Carole & Co. entries, January 2011   Leave a comment

Miss Lombard and Mr. Winchell, part 2

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.31 at 02:34
Current mood: cynicalcynical

I only know of one photograph of Carole Lombard with Walter Winchell, but as the man himself might have said, it’s a beaut.

It gives a glimpse of a bizarro universe where Lombard and Winchell are entwined in romance, while Clark Gable — no stranger to roles as a newspaperman — readies to take notes. (This was taken at a costume party thrown by William Randolph Hearst; we know because there’s another photo showing Carole in her cowgirl outfit, at a table with Hearst himself. And Winchell was a Hearst employee, working for his New York Daily Mirror.)

We previously noted that Lombard served as a guest columnist for Winchell on two occasions. We ran the first one yesterday; here’s the second. Unlike the initial outing, written in the form of a letter to the columnist, this time Lombard actually deigned to write a column — about its usual author. Logrolling of a sort? Sure, but it makes for fun reading just the same.


(Editor’s Note: Walter Winchell is on vacation during the month of August. He will have a guest columnist replace him each day. The Winchell column will be back as usual Sept. 1.)

Things I Never Knew ’Til Now About Walter Winchell


A Hollywood star often wearies of facing the camera and imagines it might be fun to turn the camera on the cameraman. So, after years of reading what newspapermen have to say, I’ve nursed the ambition to write about them. Walter Winchell is on vacation, so here’s my long-awaited opportunity to turn the pencil on the writer.

* * *

But before I tell you any Things I Never Knew ’Til Now About Walter, I’d like first to say something I knew all along –- that in a country where we tend to worship prizefight champions, golf champions, tennis, swimming, racing and baseball champions, the most worthwhile title of them all belongs to W.W., the champion of Americanism. I think that when future historians come to estimate his importance in the scheme of American life, they will point not to his title as the Father of the Gossip Column, not to his contributions to the American “slanguage,” but to his persistent activities as Public Patriot No. 1. For that, Mr. W., orchids to you from me. And now that I’ve dispensed with the posies, I’ll get down to the prose.

* * *

As a member of the glamor racket, I think the definition of glamor Walter published tops them all. “Glamor,” he wrote, “is when the wrapping on the package is more attractive than its contents.” I wonder whether Walter realized when he wrote those words that he himself has glamor.

* * *

At 35, Walter announced that he would retire when he reached 40, instead of retiring he made his first motion picture, titled -– significantly or not –- “Wake Up and Live.” He was 43 on April 7 and still going strong, very much awake and very much alive … He is lithe, blithe and slender.

His hair has been whitening for years and now adds distinction to his appearance. His eyes, which to me are his most memorable features, are electric blue. He is a good listener, as evidenced by the reams of news he gleans. He is a good talker as will be vouched for by any who ever heard him -– including myself. When he feels that his own conversation is more interesting than that of his companions he unleashes a rapid-fire patter of ideas and anecdotes. His greeting, invariably, is “What’s new?” And you’ll notice that the first and last letters of the query makes W.W.!

I don’t know who first said “It’s smart to be thrifty,” but I do know Walter is both. Not only did he coin the expression “Annuities Keep Headliners From Being Breadliners,” but he practices what he preaches, too…During the first World War he served in the Navy, where his job was, of all things, carrying confidential messages! (More than one wag remarked: “From gob to gab in one generation.”) … Hurt pride was responsible for his starting the gossip column –- acknowledged to be the most drastic innovation in modern journalism. He gave the city editor of the Graphic the first-hand tip-off on the Frank Tinney-Imogene Wilson reconciliation. Lack of proof induced the editor to reject it. One week later the news made the front page -– of another newspaper. That was the last straw -– the one that almost broke Walter’s back. Then and there he decided to capitalize on the gossip he heard around town, and thus he started his famous pillar of prattle –- which was eventually to be the outlet for my reportorial ambitions. (How am I doing? Without a director, too!)

* * *

Unlike the majority of movie stars, who adopt fictitious names, Walter actually is a Winchell -– although it used to be spelled with one “l” until it was accidentally set up with the second “l” on a theater marquee … His reputation for scoring scoops covers everything from fifth columns to films. He wrote that “Made For Each Other” would be a box-office success before I had even seen the picture!

* * *

Walter can afford the best, but prefers wearing old shoes because he finds them more comfortable … And speaking of shoes, I think the cutest description of my legs was Walter’s, who gave a typewriter picture of them by describing them this way, !! (If I had legs like this (), I wouldn’t earn much pin-money.) … While one of my pet pleasures is to prepare an elegant dinner, from hors d’oeuvres to dessert, I don’t think I’d serve it to Walter. He eats sparingly and rapidly, and he’s food finicky. Not a chef in New York but gets special instructions from the boss when Walter orders. Yet with such opportunities to become a gourmet, his tastes are simple to the point of naivete. When he was in Hollywood last, he had the town’s swankiest restaurant in despair with his order for “basted eggs.” “But there is no such dish,” the maitre d’hotel protested. “Don’t tell me,” said Walter, “my mother basted them for years!” He meant shirred eggs!

* * *

Like Charlie Chaplin, William Powell and Babe Ruth, Walter is left-handed … He generally awakens at 5 p.m. (he retires at 10 a.m.) and a little later has “breakfast” while Mrs. Winchell and their two children, Walda and Walter Jr., have dinner … On his desk he uses a pair of baby shoes as paperweights. They are the first shoes ever worn by his unmarried son, age 5 … I shall never forget the first time I met Walter. I was seated at a premiere on the coast with Clark Gable, just before the lights went down, and I almost swallowed my gum when Clark said, “Meet Walter Winchell.” Just to be cute, with all the feminine sweetness I could command I turned to Walter and said, “You don’t like many people -– do you like me?” … “I’m crazy about you,” he replied, “but don’t be too sure of me!”


Some observations:

* Lombard notes Winchell’s “Americanism.” Walter had been a longtime supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, someone Carole also admired, and was among the first U.S. journalists to warn of the Nazis and the threat they represented. (Following World War II, he drifted to the right, engaging in feuds with black star Josephine Baker, liberal New York broadcaster Barry Gray and the New York Post, a liberal tabloid in its pre-Rupert Murdoch days.)

* Winchell appeared in several films, including two with bandleader Ben Bernie, with whom he had a noted feud, albeit an apolitical one along the lines of Jack Benny and Fred Allen. (Winchell had a more intense feud with New York Daily News columnist Ed Sullivan — yes, the man who later had a long-running variety show on CBS. They eventually made up.)

* I had no idea what Lombard was referring to when she mentioned “the Frank Tinney-Imogene Wilson reconciliation.” An Internet check revealed it was a scandal in 1924 where Tinney, a leading stage comedian of the time who often performed in blackface, was shown to be physically abusive to Wilson, a renowned Ziegfeld Follies dancer who was not his wife. Their reconciliation was short-lived; Wilson was fired from the Follies, moved to Germany and became a film actress, then returned to the U.S., where she had a brief movie career under the name Mary Nolan. Later, she became addicted to heroin and at age 42 died in Hollywood in late 1948.

* I have yet to come across Winchell’s “!!” reference to Lombard’s legs (might it have come as his response to the loving cup engraved with “To Carole Lombard, who gave publicity legs upon which to stand -– Russell Birdwell”?).

* Carole notes that night owl Winchell “has ‘breakfast’ while Mrs. Winchell and their two children, Walda and Walter Jr., have dinner.” As it turned out, you could have put quotation marks around “Mrs. Winchell,” too. Lombard likely didn’t know it, but Winchell never officially married his second wife, something he never made public because he didn’t want the public to know his daughter Walda was illegitimate. Winchell had numerous affairs over the years, including several with film actresses.

Winchell generally gave Carole good ink, but what may have been the last thing his column said about her during her lifetime might have given her reason to pause. It was on Oct. 12, 1941, and under the alter ego “Memos of a Girl Friday,” Winchell wrote:

“When coasters last week reported that Gable was going hunting without Carole Lombard because she was ill — his studio phoned me to tell you it was untrue. That’s why I told you they were together hunting in Watertown, S.D., happier than ever, etc. … Well, today, from what I call an excellent source, comes word that Carole will soon file. Carole is supposed to have so written pals.”

“Soon file” was Winchell argot for “soon seeking a divorce.” If any Lombard “pals” had written word of it from her, they certainly didn’t let on, either at the time or after her death.

Like others in the press, Winchell continued lionizing Lombard posthumously; in fact, in his column of Nov. 8, 1942, he wrote: “Warning to that Broadway night club: No free ads here until it removes from the lobby display — that likeness of Carole Lombard — posing in a dated ‘cheesecake.'” He believed it wasn’t tasteful to be shown less than 10 months after her death, while World War II was going on.

Winchell continued his power after the war, but his influence began to wane in the 1950s, especially since he never quite managed to conquer television. He was somewhat satirized in the 1957 Burt Lancaster drama “Sweet Smell Of Success,” but by then he was largely in the past tense — probably the reason he was hired to narrate episodes of “The Untouchables,” the TV series starring former Lombard cohort Robert Stack as Eliot Ness.

Winchell’s home base, the New York Daily Mirror, folded in October 1963; Hearst moved him to its Journal-American, which expired some 2 1/2 years later. With fewer and fewer papers carrying his column, Winchell shut it down in February 1969, dying three years later. I’m not sure if Manhattan has a memorial to him, but he does have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Incidentally, hope you enjoy my new header photo; it’s from Lombard’s 1933 potboiler, “White Woman.” We will attempt to change the photo each week.

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Miss Lombard and Mr. Winchell, part 1

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.30 at 17:27
Current mood: amusedamused

Few in filmdom better cultivated the press than Carole Lombard; she knew how to publicize her exploits in such a way that it was simultaneously significant and entertaining. That helped Carole immensely in her dealings with Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper, Jimmie Fidler and others in the Hollywood press corps — but she also had plenty of success with writers who weren’t based in the movie capital.

One of them was no stranger to Hollywood, but was predominantly identified with New York; in fact, his column usually featured “On Broadway” in its title. Moreover, his influence extended far beyond the entertainment world, frequently venturing into politics, and he became one of the first multimedia stars, gaining high ratings on radio. It’s difficult to overstate just how big a force he was in the 1930s and ’40s.

We are referring to Walter Winchell.

Winchell had been a vaudeville performer in the 1910s, moving into journalism in the early 1920s — first with a trade paper, the Vaudeville News, then with eccentric publisher Bernarr MacFadden’s foray into tabloid journalism, the New York Graphic. In June 1929, he left the struggling Graphic for Hearst’s tabloid New York Daily Mirror, adding a radio show the following year. At his peak, his column was carried in more than 2,000 newspapers. Here’s a sample of Winchell’s breezy journalism, circa 1940 (double-click to see it at full size):

How often did Winchell write about Lombard? It’s difficult to gauge from a 2011 perspective. Most of the larger papers that carried his column were in the Hearst chain, are now defunct and are difficult to track down on microfilm. But I have found a few samples, two of them coming in one column — from the Hearst-owned Rochester (N.Y.) Evening Journal of June 29, 1936, while Winchell was out on the Coast:

First, Winchell discusses feminine film beauty, listing his tops in 10 different categories (oh, and apologies for typos that probably prompted a few snickers around Rochester that day — he’s referring to Gail Patrick and Kay Francis):

(A loud cheer for the Lombard legs!)

Next, an anecdote about being out with Lombard and Clark Gable — and a reminder that even 75 years ago, people often acted boorishly around celebrities:

Incidentally, Hearst would close the Journal in 1937 when he began having financial difficulties.

