Jean Harlow Blogathon: Harlow, Lombard…let’s switch!
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.28 at 00:01
Current mood: cheerful
For the centenary of Jean Harlow’s birth (which occurs this Thursday), I tried to find a way to commemorate it -– especially since this will be part of a Harlow blogathon at “The Kitty Packard Pictorial,” a superb site on Harlow, classic Hollywood and popular culture (http://kittypackard.wordpress.com/).
At last count, 19 blogs are contributing Harlow-related material (or, as it’s being called, “Blogging For Baby”). The blogathon is also designed to promote the fine new book that we’ve mentioned several times here before, “Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital,” by Darrell Rooney and Mark Vieira (http://www.angelcitypress.com/harl.html).
An entry linking Carole Lombard and Harlow isn’t easy. Although they were good friends and were beloved by casts and crews throughout filmland, no picture of them together has ever been discovered –- a holy grail among both fandoms. Carole’s first husband, William Powell, later had an intense, but ill-fated, romance with Harlow, and Lombard’s second husband, Clark Gable, was renowned for his steamy romantic films with Jean (although in real life, they were good friends, never lovers).
So, what’s a writer to do? Use imagination, that’s what. I’m going to create an alternate universe where Lombard stars in Harlow’s movies, and vice versa. How might these silver screen goddesses have fared in each other’s films?
Some ground rules:
* Our ”altered” period begins in 1930 (when both settled into the business) and ends in early 1937 (before Harlow died).
* We’re generally focusing on Jean and Carole’s acting work; their romances will be mentioned solely in passing.
So imagine you’re poring through one of the big Sunday newspapers on Feb. 28, 1937, with the Oscars a few days away, and you see this story in the entertainment section:
February 28, 1937
Blonde Beauty Buddies Cheer Each Other On
Jean, Carole Ascend In Film Firmament
HOLLYWOOD -– Do Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard have a mutual admiration society?
“You might say so,” Miss Lombard replied with a laugh as fellow blonde Miss Harlow nodded with approval. “Jean is such a sweet and charming lady.”
“The same can be said for Carole,” Jean said over lunch at the Brown Derby as customers passed by their booth and politely gave their regards to both.
Miss Harlow is now linked with William Powell, Carole’s ex-husband, and she doesn’t mind their romance a bit. “The two make a marvelous couple, and would make an even better husband and wife,” said Miss Lombard, now frequently seen in public with one of her regular M-G-M co-stars, Clark Gable.
Both actresses –- considered among the most luminous ladies in filmland — are riding high in popularity. Miss Lombard, who’s been one of Metro’s most valuable properties for five years now, will soon star opposite Robert Taylor in the comedy “Personal Property.” Meanwhile, Paramount has high hopes for “Swing High, Swing Low,” which will come out in about a month, co-starring Miss Harlow and Fred MacMurray in a musical where Jean actually sings a bit.
“Just a bit,” Jean said in self-deprecation.
“Don’t worry, hon, I’m not much of a golden throat either,” Carole added, laughing. “I guess she and I are the anti-Boswell Sisters.”
Both are looking forward to this week’s Academy Awards. Each have received nominations, Jean for best actress in “My Man Godfrey,” Carole for best supporting actress for her role as a bride perennially left at the altar in “Libeled Lady.”
“It’s good we’re not in the same category, though if we were we’d be ladylike about it,” Jean said, smiling.
Carole nodded approvingly. “You want to see us competitive? Come to the tennis court, where Baby rarely takes a set from me.”
“But on the golf course, it’s a horse of a different color,” Miss Harlow responded, referring to her mastery on the links.
The two blondes became friends in late 1931, when both were being considered for parts as gold-diggers in Samuel Goldwyn’s saucy comedy, “The Greeks Had A Word For Them.” Neither was cast, but it didn’t stop either’s progress in Hollywood.
Carole, about a year and a half older than Jean, reached stardom first, as Howard Hughes cast her as love interest Helen in his 1930 air epic “Hell’s Angels.” She admitted the role was “ridiculous -– and so was the dialogue,” but it catapulted her into the limelight after working with Mack Sennett in two-reel comedies.
She had her ups and downs for a little over a year, making a few programmers along with supporting roles in hits such as “The Public Enemy” (“What actress wouldn’t want to work with James Cagney?” Miss Lombard said) and “Platinum Blonde.” In the latter, she dyed her hair to that color to play the title heiress, “and some in the industry thought I was copying Jean.” Carole then sighed, saying she still wistfully remembered Robert Williams, who died not long after its release.
At the time, Miss Harlow was a relatively obscure player at Paramount, which had signed her to a contract at the suggestion of Clara Bow after Jean had a small role in “The Saturday Night Kid.”
“Clara did a lot to encourage my career,” Miss Harlow said. “I’m sad that she’s no longer in the business, but I’m happy for her in that she seems happier the few times I see her.”
However, Miss Harlow’s rise was slow and steady. With Paramount’s stable of starlets, she gained experience on lower-tier features, such as Buddy Rogers’ “Safety In Numbers” in 1930 and the Gary Cooper vehicle “I Take This Woman” the following year. “Coop was great to work with, and I had a ball riding a horse!” Jean said of that film; they worked again three years later in “Now And Forever,” with everyone’s favorite moppet, Shirley Temple.
“Shirley deserves her fame and praise,” Jean said. “For her youth, she has remarkable composure and poise on the set.”
The year 1932 was a good year for both blondes’ careers. Carole was signed by M-G-M after a good supporting turn in “The Beast Of The City,” getting her breakthrough role in “Red-Headed Woman,” where the normally blonde Miss Lombard won wows for not only her new hair shade, but her mastery of comedy.
“People only viewed me through the prism of sex -– I said prism, not prison, though it might as well have been,” Miss Lombard said, eliciting a laugh from Miss Harlow. “Okay, so I have sex appeal. Big deal. Making people laugh –- now that’s an achievement!”
“That’s true,” Jean added. “People who don’t know us think we’re obsessed with glamour, but that really isn’t the case. Yes, we’re very dedicated to our work, and we take it seriously. We follow what goes on in the business, just as anyone does in their trade. But we keep up with world events, do plenty of reading and so on. Being glamorous doesn’t mean being stupid.”
Carole followed up “Red-Headed Woman” with the torrid “Red Dust,” vying for Gable’s manly charms with Mary Astor, a distant relative of hers. “I have such fun on screen with Clark,” she said. They’ve subsequently teamed up a number of times -– “Hold Your Man,” “China Seas,” “Wife Versus Secretary” (“Watch out for that James Stewart, he’s going places,” Miss Lombard said) and they’ll soon be together again in “Saratoga.”
In ’32, Miss Harlow also worked with Gable, when Metro loaned him out to Paramount for “No Man Of Her Own.” Asked about Clark, Jean said, “Sure I’d like to work with him again.” She also gained success on a loanout of her own, visiting Columbia and winning praise for “Virtue.”
Still, Jean appeared stifled at Paramount, seemingly unable to gain a distinctive screen personality, whereas in contrast Carole was riding high at Metro with the delightful “Dinner At Eight” and the satiric “Bombshell.”
“You can’t imagine how many guys have said they wanted to run barefoot through my hair,” Carole said, citing a line from the latter film and chuckling.
But Miss Harlow finally found her stride in 1934, again at Columbia. Playing a salesgirl turned petulant star in “Twentieth Century,” she was every bit as hilarious as John Barrymore, whose praise for her was effusive. On the other hand, Jean finally got the M-G-M treatment that fall in “The Gay Bride,” and while she looked beautiful, it didn’t provide the boost she expected.
That wouldn’t come until 1935, when Paramount gave her a romantic comedy worthy of her talent — “Hands Across The Table,” directed by Mitchell Leisen and co-starring MacMurray. “It was fun playing a manicurist digging for gold and learning bigger lessons,” Miss Harlow said.
Last year, Jean and Carole gained greater stature, each through working with the dapper Mr. Powell. Miss Lombard enjoyed portraying the luckless Gladys Simpson in “Libeled Lady,” noting that “working with Bill, Myrna (Loy) and Spencer (Tracy) is a pleasure and a challenge simultaneously. You have to keep up with them, but the good news is that they make it so easy.”
“Even when your ex reeled you in?” Jean replied jokingly, referring to a scene where Carole’s character is hooked by Powell’s fishing rod while in a hotel suite. (If that doesn’t make sense, you haven’t seen the movie.)
“True comedy requires pain,” Carole replied sarcastically. “By the way, you were wonderful as Irene Bullock in ‘Godfrey.’”
“Given the popularity of this thing called screwball, I was tempted to play her as a flighty sort, but that really isn’t me,” Miss Harlow said. “So instead, I emphasized her blend of sweetness and naivete. With all those fine actors in the cast, it worked.”
“We’ve both achieved a lot,” Carole said. “Who knows, if things had gone slightly differently somewhere along the line, we might be in each other’s shoes.”
Would Misses Lombard and Harlow like to appear in a movie together?
“I’d love it!” Carole said. “Trouble is, most pictures that aren’t adventures or westerns, whether they be comedies or dramas, cast a guy and a girl as the leads -– ‘Libeled Lady’ was the exception to the rule. When two women are the leads, it’s usually one of those two-reel comedies, the kind Thelma Todd made, rest her soul.”
Jean concurred. “I’m sure some writer out there -– Ben Hecht, Norman Krasna, somebody -– could create a script that would make Carole and I distinctive and different characters,” she said. “Would a studio be interested in that type of property? I don’t know. But someday, I would enjoy making a movie with her, though it’d probably be at Metro -– L.B. considers Carole too valuable to loan out.”
With that, they extended their arms over the table and shook hands.
While it’s highly unlikely film history would have proceeded precisely this way, you could make the case for Lombard traveling Harlow’s career route and vice versa. Jean did have a small role in “The Saturday Night Kid” (another Jean of later fame, Miss Arthur, also had a supporting part). Had a Paramount executive seen something in Harlow and signed her to a significant contract, she might well have spent her next several years based on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood rather than Washington Boulevard in Culver City.
As for Carole, she did have a brief, discreet relationship with Howard Hughes in 1929; had Harlow been unavailable, would he have cast Lombard in the sound version of “Hell’s Angels”? It might well have happened. Darwin Porter makes a case for this in his 2005 Hughes bio “Howard Hughes, Hell’s Angel,” but his purported dialogue, which naturally can’t be corroborated, paints a portrait of Lombard that doesn’t mesh with what we know about her at that age. (For more on Porter’s book and his rather spurious account, see http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/57165.html.)
In short, it’s not hard to imagine a Paramount Harlow, as well as a Lombard who somehow finds her way to MGM (perhaps not through Paul Bern). In this alternate universe, I’ve tried to avoid shoehorning Jean’s personality into Carole’s films, and vice versa, although a Harlow left to fend for herself at Paramount during its financial struggles in the early thirties might have become somewhat different than the Harlow we’re familiar with.
Conversely, just because Lombard’s lone film at Metro was the lackluster “The Gay Bride” doesn’t mean she couldn’t have succeeded there as a studio star rather than a hired hand. Irving Thalberg probably would have made sure she received good scripts, and without a Harlow on hand, an MGM Lombard might have been cast in those sexy comedies, as well as other properties tailored to her talents.
It’s a fascinating “what if” to ponder.
Oh, and three other things to note:
* Harlow and Lombard apparently really were among the candidates for “The Greeks Had A Word For Them,” according to contemporary accounts.
* The Lombard-Cagney comment is sort of ironic. In real life, Carole had a chance to work with him, but refused a loanout to Warners to make “Taxi!” (Loretta Young got the female lead), a decision Lombard long regretted.
* That one-and-a-half year age difference between Carole and Jean was an intentional error. At the time, studio publicists had Lombard born in 1909, not 1908.
Incidentally, I hope you like this week’s Lombard header image, showing Carole in a pensive mood.
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.27 at 01:50
Current mood: nostalgic
That’s Carole Lombard, playing a princess (or, should we say, playing a character passing herself off as one) in the 1936 Paramount comedy “The Princess Comes Across.” Two years earlier, one of Hollywood’s most notable moguls labeled her a queen — in print.
And what’s most interesting about this is that it came from a man who would never work professionally with Lombard.
He’s Darryl F. Zanuck, shown in 1940 when he was head of one of the industry’s top studios, Twentieth Century-Fox. But six years earlier, there was no “Fox” in that title, as Zanuck ran Twentieth Century Pictures, the upstart studio he had co-founded the year before after leaving Warners. (The merger with ailing Fox would come the following year.)
In January 1934, Zanuck wrote a newspaper article on “The Nine Queens Of Hollywood,” and yes, Lombard was one of them:
This is from the Winnipeg Free Press of Jan. 13, 1934. One would think this was a syndicated piece, that Zanuck wasn’t writing expressly for a daily in central Canada, but so far I can’t find this in another newspaper.
You can see Carole in shorts, showing off her legs, at right, with Joan Crawford’s disembodied head at her feet, both dwarfed by Jean Harlow at left.
It’s interesting that Zanuck chose Lombard, who at the time was possibly better known for her legs than for her acting. “Twentieth Century” (the film, not the studio!) was a few months away, and may have just started production when this came to print.
So we know three of the other nine; who were the other six? (Hint: Myrna Loy, who would be named “queen of Hollywood” in a 1936 fan poll, was not one of them.)
Three of the queens aren’t all that surprising for the time — Constance Bennett, Norma Shearer and Loretta Young (the last of whom would work for Zanuck for many years at Twentieth Century-Fox):
But the other three might surprise you with their “royal” lineage, even though one of them had won an Academy Award.
