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Carole & Co. entries, March 2010   Leave a comment

Two chances to be negative

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

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

Here’s a case in point:

It’s an inverted negative of a 1929 Lombard publicity photo (if the date is correct, it almost certainly was taken at Pathe). You can obtain it for $10 through the “buy it now” option; simply go to

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

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

Anyway, if you find the other image has already been sold, or you simply have $15 extra you’d like to burn, visit

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

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Mag-nificent movie research news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motion Picture Classic — 1920

The Moving Picture World — April-June 1913

It’s a start, with more volumes and publications on the way. As Pierce writes in the blog “Strictly Vintage Hollywood” (, “As always with the Internet Archive, you can download high-quality PDFs, embed their viewer on your webpage, and download the original full-quality scans.”

You can access the initial batch at Here’s something I uncovered from the July 1930 Photoplay:

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

Pretty alluring, isn’t it?

I am thrilled about this project, and look forward to more magazines coming online in the future. For more on this endeavor, go to

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Fit for a ‘Princess’

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one’s bid on this as of this writing; bidding starts at $9.99 and is slated to end at 8:39 p.m. (Eastern) next Sunday. If you’d like to bid, or just want to learn more, go to

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Remembering the 71st

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

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

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Carole, Coop and cohorts — but where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

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Via Australia, a stamp of approval

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

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

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

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

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

As stated earlier, the seller is from Australia — Adelaide, to be precise — and you’ll be having your own lament if you want this item but don’t bid. (No one has as of yet; bids begin at $25.) Bidding closes at just after 8 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. To bid, or learn more, go to

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

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An auction of glamour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on this event, officially known as the Michael H. Epstein & Scott E. Schwimer Glamour Photography Auction, go to

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Carole’s in the News

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

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

— “New York State Of Mind,” Billy Joel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This magazine is currently being auctioned at eBay; as of this writing, no bids have placed (the minimum bid is $7). Bidding closes at just after 7:55 a.m. (Eastern) on Friday. If you’re interested, go to

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“It’s a chancy job…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Of love (and lingerie)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This rare magazine is being auctioned at eBay ( No bids have currently been placed; bidding begins at $69.99 and will end at 11:15 a.m. (Eastern) on Thursday..

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More than you know (about Mayo Methot)

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

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

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

The song? “More Than You Know.”

The person who sang it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Radio to zoom by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things for American listeners to keep in mind:

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

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

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

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

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Gingerly seeing what might have been

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Clubbing with the Powells and Truexes

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re interested in owning it, go to Bidding begins at $14.85 (no bids have been placed as of this writing), and bids close at 11 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday.

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

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


My moviehouse memories (Syracuse version)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sorry, no freebies

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

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

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

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

The reply reads,

Dear Friend:

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

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

Thank you again and my best personal greetings to you.


Carole Lombard

The autograph is a facsimile.

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

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

This fascinating artifact of interplay between star/studio and fan is up for auction at eBay. The minimum bid is $24.99, which to me sounds a bit steep (although the seller thankfully admitted the autograph was a facsimile), and bidding closes just before 5:45 p.m. (Eastern Daylight) on Sunday. If interested, go to

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

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Much more than a wizard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stand tall for Cahuenga Peak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time is of the essence, as the deadline for raising the money is April 14. Dame Elizabeth Taylor has donated funds for the cause (those sailors in “South Pacific” were right — there is nothing like a dame!), and you can help, too. Simply go to to learn how. Should you prefer to mail your contribution, send it to

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

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

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Mom’s moviehouse memories

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

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

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

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

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

Two in particular she patronized regularly. Thanks to the excellent Web site, I can tell you their stories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carole — Femme Fatale

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                       Double Indemnity

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

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

Cover Girl!

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

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

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

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

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

Cover Image

Happy birthday to Bix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blog of a thousand days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Carole and Oscar

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

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

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

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

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

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Cary Grant and Randolph Scott

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

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

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

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

I’m not so sure.

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

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

Bottom line, don’t be too cheap….

Auction of Hurrell Photos – Our Girl is Included

Posted by [info]silentsgirlon 2010.03.05 at 09:01

Profiles in History Auction

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

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carole lombard 05

So far, so good…

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

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

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

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

Is this Carole at Twelve Oaks?!!!

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

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

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

Carole in Rags at Paramount???

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

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

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

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

A hiatus, of sorts

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

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

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

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

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Posted December 18, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, February 2010   Leave a comment

Hello, nurse

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.27 at 12:02
Current mood: determineddetermined

Most dramatic? In many ways it was. “Vigil In The Night” was certainly the most serious film Carole Lombard ever made, and to portray a British nurse, she worked hard to make herself believable in the role. At least that’s the impression one gets from film columnists of the time.

Take, for example, Harrison Carroll of the Los Angeles Evening Herald-Express. On July 27, 1939, he reported that Lombard “has tested 18 different coiffures and 18 different nurse’s caps for ‘Vigil In The Night.’ You can’t blame her because, except for one sequence, she wears her uniform all through the picture. And in that one sequence, her costume is a simple street dress. Pretty unusual for a Hollywood glamour girl.”

On Sept. 30, Carroll described a visit to the RKO set where ‘Vigil’ was being filmed:

“In the ward of an English hospital, nurse Carole Lombard is standing beside a bed. A man lies on it. His stomach is bare, revealing a scar.

“Carole’s job in this scene from ‘Vigil In The Night’ is to remove the stitches from the wound.

“At the moment, you’d scarcely recognize her as a Hollywood glamour girl. She is wearing a bluish gray gingham uniform, covered with a white nurse’s apron. The Lombard legs are encased in cotton stockings.”

(Then again, maybe they weren’t. In “The Snooper” column of the Nov. 25 Herald-Express, it was reported that Lombard was allergic to cotton, so “all quilts, pillows and mattresses” used in “Vigil” were free of such material, and that a synthetic cotton lookalike material was used. One presumes her hosiery was made of similar stuff.)

Oh, and Carroll reported “Vigil” was “next door to a real cemetery,” which likely means it was made on stages 29 to 32 of Paramount, which has since acquired the RKO lot.

Lombard worked diligently on “Vigil,” and garnered some of her best reviews. Unfortunately, the public wouldn’t buy her as a serious actress (just as it wouldn’t for Goldie Hawn half a century later). “Vigil” (that’s Brian Aherne with Lombard) ended up losing money.

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Learning about Lombard through her ‘king’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.25 at 15:55
Current mood: excitedexcited

When we recently asked how people became fans of Carole Lombard, several of the responses said the interest was initiated through her relationship with Clark Gable. So it should come as no surprise that one of the most vivid word portraits of Lombard can be found in a Gable biography.

That bio is Lyn Tornabene’s “Long Live The King,” which was released in 1976, the same mid-seventies period where several books were written about Clark and/or Carole (as well as the pseudo-biopic “Gable And Lombard”).

“Long Live The King” has numerous Lombard references, most of them naturally tied into either her romance and eventual marriage to Gable and the film they worked on several years earlier, “No Man Of Her Own.” However, there is also a seven-page chapter on Carole, explaining her background and personality, and it makes for lovely reading.

For example:

“Biographers claim she had her share of affairs, and if she did, she had them discreetly. ‘She wasn’t a sleep-around girl,’ says Buster Collier, who was one of her many male buddies. “Anyway, a lot of guys were scared of her.”

Tornabene interviewed Alice Marble, the tennis champion whose career and comeback were sponsored by Carole. Marble allowed her to run the letter of encouragement Lombard had sent her in 1934, before they had ever met.

Tornabene describes Carole’s career fairly and accurately: “At no time was she an overnight sensation. No miracles of public recognition served her as they did Gable. Hers was a grueling, rung-by-rung climb over and around the crops of overbleached Kewpies proliferating in Hollywood in the early thirties.”

“Long Live The King” is worth checking out, not only for its Lombard descriptions but for the way the author shows how Gable became Gable. It also makes one wish someone would write the definitive Lombard bio.

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Did Bill nearly ‘Buy’ Carole?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.24 at 11:46
Current mood: contentcontent

Yes…at least in the cinematic sense.

On Oct. 9, 1930, Elizabeth Yeoman reported in the Hollywood Citizen-News that Paramount had selected a play to convert into a Powell vehicle called “Buy Your Woman.” It was adapted from the Octovus Roy Cohen play “Alias Mrs. Wallace,” a blend of society drama and underworld fare. Stage actress Juliette Compton was also cast, Yeoman said, with Lombard getting a key supporting role.

However, slightly more than a month later, on Nov. 14, Yeoman said Powell was switched to “Ladies’ Man,” a film initially intended for Paul Lukas. Yeoman reported Powell “did not wish to make another picture in which he is portrayed as a man who has encounters with the law.” A wise move, Yeoman said, as Powell “is too versatile” to be typecast as a criminal. Meanwhile, she wrote, “I don’t know what roles are going to be given to Juliette Compton and Carol Lombard. Both these actresses were cast for ‘Buy Your Woman.'”

Lombard, of course, did wind up in ‘Ladies’ Man.’ As for ‘Buy Your Woman,’ on Nov. 18, Yeoman said “it looks as if Paramount might never make the picture.”

About this time, Powell and Lombard were reported as seen together in public. On Jan. 2, 1931, Harrison Carroll reported in Hearst’s Los Angeles Evening Herald Express that “Carole admitted that Bill had given her an eight-cylindered convertible coupe for Christmas.” So maybe Powell bought Lombard after all. (The column also noted she had given Powell ‘an expensive watch.”)

Oh, and Lombard wouldn’t work with Lukas until the lackluster “No One Man,” released in early 1932.

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Remembered at home

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.23 at 21:02
Current mood: excitedexcited

She may have spent only six years of her brief life there, but Carole Lombard will be eternally tied to her hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind. Here’s an interesting story about Lombard and her family ties, featuring a few items I never knew before.

Check it out at

Here’s Lombard’s birthplace, now a bed-and-breakfast:


Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.22 at 10:45
Current mood: curiouscurious

In recent years, Getty Images has collected a huge array of photographs — including 185 of Carole Lombard. You can find them, such as the one above with Selznick International publicist Russell Birdwell, at, although they are watermarked and are geared more for sales.

Nevertheless, it’s worth checking out, as it’s a fascinating collection to peruse.

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How did we miss this?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.21 at 01:10
Current mood: frustratedfrustrated

That’s Carole Lombard in her 1932 Paramount film, “No One Man.” It’s not deemed one of her better vehicles, but it’s nonetheless fascinating to see.

A script from that film was auctioned by Heritage Auction Galleries in November, along with a script for another Lombard ’32 programmer, “Sinners In The Sun” (which was originally titled “The Beachcomber,” as the title change showed on the cover).

The sale price: a mere $69. (These probably weren’t Lombard’s copies, but belonged to someone on the production.)

These are moments you want to kick yourself. Oh well…


Mr. Gable and Mr. Cohan

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.20 at 11:52
Current mood: relaxedrelaxed

Over show business history, one comes upon some intersections you wouldn’t believe would have happened. One of them involved a pair of legends who made thir marks at different times, in different places and in different milieus. We’re referring to Clark Gable, film idol for nearly three decades (and second husband of Carole Lombard), and Broadway titan George M. Cohan, already a star on the Great White Way when Clark was a toddler.

But meet they did — in fact, Gable worked for Cohan. It came in early 1929, when Clark was a New York stage actor , gradually gaining recognition but a long way from his cinematic breakthrough two years later. Gable obtained the lead in a Cohan play, a production Gable biographer Lyn Tornabene wrote “in retrospect, should have been the making of him.”

The play was called “Gambling,” and in it, Gable was cast as a good guy playing a bad guy to solve a murder. It sounds tailormade for the thirties Gable, and one could imagine him making it his own on the big screen or on Broadway.

But Gable and “Gambling” never made it to New York. The play opened in Philadelphia, then moved to Atlantic City a few weeks later. There, for some reason, Cohan fired Gable, rewrote the play and cast himself in the lead.

A disappointment for Clark? Sure. But he kept plugging and in 1930 won the part of Killer Means in the West Coast production of “The Last Mile” — the same role Spencer Tracy had played on Broadway (and a part Gable didn’t feel worthy of playing after seeing Tracy in the role). He soon received screen work, eventually signed a contract with MGM and never looked back.

Cohan? Hollywood beckoned him in 1932 with a film, “The Phantom President,” co-starring Claudette Colbert. He found it wasn’t his up of tea, and returned east. Cohan would be portrayed by one of Gable’s contemporaries, James Cagney, in the 1942 film “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

One wonders how Gable’s life might have changed had “Gambling” succeeded. But to borrow the title of one of Cohan’s most famous songs, life’s a very funny proposition after all.

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‘Covering’ Carole

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.19 at 11:32
Current mood: creativecreative

To kick off the weekend, here are some magazine covers with Carole Lombard’s image:

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P-1202 and P-1167

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.18 at 13:55
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

We know them better by their civilian names, Carole Lombard and Marlene Dietrich (although Marlene did play a spy “named” X-27 in her 1931 film “Dishonored”).