Flash forward to August 1938, not long after Carole had spent a week handling publicity for Selznick International Pictures. Just as Johnny Carson used to do on the Tonight show, Winchell would employ other celebrities as guest columnists while he was vacationing. Lombard got the honors on Aug. 2 (probably through Selznick International publicist Russell Birdwell), and wrote her column in the form of a “letter” to Walter. I couldn’t track down an original copy of it, but thankfully Carla Valderrama’s site,, ran it a few years back — so here it is:


Dear Walter,

I tried to get you on the telephone the other day, but they told me you were on a 30-day vacation. Pretty soft! You see, I went into the press agenting business for a week, and I had a lot to tell you.

Before you make any cracks -– it wasn’t a gag. I took a desk, four telephones and two secretaries in Selznick International’s news bureau. The doors were open wide for six days. Any and all movie writers, radio gossipers, reporters and columnists -– you too –- were welcome to enter and hear the news.

You would have loved to have been here, Walter, when I called in Gene Fowler to be my rewrite man, and he interviewed John Hay (Jock) Whitney and David O. Selznick. Here’s how it went, according to Gene’s report:

Gene: Mr. Whitney, meet Mr. Selznick. He is president in charge of production.
Whitney: This is news to me. I thought he was part of the Roosevelt spending program.
Gene: How long will the partnership last?
Whitney: Forever. You see we are producing “Gone With The Wind.”
Gene: I hear that you have changed your racing colors since entering the movie business.
Whitney: Yes? To what?
Gene: Black and blue!

When I called you, Walter, I wanted to toss a couple of stories in your direction.

One was about plans to have the first transatlantic air clipper drop a wreath over the spot where the S.S. Titanic sank in 1912. The flowers would bear the legend, “To Those Who Showed The Way To Safety On The High Seas.” It is a dignified and newsworthy idea. Furthermore, Selznick is going to make a picture called “Titanic.”

Called the Duke of Windsor, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, H.G. Wells, Maude Adams, George Bernard Shaw and a few others on another idea — a round-the-world telephone poll on what noted people think on the casting of Norma Shearer and Clark Gable in “Gone With The Wind.” I couldn’t get a single answer. I defy even you to get past the Duke’s third secretary. As for the others, they weren’t in.

Governor Frank M. Merriam of California, I found out, is giving earnest consideration to “career insurance” for Hollywood stars. Nine extras, former stars themselves, who recently worked together on “The Young At Heart,” petitioned the governor for a law forcing present stars to save 10 per cent of their salaries for the future. The idea aroused widespread favorable comment.

By the time my week was over, Walter, I had handled 70 news stories, including one or two, I must admit, on my next picture, “Made For Each Other.” On the final day, they threw a party for me, and sent me out of the office with a three-foot gold loving cup, inscribed, “To Carole Lombard, who gave publicity legs upon which to stand -– Russell Birdwell.” The man Birdwell is Selznick’s nominal publicity and advertising head.

For stars who feel ego creeping up on them, I recommend a week’s trick in a studio news bureau. They’ll find that city editors don’t swoon at the sight or sound of so-called Hollywood names.

Time to sign off now. Here’s one you can have with no credits attached:

Did you hear about the producer who ordered a certain makeup man fired? The man, he said, made a star’s wig look too phony.

Well, the fellow told to execute the order slipped the bad news to the makeup man.

“But why?” said the man. “That was no wig. It was the star’s natural hair.”

“In that case,” said the lieutenant bouncer, “you’re canned anyway. Do you think I can tell the chief he was mistaken?”

Carole Lombard.

Oh, that wacky, wonderful Lombard.

However, that wasn’t the only time Carole pinch-hit for Winchell. See another example in tomorrow’s entry — along with a famed photo of them together.

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Something else that’s got it ‘Made’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.29 at 00:54
Current mood: excitedexcited

Let’s again use Carole Lombard’s 1939 film “Made For Each Other” as the basis for today’s entry. Here are publicity stills promoting the movie — first, Lombard with James Stewart; second, Carole, with baby in tow, meeting Charles Coburn.

However, the focus of this entry is on another still, one that doesn’t show Carole in character as newlywed Jane Mason, but a “glamour” shot. Back in those days, such pictures could be used on a newspaper’s movie page or in the “women’s” section; these images enabled the studio to build up the star and current fashion at the same time.

This stunning photo unfortunately lacks a snipe, so we don’t know who designed the outfit or other cogent information. The snipe was likely removed when used for one reason or another, but we can still learn a few things from the back:

This was used by the Hearst-owned King Features Syndicate, arriving in its New York office library on Nov. 14, 1938.

The photo is an original 8″ x 10″ in very good condition; there are some minor creases in the edges and corners. The owner is selling it for $225, and it will be available through 5:16 a.m. (Eastern) on Feb. 15. (For what it’s worth, the seller mistakenly believes “Made For Each Other” is a Paramount picture, when it was actually from Selznick International.)

If you’re interested in buying this attractive portrait, go to

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‘Made For Each Other,’ just a bit differently

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.28 at 01:32
Current mood: curiouscurious

This photo of Carole Lombard was taken in her dressing room while she worked on Selznick International’s “Made For Each Other,” It was an important transitional film for Lombard, as she temporarily bid adieu to her throne as “queen of the screwballs,” something the snipe on the back seemed to indicate:

“REFLECTION — Carole Lombard as a serious-minded bride in Selznick International’s ‘Made For Each Other,’ in which she is starred with James Stewart in a domestic drama of young married love, her first straight role since she reigned as the queen of ‘screwball’ comedy in the screen era just closed. Picture also presents Charles Coburn and Lucile Watson, directed by John Cromwell.”

Selznick publicity genius Russell Birdwell was giving the screwball genre a premature burial, however; several good films were still on the horizon, including one made by Carole roughly two years hence (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”).

Here are two posters from “Made For Each Other,” using an identical picture, but with several notable differences. First…

…a film that bills Carole ahead of Stewart (and don’t you like that safety pin “attachment”?). Now, a poster that uses the same artwork, but changes things around a bit:

Here, Stewart is top-billed, Lombard second and Coburn is added. So what gives?

Look at the smaller print and you may have a hint. The first photo correctly lists the screenplay as being by Jo Swerling, the second by “Joe” Swerling. A check of my “Made For Each Other” online inventory shows the same misspelling for this lobby card:

Underneath “Joe” is the line “Released thru Film Classics.” We know that in 1943, this firm acquired reissuing rights to several Selznick International films, including “Nothing Sacred” and “Made For Each Other.” By this time, Lombard was dead, Stewart an Air Force pilot and Coburn was not only working, but would win a best supporting actor Academy Award for “The More The Merrier.” So it would make sense that Film Classics would want to play up Coburn’s involvement. (As with its spelling, its rendering of the Lombard-Stewart photo is also demonstrably inferior to the earlier version.)

No matter which of these posters you may prefer, you can obtain 11″ x 17″ reproductions on eBay. Nine copies of each poster are available as of this writing; you can buy one straight up for $6.99 or make a bid. This will last through 12:09 a.m. (Eastern) on Feb. 8, so you have some time.

For the first, the original from Selznick International, go to×17-Carole-Lombard-/180610429725?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a0d38731d. As for the second poster, the one that lists Coburn, visit×14-Carole-Lombard-/170588520146?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27b7de3ed2.

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The snipe completes the story

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.27 at 00:28
Current mood: productiveproductive

Perhaps a picture does say a thousand words, as that old saying goes…but when it comes to photos from classic Hollywood, a snipe clarifies the pictorial language. Two Carole Lombard images give proof.

Take this one, for example — a shot of Carole playing tennis from 1935. It’s p1202-1178 (we think; that last digit might be a “3”). What is Paramount trying to promote? With just the photo, we can hazard a few guesses, but thankfully this has a snipe attached to the back:

And here’s what it says:

“NOT A BALLET DANCER — but one of Hollywood’s best women tennis players is beautiful Carole Lombard, soon to appear in Paramount’s ‘Hands Across The Table.’ This spirited action picture shows the blonde star during a heated moment of the game.”

The image appears more posed than “heated” to me — if Lombard were 26 years old today, I sense her tennis style would be a bit more aggressive — but no matter. We learn this was used by the studio to promote “Hands Across The Table,” something we might have surmised from the 1935 date, but this confirms things. (But the snipe is accurate; she’s not a ballet dancer.)

Another example is a fairly familiar still from one of Carole’s more notable films, “Nothing Sacred”:

Most longtime Lombard collectors have probably seen that image, of Carole’s Hazel Flagg alongside the fine character actor Charles Winninger. What more is there to learn about it? Here’s what the snipe says:

“RHUMBA TIME — Carole Lombard and Charles Winninger break into a rhumba at the conclusion of a gay whirl around New York, in which Fredric March led the way. The picture, ‘Nothing Sacred,’ co-starring Miss Lombard and March, and directed by William A. Wellman, has New York for its background and is made in technicolor.”

Of course, “Rumba,” without the “h,” was the other Lombard film of 1935. (And were Lombard and Winninger to take “a gay whirl around New York” today, chances are the itinerary would be far different!) But this snipe, composed by Selznick International publicity whiz Russell Birdwell, does its job by promoting the film, its stars and director.

Both of these images are original photographs, and both can be yours through eBay, although the deadline on their sale is just after noon (Eastern) on Friday. The tennis photo is available for $35, at, while the “Nothing Sacred” image sells for $30 and is at

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A Depressing situation

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.26 at 01:47
Current mood: depresseddepressed

When looking back at classic Hollywood, it’s so easy to get caught up in the glamour that we often forget show business is as much “business” as “show,” if not more so. Mesmerized by Carole Lombard’s beauty and wardrobe, we overlook the work that went into her craft.

At roughly the same time Carole posed for the top portrait, she was working on her latest film, “Sinners In The Sun.” It’s the spring of 1932, not the best of times for the industry, and it’s likely that Lombard and everyone else on the production knew it.

The crash of October 1929 initially affected only those holding stocks; much of the country went on as it always had, and the movies, buoyed by the novelty of sound, did record business in 1930. However, converting theaters to talking pictures was expensive, and when the bottom fell out of the economy in 1931, unemployment soared and movie attendance declined. Despite a number of artistic triumphs in 1932 — a pretty good year where film quality was concerned — things didn’t get better.

In early May, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences convened some 400 of its members to discuss conditions, and what the industry should do about it. The fine blog “Hollywood Heyday,” which has been examining 1932 for some time now through newspaper and magazine articles, described what the meeting was like (

Said Sidney R. Kent, new president of Fox Film Corporation:

“The industry is in a very serious condition. The next few months in my opinion will be the most critical months the industry has ever faced. Grosses are going down and we haven’t yet been able to cut expenses enough. We have got to strike a balance, on the work of executives as well as of stars and directors. The industry must get down to brass tacks.”

Some outsiders probably expressed skepticism — after all, one of the reasons the Academy was initially founded was to give management unity in case its hired hands, whether technicians, actors, directors or writers, tried to form those dreaded unions — but even the doubters could see where Kent was coming from. He continued:

“In my opinion, a three- to five-year struggle lies ahead of the industry. I too would like to see a complete recovery by August 1, but I am not sure that would be best, for it is important that the industry come back right rather than it come back in three months with a half-cure.”

Kent blamed over-expansion in prosperous years for the business’ present difficulties, as well as problems arising from the introduction of sound into films such as limitation of the market.

M.A. Lightman of Memphis, head of the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America, said the industry had too many theaters, too many seats, and that some houses needed to close.

Warners mogul Jack Warner, shown with Al Jolson during headier times a few years before, “told of his own company’s being overburdened with theaters, and declares the acceptance of salary cuts essential to the survival of the industry,” according to an Associated Press account of the meeting.

But were studios listening? Maybe, maybe not. At about the same time the convocation took place, Paramount announced its forthcoming schedule of releases for 1932-33.