That’s Helen Hayes, who would trade in her Hollywood “queendom” for the comforts of being Broadway royalty. Zanuck’s other two queens, far more obscure today, never quite became big stars — Anna Sten, who Samuel Goldwyn vainly tried to make into another Greta Garbo, and Constance Cummings, a friend of Carole’s best known today for being Harold Lloyd’s leading lady in 1932’s underrated “Movie Crazy”:
I’d love to tell you more about this column, about what Zanuck had to say about Carole, the two Constances and others. Unfortunately, I can’t enlarge this page to the point where the print would be legible. However, you can purchase this page through eBay for $17.50 through its “buy it now” option, or you can make an offer. (If unsold, the offer will end March 28.) Interested? Go to http://cgi.ebay.com/100236CQ-HOLLYWOOD-JEAN-HARLOW-CAROLE-LOMBARD-JAN-1934-/390292755434?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5adf42d3ea. (And if you do get it, forward me what it says.)
In honor of Zanuck, we’ll close with him speaking and introducing a tour of the Twentieth Century-Fox studios (much of which is now gone, replaced by the Century City development), part of a film the company made for industry people attending a convention. It’s listed as being from 1935, but references to “Cafe Metropole” and “On The Avenue” indicate it’s actually from 1937. You’ll even see Shirley Temple (speaking of royalty!) at the end.
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.27 at 13:33
Current mood: excited
Ever the competitor, Carole Lombard is preparing for a tournament, ready to face her peers. But this isn’t tennis — no, it’s a competition being staged by Monty at the site “All Good Things” (http://poohtiger-allgoodthings.blogspot.com), and it’s scheduled to start tomorrow. He calls it “March Madness (Classic Movie Goddess style),” with 64 of classic Hollywood’s greats squaring off.
Some of you college basketball fans may be saying, “64? Doesn’t Monty realize there are 68 teams in the tourney now?” True, but that’s in the men’s tournament; the women’s event still has 64 entrants. (So Monty, when you do something like this with actors, make the field 68.)
According to at least one biographer, Carole did play some basketball in school (not that surprising, considering that for many in the early 1920s, it was as much an activity for women and girls as it was for men and boys). But she won’t have to practice her jump shot here, because this competition will be fought by fans.
Monty explains the criteria this way: “I broke down the actresses into 4 groups: I combined the silent era with the 1930’s; the 1940’s; the 1950’s; and the 1960’s. There will be 16 women per section and I’m currently ranking them 1 to 16 based on their popularity, success, award achievements, and acting prowess.”
Wonder if Marion Davies made the cut?
Here’s how it will work, according to Monty:
“Once I have all 64 actresses chosen, they will be paired up in matches and I will have the voting take place on my sidebar. So the first round will have 8 matches taking place. I will start with the silent/30’s era for the first week beginning on Monday, February 28th until the final actress is left standing. And then week 2 will be for the 40’s era, week 3 for the 50’s and week 4 for the 60’s. You will have two days to vote for each round so please come by and vote quickly. And then the final four to determine the most popular actress will begin on March 28th. Two days for each semi-final match and then the final match beginning on April 1st. I will let that match run 3 days so I can crown the champion on Monday.”
That means that the first-round battle involving Lombard could come as early as Monday, so I beseech all of her fans (the “Team Carole” noted in the subject line) to visit “All Good Things” every day, to vote for her when her event takes place as well as to vote on the other bouts. The top seeds in each category are Greta Garbo, silents/1930s; Bette Davis, 1940s; Audrey Hepburn, 1950s; Doris Day, 1960s.
And there’s another reason to visit “All Good Things” tomorrow and in the upcoming weeks. Monty has a feature called “Classic Movie Goddess Of The Month,” and guess who happens to have the honor for March?
Lombard, whom Monty says “also happens to be my favorite actress of all time.” Clearly, this is a man of taste.
One immaculate lady, man
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.26 at 01:46
Current mood: contemplative
In purely artistic terms, “Ladies’ Man” was a programmer, little more. But it was Carole Lombard’s second film with William Powell, whom she’d marry in late June 1931, not long after its release. Powell had already made a few films with Kay Francis, although their splendid chemistry would reach full flower when both went to Warners in 1932. (And, of course, Lombard and Francis would work together in the 1939 drama “In Name Only.”)
When I saw “Ladies’ Man” at the old Theater 80 St. Marks in lower Manhattan in the late 1980s, I didn’t think much of Lombard’s performance. Based upon the lone comment made about the movie at IMDb, perhaps I should give it another look, though it’s difficult to track down. (Unlike Powell’s first film with Carole, “Man Of The World” — made earlier in ’31 — it has received no official DVD release.)
I thought about “Ladies’ Man” after coming across a publicity still made by ace Paramount portrait artist Eugene Robert Richee (1896-1972), who took plenty of magnificent pictures of Carole. Richee, for several years head of Paramount’s still photography studio, captured her glamour as well as any photographer of his era. The photo below makes that evident:
That is the type of portrait that dares you not to double-click it to view at its full, glorious size, just to examine Carole’s stunning face. (Also note two “tricks” she uses to disguise the slight scar from her automobile accident five years earlier — she’s photographed at a slight angle away from the scar, and she’s also placing her fingers over the scar, simultaneously giving the impression she’s deep in thought. Which she may well be.)
This solo shot could well be part of Paramount’s p1202 collection of Lombard images…but it isn’t. Instead, it is marked 828-65, “828” being the code number for “Ladies’ Man.” It’s a 7 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ original, slightly trimmed and in excellent condition.
And if you want it, prepare to pay. Bidding for this photo begins at $294.95, and as of this writing, no bids have been made. There’s plenty of time, though, because bidding ends at 11:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday.
If you’d like to place this in your collection, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/Vintage-Carole-Lombard-31-GORGEOUS-Portrait-RICHEE-/380317415563?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item588caf388b.
Just as a point of comparison, here’s another Richee portrait from that session, also released as part of the “Ladies’ Man” issue:
Maybe it’s me, but I prefer the first picture, the one being auctioned. In the second one, she appears less sure of herself, almost seeming vacant upstairs.
Break on through to the Other Side
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.25 at 01:48
Current mood: calm
Ever wonder what Carole Lombard and Clark Gable are up to these days? That’s right, I said “these days.”
No, I have not been partaking of any controlled substances, nor have I suffered a bump on my head that leads me to believe I’m in 1940. Yes, I know Lombard hasn’t been with us for nearly 70 years, and that Gable has been gone for more than half a century. But that’s here where they’re in the past tense; there could be a “there” where they live on.
And a best-selling author believes she’s tracked them down. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the latest offering from noted psychic Sylvia Browne:
“Afterlives Of The Rich And Famous” was released earlier this month by HarperCollins, and according to Browne, Clark and Carole were the impetus behind this book:
“It was very strange. One night I was lying in bed and I was thinking about Clark Gable and his love affair with Carole Lombard. I asked my spirit guide (Francine) if they ever got together, and she said that they’re very much in love ‘over here.’ When she says ‘over here,’ she means the Other Side. They rowboat together, they walk together.”
But do they hunt together? (That’s Clark and Carole from their 1941 trip to South Dakota.) Perhaps on that astral plane, the pheasants feel no pain. (The preceding sentence is arguably the weirdest one I’ve ever written.)
And Browne says the afterlife has no clouds or harps:
“In actuality, the afterlife is 3 feet above our ground level. People keep looking up to the sky -– which isn’t correct. When people see ‘ghosts,’ they always say they’re floating. They’re not actually floating, they’re walking on their own solid ground. It has libraries, it has record centers, it has concert halls, it has everything except the negativity.”
Three feet off the ground? I guess that means anyone who found a way to visually experience both planes simultaneously would be eye level to all sorts of afterlife kneecaps.
I haven’t come across the book yet, but online there are some snippets of references to Lombard (I’m not sure whether she’s one of the 40 celebrities profiled or merely mentioned as an adjunct to Gable):
* On page 206, it says one celebrity, whose identity I can’t immediately discern, is “performing with an unending series of plays, particularly with her old friends Laurence Olivier and Carole Lombard.” (Has the afterlife Lombard suddenly developed a hankering for the theatre? If so, the afterlife Broadway and West End are in for a treat.)
* On page 248, there is a reference to “high-spirited, outspoken actress Carole Lombard. Legend has it that it was Carole Lombard who first suggested the idea of Clark Gable for…” (I’m pretty sure this refers to Rhett Butler, all you “Gone With The Wind” fans.)
* The facing page, 249, has this: “It was January 16, 1942, three years into this marriage of kindred souls. Carole Lombard had just finished her film ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ and boarded TWA Flight 3…” Alas, we know the rest.
* Finally, this from page 251: “…at rest beside the body of Carole Lombard, where he’d yearned to be for so many years. From Francine: The first face he saw when he arrived Home…”
Anyone here bought or seen the book? I’d be fascinated to learn more about how Browne and Francine envision the afterlives of Carole and Clark.
The subjects profiled in this book include the usual suspects — Marilyn Monroe, Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith, subject of a recent opera (yes, opera) in London:
But there are some celebrities who one might be surprised to find, such as veteran newsman Walter Cronkite and comedian George Carlin, known for his skepticism regarding organized religion. I’ve seen part of Carlin’s afterlife description, and it’s pretty interesting. According to Browne’s conduit, Francine:
“I wish you could have seen the look of shock on George’s face when he emerged from the tunnel and discovered there really is life after death after all. And when he found his first wife, Brenda, waiting to greet him, he was stunned into a long silence while he held her, after which I’m told he gaped at the hundreds of spirits and animals who gathered for the reunion and said, ‘I’ll be damned.'”
After which I fully expected that a loud voice — maybe resembling Bill Cosby’s Almighty in his famous “Noah” routine — would tell Carlin, “No, you won’t.” Because, to borrow the title of an Elvis Costello song, God’s comic.
Sounds like a fun read, no matter what your views on the hereafter — even if when you hear the name “Jean Dixon,” you don’t think of the psychic (didn’t her first name have an “e,” a la Lombard?), but the fine, unrelated character actress who portrayed the maid in “My Man Godfrey”:
A blogathon for Harlow’s 100th
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.24 at 01:44
Current mood: excited
It seems likely that for several years, when March 3 rolled around, Carole Lombard sent a card — or made a phone call — to wish Jean Harlow a happy birthday. They were good friends, simpatico in so many ways: as skilled comedic actresses, sex symbols of a sort, people who were genuinely beloved by studio subordinates for reasons that extended far beyond their considerable physical beauty. Plus they had the same men play major roles in their lives — William Powell (romantically for both) and Clark Gable (romance for one, a close friendship for the other).
In that spirit, we are delighted to announce that, with the centenary of Jean’s birth coming up a week from today, a blogathon in her honor has been created:
It’s being organized by a fine site, the Kitty Packard Pictorial (http://kittypackard.wordpress.com/). What’s it about? Let its creator explain:
The Kitty Packard Pictorial is the lovechild of an LA gal suffering from an apparent glitch in the Space-Time Continuum. (Not that I don’t love our iPods and Crackberry’s … but freshly pressed 78s and coded telegrams are much more fun.)
The Pictorial was created as a very necessary means of self-expression, as well as to provide a platform through which we could fuse past with present—looking at the world each day through Black and White (and Technicolor!) glasses. The aim is to create a sense of then in our everyday nows through movies, photos, music, essays, news articles, books, art and anything else that happens to strike my fanciful whim. (what are blogs for, after all, if not to indulge one’s fanciful whims!)
Those whims are wonderful, by the way. And “Kitty Packard”? I think most of you should get the allusion…and why this site is administering this blogathon.
And in the best tradition of friendship, “Carole & Co.” is proud to announce it will be among the participants in this blogathon. I had a delightful time taking part in the recent CMBA Alfred Hitchcock blogathon, and this should be equally as satisfying.
So in honor of Harlow’s 100th, a few photos of “the Baby” in advertising of the day. (All three are from the early 1930s, essentially her pre-MGM days.) Here’s “Howard Hughes star” Harlow for Coca-Cola:
Jean in 1931, pitching Luckies:
In 1932, Harlow was seen in magazines such as Photoplay endorsing something called the “Vita-Tonic Wave”:
Heck, Jean spent much of her time at beauty salons:
The cat’s meow, and more
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.23 at 02:43
Current mood: busy
As we’ve often noted, Carole Lombard adored animals. I’m not sure what pets were in her household during her youth as Jane Alice Peters, but there probably were a few. It also explains why she adjusted so well to life on the ranch in Encino. some distance away from the Hollywood-Beverly Hills area where she had heretofore spent much of her time.
Is that a nice pic with a cat? Sure, but as Al Jolson would say, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. For sheer adorableness, I doubt any Lombard photo beats this one:
Carole plays mama cat with this cute quartet of kittens (one of which is staying close to Lombard for warmth), and she’s clearly enjoying all this feline company.
This is the highlight of several photos being auctioned at eBay by a Memphis company, Historic and Vintage Images, which has acquired original photographs from newspapers such as the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the Denver Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and others. Here’s the back of the photo, including a snipe:
The photo was issued by RKO in 1940 for “They Knew What They Wanted,” but it apparently didn’t enter this newspaper’s library until December 1944.
And believe it or not, as of this writing no one has placed a bid on this rare and charming photo. Bids begin at $9.99, with bids closing at 2:53 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. This would be a purr-fect (say that in your best Julie Newmar Catwoman voice) gift for the cat lover in your life. Interested? Go to http://cgi.ebay.com/1944-press-photo-Carole-Lombard-American-Actress-US-/280632690303?pt=Art_Photo_Images&hash=item415703067f.
But wait — there’s more from this seller, also from “They Knew What They Wanted.” Here she is, leaning on a fence:
Again, there’s a snipe:
One interesting note — the snipe lists Lombard’s character as “Ann Peters,” but in the film she’s Amy Peters. Was it changed? And there’s a 1945 date printed above the snipe.