Lombard and Dietrich, along with Mae West, were honored with “Glamour Collection” issues in 2006. They may not have been the closest of friends — there were times in the early thirties that Marlene thought Carole was copying her style a bit too much for her liking — but there was hardly any animosity between them. And both worked hard for the Allied cause in World War II.

They rarely, if ever, vied for roles, even though both were beautiful blondes with magnificent legs. However, Carole’s personality was purely American, while Marlene always had a continental air about her. For the most part, it’s difficult to imagine them in each other’s roles — although one could envision Lombard in “Destry Rides Again” or Dietrich in “To Be Or Not To Be” (however, her presence in the latter likely would have made Jack Benny seem out of place as Joseph Tura, something Lombard certainly didn’t do).

Their careers were handled substantially differently as well. From the start at Paramount, Dietrich had a large build-up, guided by the Svengali ambitions of Josef von Sternberg. Lombard was more or less a contract player for more than half her tenure at Paramount, and it wasn’t until her final few years there that her gifts, discovered elsewhere, were appreciated.

So let’s have your thoughts on Carole Lombard vs. Marlene Dietrich — not necessarily which was better or who you like more, Compare their styles as actresses, their glamour, their effect on you.

For now, some pictures of both:

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Tell us how…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.17 at 14:42
Current mood: curiouscurious became a fan of Carole Lombard.

Was it through a film, a photo, a book? What attracted you to her — was it Carole’s acting talent, her personality, her beauty…just what was it?

It’s a simple question, but one that will likely elicit all sorts of answers.

The responses should prove fascinating, so I hope we get a lot of them.

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More on a favorite pinup picture

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.16 at 12:14
Current mood: excitedexcited

I’ve just discovered that one of my favorite Carole Lombard photos — one where she’s in a sun dress, sticking out a shapely leg — was taken by Paramount photographer William Walling.

This photo is available from eBay, and what makes it special is that it’s an original, including the snipe on the back.

The snipe reads:

“SMARTEST UNDER THE SUN — that’s Carole Lombard’s navy blue and white shorts outfit. The shorts themselves have pleats in just the right places and the halter top looks like a blouse in front and absolutely nothing in back. The long coat of white linen with with reverse of the navy blue and white crepe is simultaneously the newest and most chic beach coat in Hollywood. Her new beach hat is a broadbrimmed white leghorn and her new Paramount picture is ‘The New Divorce’ with Gary Cooper.”

Could “The New Divorce” have been the production that eventually became “Now And Forever”? (With Shirley Temple in the cast, the word “divorce” probably became anathema to the film, especially after the Code was more strictly enforced. Think of how the Astaire Broadway musical “The Gay Divorce” became the Hollywood musical “The Gay Divorcee.”)

You can find it by going to One bid has been placed as of this writing, for $19.95, and bidding continues through 1:35 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday.

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Remembering Louise Beavers

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.15 at 12:35
Current mood: creativecreative

Yesterday, “Carole & Co.” participated in a blogathon on film preservation; today, we’re working with the Classic Movie Blog Association in celebrating Black History Month.

It’s understandable why there are comparatively few black fans of classic Hollywood — for the most part, it wasn’t an area where they were reflected in a positive manner. That was especially true during Carole Lombard’s lifetime, which largely predated the civil rights movement. Carole worked with a number of black actors and actresses (such as Willie “Sleep ‘N Eat” Best, shown with her in 1931’s “Up Pops The Devil”), but almost all the time they were in servile or demeaning roles. About the only exception I can think of came in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” where a black boy was among the street urchins who stared at Lombard and Robert Montgomery as their characters had dinner at an old haunt that wasn’t as chic as it used to be. (I’ve never been able to track down the identity of the youth.)

Lombard was nowhere as publicly outspoken about racism as, say, Myrna Loy, although in “Screwball,” biographer Larry Swindell says Carole was critical of Atlanta officials for not allowing Hattie McDaniel to stay with the rest of the cast at a whites-only hotel. Had Lombard lived to see segregation end in the armed forces, baseball and eventually southern schools, she might have been a bit more forthcoming.

Today, we’re going to examine the career of a well-known black actress who appeared in a pair of Lombard films and was frequently seen on the screen during the 1930s, but who rarely got a chance to display her acting skills. Her name was Louise Beavers, and you can see her in Lombard’s second film of the 1930s (and first at Paramount), “Safety In Numbers,” and in her second-to-last film of the decade, “Made For Each Other.”

Beavers, born in March 1902, had a few things in common with Carole. She too was from the midwest (Cincinnati) and emigrated with her family to Los Angeles a year before the Peters family did, in 1913. Beavers graduated from Pasadena High School and sang in the choir at a local church.

In the 1920s, she worked as a maid to Paramount stars Leatrice Joy and Lilyan Tashman, which helped her get a foot in the door of the film industry. She had a small, unbilled part in the 1927 “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” but it wasn’t until sound arrived that she got steady work, normally as a cook or maid. (Ironically, Beavers hated cooking, though it helped that her longtime husband, Leroy Moore, was a professional chef.)

In “Safety In Numbers,” you can find Beavers singing and dancing as part of the number “The Pick-Up.” She worked with all sorts of stars, from Mary Pickford (“Coquette,” 1929) to Mae West (“She Done Him Wrong,” 1933). Perhaps her best role came in the original “Imitation Of Life,” made in 1934, where she plays the mother of Fredi Washington, a black girl who passes for white. (Beavers was actually only one year older than Washington.) The film also allowed Beavers and star Claudette Colbert to act as virtual equals.

But such roles were exceptions. For Beavers, the norm was usually playing cooks or servants in “Make Way For Tomorrow,” “Brother Rat” or “Shadow Of The Thin Man.” Such roles continued after World War II, though she did play Jackie Robinson’s mother (with Robinson portraying himself) in the 1950 “The Jackie Robinson Story.”

During the 1950s, she regularly worked on television, including six episodes of “The Swamp Fox” as part of Walt Disney’s television work. Her final film appearance came in 1960’s “The Facts Of Life” with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball (the first film I ever saw in a theater, incidentally).

Health problems, including diabetes, were plaguing Beavers by this time, and she died in October 1962.

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Carole Lombard, invisible woman

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.14 at 12:16
Current mood: gloomygloomy

That’s a poster for “The Invisible Woman,” a 1941 comedy and one of the films John Barrymoare made during his sad final few years. Carole Lombard never played an invisible woman, but part of her career sadly is invisible, and it’s the topic of this entry.

Today begins the weeklong film preservation blogathon from Self-Styled Siren (, and my contribution, not surprisingly, deals with Carole Lombard films that either have likely been lost to history or had a distinct possibility of suffering such a fate.

We know that Carole Lombard’s career began with a small role under her actual name, Jane Peters, in the 1921 film “A Perfect Crime” (above), starring Monte Blue and directed by Allen Dwan. She wouldn’t return to the screen until 1925, by which time she had a new name, Carol Lombard; she appeared in about a half-dozen movies, sometimes as a female lead, sometimes as decoration in run-of-the-mill westerns.

But at the start of 1926, she was in an automobile accident that caused some facial injury and derailed her career as an actress. She wouldn’t return to films until 1927 as part of Mack Sennett’s swimsuit troupe, doing two-reel comedies.

We know about the early, pre-accident Lombard from publicity stills, a few newspaper and magazine reviews and a handful of other clippings. We can surmise what kind of actress she was, but barring a miracle of some sort, we will never know. That’s because all of the movies Lombard appeared in before the accident are now presumed lost. (There have been rumors she had extra or bit parts in a few surviving films from that era, but her presence in them has never been confirmed.)

As things stand now, the first instances we can find Carol in a motion picture are in the 1927 Sennett two-reelers and a small, unbilled part in the ’27 Mary Pickford comedy “My Best Girl” ((below), something unknown to most film buffs until a few years ago.

Most “lost” movies are from the silent era, but two of Lombard’s sound films now exist only in 16mm prints. One of them was feared lost for decades — her 1931 Paramount drama “I Take This Woman” with Gary Cooper. As it turned out, a 16mm print belonged to the author who wrote “Lost Ecstasy,” the novel on which the screenplay was based. It was found in her Maine home, restored, and was premiered in the summer of 2001 at New York’s Film Forum. It has since been shown at a few other places, notably Cooper’s hometown of Helena, Mont., but to date it has not yet been issued on DVD or shown on a channel such as Turner Classic Movies. Many of the most avid Lombard fans have never seen it.

The other sound film existing only in 16mm was, curiously, Paramount’s biggest moneymaker of 1937, “Swing High, Swing Low.” The original was loaned to Twentieth Century-Fox in 1948 when it remade the property as “When My Baby Smiled At Me,” but it never came back to Paramount and no one knows what happened to it. The director of “Swing High, Swing Low,” Mitchell Leisen, owned a copy, and that’s where just about all video copies of the film derive from (it’s in public domain).

What happened to those films, and to the pre-accident silents, is in itself a good reason to support film preservation. We know much of Carole’s cinematic story, but alas, not all of it.

But you can help aid our film heritage by going to this site, the National Film Preservation Foundation, and contributing:

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Glad to be back…and while you’re digging out…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.12 at 11:50
Current mood: rejuvenatedrejuvenated

…which includes just about everybody in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S., even my Texas friend Carole Sampeck, who’s dealing with slightly more than a foot of snow in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

But this will all be over eventually, and to give you something to look forward to, here are some of my favorite Carole Lombard swimsuit shots.

Feel warmer? I certainly do.

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Carole on the air

Posted by [info]stillsparklingon 2010.02.10 at 14:40

If some of you are going to be snowed in, it’s perfect time to listen to radio plays with Carole. Here are a few. Hope you enjoy!

free image host

Radio Shows with Carole Lombard

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Snowed in — help!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.09 at 17:40
Current mood: coldcold

I’m going to be away for the next few days, without access to a computer. So help me out.

Contribute items to “Carole & Co.” — anything related to Carole Lombard or classic Hollywood. A photo, a review of a film she or another classic Hollywood star appeared in…anything.

We like to keep this going, but with the huge snowfalls in the mid-Atlantic of late, it’s difficult. Your assistance is appreciated.

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Chase-ing Carole?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.08 at 00:34
Current mood: exhaustedexhausted

We’ve frequently discussed the awfulness of the 1976 film “Gable And Lombard” — but if it’s any solace to Carole Lombard’s memory, she and Clark Gable aren’t the only Hollywood legends whose legacies have not been done justice to through biopics. (Heck, Jean Harlow had two poor movies made about her in the same year, 1965.)

One film legend associated with Lombard who lived to see his life story translated to the big screen probably didn’t care that it was filled with inaccuracies — he was simply happy for the money given him for the film rights. We’re speaking of George Raft, who in 1960 was undergoing a slight revival thanks to his supporting role in the Billy Wilder comedy classic “Some Like It Hot.”

Raft tried to get Twentieth Century-Fox or Paramount interested, hoping that “Some Like It Hot” castmate Tony Curtis might portray him. Instead, Raft had to settle for Allied Artists, a far lesser company, to buy the rights and for the now-forgotten Ray Danton to play him in a film called “The George Raft Story” in the U.S. and “Spin Of A Coin” in the U.K. (for Raft’s famed mannerism in the 1932 “Scarface”).

Raft had little, if anything, to do with the script, which sort of whitewashed him. For probable legal reasons, many of the people in his life were turned into composites or pseudonyms; for example, Jayne Mansfield, second-billed, plays someone named Lisa Lang, sort of a stand-in for Betty Grable. Never mind that Mansfield and Grable were famed for decidedly different parts of the anatomy. (Incidentally, Julie London, who’s seen as herself in the Mansfield film “The Girl Can’t Help It,” is here as well, playing a late 1920s New York singer from the time when Raft was a noted hoofer.)

I have never seen “The George Raft Story,” but I understand one of the characters may be partially based on Carole. Her name is June, and she’s supposedly referred to as “the bolero girl.” That could, of course, refer to the dance itself — but if it’s a reference to the movie by that name, it could be a thinly veiled allusion to Lombard.

The character portraying her is someone better known for dancing than acting, though she appeared in more good movies than you may think. Her name is Barrie Chase, most famous these days as Fred Astaire’s dance partner on a series of TV specials.

Chase, born in October 1933, was strikingly attractive and a talented, classically-trained dancer, but unfortunately entered the industry at a time when dance musicals were in decline. Still, you can find her (uncredited) in “Daddy Long Legs,” “Les Girls” and “Silk Stockings,” where she probably caught Astaire’s attention. When Chase was hired for the film “Can-Can” in 1960, she seemed ready to become a big star, but she left the production when two of her routines were instead given to Shirley MacLaine.

Nevertheless, you can find her in some good films, albeit in small roles. Two of them are polar opposites — she’s in “Cape Fear” (1962) as a floozy picked up and brutalized by Robert Mitchum…

…and in the gargantuan comedy “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963), where she plays the sexy dancer Dick Shawn’s surfer character is infatuated with (much to the dismay of his mother, Ethel Merman).

Chase retired from performing in 1970 to focus on family matters and is still with us. She has compared dancing with Astaire to sculpting with Michelangelo.

As for “The George Raft Story,” which also features Frank Gorshin as a character named Moxie, based on the real-life Mack Gray, and the always-charming Barbara Nichols, it can be purchased via download at,default,pd.html?cgid=ARCHIVE. See it, and perhaps you can answer my question about Chase as Lombard.