Some 45 features were on the docket, including several originally promoted with Carole in the cast: “Pick-Up”…

…and “The Glass Key”…

Other announced features she would be associated with or rumored to be doing, but never made, included “The Girl Without A Room,” “Hot Saturday” and “The Big Broadcast.” And that doesn’t include a partially-shot segment, which was never completed, of the multi-director movie “If I Had A Million.” (One film listed she did was “No Bed Of Her Own,” later retitled “No Man Of Her Own” — and she got the part only because Miriam Hopkins dropped out over not being top-billed.)

Universal, which unlike Paramount owned no theaters, announced its schedule at about the same time, and had only 26 films planned. To some extent, Paramount’s size and large roster of players worked against it, but so did its status as a director-oriented studio where top-down management was relatively weak. It’s no wonder the studio was soon forced to reorganize.

Yes, times were bad, in Hollywood and elsewhere. In fact, one actress who had quit Paramount — and the industry — not long before went to New York to seek secretarial work, but found no takers although she had office experience. So she decided to return west, a fortuitous move on her part. The actress? Jean Arthur.

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Serving up a Lubitsch five-course Friday

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.25 at 01:40
Current mood: amusedamused

Carole Lombard had known Ernst Lubitsch for about a decade before she finally had the opportunity to act in a film he directed. In 1931, Lombard lobbied hard to get the role given to the more experienced Miriam Hopkins in “The Smiling Lieutenant.” In 1935, Lubitsch briefly served as Paramount’s head of production — the only occasion in classic Hollywood history where a major studio gave a director that kind of authority — and while he didn’t direct any of Carole’s films, he had a lot to do with them during his brief tenure in that position (notably “Hands Across The Table”). For the rest of her tenure at Paramount, she was treated like the top-tier star she was, and Lubitsch’s guidance played a key role.

Lombard finally made a film for Lubitsch, what would be her last, “To Be Or Not To Be” (Lubitsch is shown on the set with co-star Jack Benny). It would be the victim of bad timing; the U.S. had entered World War II as production was nearing an end, and Lombard died shortly before the film’s release. Consequently, many people — not even some staunch Lubitsch fans — were in the mood to see this film when it came out.

As time went on, history vindicated Lubitsch, and “To Be Or Not To Be” has justly been recognized as a brilliant dark comedy. Friday marks the anniversary of his birth, and Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is commemorating it with five fine examples of “the Lubitsch touch.” Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

* 10:30 a.m. — “The Shop Around The Corner” (1940). For many years, this workplace comedy of manners set in a Budapest store went relatively unappreciated, but now it’s being recognized as the masterpiece it is; there’s not one false note throughout the picture. An excellent cast, headed by Frank Morgan (perhaps his finest performance), James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. (There’s a non-Lubitsch Stewart-Sullavan pairing at 9 a.m., 1938’s “The Shopworn Angel.”)

* 12:30 p.m. — “To Be Or Not To Be” (1942).

* 2:30 p.m. — “Ninotchka” (1939). Greta Garbo shows off her comedic chops (and how about that hat!) as a Soviet official sent to Paris, only to fall under its decadent spell. Had William Powell not fallen ill, he would have played the male lead, but instead that went to Melvyn Douglas.

* 4:30 p.m. — “The Merry Widow” (1934). Lubitsch made several memorable musical comedies at Paramount with Maurice Chevalier and/or Jeanette MacDonald. Here all three reunite at MGM for some frothy fun, aided by Una Merkel and Edward Everett Horton.

* 6:30 p.m. — “Trouble In Paradise” (1932). An elegant heist story, as jewel thieves (Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins) plan to rob Kay Francis, only to have love get in the way. Many view this as Lubitsch’s finest achievement.

To get you in the mood for Friday, and to show “the Lubitsch touch” at work, watch this exchange between Lombard and Robert Stack — who’d known Carole since he was a boy — from “To Be Or Not To Be.” If double entendres can be deemed elegant, they certainly are here:

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Carole gets animated

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.24 at 11:53
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

No, not in that sense, though the event we’re referring to occurred while “Nothing Sacred” (and “True Confession”) were in theaters, briefly making Carole Lombard the hottest actress in the film industry. It’s Dec. 21, 1937, and Lombard and Clark Gable are among movie VIP’s attending the world premiere of a landmark film — and what appeared to be a monumental gamble. The movie?

Walt Disney’s “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.”

These days, with a new animated feature in theaters seemingly every week, it’s difficult to comprehend the risk Disney was taking with this endeavor. While the public had made Mickey Mouse, introduced less than a decade before, a global icon and Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” were also major hits, the jury was out on whether people would go for an animated film of feature length. The mere cost of such a project seemed daunting.

But Disney persevered, getting significant financial backing from the Bank of America among other investors. (One of them was General Foods, which made a million-dollar deal in 1934 to market Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters on boxes of Post Toasties; the feature cost $1.5 million to make.) A few days before Christmas 1937, Walt unveiled “Snow White” to the world at the Carthay Circle theater in Los Angeles.

Here’s how the RKO-Pathe newsreel covered it; while Gable and Lombard aren’t shown arriving, you will see Marlene Dietrich with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Shirley Temple, Preston Foster and Louella Parsons:

(Incidentally, this event marked the first time Disney characters had appeared in costume.)

Other notables on hand included Charlie Chaplin with Paulette Goddard, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Cary Grant, Gail Patrick, Jack Benny, John Barrymore, Norma Shearer and Judy Garland. Despite a chilly evening, more than 30,000 showed up to watch the stars arrive.

Among those who didn’t have tickets? Adrianna Caselotti and Harry Stockwell, who voiced Snow White and the Prince. But just as their cartoon alter egos would have appreciated, this story had a happy ending, as Caselotti later explained:

“When we got to the door, the girl said, ‘May I have your tickets, please?’ I said, ‘Tickets? We don’t have any tickets —- I’m Snow White and this is Prince Charming!’ She said, ‘I don’t care who you are, you don’t get in unless you’ve got tickets!’ So, we sneaked in when she wasn’t looking and we went upstairs to one side of the balcony and I stood there watching myself on the screen and all those movie stars clapping for me. Boy! Did I get a thrill out of that!”

Caselotti may have been thrilled, but others involved with the project were nervous. While “Snow White” had drawn a good reaction two weeks earlier at a sneak preview in Pomona, how would Hollywood bigwigs react? Animator Ward Kimball took in the action — and guess who was seated in front of him?

“We didn’t know how it would go over. Walt was on pins and needles. We sat down. Movie stars were sitting in seats. Betty and I sat behind Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.”

And their reaction to the film?

“Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were sitting close, and when Snow White was poisoned, stretched out on that slab, they started blowing their noses. I could hear it — crying — that was the big surprise. We worried about the serious stuff, and whether they would feel for this girl, and when they did, I knew it was in the bag. …

“It’s hard to believe but the people in the audience were really blowing their noses. I heard all this noise and I said, ‘Betty, let’s run out and watch them come out in the lobby.’ They came out and they were rummaging around putting on dark glasses so no one would know they had been crying and their eyes were all red. They were wiping their eyes. It was a very moving experience. We knew it was a winner then.”

Layout artist Ken O’Connor said the audience not only loved the story, but appreciated the artistry that went into telling it:

“The audience was wildly enthusiastic. They even applauded the background and layouts when no animation was on the screen. I was sitting near John Barrymore when the shot of the Queen’s castle above the mist came on with the Queen poling across the marsh in a little boat. He was bouncing up and down in his seat he was so excited. Barrymore was an artist as well as an actor, and he knew the kind of work that went into something like that.”

When the lights came back on, Walt addressed the audience from the stage in understandable triumph: “I always dreamed that one day I would attend a gala premiere in Hollywood of one of my cartoons. Tonight you’ve made it come true. You make me feel like one of you.”

Even before the film had begun, the public had been buying advance sale tickets for performances at the Carthay Circle. Now the demand was huge. “Snow White” played at the theater for four months, with a Spanish-language version, “Blanca Nieves y los Siete Enanos,” shown there on Sundays beginning in February. By the time the first release ended, it had grossed $8.5 million, a record that would be topped two years later by Gable’s “Gone With The Wind,” which made its Hollywood premiere at the Carthay Circle.

The theater, shown during the premiere of another 1937 film, “The Life Of Emile Zola,” played a major part in Disney lore. Not only did “Snow White” premiere there, but it was also the first theater to carry a Disney “Silly Symphony,” in 1929, when most distributors were skeptical whether Walt could produce product beyond Mickey Mouse. So while the actual L.A. Carthay Circle closed in 1968 and was subsequently razed, it lives again 3,000 miles to the east, in Orlando, Fla., as part of the Disney Hollywood studio complex, and inside you can see photos of that historic night in December of ’37:

Incidentally, if you’re a “Snow White” buff, you’ll want to visit “Filmic Light: A Snow White Archive” (, a site featuring virtually everything related to this epochal movie.

P.S. Hope you like the new look of “Carole & Co.”, as I changed the color scheme and put up a new header photo.

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‘Clang-clang-clang went the trolley…’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.23 at 01:54
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

Since “Carole & Co.” was created more than 43 months ago, we’ve uncovered all sorts of Carole Lombard memorabilia. Today’s entry examines one of the more unusual items, and it has to do with this:

These are riders boarding a streetcar in St. Louis during the 1940s (specifically, Oct. 15, 1944), and chances are many of them possessed something called the “Shopper-Theater Weekly Pass” issued by the St. Louis Public Service Co., the city’s transit agency. For 75 cents, one could ride all bus and streetcar routes that week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. weekdays and throughout the day on Sunday. (In 1948, the pass price was increased to $1.)

I’m guessing downtown merchants and theater owners created the program with transit operators, as it boosted business for everyone involved. From the types of general shopping ads on the passes (no particular store was mentioned), it was a promotion geared to women — and one guesses a few of those shown above used them.

From the movie buff’s perspective, these passes are valuable memorabilia because each advertised a film coming to a downtown house (again, no particular theater was mentioned, just the movie and an accompanying photo). As it turns out, 35 of these vintage passes are being auctioned as a package at eBay, and the oldest of them is for…

…”To Be Or Not To Be,” Carole’s last picture (with a still from it shown at the top of this entry). This pass was for the week of March 22 to 28, 1942, slightly more than two months after Lombard’s death. It also reminds riders to “select your Easter apparel now.”

The collection advertises 34 different films (for some reason, there are two different cards for William Powell’s “The Senator Was Indiscreet”), and here they are:

Films advertised include “The Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek,” “Red River,” “Mrs. Miniver” and “Reap The Wild Wind”; and just in case you didn’t notice, “Meet Me In St. Louis” is not in the collection. (One presumes that if those were ever issued, they were quickly hoarded.) I have no idea whether similar promotions were done in other cities, nor do I know when this campaign began and ended. (The latest pass shown here is from January 1949, for “The Snake Pit.”)

Each pass measures 2.5″ x 4″, about the scale of the pass with Lombard’s image shown earlier, and all are in normal used condition. As of this writing, one bid, for $49.99 (more than the original cost of all the passes combined), has been made, with bidding closing at 3:39 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. To place a bid, or learn more, go to

As was the case in other cities, the streetcars in St. Louis were gradually converted to bus lines. Here’s one shown still running in July 1958, eight years before the entire system became buses. However, streetcars are making a comeback. Last July, federal funding was approved for a seven-mile line, with construction scheduled to start later this year and the line operating before the end of 2012. It will be called the Loop Trolley, and you just know that when it starts running, somebody on board is going to sing this Judy Garland classic:

A famed recipe to keep you chili

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.22 at 09:55
Current mood: hungryhungry

Earlier this week, we discussed the ties between Carole Lombard and Alfred Hitchcock, who’s shown with her and Robert Montgomery on the set of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” And it’s appropriate this is from a scene at a restaurant, because that’s the angle of today’s entry.

