Clark Gable.

By the mid-thirties, Morgan was firmly settled at MGM, providing invaluable support to its stable of stars and periodically playing leads in second features. Audiences liked him.

Unless your parents were film historians, chances are you first became acquainted with Morgan through his best-known film, “The Wizard Of Oz,” a network TV event for decades.

These days it’s nearly impossible to envision anyone other than Morgan as the Wizard/Professor Marvel, but truth be told he was not the first choice for the role. MGM wanted W.C. Fields for the part, and he certainly could have pulled it off (think of his Mr. Micawber in “David Copperfield”), although a Fields Wizard would likely have been infused with a tinge of his trademark misanthropy. But haggling over salary led MGM to hire Morgan, eventually making him a movie icon.

However, many consider “The Shop Around The Corner” (1940) to be Morgan’s greatest performance, as his genial, textured tone flourishes under Ernst Lubitsch’s direction and he works well with leads James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

At roughly this time, Morgan made two films with Gable, “Boom Town” and “Honky Tonk.” Lombard regularly visited the sets of both movies, ostensibly to keep an eye on her husband, but one guesses she may also have discussed her earlier work with Morgan.

Morgan continued steady employment at MGM, where he had a lifetime contract. Unfortunately, that lifetime wasn’t very long. He made two movies with Gable in 1949, “Any Number Can Play” (to be shown at 10:15 a.m. ET on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S.) and “Key To The City.” Before the latter was released, and after he had begun work as Buffalo Bill Cody in “Annie Get Your Gun,” he died of a heart attack in Beverly Hills at age 59…the same age his good friend Gable would only reach.

Morgan, a native New Yorker, is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. However, his endearing presence lives on for classic film fans, for whom he is always a treat.

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Stand tall for Cahuenga Peak

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.16 at 20:59
Current mood: impressedimpressed

Above is “Baywatch” actress Kelly Packard, who in 1999 took part in a Los Angeles-area magazine photo shoot which used the magic of trick photography to have her model swimsuits as a giantess. But today’s entry deals with what the king-size Kelly is “resting” above: the famed “Hollywood” sign.

Now, had this fantasy shoot occurred during the first few decades the sign was up, Kelly would’ve had to have been about 45 percent larger (or longer!) to match the sign from tip to toe. That’s because the sign initially read “Hollywoodland,” promoting a real estate development.

The sign is located on Cahuenga Peak, an undeveloped stretch of 138 acres next to Griffith Park. That it has remained undeveloped derives in part from an ill-fated romance between two of Hollywood’s (figurative) giants.

One was the talented dancer-singer-actress Ginger Rogers. (She’s Turner Classic Movies U.S.’ star of the month for March, and among her films being shown Wednesday is “42nd Street,” at 8 p.m. Eastern.)

The other produced and directed films, but is best known in a Hollywood context for his dozens of dalliances with actresses (in fact, one Carole Lombard biographer has written that he deflowered her). We are, of course, referring to Howard Hughes:

In 1940, Hughes bought the tract, intending to build a huge mansion for Rogers, whom he would then marry. But when she decided against the latter, Hughes refrained from building the former, so what might have been the high-elevation equivalent of Marion Davies’ Ocean House never came to be.

Hughes kept the tract, but never did anything with it, and it remained part of his estate for two decades following his death in 1976. In the meantime, neighboring hillsides were being developed; the land became more and more valuable.

In 2002, the Hughes estate put the tract up for sale, and the city of Los Angeles planned to purchase it for open space, sort of an extension of Griffith Park. (It’s home to a rare ecosystem, including butterflies, the coast horned lizard, and the Plummer’s mariposa lily.) However, the real estate market was hot at the time, and so the city couldn’t scrape up sufficient funds. Instead, a Chicago development group got the land, and planned to build several estates along the ridgeline.