Incidentally, a more factual biopic of Raft would be fascinating, given the colorful underworld characters he had ties to and the many women in his life, everyone from Lombard (she reportedly called him, in purely sexual terms, the best lover she ever had) to Grable to Norma Shearer(!). Such a film couldn’t have been made during Raft’s lifetime. And to be fair, it would also have to show the array of career mistakes Raft made, from being fired on “The Princess Comes Across” when Carole became the focus of the picture to turning down many parts on films that became hits.

An item that’s matchless…literally

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.07 at 00:17
Current mood: curiouscurious

Every now and then you find a type of Carole Lombard memorabilia you’ve never encountered before, and here it is for me. It’s a Lombard matchbook cover –– two of them, in fact. (The matches have been removed.)

It sounds like a something straight out of the 1930s, something to complement the tobacco cards that featured Lombard and other Hollywood stars, and in fact those may well exist. But this is of a bit more recent vintage, promoting a nightspot called “Les Amis” at a Ramada Inn in Baltimore. One shows a photo of Lombard from her Pathe days, the other a Paramount portrait; the accompanying caption reads “Lombard would have loved it.” (I have no idea whether this was cleared with the company in charge of her estate, which would include licensing her image.)

Well, we do know Carole visited Baltimore with Clark Gable at the end of 1940, but she had no time to check out the city’s nightlife, as she and Clark were privately trying to discover, via the experts at Johns Hopkins Hospital, why they were unable to conceive.

These matchbooks are being auctioned at eBay, with bidding going on through 10:06 p.m. (Eastern) next Friday. (Bidding begins at $1.99; no bids have been made as of this writing.) The seller must specialize in matchbooks, because I saw similar items listed, including a matchbook for Carrol’s, which has nothing to do with Lombard but was a popular upstate New York hamburger chain in the 1960s, one this native Syracusan remembers well. To check out the Lombard matchbooks, go to

The next challenge: Find a matchbook cover featuring Lombard produced during her lifetime.

Put in a word for Carole

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.06 at 14:00
Current mood: annoyedannoyed

The group is currently conducting a poll regarding actresses of the classic Hollywood era. The topic is who had the best…






Believe it or not, as of this writing, no one has cast a vote for Carole Lombard yet in any category. If you would like to change that, go to the site and do so.

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This will make you feel warmer…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.05 at 22:26
Current mood: coldcold

Don’t know about you, but we here in the Washington area area currently being buried by another massive snowfall. We expect well over a foot by the time this blizzard is over; this could possibly bring more accumulation than the Dec. 19 storm that pralyzed the capital. The last time Washington experienced two snowfalls of this magnitudein the same winter was back in 1899.

Fortunately, thanks to eBay, there is something to feel good about — a lovely photo of Carole Lombard, circa 1934.

I believe a Mexican film magazine used this for a cover, but here’s the photo unadorned in all its glory.

Bids start at $12.99, and bidding closes at 8 p.m. (Eastern) next Wednesday. If you’re interested, visit

Incidentally, the Washington Capitals didn’t let the snow stop them Friday night, as they defeated Atlanta 5-2 to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 13 — the longest win streak in the NHL since the New Jersey Devils won 13 straight in 2000. Pittsburgh comes to D.C. Sunday at noon (Eastern) for a game on NBC, a few hours before that NFL championship game.

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Picture(goer) her on a postcard

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.04 at 12:26
Current mood: contentcontent

Carole Lombard was a popular star in Great Britain, and Picturegoer magazine there saluted her by making her part of its long running postcard series.

One of those cards is now up for auction at eBay; no bids have been played as yet, but bids start at 0.99 British pound (about $1.56 U.S. currency). Bidding closes just before 2 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. To bid, or to look, go to

Carole as a centerfold?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.03 at 14:23
Current mood: curiouscurious

Yep. And no, not that kind, either. (Hey, Hugh Hefner — who has said he is an avid Lombard fan — wouldn’t come around with Playboy until 1953, and had she lived to that time, Carole would’ve been in her mid-forties, and probably a bit too ripe for Hefner’s use.)

No, this refers to a magazine called True Pictorial Stories, which came out in 1940 with an issue that included a “pictography” of Lombard — a centerfold (pull-out), plus 18 photos.

I have no idea what photos are in, but perhaps one of you could tell me...if you win the magazine at an eBay auction.

The minimum bid is $24.99 (none have bid as of this writing), and bidding closes at just after 3:40 p.m. (Eastern) tomorrow. If interested, go to

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Carole and the fame game

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.02 at 11:11
Current mood: relaxedrelaxed

How did Carole Lombard deal with fame?

While Carole certainly enjoyed the trappings and privileges that came with fame, it didn’t consume her, drive her the way it did her one-time Cocoanut Grove dance rival, Joan Crawford. Two anecdotes I’ve read about Lombard, both of which may be apocryphal, apparently prove it.

In the thirties, Lombard was visiting New York, walking along Fifth Avenue with a studio publicist. Nobody noticed her, much to the publicist’s dismay, and he pointed it out to Carole. She said she could change that. adjusting her hair style slightly. Suddenly, people along the street noticed a celebrity was in their midst (but since many celebs walk along Fifth Avenue, no one really made a big deal out of it).

I believe the second anecdote comes from one of Adela Rogers St. Johns’ books about Hollywood. The story goes that Lombard was stranded in the country and thumbed down a truck that stopped. She and the driver began talking for a while, without Lombard disclosing her identity, and the driver remarked that she looked a bit like Carole Lombard. She replied, “Don’t you ever compare me to that hussy!” The trip continued, and Carole reached her destination.

St. Johns made it sound rather innocuous, but Lombard certainly had good reasons for playing coy. Due to her celebrity status, she could have been susceptible to kidnappings or other threats. The film community was aware of this after the 1932 kidnapping and eventual murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr.

Finally, just to let you know — there may be some days you don’t see a post from me over the next month of two. Many things are happening in my life, from corneal transplant surgery scheduled for next week to a work-related move. I hope you folks will pick up the slack with entries about Carole Lombard or classic Hollywood. Maybe you want to express your thoughts about a particular movie of hers, or have some images of Carole you’d like to share with us. Please do.

The speech she didn’t give

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2010.02.01 at 11:12
Current mood: morosemorose

When Carole Lombard appeared in Indianapolis to sell bonds on Jan. 15, 1942, she gave a speech. We’re not sure who wrote it, but we know it wasn’t written by the person she wanted.

In late January 1942, Hedda Hopper wrote in her Los Angeles Times column ( that distinguished radio writer Norman Corwin said he had been wired by his agent who said a Hollywood personality wanted him to write a speech, but because he was overloaded with work, he turned it down. Only later, after Lombard’s death, did he learn that request came from the actress.

Corwin was one of the all-time greats in radio, writing and creating several classic documentaries and programs that conveyed the American experience. Just a month before the rally — on Dec. 15, 1941 — Corwin wrote a program, “We Hold These Truths,” commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, a program carried by virtually all networks. James Stewart, already in the military, was the narrator, and the program concluded with remarks from President Roosevelt. It had been scheduled for before the Pearl Harbor attack, but the ensuing events made the program all the more poignant, and one guessed Lombard listened to it (and might have participated had there been more female parts).

We have no idea how history might have changed had Corwin acceded to this request, but it does make for a fascinating “what-if.” (Incidentally, Corwin, a broadcasting treasure, will turn 100 on May 3.) For more on Corwin (including an audio link to “We Hold These Truths”), go to

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The War Bond Tour and TWA Flight # 3

Posted by [info]cinemafan2 on 2010.02.01 at 12:03

Below is a news article from the Deseret News on January 13, 1942.  (The Deseret News was an evening newspaper that was published in Salt Lake City, Utah.)  Carole’s train made a brief stop in Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning on its way to Chicago.  This news article identifies several cities that Carole Lombard planned to visit on her war bond tour.  Indianapolis was only the first planned stop.  After she finished in Indianapolis she was to go on to Cleveland, Ohio (Gable’s birth state), and then several other cities after that.  Obviously, this is not what happened.  Instead early Friday morning Carole and her party were on TWA Flight #3 headed back to Los Angeles.  Exactly why she aborted the rest of the tour and rushed back home has never been fully explained.

               Carole Lombard in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday January 13, 1942.,1368540&dq=carole-lombard&hl=en


Carole Lombard, her mother Bess Peters, MGM publicity man Otto Winkler as well as 19 other passengers and crew members all died when TWA Flight # 3 crashed into Mt. Potosi outside of Las Vegas, Nevada on the evening of Friday, January 16, 1942.   One eye witness, a Los Angele furrier who had a cabin in the area, said that the tail-lights on the plane were bobbing wildly shortly before the crash.

Carole Lombard in Indianpolis, Thursday, January 15, 1942.

A variety of web sites cover this incident and the investigation that followed.  Here are some photos that bring home the stark reality of that event.

A TWA DC-3 like that used by Carole Lombard and party.

The seating chart  on departure from Las Vegas.  Carole and her party sat in the middle section of the plane.

The interior view of a DC3 fitted out as a  “day coach.”


The middle section of the plane after the crash.

Others photos taken at the crash site during recovery.

(left) Molten aluminum from the intense heat still embedded in the mountain at the crash site.  (right) Some air mail did survive the crash.  Here is an example.

The following website articles provides further details:

Posted December 17, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, January 2010   Leave a comment

Open a highway, close a marriage

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.31 at 01:59
Current mood:calm

Did you know that Carole Lombard was a resident of three states during her lifetime? She was born in Indiana, of course, then moved to California with her mother and brothers in 1914, where she lived and/or worked for the rest of her life. So what’s the third? The answer is Nevada, and that little seven-letter word on the Tammy Wynette album above explains why.

In those days, in order to get a divorce in Nevada, at least one of the parties had to have been a Nevada resident — and one qualified for residency by staying in the state for at least six weeks. So in early July 1933, Lombard — who had agreed to a divorce from William Powell — left California and headed to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe where, beginning on July 6, she stayed at a house next to the Cal-Neva Lodge.

A few interesting things happened during her stay to establish a Nevada domicile. For one thing, the family she was staying with had a son, at the time barely half Carole’s age, named Robert Stock. As Stack explained in his 1980 autobiography, “Carole knew my mother, and came to stay at our house at Lake Tahoe while getting her divorce from her then-husband William Powell. Of course, I instantly fell in love with this beautiful blonde movie star.” They became good friends, and Stack taught her how to skeet shoot.

That’s fairly well-known, But while in Nevada, Carole also took part in a public ceremony, cutting a ribbon to open a stretch of the “Rim of the Lake” highway (Nevada Highway 28).

I apologize for the poor quality of the photo; I lightened it as best I could. At left, representing Nevada, is Hatherly Bliss, 6; representing California, at right, is Barbara M. Bates, 8.

Carole had some guests during her stay — her mother, as you might expect, and Hearst Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons:

Finally, the day came, Aug. 18, when Carole was officially a Nevada resident, so it was off to get the divorce from Powell. Many of these celebrity divorces took place in Reno, but Lombard’s attorney, George B. Thatcher, suggested Carole get her divorce in the state capital of Carson City, which then had less than 2,000 residents, to minimize media scrutiny.

Well, in the words of Debbie Harry, my man, your plan backfired. It just so happened the Carson CIty courthouse that day was filled — on a hearing to reopen some state banks that had been shut down since the previous Nov. 1, the nadir of the Depression. Lawyers, bank officials and accountants filled the courthouse, and Lombard said, “It’s like the first night of a stag party.”

When the noon recess was held for the bank hearing, District Judge Clark J. Guild held divorce proceedings, which lasted all of six minutes.

“Dressed in a smart grey traveling suit and with a blue beret partially covering her wavy blond hair, Miss Lombard answered the questions put to her by Thatcher calmly and showed no signs of agitation,” according to the Carson City Daily Appeal.

“It wasn’t Hollywood’s fault,” she said with a smile after the divorce was granted. “Just one of those things that happen.”

The owner of that “smart grey traveling suit” didn’t stay in Nevada very long, despite the obligatory promise to maintain her residency. Instead, less than two hours after the verdict, she flew from Reno to Los Angeles with aviator “Colonel” Roscoe Turner. He’s seen with Carole and the wife of Zeppo Marx:

Much of this is derived from an article at the Nevada State Library and Archives (

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Carole’s got cleavage!

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.30 at 01:57
Current mood:satisfied

The story goes that when Carole Lombard, seeking a comeback in films following her automobile accident, was hired by Mack Sennett for his short comedies, he told her to gain a few pounds to give her a more rounded figure. (That such advice came during the 1920s, when the slender flapper look was in vogue, may explain why Sennett’s two-reelers were in decline.) Nevertheless, she took his advice, began eating some bananas, and blossomed into the person publicists labeled “Carol of the curves.” as shown above.

But when Lombard left Sennett for a contract at Pathe, that studio wanted a more sleek version of her. So with the help of “masseuse to the stars” Sylvia, Lombard evolved into the sleek figure she’d have for the rest of her life.