According to Robby Cress in his fine blog “Dear Old Hollywood” (, when Hitchcock arrived in Hollywood in 1939, Lombard and Clark Gable took him to dinner at Chasen’s on Beverly Boulevard, a restaurant less than three years old at the time but already a favorite of the film community. Hitch and his wife became regulars at the restaurant, usually on Thursdays. While I’m hardly surprised to discover that Lombard had dined at Chasen’s, this was the first definite link I’d seen.

Chasen’s, founded by ex-vaudevillian Dave Chasen — a good friend of director Frank Capra — had a star-studded (and loyal) clientele, ranging from George Burns and Gracie Allen to Ronald Reagan (the future president proposed to Nancy Davis at a Chasen’s booth) and James Stewart. However, as time went on, it became increasingly less trendy, and it closed in April 1995. Here’s the interior of the place as it looked in June 1987:

Chasen’s menu had many favorites, but it was perhaps most renowned for its chili; its adherents were legion. In fact, while in Rome filming “Cleopatra” in 1962, Elizabeth Taylor spent $100 to have it shipped to her (encased in dry ice). I have no idea whether Lombard ever had Chasen’s chili, but while the restaurant may be long gone, the recipe lives on, and you can replicate this famous dish in your own home.

1/2 pound dried pinto beans
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 pounds beef chuck, coarsely chopped
1 pound pork shoulder, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup Gebhardt’s chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Farmer Brothers ground cumin

1. Rinse the beans, picking out debris. Place beans in a Dutch oven with water to cover. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand one hour. Drain off liquid.
2. Rinse beans again. Add enough fresh water to cover beans. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour or until tender.
3. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Simmer five minutes. In a large skillet saute bell pepper in oil for five minutes. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and parsley. Add mixture to bean mixture. Using the same skillet, melt the butter and saute beef and pork chuck until browned. Drain. Add to bean mixture along with the chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin.
4. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for one hour. Uncover and cook 30 minutes more or to desired consistency. Chili shouldn’t be too thick — it should be somewhat liquid but not runny like soup. Skim off excess fat and serve.

Makes 10 cups, or six main dish servings.

It’s delectable just looking at it, a dish that could really warm you up. One wonders if Carole brought some by for Clark on that cool June evening in ’38 when he was filming “Too Hot To Handle.” (If so, I hope there was some left over for Myrna Loy and the others on hand.)


Springtime at the ‘Rocky’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.21 at 01:11
Current mood: coldcold

It’s an uncharacteristically chilly June night in southern California in 1938, and Carole Lombard pays a visit to Clark Gable on the set of his MGM picture, the ironically named “Too Hot To Handle.” (The weird curl atop Lombard’s head predicts “There’s Something About Mary” some 60 years later; could this photo be why some compare Cameron Diaz to Carole?)

Nine months later, temperatures cold more than 1,000 miles to the east, in Denver, Colo. — though it’s expected to get above freezing on this March 30, 1939 — but the many fans of Clark and Carole have something to warm themselves up with: They’ve finally married!

The report comes from the Rocky Mountain News, a Scripps-Howard newspaper (the chain’s trademark lighthouse is in the upper left-hand corner) which had a long and legendary rivalry with the Denver Post. For decades, the News and Post went at it, and as late as the 1990s, both papers had good circulation and were selling plenty of advertising. But the Post gradually gained the upper hand, and the “Rocky,” as locals nicknamed it, published its final edition in late February 2009 — two months shy of its 150th anniversary.

Here’s a greyscale closeup of the Gable-Lombard story, though the copy is difficult to read:

This 16-page newspaper, in good condition, can be yours, whether you’re seeking a keepsake of Lombard or Gable, a famed newspaper now defunct, or both. It measures 16″ x 23″, and bids start at $9.99. No bids have been made as of this writing, and bids close soon — 7:23 p.m. (Eastern) tonight.

Think you’re interested? Then go to

Oh, and to those people in Denver: Just wait a few hours. Given that city’s notoriously variable weather, you may have a heat wave before April Fool’s Day. (But you knew that.)

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Marion Davies sees a new frontier

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.20 at 01:05
Current mood: impressedimpressed

Incredible picture, isn’t it? It’s part of a group scene from a party in February 1936, and it shows Carole Lombard with good friend Marion Davies and Douglas Fairbanks…senior at top, junior below him. Now that’s a dynasty — and speaking of such, today marks a major anniversary for another American dynasty; it was 50 years ago today that John F. Kennedy took the oath of office as president of the United States.

So what do the two events have in common? Marion Davies, that’s what. She’s somewhere on the stand, fairly close to the new president, though to be honest I can’t specifically pinpoint her. (She is reportedly behind the Kennedy family.) She was there as a guest of JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, a longtime friend from his days as a filmland mogul. Marion had also contributed money, and time, to John’s campaign, letting him and his entourage stay at her Beverly Hills home while the Democratic convention was being held in Los Angeles in July 1960.

(Imagine if something similar happened in today’s environment of highly-charged talk radio and cable TV — a presidential candidate getting help from, and then paying tribute to, a woman who had been a longtime mistress. We would never hear the end of it, regardless of which party or ideology was involved.)

Davies was relatively apolitical compared to some other Hollywood notables who aided the Kennedy campaign. (Myrna Loy, a longtime Democratic activist, made appearances on behalf of JFK, and it is said her visit to Syracuse, N.Y., my hometown at the time, helped put that city in the Kennedy camp.) But, as said, Marion felt obliged to help a family friend.

Davies also used her considerable wealth in other ways; in October 1960, a children’s medical wing at UCLA was opened and named for her after she donated $1.5 million. With extensive real estate holdings and a good business sense, Davies was worth about $20 million in 1960.

Marion could still be charming, but she was now in her sixties and it had been close to a decade after William Randolph Hearst, the man she dearly loved but could never marry, had died at age 88. Alcoholism had taken its toll on her. This is one of the last photos ever taken of Davies, in 1959 with her husband, Horace Brown:

The Kennedy inauguration was essentially a public last hurrah for Davies. She was suffering from cancer of the jaw that would result in some disfigurement, and not long after returning from the east, she broke her leg. She was hospitalized much of the summer of 1961, took a turn for the worse and died in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.

To commemorate this historic anniversary, here is Kennedy’s complete inaugural address, just as Davies witnessed it close to the new president. It remains stirring oratory, and if all you’ve ever heard from it is the phrase “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” I think you will more fully comprehend this speech, and how Kennedy inspired millions. Embedding of the address — from the JFK library — has been disabled by request, but you can see and hear it at

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January 21, 1942 – a sad farewell …

Posted by [info]cinemafan2 on 2011.01.20 at 22:42

On this day 69 years ago Carole Lombard Gable and her mother Elizabeth K. Peters were laid to rest in the Great Mausoleum of Forest Lawn, in Glendale, California much as she had requested. The entombment was preceded by a brief invitation only funeral service in Forest Lawn’s Church of the Recessional.

One of the invitations to the funeral service.

The Church of the Recessional in Forest Lawn, Glendale.

Recently I read the archive of the Los Angeles Times for a description of this event.  There were 46 invited guests who attended the funeral service that was held shortly after both Carole’s and her mother’s remains were returned from Las Vegas by train with Clark Gable accompanying them.

The invitees included amongst others: Clark Gable’s father; Carole’s two brothers, Frederich and Stewart;  Madalynne Fields Lang, Carole longtime friend and former secretary, (her husband, Walter Lange served as a pall bearer); Dixie Pantages Karlson, Carole’s lifetime friend and her husband, director Phil Karlson; William Powell, Lombard’s first husband and his wife, “Mousie”; Spencer Tracy and his wife Louise Treadwell Tracy; Jean Garceau, Carole’s last and then Gable’s secretary and actress Myna Loy.  Lewis B. Mayer, Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling represented MGM.

Clark Gable entered the chapel quitely through a private family entrance.  He sat with his father and an MGM official, unseen by the other attendees in a family alcove, “inconsolable and unapproachable”.

     The private family entrance to the Church of the Recessional.

Among Carole’s pall bearers were Walter Lang, the film director and husband of Madalynne Fields, and Zeppo Marx, the comedian/actor, agent and longtime friend of Carole.  Both Walter Lang and Zeppo Marx along with Stewart Peters, Carole’s brother, had served as pall bearers seven and a half years earlier at the funeral of Russ Columbo.  Carole’s casket was also covered with a pall of white gardenias, with orchids added.

Zeppo Marx, Walter Lang and Stewart Peters serving as pall bearers for Russ Columbo.  Russ’ coffin is covered by a pall of gardenias, a gift from Carole.  The pall bearers also wear them.

After the brief service in the Church of the Recessional which consisted of two readings of psalms and a work of poetry, Carole and her mother’s remains were tranported the short distance to the Sanctuary of Trust in the Great Mausoleum where they were entombed side by side. (A carefully folded white dress had been placed inside Carole’s coffin before it was sealed.)

   The main entrance to the Great Mausoleum.

Almost nineteen years later, Clark Gable was buried alongside of Carole and her mother.  And twenty three years after that Kathleen (Kay) Gable, Clark’s fifth wife and widow, was buried discretely in the same alcove, one row beneath and three positions to the left of her late husband.

Elizabeth Peters and her daughter, Carole, in Chicago, one week earlier on January 14, 1942.

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Rarities not ‘To Be’ forgotten

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.19 at 01:28
Current mood: melancholymelancholy

Above is a fairly common still from “To Be Or Not To Be,” Carole Lombard’s final film. Two considerably rarer images from the movie, both originals, have just been put up for sale at eBay. Both measure 8″ x 10″ and are sepia-toned.

First, we see Lombard’s character, Maria Tura, looking at Professor Siletsky:

Next, a far more upset Maria being taken captive by the Nazis:

These photos are being sold together for $100; I do not know whether they were issued before Lombard’s death. If interested, go to

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Two, new, to view

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.18 at 00:31
Current mood: curiouscurious

The merry-go-round of Carole Lombard items at eBay has been a largely unexciting carousel of late, at least from my perspective. Sure, there are plenty of items — nearly 1,700 as of last count — but many of them are things I’ve viewed before, didn’t sell on previous go-rounds and have been brought back by the sellers for another try.

However, I did see a pair of Lombard images that I didn’t recognize, and so I thought I’d share them with you. Because of watermarks in the lower right-hand corner, the p1202 numbers are obscured, preventing me from supplying them to you. But from Carole’s appearance, I’m guessing these were made between 1934 and 1937, her final few years at Paramount.

Both of these images are 8″ x10″, and each are being sold for $9.95. First up:

It appears Lombard is holding a cigarette between the fingers of her left hand, and the angle of her pose sets off her eyes. You can learn more about this pic — or buy it — by going to

The next shot is also cross-legged, but somewhat more sober, featuring a contemplative Carole:

Just what is on her mind? I couldn’t venture to guess an answer, but if you want to buy it and figure it out, visit

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CMBA Hitchcock Blogathon: ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.17 at 00:26
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

For many years, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” was a cinematic orphan of sorts. It was snubbed by the Alfred Hitchcock community (“It wasn’t true Hitch; after all, it was a comedy!”) and only grudgingly accepted by Carole Lombard fans, often for the opposite reason (“It’s an OK movie –- disregard who directed it”).

Hitchcock himself didn’t help much with his responses the few times he was asked about the film, saying little other than that he had done it as a favor to Lombard, who’s shown above directing him in his customary cameo. (And that may be true; Hitch’s first American home was the St. Cloud Road residence that Carole rented to him following her marriage to Clark Gable.) And in 2005, memories of the movie were further muddled when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie did an unrelated film of the same name -– though it was an adaptation of a novel by that title.