Like the cat photo, bids start at $9.99 and no bids have to date been placed; this picture has an earlier bidding deadline — 5:03 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday. If you’d like to bid, or merely want to learn more, visit http://cgi.ebay.com/1945-press-photo-Carole-Lombard-Charles-Laughton-/270708056273?pt=Art_Photo_Images&hash=item3f077520d1.
Those photos have not yet been bid on; in contrast, the following pic has received four, despite having cropmarks:
Here’s how the photo looks without it (thanks to Tally for the work):
And the back:
The image, first received at the newspaper in August 1937 (you can see part of the “Carole Lombard Paramount Pictures” stamp near the top), was used on Oct. 6, 1980 on the anniversary of her birth — though the writer erroneously listed her birth name as Janice Alice Peters.
Four bids have been made on this, topping at $48. If you want to strike late, you don’t have me; bidding closes at 5:18 p.m. (Eastern) today. Go to http://cgi.ebay.com/1937-press-photo-Carole-Lombard-actress-film-star-/270707623411?pt=Art_Photo_Images&hash=item3f076e85f3.
Finally, here’s one more Lombard photo from this dealer, Paramount p1202-1050 from 1935:
The back of the picture looks like this, although I’m showing it upside down:
There are two visible stamp dates for this photo, both from the 1950s, as well as a “TV” marking; by this time, many of Lombard’s films had been released for television. There’s a small blurb that apparently accompanied this image when it was printed, and note the erroneous date of her passing –– June 16, 1942, not Jan. 16.
No bids have been placed on this as yet. Bids start at $9.99, with bidding closing at 4:31 p.m. (Eastern) Thursday. To place a bid or get more info, visit http://cgi.ebay.com/1957-press-photo-Carole-Lombard-actress-Clark-Gable-/290535700671?pt=Art_Photo_Images&hash=item43a546f8bf.
Early reflections, plus a ‘castle’ at night
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.22 at 00:22
Current mood: artistic
Mirrors were often a part of Carole Lombard’s photo shoots, enabling multiple angles of what she was wearing (and multiple Caroles as well!). This photo is Paramount p1202-712, probably taken around 1934.
I bring this up because I just came across what may be the first photo — from Paramount, at least — showing Lombard with a mirror. It’s p1202-51, probably taken in mid- to late 1930:
It’s a rather striking image of Lombard next to a planter; I have no idea who took it, though I would guess it was Otto Dyar, the studio’s head photographer at the time. The photo was probably taken from above, at an angle where the camera could not be seen, so the actual Lombard is the one on the bottom.
The photo is 8″ x 10″, struck from the original negative, and can be yours for $14.99. If interested, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/Carole-Lombard-8×10-Photo-D6-/120680433041?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c191d4591.
In the past, I’ve often raved about Hearst Castle at San Simeon, where the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst built an incredible palace over more than two decades…a place Lombard visited on several occasions thanks to her good friend Marion Davies. I’ve toured the “ranch,” but here’s a whole new take on the place — highlights from one of the nighttime tours. Early on in this, you’ll see the famous outdoor pool at dusk, and it looks spectacular. Then, you’ll go inside, get a feel for what the guest rooms were like come evening time, and even see some of the docents dressed in 1930s wear. You can imagine what it was like when Davies and Hearst entertained everyone from Lombard to George Bernard Shaw.
‘Ad’ these to your collection
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.21 at 01:21
Current mood: working
Carole Lombard enjoyed making movies; advertising made sure the public knew about them and said films could thus make money. Today’s entry features seven ads for Lombard movies that are up for auction at eBay, and curiously, none of them have been bid on as of this writing. All have an opening bid of $9.99, and bidding ends on the items between 10:03 and 10:35 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday.
We’ll do this alphabetically by film, the only reason this kicks off with the lackluster “Fools For Scandal”:
Actually, had the movie been as attractive as the ad, it might have been fairly good instead of a disappointment. I like that line in the lower left-hand corner — “Their romance is scandalicious, scandalovely, scandalirious!” Also note at the bottom that the ad apparently ran in the May 1938 issue of Screen Book magazine; a message reads, “When answering advertisements, please mention Screen Book magazine.” It measures 7 1/4″” x 10 1/2″ and is in very good condition. To learn more, visit http://cgi.ebay.com/1938-ad-Fools-Scandal-Carole-Lombard-Ralph-Bellamy-/220740932534?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item33652f53b6.
Next, a newspaper ad for what would be Carole’s next film, “Made For Each Other” with James Stewart:
The ad states in the upper right-hand corner, “Carole Lombard makes a brilliant transition from comedienne to dramatic star!” It measures 8″ x 11″ and is from the Portland (Ore.) News-Telegram. Find out more at http://cgi.ebay.com/1939-Made-Each-Other-James-Stewart-Carole-Lombard-/270707712440?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f076fe1b8.
Next, my favorite in the bunch, for RKO’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”:
The A-B-C angle to sell the film is delightful; the photo of Carole in the upper-left corner is sublime. RKO was certainly hoping that returning Mrs. Gable to her comedic milieu would pay off, and it did, with substantially better box office than her previous dramatic turns. The source for the ad isn’t listed, but the 7″ x 10.25″ probably indicates it’s from a magazine. It’s listed in very good condition, and more information can be gained by going to http://cgi.ebay.com/1940-ad-Hitchcocks-Mr-Mrs-Smith-Carole-Lombard-/270707711255?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f076fdd17.
Now, let’s head back to the fall of 1936 and Lombard’s hit for Universal, “My Man Godfrey”:
Nothing especially significant about this ad, though it’s characteristically clean and stylish. We do learn that author Eric Hatch, whose Liberty magazine serial, “Irene, The Stubborn Girl,” became the original source for the film, also wrote a novel called “My Man Godfrey.” (One guesses this version was more in line with the changes made in the movie, such as making Lombard’s Irene Bullock character younger than sister Cornelia, rather than older.) Again, I have no idea where this ad ran — it measures 7 1/4″ x 10 1/4″. it’s at http://cgi.ebay.com/1936-My-Man-Godfrey-ad-William-Powell-Carole-Lombard-/270707715456?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f076fed80.
Now to “Nothing Sacred,” and some confusion:
The seller lists the ad as being from 1940, when “Nothing Sacred” opened in late 1937. I know the movie was reissued in 1942 as a posthumous salute to Lombard, but there might have been a reissue of sorts in 1940, when Selznick was having some financial problems despite the runaway success of his “Gone With The Wind.” You can check out the ad at http://cgi.ebay.com/1940-Nothing-Sacred-ad-Carole-Lombard-Fredric-March-/220740937800?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item33652f6848.
In the spring of 1937, Lombard and Fred MacMurray were packing them in for “Swing High, Swing Low” (Paramount’s biggest moneymaker of the year), and here’s an ad that ran for it:
This charming ad refers to MacMurray’s two previous collaborations with Carole, “Hands Across The Table” and “The Princess Comes Across.” It’s 7 1/2″ x 10 1/2″, in very good condition, and at http://cgi.ebay.com/1936-ad-Swing-High-Swing-Low-Carole-Lombard-F-MacMurray-/270707708955?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f076fd41b.
Finally, an ad for one of those RKO dramas that critics tended to like but audiences found disconcerting, 1940’s “Vigil In The Night”:
That you see spot red in this ad indicates that RKO was giving “Vigil” a push as one of its prestige pictures. and indeed this ad, measuring 8 1/4″ x 11 1/4″, ran in the March 1940 Screenland magazine, probably in the inside front or back cover. The ad understandably emphasizes “The intimate secrets of a private nurse,” rather than its downbeat atmosphere. For more about this ad, visit http://cgi.ebay.com/1940-ad-Vigil-Night-Carole-Lombard-Brian-Aherne-/270707718440?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f076ff928.
Also, hope you enjoy this week’s horizontal header of a languid Lombard.
Plenty of goodies on the Jersey side
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.20 at 09:33
Current mood: accomplished
For those of you out skiing — cross-country or downhill — over this Presidents’ Day weekend in the U.S., a gift to those using a laptop at the lodge. It’s Carole Lombard, dressed up for winter fun as her character Ann Smith, in a publicity still for “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” a testament to the deceptive power of studio snow. (This was almost certainly taken on the RKO lot.)
It’s an 8″ x 10″ original, in very good condition, and the seller says it includes a seven-line snipe on the back. (Unfortunately, the snipe is not shown nor its exact wording stated.) You can buy it straight up for $20, although the sale will end at 12:53 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday. To purchase, or learn more, visit http://cgi.ebay.com/Carole-Lombard-41-Hitchcock-Original-Photo-/260697385170?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3cb2c668d2.
The seller, the Motion Picture Arts Gallery, is located in East Rutherford, N.J., best known to the world as home of the sports complex where the NFL’s Giants and Jets play (and, not long ago, the NHL’s Devils and NBA’s Nets). It’s owned by the former chairman of the Film Society at Lincoln Center (which did a Lombard retrospective back in 1987), and prides itself on selling strictly original material — no reproductions.
The eBay sale site links to the gallery’s website, and a quick search for Carole Lombard leads to all sorts of fascinating things. Perhaps the most exciting, from my perspective, is this lobby card from 1925’s “Hearts And Spurs,” a Fox western now deemed lost (as is the case with all the films Lombard made before her 1926 automobile accident):
Lombard, then all of 16 (this film was released in June 1925), is probably the woman standing in the white outfit; she and Jean Lamott are the only women listed in the cast. This Buck Jones vehicle (the movie, not the car!) was directed by W.S. Van Dyke, who would become an MGM stalwart in the 1930s for “Trader Horn” and the first two teamings of William Powell and Myrna Loy, “Manhattan Melodrama” and “The Thin Man.”
The price on that lobby card is $300, also the same price as this lobby card rarity from Carole’s first film at Columbia, “Virtue”:
Superb art work, with a lovely rendering of Lombard in a red dress as she meets Pat O’Brien and his fellow New York cabbies. It’s a still image I’ve never seen before — either as a lobby card or as a publicity pic — and in very good condition.
We’ve previously run a photo of Lombard, co-star Fred MacMurray and director Mitchell Leisen meeting Paramount mogul Adolph Zukor on the set of “Swing High, Swing Low.” Here’s another one from that shoot; here, all four are seated:
This 8″ x 10″ still is being sold for $75. So is this still, inadvertently credited from the website as being from “Nothing Scared“:
Hey, the idea of a squirrel on my shoulder would’ve made me “scared,” too…especially if I had been previously injured by a wild animal (as Lombard was a few years earlier, when a monkey scarred her arm during the filming of “White Woman”). Aside from that incident, Carole must have had an almost supernatural rapport with animals. A snipe from Selznick International is attached to the back, and perhaps publicist Russell Birdwell can explain just why this rodent is perched on her shoulder.
To learn more about the Motion Picture Arts Gallery, go to http://www.mpagallery.com/intro/index.asp.
One more for the ‘Book’
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.19 at 02:02
Current mood: satisfied
Ever wonder what Carole Lombard’s favorite fan magazine was? She certainly wouldn’t have announced it publicly, but one logical candidate would probably be Screen Book. And why not? Not only had she been featured on its cover several times, but on one occasion (the April 1936 issue) she served as guest editor (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/213419.html):
So it should come as no surprise that the magazine’s photographer, Jack Albin, took a photo of Carole reading Screen Book while seated in the Hollywood auditorium that “Lux Radio Theater” called home:
Interesting outfit, although those ankle-strap shoes really don’t become her.
The seller of this photo says it was taken in 1939, and was done while Lombard — who by now had appeared twice on the program — waited for Clark Gable to finish a rehearsal. A check of the “Lux” log shows Gable made but one appearance on the series in 1939…to reprise his Academy Award-winning role opposite Claudette Colbert (reprising hers) in the radio adaptation of “It Happened One Night,” a program that aired on March 20. (One wonders whether Carole and Clark had already agreed to elope before month’s end.)
Lombard’s likely looking at the March issue of Screen Book, although perhaps the April issue had hit the newsstands by then. We know it’s not the February issue, because guess who was on the cover?
The photo of Lombard with the magazines measures 11″ x 14″; it’s not an original but was struck from a vintage negative. You can purchase it for $15, and it will be up for sale through 5:54 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. Interested? Check it out at http://cgi.ebay.com/CAROLE-LOMBARD-11×14-B-W-publicity-portrait-c-1939-/200568615575?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2eb2d23297.
Oh, and Screen Book wouldn’t be finished with Carole for 1939. In fact, armed with a new logo for the November issue, the magazine literally got her goat:
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.18 at 02:27
Current mood: exanimate
We’ll start with this one, which isn’t new but hasn’t run here in a few years. It’s the first postcard of Lombard produced by Germany’s famed Ross-Verlag publishing house (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/52279.html), and I’m guessing the photograph was taken late in her tenure at Pathe, although this card wasn’t issued until 1930:
Now, a few cards issued during her stay at Paramount. First, one for those of you who just adore bare shoulders:
The next two are considerably more sedate, but do have their own charm:
This one lists Lombard as an RKO star:
Now one I can’t figure out at all. The card shows Carole as part of “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,” which I could see if this photo was from “The Gay Bride.” But it’s clearly from “The Princess Comes Across,” a Paramount feature issued some 18 months after “The Gay Bride,” the lone movie she made for MGM. And, of course, the image of her with a cigarette on her lips may have signaled sophistication back then, but today at least looks ludicrous (in addition to being dangerous for your health). Here it is, anyway:
This postcard was issued to promote Selznick International’s “Made For Each Other,” and it’s an image of Lombard as her character, Jane Mason, that relatively few have seen over the years:
One popular topic of movie star postcards was pictures of the actors’ homes. This image, probably issued in 1937, shows Lombard in front of her Beverly Hills residence:
And lo and behold, someone actually used it as a postcard, mailing it to a daughter at the Georgia State College for Women (GSCW) in Milledgeville, Ga. (The institution became co-educational in 1967, and is now known as Georgia College.)