Largely true…but still simplistic. Carole’s figure become more streamlined, but she didn’t abandon her curves, not by a long shot. (Had she reverted to a flapper-style figure, she most likely would have been perceived as out of date in early thirties America.) Instead, she adapted, showing you could have a lithe figure without flattening your upper half.

For proof, check out this photo:

Carole is indeed showing a bit of cleavage, and a more substantial bustline than we’ve come to expect from her. This is Paramount p1202-551, indicating it was probably produced about 1933. Information on the back indicates that the photo was for general publicity purposes, and not expressly designed for any particular film:

Here’s the entire back of the photo:

Oh, and as for visible proof of the p1202 number:

Intriguing that a photo of an American actress comes from the files of a Spanish-language publication, and is now being sold by someone from Australia. Almost makes you wanna go into that Disneyland anthem, “It’s A Small World After All.”

This photo is said to be 7.3″ x 9.5″ and in “fairly good” condition, “with all the borders trimmed, light yellowing throughout, including a number of pock marks and surface markings. Also some corner wear.”

If you want it, note that you don’t have much time — bidding closes at just before 9 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. Also note you’ll have competition; as of this writing, four bids have been made, with the top bid at $15.50.. If you are interested, go to

Since we were speaking of cleavage, let’s close with a tribute to the lady whose cleavage was figuratively (pardon the pun) of Brobdingnagian proportions, Fayne Mansfield. Here are some scenes of Jayne from one of the best films about rock’n’roll ever made, “The Girl Can’t Help It” (1956). Director Frank Tashlin’s gags as she struts down the street to the title song (done by Little Richard) are hilarious

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A Derby winner

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.29 at 01:35
Current mood:happy

The header shows Carole Lombard allegedly making a phone call, though she appears more concerned with revealing the right amount of leg for the photographer.That’s Carole Lombard with Randolph Scott and Gail Patrick (on-screen rival, off-screen friend) in 1936. What makes this photo special for our purpose today is where it was taken — at the legendary Hollywood Brown Derby, on Vine Street just south of Hollywood Boulevard.

Patrick was no stranger to the Derby — after all, at the time she was married to its owner, Robert J. Cobb. (The Cobb salad is named after him, as his restaurant created it.) With good food and reasonable prices, the Derby was a favorite of the film crowd…especially since you could have a phone brought to, and installed, at your booth. (it was probably more a status symbol than the wi-fi of its day._

The Derby also had significance for Lombard, as it was in booth #5 where Clark Gable proposed to her (once Ria Langham agreed to divorce Clark). There’s something else abut Carole and the Derby, too…but we’ll get to that later.

The Hollywood Brown Derby, the most famous of several restaurants bearing that name, became a Hollywood landmark. That’s star-stryck Lucy Ricardo peering at the next booth to see William Holden. (In the late 1930s, Lucille Ball regularly ate at the Derby, and became known for jokingly tossing dinner rolls.)

And what’s above Lucy? Drawings, specifically caricatures of stars…including two for Jimmy Durante to provide room for his famed nose.. Many restaurants have done this over the years — Sardi’s, the Palm — and the Derby also gained fame for this.

From left are Marlene Dietrich (looking rather leonine), William Randolph Hearst, Ed Wynn and Eddie Cantor.

“So,” you’re wondering, “was there a caricature of Carole Lombard at the Derby?”

Why, of course!

Stunning in its abstract simplicity, and I’m sure Lombard loved it.

Now, the good news: A reproduction of this is being offered on eBay.

This drawing — and likely the four above — was done by an artist known simply as Vitch, the Derby’s original caricaturist. According to the seller, “One of the world’s finest caricaturists, Vitch displayed an economy of line and sharpness of perception that caught a personality in a few brush strokes. ”

This 11″ x 14″ work is among the first of such reproductions offered, and you can buy it for $37.50 under eBay’s “buy it now” policy. It’s supposed to be up for nearly two weeks more, but I can’t see it lasting that long. Want to learn more about it? Go to

And to learn more about the Derby, a restaurant with a fascinating history, go to

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Time to be ‘Vigil’ant

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.28 at 01:17
Current mood:determined

I wasn’t there, and chances are neither were you (if you were and are under 70 years old, please forward me some information on your time-travel device), but I sense that on the set of “Vigil In The Night,” Carole Lombard showed little of the lively, upbeat, irreverent personality that normally accompanied her acting work. This is not to say Carole was a gloomy Gus during the shooting, just that she wanted to focus on her nurse character. It’s a very workmanlike performance, with none of the levity we’ve come to expect from Carole.

Another item from “Vigil” has come up. It’s a lobby card, although as lobby cards go, this one is particularly wordy. See what I mean:

Everything about this lobby card is meant to convey “prestige performance,” from the person who directed it (George Stevens) to having the story come from a writer of renown (A.J. Cronin), and so on. As it turned out, perhaps it was too downbeat for Academy Award consideration — and there were plenty of first-rate films in 1940.

This lobby card, which is 11″ x 14″, and is listed in good condition, can be bought for $80 under eBay’s “buy it now” policy. If no one buys it, the lobby card will be withdrawn from sale on Saturday.

Interested? Then go to

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Carole’s gam-bit with the press

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.27 at 01:11
Current mood:hot

If the photo above doesn’t convey the power of leg art, what will? I’m sure some of you have already correctly guessed the identity of the owner of those lovely limbs…but in case you haven’t, I’ll tell you. It’s Cyd Charisse, showing off her shapely (and talented) gams in an MGM promotional still for, appropriately, “Silk Stockings.”

Actually, by 1957, when this photo was taken, leg art was beginning to wane in movies. The decline of the studio system and of long-term contracts meant that build-ups for actresses was now handled by the stars themselves — and many had no appetite for cheesecake (the term for leg art, not the actual dessert).

Back in the 1930s, most actresses (at least those younger than Marie Dressler) participated in leg art. There were a few exceptions, including two at Paramount while Carole Lombard was there: Evelyn Venable, who arrived in 1932, and Marsha Hunt, who arrived a few years later (and is still with us!), had clauses in their contracts that prohibited them from posing for leg art.

For Lombard herself, leg art was part of the Hollywood game she had been playing since the mid-1920s. She knew it was a vital part of portraying her “sex appeal,” and she certainly posed for her share (and more) of such pix.

But even Carole apparently reached a point where enough was enough.

That’s Lombard from Pathfinder of Jan. 30, 1937. (Pathfinder was a weekly newsmagazine that actually preceded Time by nearly 30 years, but never had its rival’s crisp, concise writing and breathed its last in 1954.)

The caption headline reads, “Carole Lombard Has Vetoed Legs.” No, not as a way of getting around, just as a tool of photographers. Judging from the lead, several actresses were no longer posing for leg art, fearing they weren’t being taken seriously for their work on screen. I really wish I knew who they were or had the rest of this story, but alas, I don’t have the jump page. (And isn’t it interesting that the magazine illustrates this story with a photo of her in a tennis outfit? Perhaps the message to her is that she’d have to be wearing long pants or slacks, neither really good tennis attire, if she wanted to be photographed playing her favorite sport ever again.)

Did Carole make her point to the press? Maybe so, maybe not. But if she actually did a “leg art” boycott, it didn’t last very long, because before the year was out, she allowed this image from Selznick International Pictures to go out:

It should be noted, though, that following “Nothing Sacred,” Lombard posed for relatively few leg art shots. As a star of renown, and the future wife of Clark Gable, she had no need for cheesecake in her pictorial diet. (Particularly since she was on the verge of turning 30.)

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Relive the red scare

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.26 at 01:23
Current mood:morose

The early 1950s was generally not a happy time for the entertainment industry. Television was booming, to be sure, a rapidly growing toddler whose next step nobody could predict, Two media it stole thunder from — radio and motion pictures — faced decline over not knowing how to react.

To make matters worse, there was the anti-Communist mood of the time, understandable to some extent since the Soviet Union was now America’s chief rival. However, it devolved into witchhunts and mass hysteria, engineered by some power-hungry folk.

Above is one of the vehicles used during the “red scare,” a pamphlet called “Red Chennels,” whose goal it was to name those in the broadcasting field who were Communists or sympathizers (“Comsymps,” as right-wing newspapers used to call them). “Red Channels” was largely funded by a businessman in my hometown of Syracuse, N.Y. named Laurence Johnson; he owned the Victory Markets chain in central New York. (I don’t recall our family ever buying groceries at Victory, and I asked my 89-year-old, Keith Olbermann-loving mother whether she and my father boycotted Victory for this reason after they moved to Syracuse in 1952. Not the case, she said; neither she nor my father were aware of the role Johnson played in the red scare. They simply didn’t shop at Victory because there wasn’t one close by.)

Many people in radio and television lost their jobs over being named in “Red Channels.” Some moved overseas. Some found other lines of work. A few committed suicide. We think of CBS as standing up to Joseph McCarthy through the likes of Edward R. Murrow, the ironically the network’s entertainment division was perhaps most beholden to “Red Channels” and its ilk.

We bring all this up to give you a feel for Wednesday night’s first film in the “Shadows Of Russia” series presented this month by Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. The first movie to be shown, at 8 p.m. (Eastern) is a bizarre artifact from this period of American history. It’s called…

I’d like to tell you more about it firsthand, but “My Son John” has been a difficult movie to track down. It’s rarely been revived, perhaps because it’s viewed as so over-the-top, so hopelessly out of date. But TCM is making it available to a mass audience.

People whose views I respect tell me this film is chockfull of anti-Communist diatribes. I’ll have to see it to actually believe it. What I do know is that this film was produced with help from some talented people.

The director was Leo McCarey…yep, the same guy who directed “Duck Soup,” “The Awful Truth” and “Love Affair” (as well as “Make Way For Tomorrow,” one of the best films about the elderly ever made). McCarey’s skills were in decline, but thankfully he’d get a chance to make two more features (the “Love Affair” remake “An Affair To Remember” in 1957, and “Rally ‘Round The Flag, Boys!” in 1958).

Robert Walker, who plays John, didn’t have similar fortune. Walker, who first came to prominence in 1944’s “See Here, Private Hargrove” and became a top star in 1951 with his memorable performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Stranger On A Train,” died during production. McCarey used doubles in some scenes, a la MGM in “Saratoga” after Jean Harlow’s passing, but he also used a tape recording of Walker reading some of his lines.

That’s Helen Hayes, with Walker and Van Heflin. During this stage of her career, her career was more or less the stage, as she’d retreated to Broadway after making her share of movies (and winning an Oscar) in the early ’30s. A fervent anti-Communist, she likely made “My Son John” for that reason.

But there’s another reason I want to see “My Son John” — part of it was filmed in Manassas, Va., not far from where I live now. These days, Manassas has evolved into a Washington suburb. In the early fifties, it was still a small town not yet affected by suburban growth.

That’s the old Manassas Presbyterian Church, which can be seen in the film. The church moved to another location in 1977.

As stated, this is a fascinating artifact of a particular time in American history, and so is its followup, “I Was A Communist For The FBI,” starring Frank Lovejoy, which will air at 10:15 p.m. (Eastern).

Both of these movies provide us with a look of how life had changed in the decade or so since Carole Lombard had left.

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Sally forth, with Carole’s classmate

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.25 at 01:45
Current mood:nostalgic

If you’re fortunate, someone famous was a high school classmate of yours — and if you’re really lucky, multiple classmates will have made it big. For example, the class of 1910 at Central High School in Kansas City included both William Powell and future major-league ballplayer and Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel. (Born Charles Dillon Stengel, he earned the name “Casey” because he was from “KC.”) If you attended Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md. (shown above) in the early 1960s, your classmates included Goldie Hawn, Connie Chung and Carl Bernstein of “All The President’s Men” fame…though I don’t believe all three attended Blair at the same time. (In the late 1990s, the Blair campus was moved to a new building bordering the Capital Beltway.)

Those who attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles in the mid-1920s knew two classmates who went on to notable careers in the movie industry. One, of course, was Carole Lombard. This entry will look at the other one…an actress named Sally Eilers.

Two months younger than Lombard, Sally Eilers (born Dorothea Sally Eilers) was born in New York City and wound up in Los Angeles. Like Lombard, she eyed a movie career while in high school, and the two became close friends. Both ended up working for Mack Sennett in the late 1920s, and Eilers can be seen in the Lombard two-reelers “The Campus Vamp,” “The Campus Carmen” and “Matchmaking Mama.” (You can also find Eilers, unbilled, in “The Red Mill” and “The Crowd.”)

Eilers isn’t well remembered today, but she managed to achieve a few things Lombard never did. For one, she was a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1928. For another, she appeared in a film that won an Academy Award (two of them!) and was in fact the female lead. It came out in 1931, and is called…

It won Oscars for best director (Frank Borzage, whose work has become quite appreciated in recent years) and best writing, adaptation for Edwin J. Burke. The title makes and illustration make it seem more risque than it actually is; the film, adapted from a Vina Delmar story, deals with the life of a young couple in New York City. Not that Eilers was lacking in sex appeal…

“Bad Girl” was a hit (and was even nominated for best picture). You could well argue that in 1931, Sally Eilers was a bigger star than Lombard.