In recent years, the 1941 “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” has undergone a re-evaluation. To be sure, it’s still an anomaly in the Hitchcock canon, and will likely always be seen as such, but it’s moved up a bit in the Lombard hierarchy -– maybe not alongside her “big four” of “Twentieth Century,” “My Man Godfrey,” “Nothing Sacred” and “To Be Or Not To Be,” but as part of a highly-regarded second tier with “Hands Across The Table,” “Virtue” and “Vigil In The Night” (the last of these a heavy drama more respected than loved). And while romantic comedy may not have been Hitch’s forte, he did have a sense of humor about his work, and that adds to the “Smith” allure, which is probably why Lombard wanted him to direct.

Two other factors have worked against “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” The first is its theme — the marital squabbles of a Manhattan couple, leading to their separation and their comical attempts at one-upsmanship. Sounds a lot like “The Awful Truth,” doesn’t it? (“Truth” was frequently adapted for radio, including a 1940 version starring Lombard and Robert Young.) While “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” doesn’t quite hit the heights of the film “The Awful Truth,” and it actually takes the concept in a slightly different direction, Norman Krasna’s script is nonetheless appealing, if dated in many ways. (More on that later.)

Many believe the male lead is a second drawback to “Smith,” in that he’s not Cary Grant (whom Lombard, as de facto producer, sought but couldn’t get), who had starred in “Truth” with Irene Dunne. Fate would thus deny film buffs a chance to see the king and queen of the screwball comedy co-starring in that genre. We instead get Robert Montgomery, who might not have had Cary’s charisma but was an accomplished actor and fine farceur in his own right. (However, his personality is at times overpowered by Lombard’s, something that probably wouldn’t have happened with Grant in that role.)

It’s important to remember that when this film was made in late 1940 (then released in early 1941), Hitchcock wasn’t yet Hitchcock in the eyes of U.S. moviegoers. Yes, he had achieved American success with “Rebecca” and “Foreign Correspondent,” and his British films had gained him some earlier stateside renown, but he hadn’t yet become a “brand name.” No, the big angle for “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” was Carole’s return to comedy after several dramatic roles that, while generally well-received by critics, did tepidly at the box office.

And Hitchcock photographs Lombard lovingly. Her initial scene, where she peeks out from under a blanket, is sublime, and that elegant sex appeal lasts throughout the movie. Whether it was Hitchcock’s direction or simply returning to the genre she was most comfortable in, she seems liberated from her previous serious self.

Hitchcock also provides a bit of a chilling undercurrent, as if he were saying to the audience, “Were there no Production Code, just imagine where I’d take these characters.” For example, take the Ferris wheel scene, where Carole’s character Ann and her (ex-)husband David’s best friend -– among those trying to woo her now that her marriage to David technically never took place -– ride, only to be stopped at the top when the power goes out…and it starts raining. The way it’s handled, you can almost sense Hitch’s macabre glee.

Hitchcock also adds a tone of despair, rare for the romantic comedy, when Ann and David, hoping to rekindle the flame, return to the Italian restaurant where their courtship began. The place has fallen on hard times; no one dines there any more aside from a few cats, and a multi-ethnic crew of urchins stares at the couple as if to wonder, “What are you two doing here?”

Perhaps the most jarring scene in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” at least from a 2011 perspective, comes when Ann -– who now lives on her own after throwing David out of the apartment they had called home -– gets a job in a department store, only to have David come in and tell store officials she is his wife. Ann is then fired, as the manager explains that it is store policy “not to employ married women.” That, of course, would be illegal today (and likely lead to boycotts of that store), but with the economy not entirely up to full speed in 1940 and unemployment still a problem for many families, two-paycheck households were frowned upon. (Some 70 years later, many two-paycheck households can barely make ends meet!)

Carole Lombard’s premature death has led to many “what-ifs,” and one of them deals with Hitch. Might she have joined the ranks of the “Hitchcock blondes,” assuming she technically wasn’t one already? (Many place a Ford Frick-style asterisk beside her name because she was in a comedy.) It’s easy to look at Hitch’s later films, note the female lead and then substitute Carole (though it only goes so far, since by the 1950s she would have been too old to have played roles that went to Grace Kelly, Kim Novak or Eva Marie Saint), but it’s also simplistic.

Had Hitchcock wanted Lombard for a project, he likely would have found a property that best suited her -– and that might have been something he never actually filmed. (Some claim Carole wasn’t “icy” enough to have been a prototypical Hitchcock blonde. But as was the case with Lombard and Columbia mogul Harry Cohn, her give-and-take — the ability to challenge a man on his own terms –- won Hitch’s admiration.)

It’s entirely possible Hitchcock and Lombard might have collaborated in a different manner. Several stars began producing films after World War II, and with her keen interest in the business side of the industry, there’s a very good chance Carole would have gone in that direction –- and not only for films she would have appeared in. Perhaps she would have sought Hitch to make a film or two for her production company.

Interesting things to ponder while watching -– and belatedly appreciating -– “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”

Note: The other Hitchcock blogathon reviews are in; find them at Films reviewed are:

“The Birds” -– Classic Film & TV Café
“Dial M for Murder” -– True Classics: The ABCs of Film
“The Lady Vanishes” -– MacGuffin Movies
“Lifeboat” -– Classicfilmboy’s Movie Paradise
“The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956) -– Reel Revival
“Marnie” -– My Love of Old Hollywood
“North By Northwest” -– Bette’s Classic Movie Blog
“Notorious” -– Twenty Four Frames
“The Pleasure Garden” -– Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
“Rear Window” -– Java’s Journey
“Rebecca” -– ClassicBecky’s Film and Literary Review
“Rope” –- Kevin’s Movie Corner
“Shadow of a Doubt” -– Great Entertainers Media Archive
“The 39 Steps” -– Garbo Laughs
Three classic Hitchcock killers -– The Lady Eve’s Reel Life
“Torn Curtain” — Via Margutta 51
“The Trouble with Harry” -– Bit Part Actors
“Vertigo” -– Noir and Chick Flicks
“The Wrong Man” -– The Movie Projector

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Bittersweet photos

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.16 at 00:50
Current mood: sadsad

Above are photos of Carole Lombard. first, shown alongside her mother, Elizabeth Peters, second, with her second husband, Clark Gable. Attractive images, though the reprint quality admittedly isn’t the best — but had it not been for tragedy, these might never have come to light.

For these pictures ran in newspapers on Jan. 17, 1942, the day after the airplane carrying Lombard, her mother, and Army pilots crashed into a mountain in Nevada:

Of course, hundreds of newspapers ran the sad news; the loss of servicemen only 40 days after Pearl Harbor would have been a big story, whether or not there had been a celebrity on board. But Carole’s presence — especially returning from the first World War II bond rally — added poignancy. The U.S. was now in wartime, and this news hit home hard.

At “Carole & Co.”, I’ve rarely dwelt on the crash, what led to it and such, for the simple reason — one I’ve frequently stated — that this community exists not to focus on how Lombard died, but examine, and celebrate, how she lived. That was why she was both a successful actress and a beloved personality both inside and outside the entertainment industry. I previously haven’t run newspaper accounts of her death, and the only reason I’ve included these are because these photos shows how two communities whom Carole had graced remembered her.

The first, from the Chicago Sun, founded the year before by Marshall Field III of department store fame, is of Lombard and her mother in Chicago only a few days before the crash, as Carole received her instructions for the Indianapolis bond event from Treasury Department officials. (Her mother went to her hometown of Fort Wayne, saw friends, then met up with her daughter in Indianapolis.) The Sun would merge with another Chicago paper later in the decade to form the Chicago Sun-Times, now a tabloid best known as Roger Ebert’s home base.

The second photo is from the end of 1940, when Lombard and Gable went to Johns Hopkins Hospital; the public was told it was so Clark could have work done on a sore shoulder, and that may have been done, but the actual reason the Gables were there wasn’t disclosed for many years — it was to determine why the couple was unable to conceive. This was from the files of the Baltimore News-Post, a Hearst afternoon daily that lasted until it merged with Hearst’s morning Baltimore American in 1964. The successor, the News-American, expired in May 1986.

It was 69 years ago today. We remember, and mourn, all those lost.

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Set sail with a ‘Princess’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.15 at 00:10
Current mood: chipperchipper

This spring marks the 75th anniversary of one of Carole Lombard’s more charming, if not entirely satisfying, films at Paramount, “The Princess Comes Across.” It was her second movie co-starring Fred MacMurray, and while Carole delights as a faux Swedish princess making a transatlantic boat trip to America with hopes of movie fame (her character in reality is a showgirl from Brooklyn), “Princess” then veers into a murder mystery that doesn’t quite mesh with the tone of the rest of the film.

Nevertheless, it’s generally fun, and a rare photo from the film (not the image above) is now on sale at eBay. Here it is:

I believe that’s George Barbier, cast as the ship’s captain, alongside Lombard (and isn’t that smile seductive, especially with the hat hiding part of her right eye?).

The photo is a sepia original measuring 8″ x 10″ (which includes a white border I have eliminated to highlight the image). It’s in fair condition, with slight tears, creases and other defects. Still, that smile of Carole’s more than compensates.

It’s being sold for $25, and will be available through about 4 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. If you are interested, go to

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In downtown LA tonight, feast on organ-ic ‘Oat’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.14 at 00:54
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Imagine how much easier life would be for biographers and researchers if we could go back in time for a moment and place an invisible GPS or tracking device on our subject, one whose signal could only be picked up many years in the future. It would erase mere conjecture on when and where they were during their lifetime.

Above is Jane Alice Peters, the eventual Carole Lombard, as a girl of about 10 helping the Allied effort on the home front during World War I. What were the places this actress-to-be visited during her youth, venues that likely shaped her future? We don’t have the exact answers, but chances are that Jane, her two older brothers and mother went to see live theater and film productions after their move to Los Angeles in 1914 (just as they had in Fort Wayne, Ind.). And chances are that much of that time was in the downtown theater district; outlying areas such as Hollywood were only beginning to develop as business and entertainment destinations.

In all honesty, the downtown theater district, centered on Broadway, wasn’t all that old itself, as several major venues were built in the 1910s and others were built during the ’20s ( One of them opened in February 1926, about the time Jane Alice Peters had adopted the pseudonym Carole Lombard and had just been sidelined from the movie business following an automobile accident.

This theater, the Orpheum, wasn’t initially a movie house, but was a venue for vaudeville, then still a major attraction. But the rise of radio and talking pictures doomed that genre and by 1930, the Orpheum was showing movies (which it did through 2000), though it continued with stage shows (one of them, in 1933, featured a young Judy Garland). And two years after its opening, management installed a large Wurlitzer pipe organ.

And tonight, that organ lives again as the Orpheum — which was restored in 2003 to its vintage splendor — hosts a silent movie. It’s not just any silent, either, but one feared lost until a copy of it was found in the Czech Republic several years ago, then restored by the Academy Film Archive. It was shown in San Francisco in July 2008 (, and now Los Angeles gets to see it again. It’s Colleen Moore’s romantic comedy, “Her Wild Oat”:

Moore — whose appeal as a comic actress in the mid-1920s was topped only by Clara Bow — portrays a lunch wagon owner who tries to crash resort society, with hilarious results. One of the bit players is a 14-year-old named Loretta Young (she’s second from left, with Moore at right):

Noted organist Bob Salisbury will provide accompaniment for the film, which will start at 8 p.m. The Orpheum is at 842 South Broadway; tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. This screening is a part of the Los Angeles Organ Theatre Society’s Wurlitzer Weekend (in conjunction with the Broadway Initiative of the Los Angeles Conservancy), with other events slated over the weekend. To learn more, go to If you’re in southern California, or will be there tonight, I can’t think of a more (Moore?) wonderful way to spend a Friday evening.

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Doug Jr. loses his ‘Memory’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.13 at 01:00
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

A question for you: How many people have you had contact with in one form or another (met in person, wrote, talked on the phone with, etc.) who knew Carole Lombard? (Yes, this is sort of the Kevin Bacon “degrees of separation” parlor game.)