In the card, dated April 10, 1938, we learn that Dad went deep-sea fishing that day, without much success. But if you want to reel in this card — which the seller admits shows signs of aging — you can. It’s on sale for $3.99 at eBay; to learn more, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/CA-BEVERLY-HILLS-CAROLE-LOMBARD-MAILED-1938-M47520-/150489020120?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2309d836d8.
One of these sellers invariably uses terms such as “sexy,” “leggy” or “busty” to describe a photo, although the third adjective almost never is accurate where Lombard is concerned. (Had Carole been born 20 years later and come to prominence in the 1950s, she might have had to market herself as an Audrey Hepburn-style gamin; she certainly wouldn’t have been seen as a rival to the buxom likes of Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield.) This seller, perhaps hoping said terms will bring potential buyers to the site, also tends to use “sexy” in the most questionable of contexts (the bond rally?).
Okay, now that we’ve got that “rant” out of the way, a photo — and an attractive and rare one — even though it’s headlined “CAROLE LOMBARD BUSTY DBLWT Original 8X10 Photo.” (“DBLWT” is an abbreviation for “doubleweight,” a common term for photo memorabilia.) Is she “busty” here? Decide for yourself:
I personally don’t think there’s much heft to her bosom here (one of the reasons Lombard rarely wore a bra), but that’s not the point, pardon the pun. What matters here in Paramount p1202-810 (placing it sometime in 1934) is that we see Carole in an attractive gown, and we know the man in the photo is studio design maven Travis Banton. But who’s the woman?
Fortunately, we have an answer, because this original doubleweight photo has a snipe on the back:
CAROLE LOMBARD, Madame Frances Spingold, famous New York designer, and Travis Banton, Paramount stylist, declare that Carole’s blue chiffon gown she wears in scenes of “Now And Forever” will create a new trend in evening gown creations. Banton is a former pupil of Madame Frances’, having studied with her in New York ten years ago.”
Did her blue chiffon gown (thanks for describing the color, Paramount publicists!) create a new trend? We’ll let the fashion historians answer that. But it’s a stunning photo, and it can be yours — but you don’t have much time. The photo, in very good condition, is being sold for $44.99, and the deadline for purchase is 9:43 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. Interested? Go to http://cgi.ebay.com/CAROLE-LOMBARD-BUSTY-DBLWT-Original-8X10-Photo-/400189404006?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d2d25b366 to learn more.
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.17 at 00:40
Current mood: nostalgic
That’s Carole Lombard taking a break from shooting her 1934 comedy “The Gay Bride”; it looks as if she’s poring over the script. Looking over her right shoulder is the film’s director, Jack Conway. Peering over her left, co-star Chester Morris.
This was taken on the MGM lot, and it would be the only film Lombard would make at Metro. She may be smiling, but the finished product produced the opposite reaction, as Carole would call “The Gay Bride” her worst film. (As I’ve stated many times before, as long as prints of “Fools For Scandal” exist — and I’m not advocating their elimination — “The Gay Bride” won’t be the worst film in her catalog. In fact, it also rates ahead of “High Voltage,” “The Racketeer” and a few of her early Paramount offerings.)
But from 1936 on. Lombard was no stranger to the MGM studio, thanks to her relationship with its top male star, Clark Gable. As Carole was one of the film community’s most popular people, she was always welcome.
We bring this up because of a book called “M-G-M: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot,” which we discussed here last July (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/320911.html).
Okay, the title isn’t technically correct, as Metro was actually located in Culver City, several miles from the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. But for roughly a quarter-century, MGM was generally considered the gold standard of studios for its huge stable of stars and impeccable production values.
Those days are long gone. Yes, MGM is a corporate entity today, but that’s about it. The lot the lion called home lo those many years on Washington Boulevard now belongs to Sony, the outgrowth of scrappy Columbia, a studio age underdog. Much of the acreage MGM used during its reign has been converted into apartments, condominiums and homes.
However, you can finally get a feel for the legendary lot because the book — which was initially scheduled to be released last fall — was issued this week. It includes interviews with Betty Garrett, an MGM musical star who we lost last weekend at age 91, and Richard Anderson, as well as an introduction by Debbie Reynolds, who likely spent some time working at stage 6, shown below, when it was topped with the MGM logo, not Columbia’s.
The book is available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/MGM-Hollywoods-Greatest-Steven-Bingen/dp/1595800557), where all six reviewers to date gave it five stars out of five. If you’ll be in southern California March 13, the three authors — Steven Bingen, Stephen X. Sylvester and Michael Troyan — will have a book signing at 4 p.m. at the Egyptian Theater, followed by a classic MGM twin bill of “The Band Wagon” (1953) and “That’s Entertainment” (1974). For more on the book, visit http://www.mgmbacklot.info/.
To close, here’s a clip of Carole from “The Gay Bride,” where she has some fine comedic interaction with the always-reliable Nat Pendleton and Zasu Pitts, before her showgirl character sits around and looks pretty on stage during the singing of the insipid “Mississippi Honeymoon.”
For the Lombard fan, a Lombard…fan
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.16 at 01:23
Current mood: curious
While this photo was taken indoors, Carole Lombard at least tries to give the impression that it’s a sunny summer afternoon somewhere, and she’s trying to beat the heat.
And, as it turns out, she can help you do just that. Ladies and gentlemen, one of the most unusual Lombard-related items I’ve ever run across…
…an honest-to-goodness Carole Lombard fan. And this fan doesn’t collect memorabilia; it is memorabilia. I’m certain it got plenty of use each January and February.
Oh, I forgot to mention — this fan comes from Argentina. In fact, it was sponsored by a pharmacist:
From the photo, I’m guessing this was issued between 1935 and 1937; the picture likely came from the same session that produced the top photo.
I have no idea whether this fan phenomenon was peculiar to Argentina, or whether movie star images were used on fans elsewhere. Some other Hollywood folks were similarly honored, including (no surprise) Latin American favorite Dolores Del Rio:
And here’s someone I didn’t expect to get the fan treatment — Astrid Allwyn, who had a supporting role in the Lombard vehicle “Hands Across The Table”:
It’s perhaps no surprise that while the eBay seller has a $25 price for both the Lombard and Del Rio fans, the one for Allwyn sells for a mere $16 US. (Did Carole and the other stars know their photos were being used for fans? They were certainly aware that their names and images were employed for an array of marketing purposes, and I doubt they received any share of the licensing in those days of studio contracts.)
For more on the Lombard fan, which measures about 6 1/2″ x 13″ and is being sold under eBay’s “buy it now” option, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/Antique-Hand-Fan-CAROLE-LOMBARD-c-1930-argentina-/270700179945?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f06fcf1e9. (If unsold, it will be available through March 2.) To see it and the other star fans, visit http://stores.ebay.com/El-Juguete-Ilustrado/_i.html?rt=nc&_sid=199717288&_trksid=p4634.c0.m14.l1513&_pgn=1.
But if you get the fan, be careful how, and when, you use it. Remember what happened to Alice after she waved a fan…
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.15 at 01:39
Current mood: cheerful
How do you make people who have either never heard of Carole Lombard, or know only that she was married to Clark Gable and died young, fans of hers? If you live in the U.S., Turner Classic Movies tonight is a good place to start. At 8 p.m. (Eastern), it’s showing “My Man Godfrey,” one of the best screwball comedies ever made (if not the best), and it won Lombard an Academy Award best actress nomination for her portrayal of the dizzy heiress Irene Bullock.
Oscar nominations abounded for “Godfrey.” Carole’s ex-husband, William Powell — who lobbied for her to get the role — was nominated for best actor as the film’s title character. Alice Brady. as Irene’s daffy mother, and Mischa Auer, as mom’s weird “protege,” were nominated in the new categories of best supporting actress and actor. (The night’s theme is “Oscar firsts,” and among the other films tonight are 1963’s “Lilies Of The Field,” in which Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win an best actor Oscar, and 1961’s “Two Women,” where Sophia Loren was the first non-American to win best actress for a foreign-language film.)
Gregory La Cava, who brought a semi-improvisational style to “Godfrey,” was nominated for best director, and Morrie Ryskind, whose past credits included the Marx Brothers’ “A Night At The Opera,” was nominated for best screenplay. All four acting nominees plus La Cava are shown below, taking a break on the set.
None of the six won.
Nevertheless, “Godfrey” may be better remembered than most of the other films that won Academy Awards that year. From its stylish art deco opening credits…
…to a wonderful supporting cast that includes Gail Patrick (foreground) as Irene’s antagonistic older sister Cornelia (in real life, Patrick was slightly younger than Lombard) and Eugene Pallette as the exasperated paterfamilias of this menagerie of screwballs…
…to a social message running as an undercurrent, but never usurping the comedy, “My Man Godfrey” is a gem of a film. Unfortunately, since it fell into public domain, that gem often resembles fool’s gold or zirconium. TCM will probably find a good print to run tonight, but keep your fingers crossed just in case. (For those who would like to make “Godfrey” a permanent part of their home, Criterion issued a fine DVD print of the film that includes all sorts of delightful extras — including the 1938 “Lux Radio Theater” adaptation where Lombard, Powell and Patrick reprise their film roles.)
So tell your friends, gather them around the TV set tonight, and have them soak in the timeless magic created by Lombard and her cohorts. More likely than not, they’ll be asking for more.
Here are some Carole Lombard goodies you can acquire through eBay if you hurry.
First, take a look at this stunning pic, a lobby card for the rarely seen 1931 Paramount film “I Take This Woman” (and to whomever has the rights to this rediscovered movie –– please find a way to get this issued on DVD or at least shown on Turner Classic Movies!):
Looking stylish in her equestrian outfit, Carole’s character, Kay Dowling, tells her aunt Bessie (Helen Ware), “He’s bad for wild horses and — wild women…”, the “he,” of course, being Gary Cooper. (And we presume in this context “bad” means desirous; if it’s the other definition, call the police and the humane society.)
This photo is from the collection of Gerald T. Robert, who owned the Capitol Theater in Trois Rivieres, Quebec. It became a movie house in 1929, and Robert retained all the lobby cards until his death. There’s a slight, unobtrusive stamp of his in the lower right-hand corner; in the upper right-hand corner, there’s a seal of approval from the Quebec Censorship Board.
The collection also features a photo from the film Lombard made just before this one, “Up Pops The Devil”:
The Robert stamp is visible in the upper left corner, as Lombard’s Anne Merrick puts her foot down and tells Joyce Compton’s Luella May Carroll to stay away from her husband (Norman Foster). “Get out! I’m making the money, this is my place,” Anne says; she’s a dancer playing the breadwinner while her husband is writing a novel.
No one has made a bid yet on the “Up Pops The Devil” photo, for which bids begin at 99 cents. Two bids have been made as of this writing on the “I Take This Woman” photo, topping out at $5. To bid or learn more on the “Devil” photo, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/Carole-LOMBARD-Up-Pop-Devil-movie-still-photo-1931-/300524271482?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_2&hash=item45f8a4777a; for the “Woman” photo, visit http://cgi.ebay.com/Carole-LOMBARD-take-Woman-movie-still-1931-/300524271508?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_2&hash=item45f8a47794. But you don’t have much time for either, as both auctions expire at 7:39 p.m. (Eastern) tonight.
In the past, we’ve run several entries on Hollywood Patterns, the Connecticut company that sold patterns of outfits which either were worn by stars or inspired by them. Another pattern with Lombard’s image on the package is now available:
This is pattern 1017, a one-piece frock with detachable peplum, and it’s actually part of a two-pattern package being sold on eBay; the other one, #1177, features Claire Dodd. The seller says of Lombard, “loved her,” but Dodd? “I don’t know who that is either.” Okay, to answer:
Dodd, shown above in 1932, was an Iowa native born nearly three months after Lombard, who had a small uncredited part in “Up Pops The Devil.” She later moved to Warners, where she was never quite a star but played supporting roles in a number of films, including “The Match King,” “Footlight Parade” and “Hard To Handle.” You can also see her in the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers-Irene Dunne musical “Roberta.”
As of this writing, four bids have been made on the patterns, with the high bid at $13.26; bidding is slated to end at 1:59 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. To check it out, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/2-Vintage-30s-Hollywood-Patterns-Carole-Lombard-Dress-/140510650401?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20b7166021.
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.14 at 02:14
Current mood: nostalgic
A happy Valentine’s Day to all, with hopes things are going better with your valentine than they are for the fictional Ann and David Smith, portrayed by Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” This entry will focus on life with Lombard and her real-life husband at the time, Clark Gable, though we’ll turn the clock back a bit to mid-1939, a few months after they tied the knot.
For this, we thank someone who played a major role in their lives — Jean Garceau, who had been Carole’s personal secretary, then linked up with Gable following Lombard’s marriage to him. She would remain a part of life at Encino for many years to come.
Garceau gained a bit of celebrity herself for her ties to filmdom’s top couple. In fact, she would be featured in the October 1939 issue of Movie Mirror, an issue with Olivia De Havilland, getting ready for a day at the links, on the cover:
At the bottom of the cover is the promo, “Read Clark Gable’s Private Correspondence.” That sounds rather titillating, but you can be sure Gable, Lombard, Garceau and MGM publicists made certain nothing of a really intimate nature made print. Nevertheless, it does provide a feel for day-to-day life at the ranch for these newlyweds.
The article, entitled “The Private Affairs of A Married Man — Mr. C. Gable,” was reprinted the other day at the blog “An Elegant Obsession” (http://goldenagedames.wordpress.com/), which has been running plenty of Gable-related items this month. Here’s how it ran in Movie Mirror, followed by my comments:
A letter to
Miss Miriam Sparks, Cadiz Ohio.