As we all know, however, real estate values have plummeted in recent years, leading the developers to drop their plans. According to the Save Cahuenga Peak group:

“In April 2009, The Trust for Public Land secured a one-year option to purchase the property with the hopes of preserving it for generations to come. And because of the falling real estate market, this second chance comes at a very reasonable price of $12.5 million, a little more than half of what the land was listed for in 2008.”

This isn’t really a battle to save the Hollywood sign — that battle’s been fought before — but it will help preserve an area near it, an area with many splendid views of Los Angeles below.


Time is of the essence, as the deadline for raising the money is April 14. Dame Elizabeth Taylor has donated funds for the cause (those sailors in “South Pacific” were right — there is nothing like a dame!), and you can help, too. Simply go to https://secure3.convio.net/tpl/site/Donation2?df_id=1780&1780.donation=form1 to learn how. Should you prefer to mail your contribution, send it to

Campaign to Save Cahuenga Peak
Los Angeles River Center
570 West Avenue 26, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90065

You won’t feel quite as big as a magically enlarged “Baywatch” beauty, but you’ll stand a bit taller.

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Mom’s moviehouse memories

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.15 at 23:51
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

George Brent has been gone a number of years, but you can credit him for making today’e entry possible.

Monday was the anniversary of his birth, and during the day, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. showed several of his films. One of them was the 1936 “God’s Country And The Woman,” one of the first movies shot in three-strip Technicolor (the outdoor scenery was spectacular), so I called up my mother, who’s a few months past 89, and asked her what was the first Technicolor movie she could recall seeing.

Turns out it was “The Wizard Of Oz” (okay, part of it was shot in sepia), and that didn’t come out until early 1939. Due to their considerable expense, color films were relatively few in those days — “A Star Is Born,” Carole Lombard’s own “Nothing Sacred” and a few others were issued. Anyway, we began to talk about old movies and the discussion eventually came around to movie theaters.

Like millions of fellow Americans, my mother is part of the great Brooklyn diaspora (my late father was, too). I asked her what moviehouses she regularly attended. Sure, once in a while she’d head to downtown Brooklyn or hop across the river into midtown Manhattan for a movie, but those occasions were rare. It made more sense for her to eschew the nickel subway fare and instead patronize the “nabes,” the neighborhood theaters close to home.

Two in particular she patronized regularly. Thanks to the excellent Web site http://www.cinematreasures.org, I can tell you their stories.

First, the Loew’s Pitkin, so named because it was on Pitkin Avenue in the Brownsville/East New York section of the borough:

The Pitkin occupied a rather unusual place in the Loew’s hierarchy. It wasn’t one of the big palaces like the Jersey over in Jersey City or the Paradise in the Bronx (or the Kings in downtown Brooklyn), but it wasn’t one of the “nabes,” either. It seated about 2,700, only slightly smaller than the top-rank palaces.

Architecturally, it had a Greek revival feel, appropriate for the gods and goddesses who appeared on screen, courtesy of MGM:


As with many theaters in the 1950s. attendance at the Pitkin declined sharply, victim of the one-two punch of suburbanization and television. The theater hung on for a while, but by the early 1980s it had been converted into a church.

The other theater my mother recalled was also owned by Loew’s, and was a few blocks away from the Pitkin. Called the Premier (no “e” on the end), it was built in 1921 for United Artists and purchased by Loew’s in 1926. It seated about 2,500, huge for a “nabe,” and for many years, it usually ran films a week after the Pitkin did.

That’s the Premier in the early sixties, about a decade after my parents had left Brooklyn for upstate Syracuse. The July 1977 blackout led to widespread looting, and the Premier was closed later that year. The theater was eventually razed, and I believe the land is still vacant.

The Pitkin’s fate is likely a happier one. It has been sold to a developer who plans to convert it into a residential/commercial condo, although the recent economic downturn may delay the project a bit. Here’s what the Pitkin looks like in recent years:

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Carole — Femme Fatale

Posted by [info]oscar_jaffe on 2010.03.14 at 17:51

After noting Ira Resnick’s prediction that Carole would have developed into a “great charcter actress” had she not perished in 1942, I started thinking of films that might have been blessed with her presence.  We all know she was slated to star in THEY ALL KISSED THE BRIDE, but surely there were other roles that would have benefited by the Lombard touch, further solidifying her considerable range.