I can think of probably five, which sounds like a lot after all these years and may well be a good total for someone outside the movie industry. (Someone like Peter Bogdanovich, who’s not only a director but a writer and film historian, must have met dozens, if not hundreds.)

In 1969, I and my family met Jack Benny while we were at a hotel in Niagara Falls, N.Y.; he was performing in the area. In 1990, I wrote a fan letter to Myrna Loy, who autographed and returned the photo I sent her. I once talked on the phone with Alice Faye while doing some movie research (not about Lombard), and while I’ve never seen a photo of her and Carole, I can’t imagine their paths didn’t cross at one time or another.

I met Garson Kanin, who of course directed Lombard in “They Knew What They Wanted” and described her so vividly in his book “Hollywood”; he signed a paperback copy of it for me at the short-lived Biograph revival house on West 57th Street in New York, at which time I told him I was jealous of anyone who knew Carole. (I still am.)

And there was one other person who knew Lombard whom I met, shook hands with and received his autograph:

He’s Douglas Fairbanks Jr., whom I met in 1995 at Film Forum in New York, when it was showing a retrospective of his father’s films and he personally introduced them one night (if I recall correctly, they were a few of his dad’s comedies of the teens, before his career veered towards swashbuckling adventure). After the films, I met him — he looked every bit as distinguished as you recall him from those wool commercials he made in the ’80s and ’90s — shook his hand, and he autographed my Film Forum schedule program (which I still have today).

Being the son of an icon — much less sharing his name — couldn’t have been easy, but Doug Jr. had a fine career in his own right, carving out his own identity as an actor, a writer and raconteur. In his first autobiography, he mentioned knowing Lombard in the 1920s (the second book was about his exploits during World War II). That I was aware of, but according to a noted Hollywood columnist, his ties to Carole could have run far deeper.

The other day, I mentioned that a thread at a Turner Classic Movies message board is examining Hollywood’s halcyon year of 1939, day by day, through the Minneapolis Tribune. That newspaper, although not part of the Hearst chain, did carry its popular film columnist, Louella Parsons, and on Jan. 12, here’s what she had to say:

Louella opens her column by saying:

“Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., will have to tear himself away from his favorite charmer, Zorina, and return from New York to Hollywood. Young Doug, you see, has big business in two of our important movies. Not only has he been chosen to play opposite Carole Lombard in ‘Memory Of Love’ at RKO, but he has a later date with Paramount studios for the role of Lancelot in ‘Knights Of The Round Table.’ I reckon the older Doug will get a kick out of his son donning doublet and hose in the King Arthur epic, for it’s the very type of swashbuckling role that Fairbanks senior likes best…”

(Parsons’ column also noted that Luise Rainer had signed to do a New York stage play, fulfilling a longtime goal. Jan. 12, 1939 was her 29th birthday, and yesterday she celebrated her 101st. Hope you caught her interview with Robert Osborne last night, which was done at the inaugural TCM Classic Film Festival last April.)

So Doug Jr. was set to be a Lombard leading man…but what was this “Memory Of Love” Louella was writing about? Well, this trade ad from later in 1939 provides an answer:

It’s mentioned in the fine print as the novel adapted for this film, “The Kind Men Marry”...what?

Actually, the co-stars shown with Lombard give it away. Carole, Cary Grant and Kay Francis were the leads in Lombard’s first film for RKO, “In Name Only.” As recently as two years earlier, Grant and Fairbanks Jr. may have been viewed at the same commercial level, but hits such as “Topper,” “The Awful Truth” and “Holiday” had since elevated Grant to higher ground.

Initially, this drama was seen as yet another Grant teaming with Katharine Hepburn, but poor box office for their previous film (“Bringing Up Baby”!) led RKO to make Lombard the leading lady. (She, in turn, successfully lobbied to make her friend Francis, then struggling at Warners, the third part of this romantic triangle. Today is the anniversary of Francis’ birth, and TCM in the U.S. is showing 10 of her films during the day, although “In Name Only” isn’t among them.)

As for “Knights Of The Round Table,” Paramount apparently shelved it; a film by that title wasn’t made until 1953 at MGM, starring Robert Taylor as Lancelot, Ava Gardner as Guinevere and Mel Ferrer as King Arthur. That was probably a disappointment to Anglophile Doug Jr., but far sadder news occurred later in 1939, when Doug Sr. passed on.

I should add that this list almost had a sixth member; unfortunately, I never got the chance to talk with Robert Stack when he appeared on a New York radio call-in show in 1986.

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‘Hitch’ a tribute to Alfred on Monday

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.13 at 22:55
Current mood: creativecreative

Here’s news about something that will take place here Monday: That day’s entry will focus on Alfred Hitchcock, part of a Hitchcock blogathon scheduled for that day by the Classic Movie Blog Association. At last check, 19 different blogs are participating (up from 18), and each will file an entry centered around a specific film from Hitch. (As this is a Carole Lombard-centered site, you can probably guess which movie I chose.) Once all of them are in, I intend to update the entry, providing links to and information about the other ones posted.

It’s all part of what should be a splendid tribute by CMBA’s members to a filmmaker who developed his own idiosyncratic style during more than half a century of work, a man whose uncanny self-marketing parlayed himself into more of a “brand name” than any other director in history. (But few complained — more often than not, his movies’ figurative steak justified the sizzle.)

For more about the blogathon, go to

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Colorful memories of the city she loved

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.12 at 09:10
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

It was 69 years ago this morning that Carole Lombard unknowingly left the city she loved for the last time, boarding an eastbound train from Los Angeles Union Station for Chicago. There, she would get instructions from the Treasury Department before going to Indianapolis, capital of her home state of Indiana, for a war bond rally. (As fate would have it, the name of the train she took was Union Pacific’s “City of Los Angeles.”)

To commemorate this anniversary, we thought we’d provide some images of Los Angeles as it existed during Carole’s color, just as she would have viewed them with her own eyes. (Many of these photographs were taken using Kodachrome color film, a process that recently breathed its last when the final rolls were developed at the remaining lab handling the format.) Unlike many of her star brethren, she had grown up in the city (arriving with her mother and brothers in the fall of 1914, not long after turning six), and so for Lombard Los Angeles was more than merely a movie factory town, though she certainly loved the business.

First, some shots we’ve run before, of Hollywood Boulevard from April 1931, screen grabs from a tourist’s film in two-strip Technicolor:

Note the sign at the far left of the second photo with the reference to “KFWB”; that radio station, founded by Warners as the call letters would indicate, naturally had offices at the building that housed one of its theaters.

The remaining images really don’t have anything to do with the movie side of Los Angeles, but provide a feel for the city before World War II. First, from 1938, LA’s new Chinatown at night; the old district nearby had been razed in order to build the new Union Station, which would open the following May:

We next travel to June 1940, and two photographs of Elysian Park, then as now a place where Angelenos savor nature. The tree is a jacaranda, the automobile a Lincoln Zephyr. (These are part of a large online collection of vintage color photos at Indiana University.)

Next, also from the IU archives and taken in June 1940, a photo of a riot of colorful pink geraniums on Sunset Boulevard in Santa Monica:

Now it’s a year later, in 1941, and we see the bustle of West Los Angeles (top) and Westwood Village, areas Carole had some familiarity with:

Finally, photos that were taken some years later, but certainly evoke the past. First, a rare color image of the interior of the entrance to the old Los Angeles subway line, taken in June 1955, days before the trains stopped serving the Subway Terminal Building for good, replaced by buses. (And they called it progress.) See it and weep:

The tunnel to downtown, constructed with such fanfare in 1925, would carry passengers for not even three decades; by the time of its demise, several lines, including the one that ran along Hollywood Boulevard (from which those 1931 images were likely taken), had been converted to buses, and the last train line serving the station went to Glendale and Burbank. (Some other lines had their downtown terminus at the Pacific Electric building a few blocks away, with their service finally ending in April 1961.) One of those last trains from the Subway Terminal Building is shown below:

We’ll close by noting the passing of singer Margaret Whiting at age 86. Whiting, whose father Richard was a noted composer (among his works were songs for Lombard’s first film at Paramount, 1930’s “Safety In Numbers”), was among the first stars for the Capitol label (Johnny Mercer, one of its founders, had collaborated with her father). Here’s Margaret’s best-known recording, “Moonlight In Vermont,” done with Billy Butterfield’s orchestra in 1944:

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Teen bride in ‘Transit’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.11 at 00:41
Current mood: impressedimpressed

In late 1928 or early 1929, Carol Lombard — then about 20 — posed in bridal wear for Pathe. Perhaps the studio had an eye on wedding sections in newspapers, and believed this picture could win some attention for their starlet.

But dressing up in such an outfit was nothing new for Lombard; she had done it several years earlier, when she was all of 16.


No, not in real life — we’re talking about the movies…specifically, her second film before the cameras, and her first as Carol Lombard (as we’ve stated beforehand, the “e” in her first name didn’t arrive for good until 1930). It was a movie for Fox called “Marriage In Transit,” and while it’s lost (as are seemingly all of Carole’s films prior to her 1926 automobile accident), an artifact from it is now being auctioned.

We’re referring to this lobby card, which measures 11″ x 14″ (double-click on it, and you can see it at roughly its actual size):

As we noted, when this film was made in early 1925, Lombard was 16 years old and had yet to reach the halfway point of her brief life. So what is someone of her tender age doing playing a bride? Well, her character was likely a few years older, and since it was found younger women photographed well for the cameras, they were often cast as more mature types.

The look on Lombard’s face conveys considerable seriousness, in her mind likely befitting someone preparing to walk down the aisle. (Also note the statue behind her, which appears to be anatomically correct.) It’s possible one or both of the little bridesmaids in the picture are still with us, though they would be in their early 90s. As to where this was taken, it was probably the Fox lot.

This is from Heritage Auction Galleries, which lists the item under “comedy” (hey, that’s what Lombard was known for, right?). Actually, accounts of the plot list it as a melodrama, a vehicle for Edmund Lowe; he plays dual characters, and Carol marries the good guy, a secret agent out to expose the bad guy she thought she was marrying. (The lobby card shown below, with Lombard’s character marrying Lowe’s, is not being auctioned.)

In the April 11, 1925 Motion Picture News, reviewer Lawrence Reid said Lombard “displays good poise and considerable charm.” Truth be told, she was a bit in over her head, and Fox quickly relegated her to western programmers, where she could develop her skills in a less demanding environment.

The card being auctioned has some minor stains and wear from age (it’s nearly 86 years old!), but is nonetheless attractive, in fine-plus condition. It’s a rarity from the dawn of Lombard’s career.

As of this writing, there are three bids on this lobby card, topping at $24. Bidding continues through 11 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday. If you’re interested in this item, visit

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Finding Carole’s memorabilia in Norma’s Jeans

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.10 at 01:39
Current mood: enviousenvious

How would you like to own something Carole Lombard not only possessed, but probably used? You’ve got four chances to do so, thanks to an auction of a noted memorabilia collection on eBay.

The items — all of them engraved in one form or another — are from the estate of Richard Lee Wilson, a man from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., who for many years ran a mail-order memorabilia store called Norma’s Jeans (for his favorite film star, Marilyn Monroe) up to his death in March 2009. According to Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive, “Richard Wilson was always very particular on sources, provenance and authenticity. I suspect that any buyer would be safe with these wonderful goodies.”

More than 80 items from his collection are now being auctioned, with the most expensive being a cigarette card Elvis Presley gave Natalie Wood (bidding starts at $1,249) and an engraved, 14-karat gold watch with jewels that belonged to Jean Harlow (opening bid: $999). Barring bidding that goes into the stratosphere, the Lombard-related items won’t set you back anywhere near that much…but they won’t come cheaply, either.