Dear Aunt Miriam:
Well, you always were sentimental, weren’t you — and now you want a picture of Carole and myself for that fancy mantelpiece of yours … by the way, am I still up there as a baby? You know, that picture with the lace collar and the curl that you so carefully arranged?
Incidentally, Carole has a copy of that picture and it’s the only picture of me she has displayed on her dressing table.
She trots it out for visitors just like used to do.
In re-reading your letter I note that you want a photo of us, with Carole carrying her wedding bouquet. Well, I have to disappoint you about the bouquet, because what she carried wasn’t exactly a bouquet. I didn’t dare risk ordering her one, or having anyone else order one, either, because out here florists always check up on wedding bouquets — whom they’re for, etc, — and we wanted to keep our elopement a secret. I did buy her a rose, with a couple of sprigs of lily of the valley, though, from a sidewalk vendor as we left Hollywood. We had hoped to preserve the bouquet until the ceremony by placing it in the glove compartment of the car, but the desert heat got at it and it was a sorry sight when we brought it to light at Kingman — not at all photogenic. But Carole has pressed the rose and if you ever come out this way, Aunt Miriam, she’ll be glad to let you have a whiff of it.
Anyway, I’m sending you one of our favorite pictures — Carole and me at The Farm. From it you can get sort of an idea of where we live, too.
Thanks again for writing, and Carole sends along her best wishes, too.
Your devoted nephew, CLARK
Call the Farmers’ Carton Company and have them make up sample egg cartons and submit with prices, etc. Ask them to please print up several styles and get them to work in “The Farm” somehow and the name of Mr. And Mrs. Clark Gable at the bottom — something not too commercial, because we’re going to give the eggs away to friends and neighbors.
I don’t know exactly how many we’ll need, but they ought to be able to figure a half year’s supply from the fact that we now have five hundred chicks and about a hundred of the red leghorn hens have begun laying.
Call Mr. Price at Holden’s and ask him to pick up Carole’s convertible at the RKO lot this morning. Tell him I want it turned in on a new sedan. He can phone me about a possible deal over on the set. Make it plain to him that I don’t want anything but a sedan… no more convertibles for her. A Convertible is too dangerous. And if Carole phones, don’t say anything about it… she might object, but I’m her safety director from now on. Tell Price I think she’d prefer black.
A MESSAGE to Bob Taylor; if you him, try Barbara — and tell him that we’re sorry but we have to cancel our dinner date for Friday, because it’s Carole’s mother’s birthday and she’s coming over.
That reminds me: you’d better start a little section in your notebook devoted to in-laws’ birthdays. Put Mrs. Peters’ birthday down, so I won’t forget it again; also Carole’s brothers’; that kid niece of hers, too. And any other dates you think I shouldn’t forget — Mothers’ Day and dates like that.
PLEASE call the store where we bought our porch furniture and ask them to send someone out to refinish the chairs along the front rungs. Mrs. Gable says she’s always catching her stockings on them.
And that reminds me — now that I’ve got Mrs. Gable’s car changed, I want to begin working on her horse. She never told me that that animal was a bad actor… I found it out myself this morning when I tried to ride him over to Andy’s. He nearly threw me! Buck Jones said he had a Palomino he might sell me … I think the horse was called Pavo, or some Spanish name like that. Then call that company that rents horses for pictures … I forget the name … but tell them that I have a wild pinto that they can have cheap. They use those pintos mostly in Indian fights and those Indians are the people who can ride him. I don’t think Carole will really mind, because from the sample I had of that horse this morning he’s no fun — all work and no play. She’s just been trying to be brave, that’s all.
Speaking of horses, will you phone Andy or Mrs. Devine and ask when little Tad’s birthday is. I think it’s this month and I heard him say, he wanted a pony. He’s still got Scarlett, that donkey I gave Carole, but I’m sure he’s got his heart set on a pony now. Find out for sure, though.
Sears, Roebuck and Co.,
Will you please send me, at the above address, your latest catalogue.
Department of Agriculture, Federal Building, Los Angeles, Cal.
When the government appraiser in the grape division comes out from Washington, as I understand he will shortly, will it be possible for him to appraise my vines in the San Fernando Valley? If you will let me know when an appointment may be made, I will be glad to arrange it at his convenience.
Refrigeration De Luxe,
San Francisco, California
Some time ago you delivered a special game refrigerator to me, but I believe that lit needs some sort of adjustment or repair, because, just recently, I have discovered that the venison does not seem to be ageing properly. Will you please let me know whom I can call for this service, or will it be necessary for you to send someone down?
As a matter of fact, if you will let me know exactly what sort of repair is necessary, I may be able to do it myself. The only fault I can find with it is this one compartment. The other sections are functioning perfectly.
TO attend to:
Look, here’s an outline — of some publicity plans that the publicity department submitted. I want it returned and will you please take a note to add to it:
Dear S. L: Sorry I can’t drop in with this myself and talk it over with you personally, but as you know I’ve got a pretty tough schedule over here on the Gone with the Wind set. Anyway, I’m sure you’re going to understand when I say that Carole and I have talked it over and have finally decided against giving out any routine marriage stories, especially those double-truck stories that usually appear under the titles of “My Wife,” by the husband, and “My Husband,” by the wife. It’s awfully difficult talking about each other publicly and, in sheer defense of our privacy, we’ve come to this decision. In the same way, we’ve decided to allow pictures of the exterior of The Farm, but are turning down requests for interiors … and, what’s more, I think you’ll understand. Maybe we might do it later, but not now. Thanks for giving me a chance to look over these requests and I hope I’ll be able to get in a day or so.
A letter to
Just to let you know that that cow which you planted on our front lawn before we returned from Kingman has since borne a calf … and so we are doubly grateful and consider it one of our very nicest wedding presents. Carole says we’ll save the christening until you come over, so be sure and give us a call.
By the way, it really looked like it had rained cats and dogs, sheep and goats, cows and what not when we returned. There were four-legged wedding presents all over the front yard and not a silver platter among them. We had open house all day and looked for your bright mug hourly, but no sign of you. Come on over soon, will ya?
Best from both of us,
If Jimmie Fidler calls, tell him that that report about our going to Europe on our belated honeymoon is a lot of baloney. You can tell him, though, that Metro has postponed “The Great Canadian” for a while to give us a decent break and that I’m going to have two months’ vacation, but we think we’ll stick pretty close to home, because there is a lot to look after around the farm. We’ll probably take just some short trips, hunting up north and fishing down south. By the way, will you please call some travel agency and get us a folder on Mazatlan and Acapulco.
Make a note:
REMIND me to order some turpentine. Last time I whitewashed the fence I got it in my hair and couldn’t get it out. We need some around the place, anyway. Oh, and will you find out how much electric clippers for horses are? They charge two-fifty over at the stable just to clip one horse and I think I can probably save money by buying the clippers. If they’re under twenty-five dollars, have them send out a pair. And will you call Mrs. Gable on the “In Name Only” set and tell her I’ll be late in picking her up tonight, because I’ve got to stop at the Tractor Supply Company before it closes and pick up a part. I just talked to her now, but, of course, I forgot to tell her about that. She spent the whole time talking to me about curtains!
CALL the phone company and request a new unlisted number. Mrs. Gable and I were awakened four times last night by somebody who just thought he was being funny. Those workmen around the place must have picked up the number from the phone, and I guess they’ve been handing it out to their friends. I don’t mind except that we’ve been working so hard lately we really do need our sleep.
Call Mike over at the barber shop and tell him never mind about coming over to give me a haircut. I thought I could get rid of this mop, this week, but we still got some more scenes to do
A letter to:
Pete Elmo, The Duck Club, Lakeport, California
Dear Mr. Elmo:
MRS. GABLE has asked me to request membership for her in the club, but I’m just wondering if my membership isn’t a family one and sufficient? Will you please let me know about this and, at the same time, I’m enclosing my quarterly dues. Incidentally, that advice you sent us about packing freshly killed ducks in lard, when no ice was available, worked out fine.
A letter to
General Hospital, Los Angeles, California
Just today the government expert has estimated that my grape crop this fall will be around two and a half tons. I would like to donate the entire crop to your institution, so am letting you know now, in order that you may make provision for it. If you will let know how you — can best use it, whether for wines or jellies, I will have it prepared accordingly.
Acme Oil Leases,
San Bernardino, Cal.
HAVE turned over your letter concerning The Hardrock Land Co. to the treasurer of this company, Mrs. Clark Gable, who has asked me to reply that it is the decision of the board that nothing be done at present about granting oil leases.
We purchased this land solely for our own personal use, as a hunting and fishing retreat, and we are not interested in promoting it commercially. Thanking you for your interest, however,
WILL you please phone a book store and order “Grapes of Wrath” for Mrs. Gable. And while you’re phoning you, might as well ask them to send along a new-edition dictionary. Mrs. Gable and I are always arguing about the pronunciation of some word last night it was p-r-e-c-e-d-e-n-c-e. She insists the accent comes on the second syllable. She’s probably right, but in the future I want to know I’m right before I start arguing!
A letter to
Mr. Spike Grimes,
Rocky Mountain, Arizona
THANKS for writing me, Spike, about the new camping equipment, but I’m afraid I’m not going to get down there this year — and a part of me kind of hates to say that. But, as you may have heard, I’ve married recently and I don’t think I’d like to take my wife on the trail of a wildcat, though I expect she could handle one if she had to. She’s heard so much about my hunting experiences down there with you that she’d like to come along, but I think we’ll just stick to deer and duck this year. Say hello to the boys, though, will you? And if things do get too tame for us (you can’t tell) we might show up. But I thought I’d better let you know not to count on it.
I think I’m going to be able to send you another customer, though, Victor Fleming, a swell director and a swell guy. He may write you and if he does, prepare the best for him and thus oblige your old pal,
WILL you please call Bob Taylor and tell him that I’m sorry but we can’t have them over for dinner this Friday either, because I have some night shooting to do. I guess we’d just better not make any more social engagements at all until we’re both cleared up with our pictures.
And, while I think of it, near that little section in your notebook, where you’ve got birthdays, etc., to be remembered, put down this: gloves, size 6¼; stockings, size 9; lingerie, size 32. I think those are the sizes she gave me this morning. Anyway, I want them written down, in case I go birthday shopping.
Oh, and the most important thing and date of, all to remember! Don’t let me forget this! Put it down somewhere in big letters: March 29, 1940. First year’s anniversary! And don’t let me forget among other things that I want to get her then; I want to be sure to buy her one limp pink rose with two feeble sprays of lily of the valley.
Some thoughts and observations:
* Thanks to the reference to the birthday of Lombard’s mother, we can pinpoint that item as coming from mid-June; Elizabeth Peters turned 63 on June 20.
* We learn how careful Clark and Carole had to be concerning their elopement. (Wonder if the sidewalk vendor Gable bought the rose from had an inkling of what was about to happen?)
* Clark, playing “safety director,” was trading in Carole’s convertible for a sedan, in fact removing it from the RKO lot. (For all we know, Lombard may have chafed at her husband’s decision, but she had driven sedans before.) And she probably understood that in a sedan, she wouldn’t stand out in a crowd — probably a good idea in her new role as Mrs. Gable.
* We discover that Lombard’s stockings often get caught on the rungs of the porch chairs (which will have to be refinished) and that she wears size 9. (Memo to Gable: Make sure and remember that next May, because Carole will want to be among the first to wear those newfangled nylon stockings.)
* Anyone know anything about “The Great Canadian”? Did Clark make that film under a different title, was it handed to another actor, or was it even made at all? (Have never heard of it until now.)
* The perils of celebrity are explained in the Gables’ need to get another unlisted telephone number.
* Lombard was probably reading “The Grapes Of Wrath” for her own literary enjoyment, not with a future acting gig in mind. There was only one significant female character in the John Steinbeck novel, and I doubt Carole envisioned herself as Ma Joad.
* The photo near the reference to Victor Fleming is of the director with Gable and Myrna Loy in 1938’s “Test Pilot.” (Just to remind everyone that Fleming and Gable worked together multiple times, not just on that film David O. Selznick made about the Civil War.)
* And I’m sure Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck eventually did get to enjoy dinner at Clark and Carole’s ranch.
P.S. This week’s header pic is one of my favorites of Lombard, so full of joy and fun. And what red-blooded American male of the 1930s wouldn’t have wanted a roll in the hay with Carole?
Since it’s Valentine’s Day, let’s close with one of the great love songs of the rock era, “Dedicated To The One I Love.” The Mamas and Papas’ 1966 version, you say? Nope. The original version by the Shirelles? No, not that 1961 pop hit — and it wasn’t the original. That came in 1958 and was a significant R&B hit, but only reached #81 on the pop charts. It’s by a group from North Carolina called the “5” Royales, who had numerous R&B successes, but their sound was too gospel-like and down-home to register with white audiences of the time. Their best-known record is “Think,” which was later reworked by James Brown, but I think you’ll enjoy this “Dedicated” (co-written by the group’s fine lead guitarist, Lowman Pauling). In fact, you’ll note this was released on 78 rpm, in the waning days of that format, along with the by-then more familiar 45 rpm recording. This is dedicated to all you lovers out there…
Carole Lombard may not have been as obsessed with jewelry as some other actresses of her day, but she certainly understood its importance as an accessory for milady’s wardrobe. She proves it in this color photo which was part of a 1940 advertisement for 1847 Rogers Bros. cutlery. (The company sponsored the CBS radio series “Silver Theater,” where Carole appeared several times.)