So what happened? Much of her downfall can be attributed to being at the wrong studio at the wrong time. As the pre-Code era progressed, her home studio, Fox, became more archaic and rural, largely unable to keep up with the urban-oriented product coming out from Warners and MGM. Will Rogers was popular in both the cities and the heartland, but he could only do so much. By the mid-1930s, Eilers was largely in supporting roles, making a good living but hardly on the top tier of stars.

Sally and Carole remained buddies. Here they are, with Clark Gable, watching a boxing match at Los Angeles Wrigley Field in late May of 1937:

Eilers was married four times, the first to cowboy star Hoot Gibson. She made her final film in 1950, then retired from acting (though she did appear once on an episode of “This Is Your Life”). Eilers died of a heart attack in early 1978 and, like Lombard, is buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

The idea of an entry on Eilers — something I’m surprised I haven’t done already — was inspired by the fine “The Daily Mirror” blog from the Los Angeles Times. Each week it does a “mystery photo” of a film personality of the past, not disclosing the subject’s identity until Friday. (No prizes are at stake, simply reader satisfaction.) Eilers was this past week’s subject, and the entry now includes her Times obit as well as several more photos. To see it, go to

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Two colorful ways to win Dixie

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.24 at 01:32
Current mood:hungry

We’re talking Dixie ice cream here…specifically premiums offered by the company back in the 1930s — large color photos (whether they actually were photographed in color or merely added in the studio, I’m not certain), with the back featuring information about said star plus small photos of them from earlier films.They’ve been described this way:

“Highly collected this gorgeous premium was originally acquired by redeeming a number of the smaller Dixie Lids which would be found on top of ice cream cups. The premium was issued with the two holes punched in the left border for insertion to albums.”

The premium we’re investigating is, of course, of Carole Lombard — and the good news is that not one, but two of these premiums are currently being offered at eBay.

Here’s what the front looks like; it’s an image I’ve seen before:

Gorgeous, to be sure, but for me it’s the obverse that’s most fascinating…largely because I never realized there was anything on the other side. It provides an idea of how Paramount was marketing Lombard in 1935, after “Rumba” and before “Hands Across The Table”:

Here’s what that opening paragraph says about her:

“Carole Lombard is a graduate of the Mack Sennett ‘school.’ Like many another star, her first appearance was under the banner of the veteran comedy producer. Previous to her movie debut Carole studied dramatic art at a private school in Los Angeles and played several roles on the legitimate stage “

Well, Lombard did take part in stage productions at Fairfax High School and participated in a few local productions while recuperating from her automobile accident…but this makes it seems as if she’d acted on Broadway or in the Ziegfeld Follies. Nope.

While this tries to inflate Carole’s background, it does just the opposite for her height, cutting her down to a mere 5-foot-2 (albeit with eyes of blue), whereas other Lombard height descriptions build her up to 5-foot-6 (probably an exaggeration). Her films listed include the Columbia hit “Twentieth Century,” to Paramount’s credit.

The back also includes pictures from her two latest films, “Now And Forever” and “Rumba.” This premium measures 9″ x 12″.

As stated earlier, two of these are currently on eBay’s sale list. The first currently has no bids; the minimum is $9.99, and bidding runs through 7:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. To bid or tocheck it out, go to

The other one can be bought for $30 under eBay’s “buy it now” option, or you can place an offer. This will close on Feb. 15 if not bought earlier. Interested? Then visit×11-Color-Dixie-Premium-Photo-NM_W0QQitemZ190365704038QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item2c52ae1f66.

Don’t know about you, but suddenly I’m hungry for some ice cream.

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Making a fabled hall ‘Sacred’

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.23 at 02:56
Current mood:mischievous

It’s one of America’s most famous auditoriums, and has graced New York’s cultural landscape for more than three-quarters of a century. Perhaps now it’s best known as the home of the Rockettes, those high-kicking precision dancers (did you know that Teri Garr’s mother, Phyllis, was one of the original troupe?). It’s hosted all sorts of things over the years — concerts (I saw Ray Charles perform there in September 1979), awards shows, even sports. (When Madison Square Garden was used for the 2004 Republican convention, Garden officials moved part of the WNBA’s New York Liberty schedule to the Music Hall, a facility now owned by the Garden. The court was placed on the stage.)

But for its first several decdes, the Music Hall was used not expressly for music but for movies. In 1932, Rockefeller Center officials, noting the Depression, decided to at least temporarily make the Sixth Avenue facility a movie house, competing with the Roxy and other midtown palaces. Films, combined with the Rockettes’ stage shows, made Radio City a smash, a prestige venue for new films. To have a film play at Radio City was the East Coast equivalent of premiering at Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood. (I saw “Airport” at Radio City in May 1970.) And with the sumptuous interior, Radio City made its patrons feel positively palatial:

I’m not sure how many Carole Lombard films played Radio City, but I know that several did…and we have an artifact from one of them.

It’s from the week of Dec. 9, 1937, when theatregoers at Radio City could see Carole, colossal and in color, in the acerbic comedy “Nothing Sacred.” As many moviehouses did in those days, a program was made available to customers, and one from that week is now being auctioned at eBay.

Ah, New York in the 1930s.

The program measures 9″ x 6 3/4″; I’m not sure of its overall condition, but from the three pages I saw, it looked okay. And the price is a surprisingly low 99 cents as of this writing, since no bids have been placed. Bidding will close at 6:25 a.m. (Eastern) on Sunday, so before you go to bed Saturday night, it might be worth your while o check this item out. It’s at A great souvenir of a great Lombard movie at a great venue.

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More from Mexico…a ‘Carol’ cover

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.22 at 00:19
Current mood:hopeful

Earlier this week, we profiled a Carole Lombard cover from the Mexican movie magazine Cine-Mundial; it happened to be the December 1932 issue. But that wasn’t Lombard’s first appearance on the cover of that magazine.For that, you’d have to go back more than three years, to Lombard’s days as “Carol” while a contract player at Pathe. It’s one of the few Lombard covers from the 1920s…specifically, the September 1929 issue:

Look at all those red, blue and yellow dots surrounding her. (For some unexplained reason, I’m suddenly hungry for bread. Wonder why.)

The picture Cine-Mundial used for the cover is one I’ve never seen before, and gives her an exotic, almost non-American look.

Articles on Clara Bow, Stan Laurel and others (written in Spanish, of course) are inside this 48-page issue, which measures 9″ x 12″. The seller describes the magazine as in “Good Condition. Some handling and edge wear. Spine a bit worn.”

As of this writing, one bid has been made, for $14.99; bidding closes at just after 4:05 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday/ If you’ve got the bread to buy this magazine, go to

Flickr Scans

Posted by amy_jeanne on 2010.01.22 at 12:34

I started a huge archive of magazine scans on Flickr and these are the ones tagged “Carole Lombard.”

More, more, more, more to come!!

Lombard in lace, plus Connie’s colorful cosmetology

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.21 at 01:35
Current mood:productive

“Safety In Numbers” is an important film in the career of Lombard (even if she was still known as “Carol” Lombard at the time). For one thing, it was her first picture at Paramount, and the response she received from the public for playing a supporting role enabled her to parlay this one-shot into a seven-year contract with this top-tier studio. For another, it showed that though she was no longer the “Carol of the curves,” she still possessed plenty of sex appeal.

For proof, here’s a publicity still from the film I’ve never seen before. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before from “Safety” — Lombard and Josephine Dunn, cavorting in lingerie — but it’s a slightly different pose:

The back of the photo lacks a snipe, but still is of interest.

First, the stamped “Safety In Numbers” and “Paramount Pictures” make it evident the photo is an original. However, the markings for “Carole Lombard” are from a later time; whether it was during, or after, her lifetime is uncertain. (And poor Josephine Dunn isn’t even recognized.)

The seller noted Eugene Robert Richee took this portrait (good), but says the photo dates from 1929 (nope, 1930). As for the price, it’s $279 under eBay’s “buy it now” option; I’ll let you choose your own reaction.

The photo’s listed in “very good” condition, and will be up until 2:25 p.m. (Eastern) on Friday, or until someone buys it. If you’ve really got a hankering for Lombard in lingerie and have the money, go to×10-Rare-BLACK-LACE_W0QQitemZ170432849735QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item27ae96e747.

We’ll leave you with something from the lady who indirectly moved Lombard to Paramount in the first place — Constance Bennett, whose arrival at Pathe in the fall of 1929 spelled the exit for Lombard and fellow blonde Diane Ellis. But this comes from many years later, specifically 1937, by which time Carole was a bigger star than Connie (whose peak era of popularity came in the early 1930s).

Anyway, this is a short from Bennett discussing beauty tips, while also plugging her own line of cosmetics — sort of an infomercial of its day shown in theaters. Best of all, you see Connie in color (albeit the less vibrant Cinecolor instead of Technicolor). Turner Classic Movies has shown this as between-film filler, and it’s fun to watch. And who knows — maybe some of you women will learn something. Take some time out to enjoy tips, from one of cinema’s great beauties. (It’s interesting to hear her comment about her “temperamental skin”; many in the industry would’ve told you that wasn’t the only part of her that was that way.) Loads and loads of loveliness, ladies!

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Radio, radio: Two Internet stations worth checking out

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.20 at 02:54
Current mood:nostalgic

“Radio is the sound salvation…”
— “Radio Radio,” Elvis Costello & the Attractions, 1977

Actually, Costello was being his cynical youthful self, as that song was actually a diatribe against the commercial radio of that era. (Recall his later line, “And radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools trying to anesthetize the way that you feel.”)

Back then, you really didn’t have a lot of choice — though compared to the AM and FM of 2010, late ’70s radio might seem like the essence of variety. But frankly, we have it all over the listeners of that era. Why? Because of the medium you’re using to read this right now…the Internet.

Technically, it may not be “radio” the way Marconi or FM inventor Edwin Armstrong imagined it, since there’s no transmission tower; in some ways, it’s the high-tech equivalent of those carrier current stations colleges have, the ones you can only pick up in dorms. But the world wide Web makes the entire globe your campus.

If you’re a member of “Carole & Co.”, or merely happened to drop by, there’s a good chance you have interest not just in Carole Lombard, her films or career, but the times she lived in. And now, thanks to a pair of online stations, you can experience the music she heard, 24/7. This is in addition to specialty shows such as “The Big Broadcast,” which Rich Conaty has been running for 37 years, mostly at its current home, WFUV-FM in New York (, 8 p.m. to midnight Eastern on Sundays), or “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” a longtime staple of WAMU-FM in Washington (, 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern on Saturdays).

The first station is called “The 1920s Radio Network” (, though to be honest its title doesn’t give a clear indication of the music it plays. At times you’ll hear a lot of blues and pop from the 1940s, or conversely music first recorded on Edison cylinders in the early 20th century (with the song’s title and artist announced on the recording at the start). It’s a fascinating mix, giving you an idea of how American popular music evolved over the decades. This is one of the HD stations emanating from an FM station in Chesapeake, Va.

The other station, Radio Dismuke (, is purely an Internet creation and is more narrowly focused, as it concentrates on music from 1925 (when electrical recording was first introduced) to about 1935 (the dawn of the swing era), a time frame comparable to Conaty’s program. (“Dismuke” is the last name of the person who put this together, a guy in Fort Worth, Texas.) The station’s link provides information on how to listen — two streams are available, either Live365 or LoudCity.

Both stations provide fun listening.and are a nice change of pace if you’d like to immerse yourself in the past, or simply want your fix of Louis, Bing or the Boswells. So take a tip from Costello when he says, “So you had better do as you are told/You better listen to the radio.”

And, truth be told, all sorts of people are discovering this music; Les Paul listened to Conaty’s program for years until his death last year, and Marshall Crenshaw, who recorded the likes of “Cynical Girl” and “Someday Someway” in the 1980s, is an avid fan of Conaty’s show.

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Carole, down Mexico way

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.19 at 12:18
Current mood:cheerful

We’ve noted previously that Carole Lombard and many other Hollywood stars were as popular in Mexico as they were north of the border. Her picture was often used on the cover of Mexican-based film magazines, including Cine-Mundial.Here’s a cover of Carole from that magazine, specifically the December 1932 issue, that I’ve never come across before:

Very elegant. The magazine also contains items on Jean Harlow and Bebe Daniels.

Bidding concludes at 6:19 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday; as of this writing, one bid has already been placed at the minimum bid of $14.99. If you’d like to bid, or to learn more, go to (Note the seller also has other Cine-Mundil issues for sale featuring Lombard either on the cover or in the magazine.)

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Smokin’ in Egypt

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.18 at 11:15
Current mood:optimistic

We’ve previously discussed Carole Lombard being featured on tobacco and cigarette cards ( Images of her and other top Hollywood stars were popular premiums issued by tobacco companies in many countries…one of which was Egypt:The card is from the Toccos company, and the seller notes the “back of card written in foreign language” (which happens to be French). If you double-click the image, you’ll see it at approximately its actual size of 1 7/8″ x 2 3/4″. The dealer describes this card as “scarce”; I’ve certainly never see it before, and I’m not certain how many have emerged in North America.