Take, for example, this item — an engraved watch pin, measuring roughly 2 1/2″. Can’t make out the engraving? Here’s an enlarged image of the watch (which isn’t running, BTW); look vertically down the center of the funnel and you can see “CAROLE”:

Bidding opens at $225; you can find out more at

The next item is a bit more affordable, with bids starting at a mere $140. This ties into Saturday’s entry, featuring a 1933 Max Factor ad; here are a pair of make-up jars that belonged to Lombard (you can see the “C” script monogram on both jars, particularly the one on the right):

Each is 1 1/4″ high and 2 1/4″ in diameter. They can be seen at

Bids for both of the above close at 9 p.m. (Eastern) next Sunday.

The other two items are from the Lombard-Clark Gable marriage. Imagine having a set of four silver coasters that belonged to the Encino power couple (with the “G & L” initials in the middle of each exquisitely designed coaster):

If you want to do more than merely imagine, be prepared to shell out at least $349 (or about $88 per coaster), in which case you may want to reserve them for champagne and such. Go to to learn more. Bids close at 11:05 p.m. (Eastern) on Jan. 17.

The cheapest of the quartet of items, at least by minimum bid, is for those of you into hard liquor (or relatively inexpensive Hollywood celebrity collectibles). It’s an engraved bourbon label, with a silver finish and measuring less than an inch and a half long:

Bids for this start at $125, and bids finish at 9:05 p.m. (Eastern) Jan. 18. Details are at

To view the entire collection of Norma’s Jeans goodies — including an engraved watch William Randolph Hearst gave Marion Davies, cigarette cases belonging to everyone from Clara Bow and Lucille Ball to John Wayne and Marlon Brando, and flasks owned by Frank Sinatra and Walter Winchell — go to

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A classic Culver City capture

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.09 at 08:19
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Many movie buffs probably recognize the rooster on Carole Lombard’s sweater, but just in case you don’t, it stands for Pathe Films, the studio Lombard worked for in the late 1920s (when her first name in movies was actually “Carol”). Pathe was located in Culver City, headquartered in the same building where Lombard would star in a pair of Selznick International films nearly a decade later:

That building remains on Washington Boulevard, and it still fronts an active film and TV studio.

Several other studios called Culver City home. The building that housed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for many years is probably the best known site (although both it and the Pathe studio site were originally built by silent film pioneer Thomas Ince), but a third also existed, and like the other two was on Washington Boulevard:

This was the home of Hal Roach Studios, whose employees included the beloved comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. (The studio operated through 1960, and was torn down three years later.) Laurel and Hardy’s work will be spotlighted from 8 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesday through 8 p.m. Wednesday on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. as part of its January salute to the Roach studios…and through incredible work from one of their many devoted fans, we can get an idea of what Culver City was like in the late 1920s (when Roach used its streets to film scenes for many of Stan and Ollie’s silent shorts).

Piet Schreuders, a Dutch pop culture historian, painstakingly researched Culver City maps of the time to recreate the streets of its downtown during that era. The video below, from a 1999 Dutch documentary (most of the segment is in English), shows how he did it and part of the finished result:

Brief clips are shown from a 1929 Laurel and Hardy silent, “Angora Love” (a quarter-century before Ed Wood, though this has nothing to do with sweaters!), where we see a goat follow Stan and Ollie down a street as well as Schreuders’ computer-generated model of the location. Really remarkable.

You can learn more about Culver City in this era, how Roach and his technicians made a one-block area seem much larger, and the work to capture these images, at Until a time machine that can actually take us there is developed, this is the best way to experience Culver City in the 1920s.

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Carole scores a rouge…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.08 at 00:36
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

…and she’s not playing Canadian football.

No, this is the rouge of the cosmetic variety, and Carole Lombard was among three Paramount stars featured in a Max Factor ad in the November 1933 issue of Photoplay. At the time, Factor’s ad slogan — one that continued for several years — was “SOCIETY MAKE-UP…Face Powder, Rouge, Lipstick in COLOR HARMONY.”

In this ad, Claudette Colbert represented powder, Adrienne Ames lipstick and Lombard rouge. Here’s the copy for the Lombard segment:

“ROUGE…A rouge in color to harmonize with your powder and complexion colorings. Creamy-smooth, as fine as finest skin texture, it blends and clings just as you would want it to. The color harmony shade for Carole Lombard…blonde hair, light skin and blue eyes is Max Factor’s Blondeen Rouge. And, Max Factor’s Rachelle Powder and Max Factor’s Super-Indelible Vermilion Lipstick complete her color harmony make-up.”

For comparison’s sake, the ad stated the Factor products Colbert used were Olive Powder, Raspberry Rouge and Super-Indelible Lipstick in Crimson; while Ames employed Brunette Powder, Carmine Rouge and Super-Indelible Lipstick in Carmine. (Does Max Factor still manufacture these particular shades?)

The lipstick and powder sold for a dollar at most stores nationwide, while the list price for the rouge was 50 cents. A color harmony make-up chart was also available by mail; the sender listed the appropriate complexion, eyes and other information.

The ad also noted the actresses’ latest films — Lombard was in “White Woman,” Colbert “Torch Singer” (a pretty good pre-Code work) and Ames “A Bedtime Story.”

You can buy this ad for $3 through eBay; it will be on sale through 7:30 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. If interested, go to

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Another ‘what might have been’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.07 at 15:30
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

When I ran items relating to Carole Lombard in January 1932 that I found at Google News earlier this week, I inadvertently left one out, perhaps because it’s a brief with no accompanying illustration. It concerns something that ultimately never happened, but is fascinating to ponder, and is from the Spokane Daily Chronicle of Jan. 30, 1932:

That MGM was interested in Lombard at this stage of her career itself carries intrigue — this presumably happened after the “Taxi!” fiasco, where Carole declined a loanout to Warners, only to have Loretta Young take the female lead opposite James Cagney — but look at the property Metro was considering for Lombard: “Red-Headed Woman,” which, as we all know, turned out to be the breakthrough for another flashy blonde whose hair took a crimson hue for the film…

…Carole’s eventual friend, Jean Harlow. (At this juncture, they may have been acquaintances, but likely little more.)

What might “Red-Headed Woman” have done for Lombard? Would this have tapped her inherent comedic skills some two years before “Twentieth Century”? It’s doubtful it would have led to her moving to MGM, inasmuch as she was under a long-term contract with Paramount, but it might have set her apart from the large pack of Paramount starlets and put her on more equal footing with the likes of Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins.

Could Carole have pulled off playing the gold-digging Lil the way Harlow did? Hard to say. While Lombard had already gained internal notice in the film colony for her ability to recognize good scripts, it hadn’t yet translated into good performances. Then again, the programmers Paramount gave her weren’t written by the likes of Anita Loos, so perhaps that would have elicited something heretofore unseen.

Now the question: Why didn’t Lombard get the part? Hard to tell from this piece of industry gossip, probably from some syndicate or wire service (if the Chronicle somehow had its own Hollywood writer, his or her byline would have been attached). Jan. 30 was about the time Harlow — up till now cast for her looks rather than acting ability — proved her talent with a nice supporting turn in the gangster film “The Beast Of The City.” That was made at MGM, as executive (and eventual Harlow husband) Paul Bern persuaded the studio to sign her to a contract. Once that was done, it likely sealed the deal.

There was another name in that Paramount-to-MGM item: Phillips Holmes, who the report said was going to appear in “The Wet Parade”:

Holmes, born to an acting family in 1907, spent several years attending elite U.S. and European institutions, including a year at Princeton (where he was a member of the university’s Triangle Club theater group). He was coming off a solid year in 1931, including roles in “The Criminal Code,” “An American Tragedy” (an adaptation of Theodore Drieser’s novel, playing a role reprised by Montgomery Clift in “A Place In The Sun” two decades later) and Ernst Lubitsch’s World War I drama, “The Man I Killed” (aka “Broken Lullaby”).

Holmes never worked with Lombard, though he had been slated to be her leading man in “The Beachcombers,” the film that was briefly shelved because of Carole’s illness and then finally made as “Sinners In The Sun.” By that time, Holmes had signed with MGM, not making much of an impact there, and his career began to diminish. By the late 1930s, he was focusing on stage work, including “The Petrified Forest” and “The Philadelphia Story.”

There is another, more tragic link between Lombard and Holmes. He would join the Royal Canadian Air Force in late 1941 (his mother was of Canadian descent). Holmes attended the Air Ground School in Winnipeg and graduated; on Aug. 12, 1942 — nearly seven months after Lombard’s death — he and several of his classmates were being transferred to Ottawa when their plane collided with another over Ontario, killing all aboard.

(The 1931 film version of “An American Tragedy,” directed by Josef von Sternberg, led to a crucial court case on adaptation rights. For this story, written by Richard Schickel, go to

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A freaking great site

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.06 at 01:23
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

When it comes to Carole Lombard on the World Wide Web, I like to think I’m a pretty good authority. But on Wednesday, I discovered a remarkable site for any Lombard fan…and it’s been up for four months without my knowing of it.

It’s from rapidly growing Tumblr, and I love its URL: That’s right, carolefreakinglombard — a salute to both her awesomeness (OK, so that’s not an adjective I frequently use to describe her, but it’s nonetheless true!) and a nod to her often inventive invective. (Truth be told, the “profane angel” angle does Carole a disservice, giving the impression her vocabulary was limited to that of a stevedore. Not the case at all — she was a bright woman who could intelligently converse on a variety of topics. At the same time, if people she was with were comfortably exchanging blue banter, she could hold her own with any of them.)

Getting back to this site; it presently comprises some 70 “pages,” which on Tumblr equates to about 700 images. A handful are duplicated throughout the site, uploaded by several different contributors, but among the many others are things I’ve never seen before. For example, take the photo at the top, Paramount p1202-216, which I’m guessing comes from late 1931 or early ’32. Carole had beautiful eyes, and this portrait shows them off about as well as any I’ve seen.

Or how about this shot, taken from “Made For Each Other,” showing Lombard with Louise Beavers:

There aren’t very many stills showing Carole with black actors, and here she’s with one of the best (although, alas, the stereotypical roles Beavers received often prevented her from showing her full ability on screen).

One of the nice ideas here is something called “The Many Faces Of” — eight images of Lombard from a particular film. Eight of Carole’s movies have received such an honor, and here they are (double-click to view them at their full, glorious size):

Very impressive.

As stated, this site gets the “Carole & Co.” seal of approval (remember to feed it fish daily!), and I think any Lombard fan worth his or her salt should make it a regular cyberspace destination. With all the images, you can feel as close to Carole as director Garson Kanin did here:

Kudos to the contributors at — though I won’t say it’s for “a job well done,” because it’s not anywhere close to being “done.” I fully expect we’ll see hundreds more lovely Lombard images put up for our viewing pleasure in the future.

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Looking back: January 1932

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.05 at 01:10
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

Today, we’re inaugurating a new feature at “Carole & Co.”, one we intend to run each month that I think will delight Carole Lombard fans. It’s through a resource that’s fairly new to me — the “news” section at Through it, you can access newspapers from past and present regarding all sorts of subjects.

Some of the papers charge a fee, such as the Tribune Co. properties (the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant) or the New York Times. But thankfully, many other papers involved in the project are free.

We’re going to use this to examine Carole Lombard, and while much of what you’ll see may not be very significant, it is fun to find. We will look at newspaper items dealing with Lombard each month, beginning in January 1932. (That should give us 10 years’ worth of material, assuming this blog can last through December 2020!)

The image above isn’t from Google News; it’s from the Jan. 30, 1932 Motion Picture Herald –– an ad from Paramount promoting Carole’s upcoming release, “No One Man”…just to get you in the mood.