Another actress aided by jewelry was Lombard’s friend, Jean Harlow; one of the places she made it evident was in the 1936 comedy “Libeled Lady.” While Jean’s character, Gladys, isn’t particularly well off (not compared to Myrna Loy’s heiress character, at least, although Gladys does have a maid), she evidently recognizes and appreciates its value, as this still from the film makes clear:
To further illustrate, a close-up of Harlow with Spencer Tracy; note the brooch on Jean’s dress (as well as the radio and other decor from MGM’s crack set design staff):
That brooch was on display this past weekend at a memorabilia show in Burbank, Calif., and thanks to the people at the wonderful Jean Harlow Yahoo! group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jeanharlow/), here’s a color photo of that splendid accessory. Double-click on it to see it at several times larger than life-size; at that gargantuan scale, you can appreciate its delicate beauty:
I am not sure whether this was personally owned by Harlow or was part of MGM’s accessories department. I do know its current owners aren’t selling it, but merely exhibited it over the weekend.
To close this entry, a natural for today: the Rodgers and Hart standard, “My Funny Valentine.” I was looking for Elvis Costello’s stunning acoustic version, with no luck, but I think you’ll like this one. It’s the luminous Michelle Pfeiffer, from “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (with Beau and Jeff Bridges), featuring assorted clips from that fine film. A happy Valentine’s Day to all.
Sweetheart on ‘Parade’
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.13 at 00:51
Current mood: excited
Autumn 1940 is approaching, and chances are when thoughts turn to Carole Lombard, they more often than not are in the context of her husband Clark Gable, only a few months removed from his triumph as Rhett Butler in “Gone With The Wind.” Some of it was because of the films Lombard had been making since the start of 1939, quality dramas in which she performed pretty well but not the Carole that had caught the fancy of the public — the beloved madcap of 1934 (“Twentieth Century”) through ’37 (“Nothing Sacred,” “True Confession”). Part of it was Lombard herself; now in her early thirties, she was temporarily subjugating herself to Gable, eying her future as a mother before re-establishing herself one way or another.
In the midst of this, a magazine called Movie Stars Parade hit the newsstands with its autumn 1940 issue:
The cover featured Gable and his three co-stars in MGM’s “Boom Town” — Claudette Colbert (her first teaming with Clark since “It Happened One Night”), longtime Gable pal Spencer Tracy, and European import Hedy Lamarr (who won the respect of a skeptical Lombard by making no amorous advances towards Clark).
Inside were profiles of some of the day’s current stars, including Lombard. Here, through the fine site DearMrGable.com, is what readers saw as temperatures, and leaves, began to fall:
A few nice shots, and a splendid lead: “Zestful is the word for this lithe and vital lady who has, and conveys, such abounding joie de vivre.” There are several errors, mind you; the caption of the picture of her with William Powell states they married in 1929, when it actually came two years later. As was often the case elsewhere, Lombard’s birth year was moved a year ahead to 1909, and in the ever-uncertain argument over Carole’s height, she’s shown here on the short side at 5-foot-2.
No matter — the name page, a stunningly beautiful sepia portrait, more than makes up for it:
While no photo credit is listed, there’s more than a 50-50 chance this was taken by Ernest Bachrach, RKO’s longtime photographer. (Lombard was in the midst of her contract with the studio.)
All in all, a reminder to the public that Carole Lombard was more than Mrs. Clark Gable.
With Eddie, Oakie, plus the new, improved Gingery dog
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.12 at 01:12
Current mood: thankful
Just as a classic era movie star relies on portrait photographers to give her that special look (as Carole Lombard did here with George Hurrell in this 1933 Paramount still, p1202-602), so does a blogger rely on friends to give entries extra kick. Two people in particular have done so much to make “Carole & Co.” the success that it is, and I salute both of them in today’s entry.
Tally Hauser helps upgrade many Lombard pics I come across, erasing watermarks (never to promote or produce counterfeit copies, mind you, strictly to show photos as historical documents). She sent me this image the other day; I’m not sure of the condition she came across it in, but it’s definitely something worth seeing — because it shows Carole alongside someone I figured she knew, but had never seen her pictured with:
Yep — in between Clark Gable and Carole is none other than the great Edward G. Robinson. And while I don’t know if Clark idolized him to the same extent he did Spencer Tracy, he probably deemed it a professional injustice that Robinson not only never won an Academy Award, but was never even nominated. From “Little Caesar” to his final film, “Soylent Green,” Robinson provided many a memorable performance. Like his Warners stablemates James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, Robinson initially gained fame playing gangsters, but showed he had far more stuff than that. (For proof, watch his work as an insurance officer in the great Billy Wilder film noir “Double Indemnity.”) Off-screen, Robinson was a man of taste and intellect, among the most respected men in the film community.
Also in the photo is Jack Oakie, who made several films with Carole, most notably “From Hell To Heaven.” The remaining two folks I don’t recognize, but I’m hoping someone here does.
The other person I’m honoring in this entry is Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive, who has provided all sorts of assistance over the years and sent me a fun photo the other day. Unfortunately, her scanner wasn’t working properly, and the image wasn’t all it should have been. She just bought a new scanner, resent the photo, and I think this time you’ll get a bit more out of it. So once again, here’s Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers and a charming Chihuahua protected from the chill via more than what nature provided:
I additionally sharpened it a bit to improve the background. You can make out the dog a lot better, as well as see the coats worn by Lombard, Rogers and the Chihuahua.
Oh, and regarding the dog…I asked for more information at the fine blog “Gingerology” (http://jwhueyblog.blogspot.com/), a great source for all things Rogers, and here’s what the administrator had to say about it:
Now THAT is a pic I haven’t seen before! Ginger with a chihuahua garbed in a fur? Priceless! Carole and Ginger must have been pretty good buds… nice to know that! As to the ‘identity’ of Ginger’s critter, well, heck…she mentions quite a few in her bio, but I don’t remember a chihuahua specifically mentioned… I’m pretty sure the little dog in ‘Shall We Dance’ was really hers — whatever breed that was… Thanks for the pic, VP!!!
Well, thanks really should go to Carole Sampeck, for both providing the photo and improving on our original transmission. And it is nice to know Carole and Ginger were pretty good buddies — though I would still like to learn if they ever faced each other in tennis. (While I don’t believe Rogers had any ties to world-class players such as Lombard had with Alice Marble, I hear she was pretty good with a racquet…and from her dancing prowess, Ginger was certainly athletic.)
Finally, a note for those of you with Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. Today, TCM is honoring that memorable year of 1939 by showing all 10 films that were nominated for best picture: Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):
8:15 a.m. — “Dark Victory”
10 a.m. — “Of Mice And Men”
noon — “Ninotchka”
2 p.m. — “Wuthering Heights”
4 p.m. — “Stagecoach”
5:45 p.m. — “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”
8 p.m. — “The Wizard Of Oz”
10 p.m. — “Gone With The Wind”
2 a.m. — “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”
4 a.m. — “Love Affair”
Pretty potent lineup, doncha think?
Watch like an Egyptian (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.11 at 01:40
Current mood: giddy
No, this deals with a place a teenage Carole Lombard was probably familiar with when this Fox publicity portrait was taken in 1925. It’s the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard:
That’s how the Egyptian courtyard was decorated in 1924, two years after it opened, for Douglas Fairbanks’ swashbuckling epic “The Thief Of Bagdad.” I have to believe that the movie-struck Lombard saw a number of films there during the 1920s; it was the first major theater in the rapidly growing Hollywood section of the city, not far from where she and her family lived on North Wilton Place. No longer was downtown the only place for movie fans to see their favorites on screen, in splendor.
For all we know, Lombard might have been part of the crowd below attending the premiere of King Vidor’s “The Big Parade” (made by MGM, not Fox) in 1925. (At least one Lombard film, “True Confession,” premiered at the Egyptian.)
In 1927, impresario Sid Grauman, whose palatial decor for the Egyptian thrilled audiences, opened another theater on the other side of Hollywood Boulevard. The Chinese stole the thunder from its sibling, thanks in part to that little stars-in-cement ritual, but the Egyptian is still a stunner. Now operated by American Cinematheque, this famed venue shows a wide variety of films, enveloping its guests with nearly 90 years of cinematic history.
And if you’re in the Los Angeles area this weekend, it would be well worth a visit.
First, this Saturday at 10:30 a.m., take a docent-led tour of the place, getting a behind-the-scenes feel for this landmark. As the theater’s website notes, “See what it would have been like to be in a Grauman stage show with a visit to the dressing rooms and singers’ boxes.” (I note that one of the Egyptian’s stage performers was a teenage Myrna Loy.) “Check out our state-of-the-art projection booth and more! Discover the painstaking restoration work and the marriage of modern technology with a landmark of Hollywood history. … You will see the old dressing rooms, the singer’s boxes and the projection booth (not normally included on our tours).”
The tour lasts 60 minutes, and is followed by “Forever Hollywood,” a 55-minute film produced by the American Cinematheque that “celebrates a century of movie-making history and the eternal allure of Hollywood glamour. The unique story of Hollywood, the bountiful farming suburb, turned movie capital of the world, is told through interviews with some of today’s best known stars and filmmakers.”
It’s $5 for just the tour, $10 for the tour and movie.
But if you’ll be in Hollywood tonight, the Egyptian will host some welcome rock ‘n’ roll history at 7:30 and 11 p.m. — a restored version of the Beatles’ first concert in the U.S., which took place 47 years ago today at the Washington Coliseum, a fairly decrepit minor-league hockey arena several blocks north of Union Station. (The building still stands as a storage facility.)
The Beatles made a side trip to D.C. (where their first Capitol release, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” had received its first U.S. airplay on WWDC in December 1963) in between gigs on “The Ed Sullivan Show” from New York. More than 8,000 people jammed the arena for the event, which was filmed. A month later, it was aired via closed-circuit to theaters across the country:
The closed-circuit telecast added concert footage from two other hot acts in early 1964, the Beach Boys and Lesley Gore. (Neither was on the bill at the Coliseum; that night’s supporting acts included Tommy Roe — who had toured with the Beatles in Britain the year before — the Chiffons and the Righteous Brothers.) While the Coliseum concert has been available from a number of sources, this marks the first presentation of the closed-circuit show, including the Lesley Gore/Beach Boys material, since March of ’64, and its visual and aural quality are reportedly first-rate.
If you were too young to experience Beatlemania (I was eight, and remember it well!), here’s your chance to see what it was all about, and what made 1964 such a vibrant year in music history. (And here’s something I find hard to believe: More time has elapsed between that concert and today than between that Lombard portrait above and the show date. How time flies.) Here are some fascinating recollections of that historic night in Washington: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/clicktrack/2010/12/paul_mccartney_al_gore_tommy_roe_and_more_recall_beatles.html
Tickets for the film are $11; for more information, go to http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/egyptian_theatre_events.
I think you’ll enjoy the affectionate late ’70s parody, the Rutles. Here’s their “Hold My Hand,” which humorously captures the feel of “All My Loving,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and other songs from this era:
A French ‘Maid of Athens’
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.10 at 01:29
Current mood: artistic
Perhaps some of you are salivating over the subject line, believing you are shortly going to see an image of Carole Lombard in a French maid outfit. (If you are indeed salivating, please don’t do it over your keyboard.) Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not what today’s entry is all about, as a check of the punctuation above would tell you. (As far as I know, Carole never visited Athens, Ohio; Athens, Ga.; Athens, W.Va. or any other Athens in the U.S. And she certainly never journeyed to Athens, Greece.)
But there is a Grecian tie-in to the entry. It’s no secret that through her many photographic portraits, particularly those she made at Paramount. Lombard often presented an ethereal, larger-than-life beauty (witness above) that evoked a mythical Greek goddess. (Of course, with her blonde hair, fair skin and features, Carole hardly looked Greek, so perhaps it should better be said she evoked the image of how Americans and northern Europeans envisioned a Greek goddess.) In early 1932, with the Olympics soon to take place in Los Angeles, Lombard posed for a series of photos evoking the Greek/Olympian ideal:
As it so happened, a novel came out that summer called “Maid Of Athens” (also the title of a noted Lord Byron poem from 1810), and the publisher used the image of a Paramount actress on the dust jacket. Guess which one they chose?
“Maid Of Athens,” by French Strother. Get the subject line now?
I thought I had that photo in my collection, but it wasn’t listed under a Paramount p1202 number. However, my hunch proved correct, as I found it elsewhere:
The photo, taken from a magazine, was credited to Otto Dyar, but that’s all I know about it. If it indeed has a p1202 number — meaning it was issued as an official Paramount publicity portrait — it’s probably in the high 260s or 270s.
So, what about the book?
It was recently put up for auction at eBay, but nobody bid on it, although bidding began at $9.99. However, it has re-listed at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260735283647, with bidding ending at 10:37 p.m. (Eastern) next Wednesday. Here’s how the seller describes the book:
Interesting to see the term “Duse” used here, referring to the famed stage actress Eleanora Duse; several years later, when Lombard gained renown for her comedic work, she would be described as “the Duse of daffy comedy.” Beyond the description, I know nothing about the book aside from that the New York Times reviewed it that August and it apparently was never adapted into a film (perhaps Paramount, then in severe shape financially, secured movie rights in return for allowing Doubleday, the publisher, to use Lombard’s picture). Did Carole get any extra money for her image being used? Probably not, but let’s hope she at least received a copy of the book.
As it turns out, the author — who probably had nothing to do with the dust jacket — is of interest, because he was a well-known writer and journalist of the time; this was his only novel.
French Strother (shown above in 1929) was born in Missouri in 1883. In the early 1900s, he began writing for the monthly Doubleday magazine World’s Work, covering a variety of topics. (You can read his report on the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco — which includes a good account on how technology had changed society over the past decade — at http://www.shaughey.com/images/PPIE/Worldworks_july1915.pdf.) His best known work is probably “Fighting Germany’s Spies,” a series of World’s Work articles during 1918 that were later compiled into a book. (It was reissued several years ago, to the delight of World War I scholars.)