Collectors of Lombard tobacco cards should note they’ll have competition for this item; as of this writing, two bids have already been made, the higher at $5.87. Bidding closes just after 8:35 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. If you’d like to bid, or just learn more, go to

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Second in command

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.17 at 01:43
Current mood:creative

Carole Lombard would have been the first to tell you that plenty of people had a hand in shaping her glamorous image — and among those members of “team Lombard” were the studio portrait photographers. By the end of the 1920s, when talking pictures quickly made silent movies yesterday’s news, all the principal studios took their portrait work in-house. It’s been said they defined each studio’s style as much as any cinematographer.At Paramount, Lombard’s home base from 1930 to 1937, Eugene Robert Richee headed the stills department — but the work there was so vast, both in terms of films and players, that a number-two man was needed. This job went to a man named William Walling Jr.

Not much is known about Walling, not even his birth and death dates. He worked with many of Paramount’s stars, notably the younger ones such as Ida Lupino. And while Richee did the bulk of Carole’s Paramount sessions — particularly after Otto Dyar left for Fox in 1933 — Walling got his chance for sessions with Lombard and some of the studio’s other top-shelf stars, such as a few of Marlene Dietrich’s films. For example, it was Walling who accompanied Carole to an airport and took some shots of her near a plane…photos that would have a sad irony some years later.

Walling also took this portrait of Lombard — and on the back of this print, it makes its origins clear:

The photograph is 10″ x 13″, in sepia (here, it’s been converted to greyscale for clarity), and in reasonably good shape save for some creases on two corners.

Would you like it for your collection? Then be prepared to pay triple digits. Two bids have been made as of this writing, with the top bid an even $100. Bidding closes just after 10 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. For more information, or to place a bid, go to

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We remember…and take action

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.16 at 01:04
Current mood:determined

I was thinking, trying to come up with a way to honor Carole Lombard on the 68th anniversary of her passing…and it came to my mind that Carole was, first and foremost, a woman of action –– she rarely sat still. Sure, once in a while she’d relax to recharge herself; she was human, after all. But doing something was invariably Carole’s raison d’etre.

To that end, I am certain that Carole Lombard would want us to take action to aid those hundreds of thousands in Haiti whose already impoverished lives have been made unbearable due to this week’s earthquake.

That’s Lombard with husband Clark Gable, as they take part in a radio fundraiser for Greek war relief on Jan. 8, 1941, not long after they had returned to Los Angeles from an eastern trip. Carole participated in several such programs, and she’d urge you to give what you can to help those in Haiti.

It doesn’t take much. Many supermarket chains are now raising funds for earthquake relief; add a dollar to your total at the checkout counter. For more information on donating, go to — and remember, this effort transcends partisan politics.

From what I know about Carole Lombard, she would deem that the best way to honor her memory.

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Taking an artistic Path(e)

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.15 at 00:52
Current mood:curious

The picture we’re profiling in today’s entry comes from the early part of Carole Lombard’s career, when she was still nicknamed “Carol of the curves” and had yet to make an all-talking movie. It’s the Pathe era Lombard, photographed by the studio’s portrait taker, William E. Thomas:This photo certainly has an artistic bent, doesn’t it?

While there’s no Pathe ID number, we can guess this photo was issued near the end of 1928 or the very beginning of 1929. That’s because there’s a snipe on the back:

The snipe reads:

“Carol Lombard may have been chosen by Mack Sennett to decorate his comedies because of her lovely face and figure, but it was the dramatic ability she displayed in a single scene with William Boyd in ‘Power’ that won her a long-term contract with Pathe. Carol-of-the-curves has since appeared prominently in ‘Show Folks’ and ‘Ned McCobb’s Daughter.'”

The photo is being auctioned at eBay. It’s an original 8″ x 10″, said to be in “very fine” condition, a double-weight gloss portrait, with minor surface and corner wear.

Five bids, the highest being $31, have been made as of this writing; bidding will end at just after 7:40 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. If you think you’re interested, check out

And finally, if any of you are planning to visit Carole Lombard’s vault at Forest Lawn this weekend to commemorate the 68th anniversary of her passing, please get back to us and let us know what the experience was like. One wonders whether security has tightened at Forest Lawn over the past few months.

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For Russ’ 102nd, the ‘Prisoner’s’ song

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.14 at 01:07
Current mood:thankful

First of all, I hope you like the new look to “Carole & Co.” — we’ve added a picture to the header, and the image will be changed periodically. We now return you to our regularly scheduled entry.Today marks the 102nd anniversary of Russ Columbo’s birth, and whether or not you believe he was the truest love of Lombard’s life, there can be no doubt he played a major role in it. To celebrate his birthday, we’re going to review his best-known song as it’s been done over the years…the classic “Prisoner Of Love.”

Columbo co-wrote “Prisoner” in 1931 and had a major hit with it that year. Here’s what it sounds like:

In September 1945, more than a decade after Columbo’s death, Billy Eckstine — not only an excellent singer, but the leader of a first-rate big band — revived “Prisoner.” For anyone who followed Eckstine, that was no surprise, as he recorded a number of Columbo songs over the years. (Many wonder why Eckstine never quite achieved the same success as Nat Cole. Some maintain he sounded too virile for a black man in that era, compared to the more relaxed Cole; he also never had the consistent backing of a major label such as Capitol, Cole’s longtime home.) Anyway, give Mr. B a listen — could this be one of the “soundies” from the 1940s?

Three months after Eckstine’s version, Perry Como recorded it for Victor, and it reached the top of the pop charts in early 1946. If you only know Como from the trite white-bread hits he had in the 1950s, his recording of “Prisoner” may come as a revelation. In the 1940s, Perry was a truly worthy rival to Columbia’s Frank Sinatra as a smooth balladeer. Enjoy:

“Prisoner” wouldn’t make the charts for another 17 years (although Sinatra included it on his 1961 Reprise album “Sinatra & Strings,” his first collaboration with Don Costa), but when it re-emerged as a hit single in May 1963, it was in a radically different version, courtesy of James Brown. “Soul Brother No. 1,” an admirer of Eckstine, gave the tune an entirely new feel, sounding like a more earthy version of Jackie Wilson. The following is Brown’s performance of “Prisoner” on “The Ed Sullivan Show”; listen to Brown interpolate Ray Charles’ “The Night Time Is he Right Time” and do an extended gospel-style call and response. Brilliant stuff. (I saw Brown perform in New York in 2003, and even at that age he could still deliver the goods.) Here’s JB, via Russ Columbo, infusing some soul into middle America on a Sunday night:

Since I first wrote this, I have come across yet another version of “Prisoner” — and this one’s sung by a woman. And that woman is none other than the wonderful Lena Horne, who did this with pianist Teddy Wilson’s group. (I’m not sure when this was recorded, but I’m guessing it was the late 1930s or early ’40s.)

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Celebrate her birthday. Kay?

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.13 at 00:57
Current mood:touched

By “Kay” we are of course referring to the tall and terrific Kay Francis, who was born Jan. 13, 1905 in Oklahoma City (in the territory of Oklahoma; it didn’t become a state until 1907). Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is honoring her today by showing nine films.

While Francis has been one of the major beneficiaries of the pre-Code revival, TCM today is focusing on her later work. Most of these films aren’t well known (“In Name Only” isn’t included), so chances are you haven’t come across these movies unless you saw TCM’s celebration of Francis as its star of the month for September 2008, a month before her friend Carole Lombard got similar treatment for the centennial of her birth). In fact, all nine of these films were shown that month. Here’s what I wrote about them at the time, with today’s schedule (all times Eastern)

* 7 a.m. — “The Goose And The Gander” (1935) Kay’s a divorcee who can’t stop meddling in her ex-husband’s affairs. With George Brent.

* 8:15 a.m. — “Another Dawn” (1937). Kay’s an officer’s wife at a British outpost in Africa who falls for another man. With Errol Flynn. The title is sort of an industry in-joke, as for several years “Another Dawn” was used on movie theater marquees in films as sort of a generic title.

* 9:30 a.m. — “Comet Over Broadway” (1938). Another “B” film for Francis, a backstage murder yarn directed by Busby Berkeley (no big dance sequences here, though). By the way, this movie inspired a blog called “Comet Over Hollywood” (; the blog had previously been called “Living On Velvet,” the title of another Francis film. Moreover, there’s the fine pre-Code blog “Trouble In Paradise” (

* 10:45 a.m. –– “My Bill” (1938). Kay plays an impoverished widow with four children, one of whom is Bonita Granville.

* noon — “Secrets Of An Actress” (1938). A leading lady falls for a married architect who’s invested in her play. With George Brent and Ian Hunter; directed by William Keighley.

* 1:15 p.m. — “Women Are Like That” (1938). A couple reunite years after breaking up. One of the “B” pictures Warners relegated Francis to in the late 1930s. With Pat O’Brien and Ralph Forbes.

* 2:45 p.m. — “It’s A Date” (1940). Kay plays a singer vying for a stage part — and a man — against her daughter, played by Deanna Durbin. With Walter Pidgeon.

* 4:30 p.m. — “The Feminine Touch” (1941). A good second lead role for Francis in this romantic comedy co-starring Rosalind Russell and Don Ameche and directed by Woody Van Dyke.

* 6:15 p.m. — “Always In My Heart” (1942). A convict returns home to find his family has forgotten him. With Walter Huston and Gloria Warren.
Francis-related Web sites and blogs are popping up all over the place. A few include “Kay Francis’ Life And Career” (, “The Kay Francis Web Site” (, “The Kay Francis Fan Page” (, and “I Can’t Wait To Be Forgotten” (, the title of one of several books about this fascinating woman. Sorry, Kay hasn’t been forgotten…but I bet she’d secretly be pleased.

We’ll leave you with this rarity — Kay Francis, in color, a portrait taken in 1936:

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Television’s debut and Russ Columbo

Posted by cinemafan2 on 2010.01.13 at 23:56

Last week the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held in Las Vegas where production 3-D televisions were unveiled for consumers.   But according to research done by Lou Milano for his biography of Russ Columbo  television was first displayed publicly at the eighth annual Radio Electrical World’s Fair in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1931.  A total of 28,000 people attended the opening day to hear David Sarnoff,  president of the Radio Corporation of America predict that “sight will be transmitted though the air to large numbers.  We are on the threshold of television.”
Periodically demonstrations of television were held throughout the evening.  The hot lights were switched on in a cramped makeshift television studio that had been set up inside Madison Square Garden.  A viewing audience was ushered into the television theater and all eyes were glued to the ten foot screen as the shadowy image of a human being appeared before them.  (The image was projected onto the ten foot high screen from a much smaller television.)
A familiar face came into focus singing, You Call It Madness.  Russ Columbo made his live television debut at the Radio Electrical World’s Fair and the audience response clearly indicated that it had been a success.  You can hear the song here.
After his song Russ stepped away from the hot lights and mopped the beads of perspiration from his head.  He observed the scene for a few moments then left the studio welcoming the cooler air outside the door.  He paused briefly, lit a cigarette, then headed down the hallway for an autograph session sponsored by the Daily Mirror.
As Vince reminded us January 14 marks the102nd anniversary of the birth of Russ Columbo.   He was 23 years old when he debuted on television.  Happy birthday Russ.

Two signals from the Siren (happy 100th, Luise!)

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.12 at 10:06
Current mood:awake

Last week, I raved about the blogger known as the “Self-Styled Siren”; her blog is a must for anyone who likes reading about classic Hollywood. And here are two reasons why her blog is splendid (and no, they have nothing to do with the two reasons men went to see Jane Russell movies, according to Howard Hughes).

First, read her entry on Luise Rainer, who turns 100 today (

To some Carole Lombard fans, “Luise Rainer” is little more than an epithet, sort of like saying “Bucky Dent” or “Aaron Boone” to a Boston Red Sox fan. (However, it should be noted most Lombard fans don’t place an adjective beginning with the letter “f” between Rainer’s first and last names.) Rainer happened to be the actress who beat out Lombard for the Best Actress Academy Award in 1936.

Her part in “The Great Ziegfeld,” starring Carole’s ex-husband William Powell, not only beat out Lombard’s work in “My Man Godfrey” (co-starring Powell), but Norma Shearer in “Romeo And Juliet,” Irene Dunne in “Theodora Goes Wild” and Gladys George in “Valiant Is The Word For Carrie.” (A Three Stooges short parodied the last title as “Violent Is The Word For Curly.”)

Rainer’s 1936 victory remains controversial. Her part in “Ziegfeld” is rather small, and it might better have fit into the new Best Supporting Actress category. But MGM entered Rainer in the lead division, perhaps to build anticipation for her next film, an adaptation of Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth,” and MGM’s heavy bloc voting — engineered by Louis B. Mayer — probably gave Rainer the win.

Had Rainer been put in the supporting category, might Lombard have won? Perhaps. Mayer could have thrown his studio’s weight behind Shearer, a recent widow following the death of Irving Thalberg, but Shearer already had an Oscar in her trophy case (for “The Divorcee” in 1930), so voters might have resisted pressure to give her a repeat. Moreover, we don’t know who would have replaced Rainer on the ballot. Might have it been Myrna Loy, who not only never won an Oscar, but was never even nominated? She was in several good films that year, all co-starring Powell: “The Great Ziegfeld,” as Billie Burke; “Libeled Lady”; and “After The Thin Man.”