The first item ran 79 years ago today (Jan. 5) in the upstate New York paper, the Schenectady Gazette:

Under the headline “Striking Creation,” this syndicated item shows Lombard “in a frock that glitters,” red and silver on a black background. It’s simple yet elegant, and as this photo indicates, Carole looked splendid in it.

“Elegant” and “splendid” probably aren’t the proper adjectives for the outfit Milwaukee Journal readers found Lombard in on Jan. 9, 1932:

No, she’s not in training to be a bubble dancer, nor is she wearing a bunch of tiny balloons. Here’s what it’s all about, according to the caption:

All Balled Up In New Style
Pajamas are yesterday’s mode; the bathing jacket is today’s — and Carole Lombard, screen star, introduces this startling new fashion in a forthcoming production. The jacket for beach wear comprises many yards of white jersey trimmed with innumerable balls of white yarn.

Well, “startling” is accurate, and so is “balled up”…if it’s a euphemism for a somewhat, uh, stronger term. Just how did Carole keep a straight face while modeling this? (And it’s probably safe to say this unorthodox style was not a favorite on beaches throughout the summer of 1932.)

Check back next month for a variety of Lombard items, circa February 1932. Hey, you may find another early thirties version of “what not to wear.”

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Lombard/Powell-ooza, part 1

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.04 at 01:28
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

If you liked last week’s Lombard-palooza — an array of rare images of Carole Lombard being sold on eBay (hope you bought some) — you will love what’s going on this time. Especially if you’re a fan of both Carole and William Powell.

Her first husband joins her on all these images; the picture quality isn’t the best on some of these (though, thanks to Tally, they’re in passable shape), but they are all of interest. The photos are available for $14.99 each (and in much better condition than you see here), and the sale ends a few minutes before noon (Eastern) on Friday. Up to five copies of each are available.

Without further ado, the first batch, starting off with a pair of photos taken at the racetrack, although from separate occasions, as their outfits indicate:

The first photo can be found at The second, reportedly taken by a fan at the Agua Caliente track in Mexico, is at

Here are Bill and Carole at a premiere (and the Warners sign behind them may indicate it was taken after Powell signed with that studio in 1932):

For more on this photo, visit

This is a literally sparkling image of the couple having champagne (since Prohibition wasn’t repealed until after their divorce, was this taken in Mexico?):

It’s at

Finally, a photo taken at the Club New Yorker in 1932, a club that actually was in the basement of the Christie Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard (the building that’s now Scientology headquarters):

According to the seller, one of the other persons here is a female impersonator named Jean Malin, though as the club emcee, he may not have been dressed in drag at the time. Malin, who got his start with Texas Guinan in New York, was one of the stars of the “pansy craze” of the speakeasy era. Less than a year after this photo was taken, Malin, 25, would drown in an auto accident after completing a performance at a club in Venice, Calif.; two passengers, including actress Patsy Kelly, survived.

This photo is at

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Lombard/Powell-ooza, part 2

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.04 at 09:29
Current mood: amusedamused

Here are five more pictures of Carole Lombard with her first husband, William Powell — images now being sold at eBay for $14.99 each through just before noon (Eastern) Friday. As with the first batch, the quality here isn’t all that good (the actual items being sold are professionally done), and I thank Tally for her work making them at least passable.

First, a charming image of Carole giving Bill a kiss:

To buy this picture or learn more, go to

Next, a pair of stills from “Man Of The World,” the initial film Powell and Lombard made together:

The first photo, with them facing each other, is at; the second is at

Finally, two more from that 1890s costume party:

The first image, where they are standing, is at The second, where they are sitting, is at (The two others in these photos were not identified, but if you know who they are, please respond.)

carole lombard color 00

Lombard/Powell-ooza, part 3

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.04 at 10:53
Current mood: lovedloved

Now, time for the final five photos in our display of Carole Lombard/William Powell pictures now on sale at eBay ($14.99 each) through just before noon (Eastern) on Friday. As with the other images, Tally has brought them up to snuff, but the actual photos are 8″ x 10″, recently made in a lab, and are of top quality.

First, two photos from 1938, when Powell, recovering from a long illness, teamed with his ex-wife in a “Lux Radio Theater” adaptation of their hit “My Man Godfrey”:

Find the first photo at The second, with Lombard laughing, is at

Next, back to 1931, as Bill and Carole meet the press while returning from their honeymoon in Hawaii:

To learn more on this one, visit

Finally, a pair of romantic pics:

The photo of them embracing is at; the one of them gazing is at

What’s dogging Carole and Clark?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.03 at 09:39
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

To outsiders, ranch life in Encino may have seemed idyllic for Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, but they knew better. There were all sorts of mundane tasks that had to be done — washing the dog, for instance:

This is from the Sunday color supplement of the Los Angeles Examiner (a Hearst paper) on Dec. 3, 1939. It’s a cute image of Clark and Carole cleaning a canine, but from comparing its colors to that of the photo at the top, it’s likely an enhanced black-and-white photo.

The six-page section, entitled “March Of Events, Screen And Drama,” measures 16″ x 22″. It can be yours, but you don’t have much time; bidding closes at 5:12 p.m. (Eastern) today. Bids open at $9.99, and no bids have been made as of this writing. To learn more, go to

Oh, and speaking of 1939…that fabulous year will be reviewed day by day at one of the message boards at Turner Classic Movies, with columns, movie listings and other items taken from the Minneapolis Tribune. For example, here’s Sheilah Graham’s column, where we learn that on New Year’s Day, Clark and Carole were seen at the Rose Bowl game where Southern Cal beat Duke:

Louella Parsons predicts Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck are the likeliest film colony couple to get hitched in 1939. The good news for Louella: They did. The bad news: They did nearly seven weeks after Clark and Carole performed the feat.

And finally, a partial check of some of the films playing around Minneapolis as 1939 began:

Find the thread at It’s something you’ll want to check back on throughout the year.

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TCM’s Roach clips will get you high this month

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.02 at 09:04
Current mood: giddygiddy

That’s a teenaged Carol(e) Lombard sprinting with cosmetics in the 1928 Mack Sennett two-reeler “Run, Girl, Run.” This month, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. will be showing films from the other impresario of early comedy, Hal Roach, whose studio released a prodigious array of product for more than four and a half decades.

Lombard never worked for Roach, who often is lumped together with Sennett, which isn’t fair to either man. Sennett’s peak came during the 1910s and early ’20s; by the time Lombard joined his troupe of bathing beauties in 1927, his studio had seen better days. In contrast, Roach was coming into his own, and when talkies arrived at the end of the decade, he embraced the new technology far more than Sennett did. Moreover, while Sennett’s work was almost entirely in comedy shorts, Roach produced a number of features and non-comedies, and even did some television work in the 1950s.

TCM is running plenty of Roach material — four 24-hour blocks, from 8 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesdays through 8 p.m. Wednesdays. If this excites you (and it should!), thank Thelma Todd, the “ice cream blonde” shown above with Zasu Pitts. The “Summer Under The Stars” salute to Todd on Aug. 30, which included numerous short subjects where she was teamed with Pitts or Patsy Kelly, was an overwhelming success for the channel. (To our Canadian friends, you are again out of luck, as TCM will air substitute programming. Apparently no one knows who controls the rights to most of Roach’s catalog in Canada.)

Jan. 4 and 5 is dedicated to the “Our Gang” shorts. (Roach sold the franchise to MGM in 1938, but retained rights to the earlier films; when the television age arrived, he repackaged them under the name “The Little Rascals.”) TCM is running more than 50 of these movies (all of them premieres for the channel), and while the schedule is just too voluminous to run here, note that from 8 p.m. to 4:45 a.m., films from the 1930s will be shown, while the rest of the schedule focuses on 1920s product, most of them silent and with an earlier cast of kids.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, arguably the most beloved of comedy teams, are probably the performers most identified with Roach. TCM salutes the boys on Jan. 11 and 12 with 40 shorts, nearly half of them premiering on the channel, and three of their lesser-known features (“Pardon Us,” “Pack Up Your Troubles” and “The Bohemian Girl”), airing at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Among the shorts, check out “Brats” at 11 a.m. Wednesday, where Stan and Ollie play both themselves and their offspring (through oversized sets).

In 1955-56, Roach’s studio produced a TV version of the old radio anthology “Screen Directors Playhouse” for NBC. Ten of the 35 episodes are to be broadcast Jan. 18 and 19, including John Wayne’s first television appearance (it was also the TV directing debut for John Ford); Wayne plays a sportswriter in the baseball drama “Rookie Of The Year” (8:30 p.m.) and the cast includes his son Patrick as a hot-shot pitcher. Another highlight: “The Silent Partner” (9:30 p.m.), featuring Buster Keaton as a washed-up comic watching the Academy Awards on TV at a nearby restaurant and seeing his former director given a lifetime achievement award.

After these episodes, TCM shows 19 hours worth of assorted comedy shorts, including work from Todd and Charley Chase.

The last block, Jan. 25 and 26, focuses on the features from Roach’s studios, and Chase is a supporting player in the first offering, Laurel and Hardy’s classic “Sons Of The Desert” (8 p.m. Wednesday). Most of the films are comedies, but the schedule also includes the 1939 adventure “Captain Fury” (11:30 a.m. Wednesday), which Roach himself directed.

Constance Bennett fans will have three chances to catch Connie: first, the original “Topper” (10:30 p.m. Tuesday); the sequel, “Topper Takes A Trip,” where she’s shown above with Roland Young (10 a.m. Wednesday); and the ersatz “My Man Godfrey” comedy, “Merrily We Live” (5:45 a.m. Wednesday).

All in all, a wondrous batch of films, made or produced by a man who reached age 100 and was active in Hollywood until the end. Thank you, Hal Roach. (Here he is, at right, with Sennett and another legendary filmmaker, Frank Capra.)

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For your New Year’s resolution

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2011.01.01 at 11:11
Current mood: curiouscurious

We’ve made it to 2011 — the first year of the century that doesn’t feature multiple zeroes — and I wish you the best as we embark on another calendar year of “Carole & Co.”

Of course, with a new year invariably comes resolutions (most of which we fail to keep, human nature being what it is). Among the most common of those resolutions is to lose weight…and for those of you aiming to do just that, we may have some inspiration.

Did you know Carole Lombard was once a fat little girl? No kidding — that’s what the May 10, 1936 Des Moines Register said:

Well, we know she had a few extra pounds (and curves) during her days at Mack Sennett, pounds she took off through a training and diet regimen with noted Hollywood masseuse Sylvia ( But fat? Did someone mistake Lombard for her Sennett stablemate, Madalynne Fields? (And photos from Carole’s childhood as Jane Alice Peters certainly show no signs of obesity.)

Yet that’s what the Register headline read; there is also a subhead, “Now an Air Line Chooses Her Streamlined Figure as a Model by Which to Select Its Pretty Air Stewardesses.”

Unfortunately, the body copy from the photo is too small to read, so I can’t tell you more about it, such as what airline used her figure as a model. (And for those who thought the first flight attendants were hired for their medical and safety skills, this may indicate things were changing, eventually culminating in the “coffee, tea or me” mindset of the 1960s.)

But the page is nice, particularly that large photo of Carole in a swimsuit, right? Uh, no. While you would think that mentioning Lombard in the headline would indicate that she’d have the dominant picture, but from (barely) making out the caption, its subject is one Grace Bradley, a fellow Paramount player nearly five years younger than Carole. Here she is in a teddy, decorating a Christmas tree:

Bradley gave up her career in a few years to marry former Lombard co-star William Boyd, “Hopalong Cassidy” of western fame. She had been his widow for 38 years when she died this past Sept. 21, her 97th birthday.

This page is being auctioned at eBay, with bids starting at $9.99 (no bids have been entered as of this writing). Bidding ends at 6:50 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. To learn more, go to (And if you get it, please let us know what the copy reads!)

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Posted December 28, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

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