In 1924, he spent a week with President Coolidge in a story for the magazine. Five years later, he accepted a job with Coolidge’s successor, Herbert Hoover, writing speeches and handling other White House tasks. He resigned in 1931, wrote “Maid Of Athens,” then returned to Hoover’s staff in 1932 to assist the re-election campaign (which, as any student of American history knows, didn’t do very well). Strother attended Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration on March 4, 1933, caught pneumonia, and died nine days later.
It is sort of unusual to see Carole Lombard on the cover of a book she had no other connection to, but these things happen…and continued for several decades. In fact, I thought this had happened to one of Lombard’s most passionate (and famous) fans during the 1950s…
…but, as it turned out, at least Julie Newmar was said to have provided “analytical notes,” in addition to her cover pose, for the album “How To Make Love To A Blonde.” (However, if you’re a record collector and acquire the album, Newmar wants you to know this: “No, I didn’t write those insipid words that were said on the back jacket. At least the cover was decent.”)
In Fort Wayne, they’ll apparently have no…
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.09 at 00:49
Current mood: amused
From what I know about Carole Lombard’s sense of humor, somewhere she’s laughing heartily over the following story I’m about to tell. It deals with her hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind., and a government center the city is building.
The public has been asked to name the building through an online poll, and so far the clear leader is a man who served as mayor for about 16 years, winning four terms before his death in 1954. While I don’t claim to be an expert on Fort Wayne politics, he apparently had no tinge of scandal about him.
So, what’s the controversy about? Well, his name happens to be Harry W. Baals. Now, say that without the middle initial.
Therein lies the problem, and why the building probably won’t have his name on it.
“We realize that while Harry Baals was a respected mayor, not everyone outside of Fort Wayne will know that,” deputy mayor Beth Malloy said Tuesday in a statement to the Associated Press. “We wanted to pick something that would reflect our pride in our community beyond the boundaries of Fort Wayne.”
So what does this have to do with Lombard, you may ask? More than you think.
On New Year’s Day 1938, a plaque was put up at the home on 704 Rockhill Street where Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters on Oct. 6, 1908. While Carole never saw the plaque at the house, she did view it (the plaque was publicity garnered by the wily Russell Birdwell to promote “Nothing Sacred”) before it headed east:
With Lombard is director Mervyn LeRoy, who was beginning work on Carole’s next film, “Fools For Scandal.” Guess who was Fort Wayne’s mayor at the time, and presided over the ceremony that Jan. 1? That’s right, Harry W. Baals. In fact, his name is on the plaque, third line from the bottom:
Alas, history has not recorded Lombard’s reaction upon seeing the name.
I’ve seen the plaque, and heretofore thought the mayor’s name was pronounced “bahls,” similar to Baal, a god worshiped in Old Testament times. Perhaps Lombard thought that, too. But no, he pronounced it “balls”; later generations altered it to “bales.”
His great-nephew, Jim Baals, is understandably upset over the likely slight. “Harry served four terms and was a wonderful mayor. I don’t know what the problem is,” he told the AP. “I understand people are going to poke fun at it. That’s OK. I’ve lived with that name for 51 years now, and I’ve gotten through it. I think everybody else can, too.”
I have no idea whether the mayor ever met Lombard. Her lone trip to Fort Wayne after childhood came in June 1930, and Baals didn’t become mayor until 1934. He was mayor in January 1942, so he may have traveled to Indianapolis to meet a hometown heroine at the war bond rally. And it’s possible he met Carole if he ever visited southern California, where many Hoosier natives relocated.
No matter what happens, Baals has already been honored by Fort Wayne, as a street was named after him. However, Harry Baals Drive was later renamed H. Baals Drive due to the double entendre. (This begs the question — why couldn’t the building be named the H.W. Baals Center, honoring the man without pandering to the Bart Simpson/Beavis & Butthead crowd?)
But, thanks to the Lombard plaque, at least one place in Fort Wayne will always have…
They’ve got an awful lot of film fans in Brazil
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.08 at 01:32
Current mood: thirsty
If coffee isn’t actually in Carole Lombard’s cup for this photo shoot, she’s probably pretending that it is, which sort of leads us into today’s entry.
Had Lombard lived throughout World War II, there’s a good chance one of her duties aside from selling bonds might have been to help the U.S. government’s “good neighbor” program with Latin America. While relatively little actual fighting was taking place in that part of the globe, the nations in Central and South America were keys to the Allied cause, and American officials were doing all they could to keep those countries aligned.
Movies were an important part of that cause. Just as was true elsewhere in the world, American films — and their stars — were extremely popular with Latin American audiences, as we’ve shown over the years with samples of Lombard on covers of their magazines. Well, now there’s a way to learn more about how Carole and other Hollywood notables were treated in one major South American country…Brazil.
Brazil had two major film magazines during the classic Hollywood era: Cinearte (1926-1942) and A Scena Muda (1921-1955). Thanks to a contribution from oil giant Petrobras, the contents of these magazines has been digitized and placed online. The magazines have been called “documents of unquestionable historical value, essential to the recovery of the memory of national cinema, and exhibition of film criticism in Brazil.”
You can electronically flip through these magazines, consult them through the internet or search your content matters relating to the beginnings of cinema in Brazil. (And while Brazilian cinema has a long and healthy tradition of its own, much of the content deals with the U.S. part of the industry.)
Keep in mind that these are Portuguese-language publications, so it may be difficult for many of us who aren’t from Brazil to understand them. According to William M. Drew, who alerted me to this treasure trove, “Many of these articles were translated from articles in American publications, although there are also a fair amount of articles and interviews with the stars conducted by representatives of the Brazilian magazine.” (In other words, there was a significant foreign element to the Hollywood press corps long before the Golden Globes were established.) To check it out, go to http://www.bjksdigital.museusegall.org.br/projeto.htm.
Here are some samples of Lombard-related coverage. First, from Cinearte of May 1934, about the time “Twentieth Century” was being released in the U.S., but Brazilians wouldn’t see that for another few months; their most recent Lombard product was “We’re Not Dressing.”
Fast forward to Cinearte of August 1936, when Carole and castmate Alison Skipworth greet the wife of the Brazilian president on the set of “The Princess Comes Across” (I’m pretty certain that’s what it says!) as part of a feature showing Brazilians visiting the film capital:
In the January 1938 issue of Cinearte, you can find two things relating to Lombard. First, this brief, which apparently has something to do with Carole, Clark Gable and his wife Ria…
…then, this picture on the set of “True Confession”:
That May, Cinearte ran letters from several Paramount stars, including Carole and Claudette Colbert:
And no, we haven’t forgotten A Scena Muda. Here’s a column mentioning Carole in its issue of March 28, 1939 (a rather important day in Lombard lore):
We mentioned coffee at the start of the entry, so why not close with “The Coffee Song” (from which today’s subject header is derived)? Here’s Frank Sinatra’s 1946 version for Columbia, one of the many hits he had in that era. (Frank would cut a new version in the early sixties, and later in the decade would make several albums with Brazilian music legend Antonio Carlos Jobim.)
Two from the ’20s
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.07 at 02:10
Current mood: curious
The 1920s, the decade in which she began in films, remain the great untapped area of Carole Lombard research. Of course, the biggest gap is that none of the movies she made before her 1926 automobile accident are known to have survived; if merely one of them resurfaced somewhere, it would be a major find.
Failing that, though, the online archiving of newspapers has become a boon for researchers, as we’re able to discover all sorts of heretofore unknown tidbits about Lombard’s life and early career. Two such articles follow.
First, let’s visit Dubuque, the picturesque northeastern Iowa town just across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin and Illinois…but we’re going back to Sept. 30, 1925 to do it. Turns out one of the local theaters is playing this new Fox film called “Marriage In Transit,” and there’s a brief about it in the city’s paper, the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald:
It looks to be something from the Fox publicity department, and it puts yet another dent in the long-held story that when a teenage Jane Alice Peters took a pseudonym for her movie career, she was known as “Carol” Lombard until about 1930, when a misspelled name on a poster led her to adopt the extra “e.” But she was referred to as “Carole” in a pair of Los Angeles Times stories earlier in 1925 (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/197042.html). Indeed, misspelling honors here go to someone in the galleys, who left out the first “e” in September (not to mention a few commas) directly above the story. (You can also see a few radio listings to the left of the story; in those days, people in Dubuque who owned one of those amazing devices could hear stations from everywhere in the continental U.S., including both coasts. Of course, back then radio was in its infancy, with only a handful of AM stations.)
Lombard’s comments about “busy Palm Beach widows getting fiances so mislaid” might presage things Carole would say a decade or so later, assuming this is something she actually said and not concocted by a studio publicist. It’s hard to gauge what kind of personality Lombard was like in her pre-accident days; she would later refer to her earliest film work as “terrible.” Here, she also admits a hasty marriage wouldn’t be something she’d do in real life, probably because at the time this made the Telegraph-Herald, Lombard was less than a week away from reaching the ripe old age of…17.
Now let’s jump ahead a little more than 3 1/4 years — specifically to Jan. 20, 1929 — and some 2,000 miles westward, to Los Angeles. We pick up the Times that morning and see this story, without a byline, in the entertainment section:
This article is a mite confusing. It says Carol (this is from the relatively brief period when Lombard eschewed the “e” in her first name) is appearing in “Craig’s Wife” at the Hillstreet in downtown Los Angeles; actually, the film she was in at the time was “Ned McCobb’s Daughter,” which also starred Irene Rich.
Actually, several other things are of interest here, not the least of which concerns itself with “Dynamite,” the Cecil B. De Mille film for which she briefly had the female lead but wound up reduced to little more than an extra, wearing the number three in this publicity still (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/11206.html):
Years later, when Lombard made her first appearance on the “Lux Radio Theater” series De Mille hosted, they briefly mentioned that he had dismissed her from the original starring role. But, as it turns out, that wasn’t Lombard’s initial encounter with the director. Here’s the story, taken from the second half of the article:
As Lombard is noted to have signed with Fox at age 15, this article apparently accepts the shibboleth that she was born in 1909, not the actual 1908. This would thus mean that she had tried to get work with De Mille in late 1922 or early ’23, while still a student at Virgil Junior High School.
Some of her thoughts on “vamps” are worth noting. “Time was when a vamp was as apparent in her methods as a saxophone player,” she quipped, but added that talking pictures provided such characters with more subtlety and texture — a revamped vamp, as it were. “But now that we’ve learned to talk, we can all be different. We can say it with wisecracks or roses, and the Canadian Mounties have nothing on us when it comes to getting our man.”
My thanks to William M. Drew, whose work on the initial years of motion picture history on the West Coast has proven invaluable (http://william-m-drew.webs.com/), for providing me with this article.
Incidentally, you may have noted we’ve once again changed the header photo. The one running this week was taken by Warners esteemed staff photographer Madison Lacy in early 1938.
A pair of blonde legends (ay Chihuahua!)
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.06 at 01:47
Current mood: amused
Every now and then, I find a Carole Lombard photo I forgot I had in my online collection. (I know that’s the case because the image hasn’t been resized, and the border is still there.) Once such uncovered treasure is found, I copy and upgrade it, then present it to you.
An example is above — a Paramount portrait from 1936, p1202-1344. I don’t know who took it, nor do I have a snipe available that could explain what this was promoting (it’s probably “The Princess Comes Across,” her lone film at the studio in ’36, though if it came out late in the year it might be to give advance notice for “Swing High, Swing Low”). Whatever, it’s quite stunning…and in the size I initially found it in, a scale roughly twice as big as an 8 1/2″ x 11″ glossy, it was pretty obvious that Lombard wasn’t wearing a bra at that session.
Some more treasure just came my way, compliments of Carole Sampeck and The Lombard Archive. It’s new to me, and likely you too, as it shows Carole next to a blonde icon whose centenary we’re celebrating this year.
Before you get your hopes up too high…no, it’s not the long-sought pic of Lombard and Jean Harlow. (If Carole Sampeck had such a photo, she might be able to retire from the proceeds of that image alone.) Neither is it a photo of Lombard and her RKO buddy Lucille Ball (who in her earlier years was a blonde, though I think her hair shade had darkened by the time she met Carole), which also would be quite valuable.
No, this image shows Lombard with someone she’s been seen with before; in fact, we ran that photo just the other day. We’re referring to Ginger Rogers (speaking of RKO), and while this second image of Carole and Ginger is not in the greatest of condition, it is fun to look at. Without further ado, Misses Lombard and Rogers…and friend:
Can’t quite make out the “friend”? Here’s a closer look:
Hope my computer work clarified the image, but just in case you’re still having trouble with it, said “friend” is a Chihuahua. And as Carole Sampeck remarked when she sent the picture, “Lest anyone think Paris Hilton started that whole Little-Dog-As-Accessory thing, here you go!” (If Ginger is reading this somewhere, kindly do not throw thunderbolts toward Ms. Sampeck for comparing you to Paris Hilton. She lives just east of Dallas, not far from Fort Worth where you grew up, and the Metroplex has suffered enough awful weather this week.)
Carole Sampeck later commented, “If you look closely, you will see that Ginger’s Chihuahua has its own fur coat! You can see its front paws protruding from the little furry sleeves. This is too funny. Wonder what the fittings were like?” We can only guess — and speaking of guessing, I have no idea what the little canine’s name was. I checked a few Ginger Rogers blogs, and none of them listed a name; in fact, none of them apparently had anything about pets she may have owned over the years. Perhaps such information was in Ginger’s autobiography, which I have yet to read (though I’m increasingly becoming a fan of hers). Some Internet searching did turn up that more than a few Chihuahuas are named for Ginger Rogers…perhaps because of the breed’s frequent gingery color?