Billy Wilder in Cameron Crowe’s book, CONVERSATIONS WITH WILDER, was asked if there was any performer with whom he had wanted to work but never had the chance.  He answered, “Carole Lombard.”  And while it is blissful to think of a Wilder-Lombard comedy, another film came to mind that might have beautifully suited Carole and reunited her with her most frequent co-star.

DOUBLE INDEMNITY cast Barbara Stanwyck as a duplicitous wife who falls for insurance agent, Fred MacMurray.  Together they conspire to kill her husband and make it look like an accident, thus collecting on the double indemnity accident policy.  Plans go awry, however, and both succumb to tragic ends in classic film noir style.

Barbara Stanwyck, who scored a major triumph and Oscar nomination for BALL OF FIRE (1941), written by Billy Wilder, got the part after Carole (and other actresses) turned it down.  Had Carole lived, perhaps Billy WIlder would have enticed her to co-star with MacMurray in DOUBLE INDEMNITY    In TRUE CONFESSION, pathological liar Carole, accused of a murder she didn’t commit, turns to attorney-husband MacMurray to save her from the electric chair.  Wouldn’t it have been interesting for Carole and Fred to reunite in a film where their collective guilt has far deadlier implications?

Anyone who doubts whether Carole had the dramatic chops to pull off this role has only to look at TO BE OR NOT TO BE where her femme fatale skills were beautifully honed as she pretends to romance Stanley Ridges in order to obtain important papers from the S.S.  (Carole could give Mata Hari competition!)

                                       Double Indemnity

If there are other roles you think Carole might have played if the fates had been kinder, please share your thoughts.

Vince, hope you’re doing okay and looking forward to seeing your posts soon!

Cover Girl!

Posted by [info]oscar_jaffe on 2010.03.12 at 09:42

I attended a discussion/signing of STARSTRUCK at Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center last night.  Ira Resnick, the author, culled from his impressive collection of over 2,000 rare posters and lobby cards to produce a sumptuous illustrated history of Hollywood art.  He mentioned that his first acquisitions included a vintage one-sheet of Carole in LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST (purchased in the 1970’s for $35!), which he would have placed on the cover had Carole’s black eye not reminded some of a battered woman.  Instead, he chose a detail from NO MAN OF HER OWN, Carole’s only film with Clark, as the cover art!

I was amazed as I hadn’t recognized her, but upon further inspection, it’s definitely Carole.

In the text, Ira admits that Carole is one of his favorites and predicts that had she lived, she would have “turned into a great character actress” like Katharine Hepburn.

This is a terrific coffee table book and much cheaper than buying a single lobby card!   Enjoy the cover below.

Cover Image

Happy birthday to Bix

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.10 at 12:59
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

We don’t know as much as we would like about Carole Lombard’s interests throughout her too-brief life. We do know she liked music (even if she didn’t fancy herself much of a singer), and probably owned a reasonably good record collection. And I would guess she owned at least one record featuring music made by this man:

That’s “Bix” Beiderbecke, born 108 years ago today in Davemport, Iowa.

It’s possible Lombard didn’t see Bix’s name on those records, as most of his time was spent placing cornet for some of the best-known bands of the day, such as Paul Whiteman’s. But Bix was renowned for his mastery of music; he and contemporary Louis Armstrong added to the depth and texture of jazz. (Beiderbecke and Armstrong knew each other, but I don’t believe they ever recorded together — first, they approached music from substantially different directions, and in those days, integrated recordings were rare.)

Bix was an accomplished musician who also excelled on the piano and even wrote a few pieces for the keyboard. However, his fondness for alcohol during the Jazz Age damaged his health and led to his premature passing in 1931…about the time that Armstrong and Bing Crosby (who sang on several of Bix’s late 1920s sessions) were merging jazz with Tin Pan Alley, extending the music’s popularity.