Whatever, it was Rainer who got the award. To compound Carole’s frustration, she won it the following year for “The Good Earth” as well, at least in a more substantial role. (Anna May Wong, who was both of genuine Chinese descent and a proven actress, wanted the part desperately, but MGM was reluctant to put an Asian as a lead in such a high-profile picture.)

Winning Oscars in consecutive years is the movie equivalent of being your league’s most valuable player, a feat achieved by relatively few baseball players. But that alone won’t assure you a trip to the Hall of Fame — Roger Maris hasn’t earned a plaque yet, and neither has Dale Murphy. Rainer’s career fizzled after “The Good Earth,” some of it due to her refusal to play the Hollywood game. A European, she was never completely at ease with the industry.

The Siren perceptively writes of Rainer, “Her career couldn’t even be termed a brief candle — more like the brilliance and timespan of a bottle rocket.” But she adds a paragraph later, “When her Hollywood career was finished, she married a wealthy publisher and retired, and she now lives in London’s Belgravia, surely one of the world’s most beautiful neighborhoods. So obviously, Luise is doing much better than all right. That she made so few movies is our loss, but happily it doesn’t seem to have been hers.” (In the late thirties, Rainer had been married to playwright Clifford Odets, who apparently caused her all sorts of grief — including carrying on an affair with Frances Farmer.)

Here’s a relatively recent photo of Rainer, in excellent condition for someone at that age:

The other Siren entry of note concerns this:

Yep, that’s Buster Keaton from “The Cameraman,” and the topic is a film preservation blogathon scheduled for next month, created by both the Siren and Marilyn Ferdinand of “Ferdy On Films,” another fine blog ( The purpose is to raise funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation…definitely a worthy cause if you’re a film buff.

The blogathon, “For The Love Of Film,” will run from Feb. 14 to 21, and I intend to participate. (While I approve of the concept of blogathons, I generally sit them out for the simple reason that I don’t usually consider myself sufficiently versed in the topic, such as recent subject Boris Karloff, to bring something of substance to the table.) Anyway, learn more about it at

So a double dose of thanks goes to the Siren today. As that old song says, I may be wrong, but I think you’re wonderful. (Which begs the question — were that song to be revived today, would you change the “Barrymore” reference from John to Drew?)

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Now you can feel like a ‘Million’

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.11 at 00:59
Current mood:relieved

One week ago at this time, I wanted to kick myself. I had somehow failed to notice that Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. was airing “If I Had A Million” on Sunday, Jan. 3 as part of a W.C. Fields tribute — thereby not only depriving me of a chance to see it, but reminding readers it would air. (I hope many of you saw it, despite my failure to provide advice.)

Now, however, I feel a whole lot better. As it turns out, “If I Had A Million,” a multi-episodic 1932 Paramount film that would have featured Carole Lombard had her segment not been scrapped (, can now be viewed on YouTube, albeit in eight parts ( The person who put it up labeled it “If I Had A Million Gary Cooper,” confusing some who didn’t see Coop in a particular segment and didn’t realize this was an episodic film. (About the only actor you see in multiple segments is Richard Bennett — yep, the dad of Constance and Joan — who plays the crochety dying tycoon who decides to give a million dollars of his fortune to eight strangers he’s randomly picked from the city directory.)

The film has great moments, such as Charles Laughton, now able to quit his job, giving his boss the…raspberry (were they remaking this film today, the character would likely make some other gesture), or W.C. Fields and Alison Skipworth causing havoc on the highways.

But my favorite moment of “Million” — one that’s as pre-Code as you can get — involves Wynne Gibson as hard-boiled streetwalker Violet Smith, whom Bennett finds in a flophouse where she plies her trade. After he convinces her he’s on the level, the suddenly wealthy Violet checks into the fanciest hotel suite in town to sleep…alone. (This was the part of the film I saw on TV as a child in 1964, causing my mother to change the channel. At the time, most televised versions of the film deleted this segment because it was then considered too racy.) You can find it at the end of part 2 and the beginning of part 3.

Why see it? Let me show you a reason:


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A print of beauty

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.10 at 11:10
Current mood:artistic

We’ve noted before how top artists of the era frequently made portraits of Carole Lombard and other classic Hollywod stars. One of them was a man named Charles Sheldon (1889-1961), who like many of his cohorts was both an illustrator and photographer.Sheldon opened an office in the Carnegie Hall building in New York. From 1918 on, he did a variety of advertisements and magazine covers, for everyone from lingerie and shoe companies (get a load of this photo he took for a Fox Shoes ad, featuring that newfangled contraption, radio)…

…to magazines such as Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post and Photoplay, such as this portrait of Evelyn Brent:

He also did this pastel portrait of Jean Harlow:

From 1936 until the late 1950s, he did many of the “Breck Girl” portraits for the shampoo’s ads.

But the reason we’re writing about him is this:

It’s an 8″ x 10″ print of a portrait he did of Carole for the May 1936 cover of Motion Picture magazine…

…about half a year after his portrait of Lombard for Screenland had been on newsstands:

The Motion Picture print is being auctioned at eBay. Bids start at $9.99, and as of this writing no one has yet bid on it. Bidding closes at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. Want in on the action? Go to

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Remembering Carole….

Posted by cinemafan2 on 2010.01.10 at 23:51

As the 68th anniversary of her death approaches on January 16, it is important to remember what an extraordinary person Carole Lombard really was. Carole Lombard was not only a talented actress and a great beauty but she had a head and a heart.  She faced life with courage and with a smile on her face despite serious concerns.  The reality of her life was not nearly as idyllic as she wished it to be nor was it as happy as many of her fans thought that it was. But it was a life lived every day at full throttle with love, kindness and humor for those around her. In her final will she expressed the independence of mind and the integrity of spirit for which she is so rightly known and admired.  May she rest in peace. A print from a negative of the last studio photo session of Carole Lombard.

Signed, sealed, delivered…for under $100?

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.09 at 01:12
Current mood:curious

It could well happen. As of this writing, it’s possible that someone could wind up with an autograph of Carole Lombard for under $100. Not bad value, if you can get it. Even if it goes into the low triple digits, it’s still a definite bargain, given Carole’s popularity and the demand for her signature.I suppose you wish to see just what I’m talking about. And so you shall:

It looks to be the real deal, judging from what I know about Lombard’s signature.

According to the seller, this was from an autograph book of Archie Marshek (1902-1992), a longtime film editor who was also a production assistant on “King Kong.” His credits at the Internet Movie Database don’t include any Lombard films, but that doesn’t inherently invalidate this autograph, as Carole had friends throughout the industry.

The seller says it’s 4 1/2″ x 6″ and in excellent condition.

Only one bid — of $99 — has been made as of this writing; however, bidding is slated to close at 7:10 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday night. If it interests you, go to

(Note: Bidding has since ended on this item, which sold for $198.50 — slightly more than twice the amount of the initial bid.)

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A new association, and it’s a ‘classic’

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.08 at 01:11
Current mood:happy

“And the lion shall lay down with the lamb…”

Everyone thinks that phrase is from the Bible, but it’s no more a part of scripture than “Play it again, Sam” was part of “Casablanca.” In the King James Bible, the most popular version (at least among Protestants in North America and England), the line says that “the wolf shall lay down with the lamb.” (Which makes more sense when you consider the terrain of the Middle East; I don’t believe lions are native to that part of the world, or at least not as common as wolves as threats to sheep. Then again, it’s nowhere as euphonious.)

Why am I talking about lions and lambs? To make a point of sorts. Last year, “Carole & Co.” was accepted into a group called the Large Association of Movie Blogs, acronym LAMB ( This week, this community was accepted into the Classic Movie Blog Association, or CMBA, pronounced “Simba,” as in the protagonist of “The Lion King.” (In fact, the group plans to give an award, called the “Simba,” for excellence in classic movie blogging.)

(If you’re tempted to click on one of those to see either of those groups, don’t bother. For one thing, they’re strictly for illustrative purposes, and for another, you can now always find their links at “Carole & Co.” near the bottom of the left-hand column.)

Both are excellent groups, but truth be told, I haven’t been as active in LAMB as I should. Part of that is my fault, to be sure, but another reason is that relatively few of the more than 400 blogs in LAMB deal with classic movies. What’s playing at the multiplex is usually of peripheral concern to classic film buffs such as myself — and perhaps many members of “Carole & Co.” share that lack of interest .

Like its euphonic namesake lion, CMBA is still in its cub stage. the group began Oct. 31, and as of this writing only has 13 members. Expect that number to grow over the next few months, as people with classic movie-related blogs discover the site and join. To learn more about the advantages of joining CMBA, go to; for requirements of membership, visit

I’m proud to be the first LiveJournal community in CMBA, and hope that if you own a blog dedicated to classic Hollywood that you will join in. Look — Carole Lombard herself is inviting you to come on over…and honestly, are you going to tell her no?

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Hooray for (not Hollywood, but…)

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.07 at 12:48
Current mood:nostalgic

Johnny Mercer never wrote a song about it. Nor has it become a synonym for an entire industry. But you can make a good argument that much of the output of what we define as the classical period of American cinema hailed not from Hollywood (in a strict geographical sense) but from an area relatively few have heard of.We are referring to Culver City, California.

Unlike Hollywood, which hasn’t been its own municipality since 1910 (when it let itself be annexed into Los Angeles to take advantage of that city’s burgeoning water supply), Culver City has been incorporated since 1917, not long after film companies began settling into the area. And it’s played a major part in the lives of people associated with the industry — Carole Lombard among them.

Want proof? Lombard made 42 talking features, six of which were filmed in Culver City. Five (“High Voltage,” “Big News,” “The Racketeer,” “Nothing Sacred” and “Made For Each Other”) were made at what is now known as the Culver Studios on Washington Boulevard, one-time home of Pathe and Selznick International Pictures

Carole’s other picture in Culver City, “The Gay Bride,” was shot a bit further north on Washington Boulevard at what was then the MGM studios. While Lombard made no further films at MGM, she was a frequent visitor due to her relationship with Clark Gable.

Both studios were built by film pioneer Thomas Ince — first, what became the MGM studio, with the distinctive colonnade, then the studio with a headquarters emulating Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. (In between Pathe and Selznick ownership, it was briefly home to RKO until it moved to an area near Paramount in the mid-thirties.)

Even further south on Washington Boulevard was a backlot nicknamed “forty acres” (its actual acreage was 78), where many outdoor scenes were shot. Here’s Lombard, with Gable, in June 1938; Clark’s there to film a night scene in “Too Hot To Handle.” (It clearly wasn’t that night.)

The “forty acres” site served film, and later television, production for half a century until it was bulldozed in 1976; it’s now used for industry.

We’re going to focus on the old MGM lot for several reasons. First, for many years MGM was clearly filmdom’s preeminent studio with “more stars than there are in heaven” and production values to match. Second, the old MGM lot is now owned by Sony/Columbia, which has found a way to honor both its heritage and that of its predecessor in both its studio tour and its Web site. It’s a far cry from Paramount, which has largely swept aside recognition of much of its own earlier product simply because it doesn’t hold its rights anymore (

As I’ve stated before, somewhere in mogul heaven (though some would deem that term an oxymoron), Harry Cohn is chortling at Louis B. Mayer because Mayer’s beloved MGM acreage is now home to the upstart company Cohn built from Poverty Row into an industry force, while MGM has withered away into relative irrelevancy in Santa Monica, not even with a lot to call its own. And Sony, to its credit, recognizes both the legends it brought from Gower Gulch (Frank Capra, Rita Hayworth, the Three Stooges) and those who occupied the lot during MGM days.

There’s a museum at Sony (, and tours are conducted. But online, there’s plenty to explore as well. There’s plenty of information — and photos — detailing the history of both Columbia Pictures and the lot it now calls home. For example, here’s Stage 6, the largest sound stage in the U.S. film industry, which has been used since 1929 and was the home stage for many of Metro’s fabled musicals:

This site even goes beyond the studio lot to provide a history of Culver City (, including the Culver Hotel that the midget portraying Munchkins called home while shooting “The Wizard Of Oz.” Louis Armstrong lived and performed in Culver City in 1930 and ’31, headlining a jazz orchestra at a local club.

There’s a lot, pardon the pun, for any film buff to enjoy in exploring Culver City — so the next time you’re in southern California, check out what local residents refer to as “the Heart of Screenland”:

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From Russia, via Hollywood

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.06 at 03:40
Current mood:cold

Above are the exterior and interior of the Vibetsky railway station in St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the most beautiful — and historic — rail stations in the world. Built in the early 1900s, while the czars were still in power, its architectural majesty has inspired generations. The concept of grandeur in travel was even appropriated by neighboring Moscow when it built its beautiful subway stations in later decades.