I wish I could provide more information about this photo, such as when and where it may have been taken, but Ms. Sampeck didn’t know; she said Lombard “had it tucked away among her things for some reason. Jeannie [Jean Garceau, personal secretary for Lombard and Clark Gable] did not know anything about its backstory, though.” Lombard, ardent pet lover that she was, probably couldn’t resist the image of a dog with a fur coat (and not its fur!).
For all the many Ginger fans who are seeing this entry, a lovely picture of her sans dog:
And for all the dog lovers, a photo of Ms. Sampeck’s best friend, the remarkable Bailey (isn’t she adorable?):
To the glory of Va(-)Va(-)Voom!
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.05 at 01:11
Current mood: excited
The term “pin-up” is rarely applied to Carole Lombard, though the picture above makes it clear that, in terms of sex appeal, she had what it took for the task. Then again, pin-ups came to the fore during World War II, and Lombard left us only 40 days after Pearl Harbor.
Even if Carole had lived, it’s rather doubtful she would have been a candidate. She was approaching her mid-thirties, focusing on having a baby with Clark Gable while also continuing her career. The actresses most associated with the wartime pin-up phenomenon — Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and Jane Russell — were at least eight years younger than Lombard. And while Carole had no objections to showing off her legs in dresses or casual wear, she had stopped posing in swimsuits about the time she turned 30.
(Incidentally, does anyone know the p1202 number for the photo above? It’s impossible to read in the lower right-hand corner.)
These four portraits are part of a fine book I picked up not long ago called “Va-Va-Voom! Classic Hollywood Pin-Ups,” by Chris Chang.
The book, which uses photos from the esteemed John Kobal collection, looks at Hollywood glamour photography dating back to silent days, with pictures ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous (e.g., “holiday” art for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas). It also looks at the phenomenon from a feminist perspective, and features a foreword by Mamie Van Doren, whose first direct exposure to Hollywood glamour may have come as a 10-year-old girl, when she saw Lombard and Gable arrive at the Sioux Falls airport for a hunting trip in October 1941.
This “Va Va Voom!” (no hyphens) — written by Steve Sullivan — is also a worthwhile book, though it generally limits itself to post-World War II bombshells, not all of whom were Hollywood actresses. Its turf includes the likes of Bettie Page, June Wilkinson, Tempest Storm and Betty Brosmer.
One of the actresses featured in the Sullivan book has been profiled here at “Carole & Co.” (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/188038.html). We are referring to that still stunningly statuesque Lombard fan, Julie Newmar:
Newmar, no stranger to pin-ups herself, will be one of the guests tonight at the opening reception for an exhibition, “Poster Peepshow: The Art Of The Pin Up,” at the Nucleus Art Gallery in Alhambra, Calif. Art from both vintage and contemporary artists will be on display (the show will run through Feb. 28). The reception is from 7 to 11 p.m., and while admission is free, it is limited to age 18 and up (ID required). If you’re in southern California, by all means go to see some fascinating artwork and meet an engaging lady. (And if you do see Julie, tell her the folks at “Carole & Co.” wish her well.) For more on the event, visit http://www.gallerynucleus.com/gallery/exhibition/263.
Looking back: February 1932
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.04 at 02:14
Current mood: thoughtful
Our second installment of Carole Lombard items via Google News comes from a month when theaters around the U.S. were showing her latest film, Paramount’s “No One Man” (that’s Ricardo Cortez with Carole above). There are a few things of note here, and we’ll begin with something (almost certainly syndicated) from the Calgary Herald of Feb. 6, where Lombard insists the stories of those wild Hollywood parties don’t apply in the sound era:
Staying in Canada, we turn to the Ottawa Citizen of Feb. 16. It turns out Lombard is having a problem that’s apparently endemic to blondes (double-click to view it at full size):
We learn her favorite colors (at least in early 1932) were “chartreuse, bottle green, and pale, dusty blue.” (Also note that near the end of the story, she uses the Canadian spelling of “practice,” though I’m going to guess that was put in by a Canadian copy editor, not Carole.)
The next day, this ran in Florida, specifically the Sarasota Herald Tribune:
There’s no byline, but some of the prose — the frequent references to Paramount, adjectives such as “meteoric” and a description of “No One Man” as “perhaps the plum of her historic career” — indicate this is likely a Paramount news release. But one sentence is indeed true: “Being a sensible young lady, Miss Lombard has not allowed success to turn her head.”
Finally, Grace Kingsley interviews Carole in the Los Angeles Times of Feb. 14; Lombard and William Powell were among the guests at a home-christening party for actor Neil Hamilton and his wife. (Hamilton, a noted leading man of the ’20s and early ’30s who worked with D.W. Griffith and would appear in 1932’s “What Price Hollywood?” with Constance Bennett, resurfaced in the mid-sixties as Commissioner Gordon on the “Batman” TV series.) Carole talked of William Powell Jr., whom Lombard occasionally saw when her husband had visitation rights:
“Carole Lombard told us how clever William Powell’s little son is. She is probably well equipped to small boys as she was brought up with two older brothers, and told about ‘borrowing’ cigarettes for them from her mother’s drawing-room table and of making and smoking cornsilk cigarettes in order to keep in good favor with them, so they’d let her ‘tag.'”
Powell’s son would commit suicide in late 1968; he was only 43.
Ginger and Jean: Centenaries in ‘Silver’
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.03 at 01:23
Current mood: nostalgic
2011 marks centennials for two of Carole Lombard’s acting contemporaries — Ginger Rogers, with whom she is pictured, and Jean Harlow, who was a close friend. Both provided immeasurable contributions to the classic Hollywood we know and love.
And if you live in or near the Washington, D.C. area, good news. Just as it did for Lombard in 2009 (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/179517.html), the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Md. is celebrating the legacies of both actresses.
To be honest, the AFI’s “Jean Harlow Centennial Celebration” isn’t much, only two films, running from Saturday, March 5 to Tuesday, March 8. (Turner Classic Movies will be showing plenty of Harlow during the month.) But the two AFI selections are good ones, well worth experiencing on the big screen — “Platinum Blonde” (1931) with Loretta Young and the ill-fated Robert Williams, and the always welcome “Libeled Lady” (1936), where Jean delivers the laughs with William Powell, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy.
“Furious fun and racy romance,” indeed.
For showtimes and more information on the Harlow films, go to http://www.afi.com/silver/new/nowplaying/2011/v8i1/harlow.aspx.
The Rogers package, “Backwards and in High Heels: Ginger Rogers Centennial Retrospective,” is far more elaborate, featuring 22 films, beginning Friday and continuing through April 7. Most of February is devoted to Ginger’s movies with Fred Astaire, kicking off with “Flying Down To Rio” (1933), where the two are in support to Gene Raymond and Dolores Del Rio; their first starring vehicle, “The Gay Divorcee” (1934), follows.
If you’d like a good old-fashioned double feature, you’ll have two chances to do it: on Feb. 27 and 28, as the Silver shows “Star Of Midnight” (1935, with Powell) and “Rafter Romance” (1933, with Preston Foster), and on March 6 and 7, with the 1933 Warners pre-Code musicals “42nd Street” and “Gold Diggers Of 1933” (the latter featuring Ginger’s mouth gradually magnified in a gargantuan close-up, while she sings “We’re In The Money” in pig Latin!).
By mid-March, Rogers’ later films appear on the schedule, including her Oscar-winning performance in “Kitty Foyle” (1940); two fun films from 1942, “Roxie Hart” (William Wellman’s take on the “Chicago” story) and “The Major And The Minor” (Billy Wilder’s directing debut), and Howard Hawks’ hilarious “Monkey Business” (1952). For specific showtimes and other info, visit http://www.afi.com/silver/new/nowplaying/2011/v8i1/rogers.aspx.
I’ve been to the Silver; it’s a charming venue, blending its original Art Deco charm (it opened in 1938) with state-of-the-art facilities and comfort. Plus, it’s a short walk from the Silver Spring station on Metrorail’s Red line. Jean and Ginger await your visit.
Street talk with Lombard and Loy
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.02 at 01:40
Current mood: curious
As a result of our more than 1,450 entries over more than 43 months (and, at last count, a record 246 members!), “Carole & Co.” has received a special privilege: Every now and then, we receive transcripts of conversations Carole Lombard has with some of her filmland buddies up in Hollywood heaven. Here are a few Carole had in recent weeks with another fine actress and charming lady, Myrna Loy.
Morning, Jan. 17, 2011. Carole Lombard is sitting at a desk in front of a computer, turned away from it, when Myrna Loy walks in.
Loy: Got your message to come by and see you. What’s this all about?
Lombard: I merely wanted to congratulate you on your latest honor.
Lombard: (Smiles.) Myrna, my friend, you’ve got a street named after you.
(Myrna makes a face at Carole.)
Loy: Not the folks in Helena again! I mean, having the performing arts center named for me was sufficient.
Lombard: No, that’s not where.
Loy: Not New York City? Okay, so I spent my final years there on the East Side, but there were a lot of celebrities who lived in that neighborhood. Why single me out?
Lombard: (Shakes her head.) Nope, not New York — and not Los Angeles or any of the studios, either.
Loy: Well, then, where is it?
Lombard: It’s in, of all places...Beaumont, Texas! (She presses a key on the board, and the screen saver disappears, replaced by the image below.)
Loy: Beaumont, Texas? I’m pretty sure I’ve never been there — or should I say, never was there — in my life!
Lombard: Well, this was in their hometown newspaper this morning, and the writer couldn’t figure it out, either. I was hoping you had the answer.
Loy: I suppose someone, somewhere, was a fan of mine.
Lombard: Could be, but shouldn’t the neighborhood also have streets named for other stars, like Bill Powell? “Powell and Loy” is a natural intersection.
Loy: (Smiles.) Guess so. Well, I’ve got to be going.
Lombard: Take care. (She watches Loy turns around and leave.)
Late afternoon, Jan. 17, 2011. Loy is walking when Lombard, holding a laptop, comes out of nowhere and stands in front of her.
Lombard: Good news! The great Myrna Loy Drive mystery is solved!
Loy: Okay, so who named it after me?
Lombard: Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t named after you. Well, not directly.
Loy: (Puzzled.) Just what are you talking about?
Lombard: This! (She opens up the laptop, flips on a switch and the image below comes onto the screen.)
Lombard: Meet Myrna Loy Chambers, Beaumont High School class of 1954.
Loy: So why is the street named after her? Not that I’m jealous, just curious.
Lombard: Turns out her dad was the developer of the subdivision. His name was Loyd D. Chambers. That’s L-O-Y-D, with one “L.”
Loy: But “Loy” a middle name? A bit unusual.
Lombard: Hey, remember, in that part of the country, girls are often named “something Sue” or “something Lee.” In that context, Loy fits. (Pauses.) Don’t know too much about her, but she evidently was a good student — a check of the ‘Net showed that two years later, she was listed in the University of Texas yearbook.
Loy: If she graduated in ’54, chances are she was born in 1936 or ’37.
Lombard: About the time you were queen of Hollywood! (Carole performs a mock curtsy.)
Loy: You’re not taking that seriously, are you?
Lombard: (Laughs.) Only if I had won!
Loy: Well, if that girl had been born five years earlier, the only way she would have been named after me would have been if she was of Chinese descent. Some folks actually thought I was Asian!
Lombard: See you around. Perhaps you can join Clark and I to watch some tennis.
Loy: Not a bad idea — I’ll get back to you on that one.
Conjecture casting Clark and Carole
Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.01 at 00:59
Current mood: thoughtful
Today marks the 110th anniversary of Clark Gable’s birth, and the photo above is a publicity pic from his one film with eventual wife Carole Lombard, “No Man Of Her Own” from Paramount in late 1932. At the time, there was nothing going on between them (though that would change slightly more than three years later).
“No Man Of His Own” isn’t an entirely satisfying movie, particularly after the breeziness of its first half devolves into the moralistic melodrama of the second. But it has its moments, so in honor of Mr. Gable’s 110th, a clip from the film. Oh, and even you non-Gable fans will want to watch this, because the first minute or so of it features Lombard in lingerie (hooray!), a still of which is shown below as she hurriedly puts on pajamas:
Clark and Carole did have some nice on-screen chemistry, and it’s unfortunate that the only other motion picture footage we see them in are either home movies or newsreels. They apparently had no inherent aversion to working together again, but for whatever reason, MGM was cool on signing Lombard for a film (the only one she made there was “The Gay Bride” in 1934, a relatively unremarkable mob comedy).
The story goes that Carole did find a property she thought would be good for her and Clark, only to discover the rights already belonged to Katharine Hepburn…a little film she and Spencer Tracy would make called “Woman Of The Year.”
Here, though, we can imagine, create alternate cinematic universes. So let’s do that with Gable and Lombard — cast them in a movie that would be suitable for their respective talents. It might involve replacing Clark’s leading lady with Lombard, or Carole’s leading man with Gable…or a film that neither made (such as from the aforementioned Tracy-Hepburn matchups). Heck, since we’re fantasizing, if you want to magically transfer Clark and Carole to a film made after their deaths, even one in comparatively modern times, be my guest.
I’ll start with a movie they might have improved, and that’s to take nothing away from the stars who actually made it. I’m referring to 1941’s “The Bride Came C.O.D.,” starring James Cagney and Bette Davis (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/75449.html).
While Lombard — who was 32 when this film came out — might have been seen as a bit old to have played another heiress, her experience with comedy and younger, less weighty public persona than Davis would have made her ideal in this role. And Gable, like Cagney, had good comic chops and was no stranger to portraying a pilot. Could Clark and Carole have overcome Warners’ traditional ineptness with screwball? Maybe not, but it would’ve been nice to see them try.
What other Clark and Carole pairings could you imagine? Toss some our way. Meanwhile, happy anniversary to Mr. Gable.