Check Bix on the Internet and you will find a number of sites dedicated to him; Davenport honors him every year, too. For a few more days, you can hear a Bix salute on WAMU’s “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” including some tracks by a Bix centennial orchestra issued in 2002. (Two feature vocals by superlative jazz singer and Lombard fan Barbara Rosene, whom we profiled a few months ago.) The broadcast will be up for a few more days. Go to http://wamu.org/programs/hjsn/.

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Blog of a thousand days

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.08 at 12:34
Current mood: satisfiedsatisfied

June 13, 2007 wasn’t a particularly eventful day as far as the world goes, but it means a lot to me. That’s because that day, I decided to begin a LiveJournal community dedicated to my favorite actress, Carole Lombard, and called it “Carole & Co.”

To be honest, I didn’t know where it would leave me, or what kind of reaction it would receive; I merely thought it would be something fun to do, particularly since I had seen many blogs dedicated to the golden age of Hollywood. I believed I could do something in that vein, with a special focus on Lombard.

Well, “Carole & Co.” grew…and grew…and grew. By month’s end, I was doing detailed entries on elements of Lombard’s life and career — and getting good reaction from people who discovered the site. I continued with that approach, trying to give people a feel for the film industry in Carole’s time, while also providing an array of images to complement the words.

Today marks the 1,000th day since June 13, 2007, and “Carole & Co.” is bigger, and better, than ever. We have 143 members, an all-time high (which makes me think of that song by Rita Coolidge, my favorite James Bond theme), and more than 1,100 entries have been recorded.

To those of you who are fairly new to “Carole & Co.”, I cordially invite you to check out our archive dating back to those initial entries. You’ll find plenty of information about Lombard, her life and times, and people she knew and worked with.

If things keep going, day 2,000 should be sometime near the end of 2012. Keep your fingers crossed (and keep contributing, too).

 

Carole and Oscar

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.06 at 12:13
Current mood: curiouscurious

That’s where it all began more than 80 years ago — the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, site of the initial Academy Awards. It was a far different animal then, just a big dinner with the list of winners read off. No television, of course, not even radio.

Carole Lombard wasn’t at that first ceremony; it is believed that the last survivor of that event was Anita Page, who died in 2008. But I just did a Google search of “Carole Lombard Academy Awards,” and found no images of her at any of the ceremonies. Keep in mind there was no “red carpet” then where celebrities could pose for photographers; stars simply showed up.

I’m certain somewhere there are photos of Lombard at an Oscars ceremony, particularly in 1937, when she was a best actress nominee. Any photos taken from that year might also enhance the possibility of finding that elusive photo of Lombard and good friend Jean Harlow together, as they sat at the same table.

Just something to ponder as you follow Sunday night’s ceremonies, held not far away from the Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard.

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Cary Grant and Randolph Scott

Posted by [info]cinemafan2 on 2010.03.05 at 21:41

Cary Grant and Randolph Scott were stars that Carole Lombard was very familiar with both from work and socially.


Randolph Scott, Carole Lombard, Toby Wing, Cary Grant and friends 1936

Cary Grant and Randolph Scott shared apartments and homes for over a decade claiming that it was to save money.  Many people have speculated that there was more to the story.

I’m not so sure.

I recently met a man who encountered Mr. Grant on a Princess Cruise with his daughter by Dyan Cannon in the 1970’s. (The man worked for Princess Cruise Lines as a photographer at the time.)  He said Grant took a cruise on Princess Lines with his daughter for several years in a row and was undoubtedly the tightest man he had ever met in his life.  I asked him what made him say that?  And he replied, “well to begin with just the fact that he was on a Princess Cruise Lines and not on his own yacht was the first tip off.”  He wouldn’t go into further details.  But he added, “I’m sure that there are a few cabin stewards that could give you plenty of details.”

Inevitably in the hot house that was and is Hollywood, with the thousands of hangers on who make their living speculating on the lives of stars, there has been a great deal of speculation about their sexual orientation.   Carole Lombard’s take on the domestic relationship between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott  is hilarious.  She said “but it is the perfect domestic partnership.  Randy pays all the bills and Cary mails them.”

Bottom line, don’t be too cheap….


Auction of Hurrell Photos – Our Girl is Included

Posted by [info]silentsgirlon 2010.03.05 at 09:01

Profiles in History Auction

I was hard pressed to find anyone I loved who *wasn’t* included in this collection (except for William Haines who was, sadly, missing).  Carole has a few photos, none of which I’ve seen before.  I suspect Vince will have seen them, but maybe they’ll be new to some others here.

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carole lombard 05

So far, so good…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.05 at 14:24
Current mood: happyhappy

I had the corneal transplanat Wednesday morning, have followed instructions diligently, and in yesterday’s followup appointment, doctors said they were pleased with the progress. It won’t be an overnight recovery, but I expected that. Thankfully, I haven’t had any pain to speak of, and hope that I will gradually get my eyesight back to optimal (pardon the pun) condition.

I an thrilled to see a few entries put up at “Carole & Co.” during my absence, and hope you people can keep it going. Don’t worry about whether it’s new material or not — the important thing is that you contribute.

Again, thanks for your support and encouragement. It is truly appreciated.


Is this Carole at Twelve Oaks?!!!

Posted by [info]oscar_jaffe on 2010.03.04 at 12:14
Current mood: creativecreative

These rare GONE WITH THE WIND home movies were discovered in the last few years and partially broadcast on THE TODAY SHOW.  Please watch 1:46-1:60 where Gable is revealed seated on the set.   Could the blonde woman with her leg unceremoniously draped over the arm of the chair be Carole?  Who else could be as refreshingly informal in the presence of The King?  You be the judge and let us know.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E4-KR86LnY

This is my first Carole & Co. posting, so please be kind!  Get well soon, Vince!


Carole in Rags at Paramount???

Posted by [info]jhndltn on 2010.03.02 at 11:22

Here is an entry from the April 17, 1932 edition of Hollywood Heyday a very interesting daily compendium of Hollywood reporting from various contemporary sources. It is a fascinating source of little known facts about very popular stars and other up and coming stars. Stars on their way down are also chronicled. Great photos are to be had also. Here is the website if anyone would like to check it out. http://hollywoodheyday.blogspot.com/

This entry is about an “artist” (unmentioned) that put three actors portraits in rag material for what ever reason! Here is the caption for the piece:MOTION PICTURE PORTRAITS DONE IN RAGS

An artisan at the Paramount studios has the faculty of representing the likenesses of screen players by arranging fragments of fabrics crazy-quilt-like. Tallulah Bankhead, at left, pieced out with various shades of blue, grey and black; George Bancroft, with rough woolen materials in tan, orange and brown, and Carole Lombard, cut entirely of woolen and linen.


A hiatus, of sorts

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.03.01 at 21:25
Current mood: pensivepensive

You may not be seeing much of “Carole & Co.” in the next few weeks…at least not much from me. There’s a good reason for this. On Wednesday, I’m undergoing corneal transplant surgery which will largely sideline me for a while. Keep your fingers crossed that the surgery goes well (it’s currently to the point where I can’t drive), and that soon I can be back providing information about Carole Lombard and classic Hollywood.

In the meantime, I’m hoping you folks can chip in with your contributions. Review a favorite (or unfavorite) Lombard film…post a photo of her you particularly like…relay a favorite anecdote about her. (Or maybe there’s an item being auctioned on eBay that people should know about.) Do it for me; do it for Carole.

Next Monday marks the 1,000th day since “Carole & Co.” began on June 13, 2007. We’ve had more than 1,100 entries since then. Please keep it going when I can’t.

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Posted December 18, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

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