It’s a fascinating part of the world, and I consider myself fortunate to have visited both cities back in 1973, when St. Petersburg was a year away from its 50th anniversary of being known as Leningrad. (It reverted to its old name in the early 1990s, following the end of the Soviet Union.) At times an ally of the West, sometimes an adversary, Russia has been an enigma for decades. (I earlier wrote about Russia and Hollywood at

LiveJournal has a strong presence in Russia; indeed, several members of “Carole & Co.” hail either from Russia or from areas that were once part of the Soviet Union, such as Ukraine. This entry should be of special interest to them, even though it’s about something they won’t be able to see…a retrospective from Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. on how American films have perceived Russia over the years. It begins tonight, and will run each Wednesday in January.

The idea for this series came from the New York Post –– no, not Rupert Murdoch, but Post film critic Lou Lumenick — and a blogger — no, not yours truly, but Farran Smith Nehme, who blogs as the Self-Styled Siren.

(Nehme’s blog,, is the gold standard for classic movie blogging. I’m honored to be listed among her “old acquaintances.”)

Now for the schedule (all times Eastern):

Jan. 6
Part One: Twilight of the Czars
* 8 p.m. —
“The Scarlet Empress” (1934). A young innocent masters the decadent ways of Imperial Russia in order to reign as Catherine the Great. Marlene Dietrich, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser.

* 10 p.m. — “Rasputin And The Empress” (1932) True story of the mad monk who plotted to rule Russia. John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore (the only film all three Barrymore siblings did together).
Part Two: Red Romance
* 12:15 a.m. —
“The Red Danube” (1949). A Russian ballerina in Vienna tries to flee KGB agents and defect. Walter Pidgeon, Janet Leigh, Ethel Barrymore.
* 2:30 a.m. — “Reds” (1981). American activist John Reed travels to Russia to witness the revolution and its aftermath. Warren Beatty (who also directed), Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson.
Jan. 13

Part Three: The Lighter Side of the Revolution
* 8 p.m. —
“Comrade X” (1940). An American warms up an icy Russian streetcar conductor. Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr (whom Carole Lombard trusted by this time after showing little interest in Gable while making “Boom Town” earlier that year), Eve Arden. Directed by King Vidor.
* 10 p.m. —“Ninotchka” (1939). A coldhearted Soviet agent is warmed up by a trip to Paris and a night of love. Thanks to the Lubitsch touch, Garbo laughs! Also starring Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire.
Part Four: The Left on Campus
* midnight —
“The Way We Were” (1973). A fiery liberal fights to make her marriage to a successful writer work. Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, James Woods. Directed by Sydney Pollack.
* 2:15 a.m. — “Spring Madness” (1938). A Harvard man romances a coed from a nearby college. Maureen O’Sullivan, Lew Ayres, Ruth Hussey.
* 3:30 a.m. — “The Strawberry Statement” (1970). A college student joins a group of revolutionaries to meet girls but ends up committed to their goals. Bruce Davison, Kim Darby, Bud Cort.
Jan. 20
Part Five: Our Red Army Pals
* 8 p.m. —
“The North Star” (1943). Ukrainian villagers unite to fight off invading Nazis. Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews, Walter Huston. Directed by Lewis Milestone, who 13 years before had directed the anti-war “All Quiet On The Western Front.”
* 10 p.m. — “Mission To Moscow” (1943). True story of U.S. Ambassador Joseph E. Davies’ attempts to forge a wartime alliance with the Soviet Union. Walter Huston, Ann Harding, Eleanor Parker. Directed by Michael Curtiz. (If you’re in New York, you can catch this ahead of schedule, as it will be shown at 7 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Rose Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music — to be followed by a panel discussion featuring Lumenick and the Siren.)

Part Six: Diplomatic Immunity
* 12:15 a.m. —
“The Kremlin Letter” (1970) .A team of spies tries to recover a CIA letter that could trigger an international incident. Richard Boone, Bibi Andersson, Patrick O’Neal. Directed by John Huston.
* 2:15 a.m. — “Conspirator” (1949). A newlywed suspects her husband of being a Communist spy. Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Harold Warrender.
* 4 a.m. —“Counter-Attack” (1945). Two Russians fight to escape the seven Nazi soldiers trapped with them in a bombed building. Paul Muni, Marguerite Chapman, Larry Parks.
Jan. 27
Part Seven: Spies Among Us
* 8 p.m. —
“My Son John” (1952). A woman suspects her son is a Communist spy. Helen Hayes, Robert Walker (who died during production), Van Heflin. Directed by Leo McCarey (yep, the same guy who did “Duck Soup” and “The Awful Truth”)..

* 10:15 p.m. — “I Was a Communist For the FBI” (1951). When an FBI agent goes undercover in the Communist Party, his wife and friends question his patriotism. This was also a popular radio series. Frank Lovejoy, Dorothy Hart, Philip Carey.
Part Eight: The Height of the Cold War
* midnight —
“The Manchurian Candidate” (1962). A Korean War hero doesn’t realize he’s been programmed to kill by the enemy. The original version of this brainwashing saga. Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury. Directed by John Frankenheimer.
* 2:15 a.m. — “The Bedford Incident: (1965). An American destroyer, with a journalist on board, pursues a Russian submarine during the Cold War. Sidney Poitier, Richard Widmark, Donald Sutherland.
And as a bonus, two more Russian-related films to end the proceedings:
* 4:15 a.m. — “Scarlet Dawn” (1932). A Russian nobleman and his fiancee elope to live as peasants in Turkey. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Nancy Carroll, Earle Foxe.
* 5:15 a.m. — “The Doughgirls” (1944). Honeymooners in Washington get caught up in wartime crowding, with disastrous results. Alexis Smith, Jane Wyman, Eve Arden (she plays a Russian soldier stationed in D.C.).

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Dance, Charles, dance

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.05 at 01:05
Current mood:giddy

It’s been a subject of debate for some time now — what was the relationship like between Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton? These two CLs teamed twice over roughly a seven-year span, first for the over-the-top jungle melodrama “White Woman” (1933), shown above, then for the screen version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “They Knew What They Wanted” (1940). Some maintain Laughton disliked Lombard (or vice versa), others maintain they respected each other’s talents as actors, but went no further than that.

It’s something we may never completely know. But here is something that can probably be used as evidence for the latter camp; it’s an RKO publicity still from “They Knew What They Wanted” during its location filming in northern California’s Napa Valley:

Your eyes are not deceiving you. That’s Charles Laughton...dancing. Fortunately, the snipe from the photo is extant, and here’s what it says:

“OFFSTAGE NONSENSE on set during filming of RKO Radio’s frothy serio-comedy offering, ‘They Knew What They Wanted,’ is led by Charles Laughton, who is costarred in cinema with glamorous Carole Lombard. Laughton, who portrays Italian fruit grower, trips a not-so-light fantastic to the accordion music of Guido Deiro. Motion picture version of late Sidney Howard’s Pulitzer Prize play was produced by Erich Pommer and directed by Garson Kanin. Stellar supporting cast is headed by William Gargan, Harry Carey, and Frank Fay.”

Meanwhile, Lombard’s sitting this one out — literally:

Heaven only knows what Carole is thinking; for one of the few times in her all-too-brief life, she appears bored. Maybe she’s missing Clark Gable, who had driven her up to Napa, then went back south…or maybe she’s wondering whether Clark is, at that moment, being seduced by some starlet on the MGM lot.

No matter what she’s thinking, it’s certainly an unusual photo — and it can be yours. But you don’t have much time. Bidding on this item closes at just after 9:55 p.m. (Eastern) tonight, and as of this writing no one has bid on this yet, even though bidding starts at only $9. Had it been Lombard dancing rather than Laughton, I sense there would be significantly more interest — no offense to the charming and well-done blog “Rooting For Laughton” (

Think you might like to bid on this? Then go to

By the way, remember the Lombard autographed photo we profiled last week (, when bidding for it began at a mere $39.95? At last check, it was now up to $743, with 12 bids having been made.

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Foreseen for ’41

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.04 at 02:34
Current mood:confused

No, this entry is not about “Plan Nine From Outer Space” — I doubt Carole Lombard had any influence on Ed Wood, since she likely never owned any angora sweaters — but it does deal with something Criswell was famous for: predictions. Not by Criswell, mind you, but by someone Lombard knew and in fact acted with…

…Hedda Hopper, shown here with Lombard in the 1929 Pathe film “The Racketeer.”

By the end of the following decade, Hopper had given up acting to become Hollywood columnist for the Los Angeles Times, giving the city’s most prominent newspaper a rival to Louella Parsons of the Hearst press. And a few days into 1941 — Jan. 3, to be exact — Hopper decided to make her predictions for the coming year: And not just for the film industry but the war-torn world as a whole.

Actually, these predictions didn’t come from Hedda herself, she said, but from a friend of hers named Darcos, whom she said had “been taking care of Hollywood folk for years.”

So what did he see for a certain couple from Encino?

“A good year for Gable. There shall be many rumors of speculation, it will be gossip, and Carole is due for a baby.”

As we sadly know, that last prediction was inaccurate. In fact, at the time this was published, the Gables were at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, publicly for an old nagging injury of Clark’s but actually to determine why the couple couldn’t conceive ( Perhaps they heard about it once they returned to the Coast a few days later.

Other Hollywood predictions, some right…

* “Hollywood will have an active picture year.” (Indeed it was; some observers rate ’41 right up there with 1939 for excellence of output.)

* “Norma Shearer’s light will begin to dim.” (It did, as she would make her final film the following year.)

* “No marriage for Garbo. She’ll have a quiet year, except for one picture.” (And her last — “Two-Faced Woman.”)

…some, not so accurate:

* “Myrna Loy and Arthur Hornblow shouldn’t divorce; results bad for Myrna’s career.” (They wouldn’t divorce until 1942, and it didn’t hurt her popularity any, though war work limited her film output.)

* “Rumors about Paulette (Goddard) and Charlie (Chaplin), but they won’t divorce because they are well mated.” (They would divorce the same month Loy and Hornblow did.)

There were other predictions, too. A split between Russia and Germany was predicted “within 120 days” (it took a little longer, until June), but immediately preceding that was a prediction that in 1942 “Germany and Italy will turn communistic,” the latter after Mussolini’s fall from power in August or September. Winston Churchill’s passing was forecast for 1942. As for U.S. involvement in what already was being called World War II:

* “We will not send troops to Europe, although in six months Germany will blow up some of our ships, hoping that will get us into war with Japan.”

Here’s hoping your predictions for 2010 are accurate…provided they’re nice ones. (And you can find the column at

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Beauty by Lombard, image by Hurrell

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.03 at 01:41
Current mood:accomplished

Above is arguably the most famous portrait ever taken of Carole Lombard. It was the one she signed “Pa dear, I love you. Ma.” and gave to husband Clark Gable; he treasured it for the rest of his life.

The photo is also famous because of who took it — George Hurrell, the man who more than any other turned studio portraits of actors into high art ( His genius with light and shadow brought out sublime qualities in is subjects.

While that’s Hurrell’s most famous portrait of Lombard, it was far from the only one. He wasn’t as identified with Carole as he was with MGM stars such as Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow, but he worked with Lombard on several occasions. And a relatively rare portrait of her is now available through eBay. (The negative comes from the archive of the Hurrell studios, but I’m not 100 percent sure he took this.)

Whether or not it was Hurrell’s actual handiwork, it’s an image I don’t believe I’ve come across before. Here’s what it looks like:

Pretty darn gorgeous, isn’t it? This was a Paramount publicity photo (the coding looks to be p1202-602, which would place it sometime during 1933).

Hurrell left MGM’s employment in late 1932 to freelance and establish his own studio, so it’s possible he took this. (Adding credence to that theory is that Hurrell’s first session with Lombard is known to have taken place in ’33.)

The seller says the photo is 11″ x 14″ and struck from the original negative. Moreover, it’s reportedly in “immaculate” (the seller’s word) condition. Bidding on this begins at $75, no bids have been made as of this writing. Or you can simply use the “buy it now” option and purchase it for $125. Bidding is slated to end just before 3 a.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday.

If you’re interested, or just curious, go to

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‘Popsie’ pays tribute to ‘Ma’

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.02 at 01:48
Current mood:grateful

The relationship between Carole Lombard and William Powell was indeed a special one. How many divorced couples not only keep in touch, but occasionally date for a while and later agree to work together? But Powell and Lombard did precisely that. Moreover, when Powell was laid low with colon cancer that kept him off the screen for more than a year, Lombard would take time out from her relationship with Clark Gable (a friend of Powell’s, though their personalities were substantially different) and was among those who helped guide her ex back to health.

In 1940, Powell — who never got over the death of Jean Harlow in 1937 — surprised many in the film community by quickly falling in love with, then marrying, an MGM starlet named Diana Lewis. Nicknamed “Mousie,” the petite (5-foot-1) blonde, who was more than a decade younger than Lombard, is probably best known for her work in the 1940 Marx Brothers comedy “Go West,” to many Marxists the best of their later releases at Metro. Lewis only made a handful of films after marrying Powell, retiring from the screen in 1943.

I’m certain Lombard was happy Powell had found someone in his life, and when Carole died in 1942, Powell was affected deeply. And it’s probably why Powell decided to pay tribute to Carole in January 1943 by appearing in a Screen Guild Theater radio adaptation of his ex-wife’s final film, “To Be Or Not To Be.” He portrayed Joseph Tura, while Lewis played wife Maria.

It’s difficult to envision Powell in a screen version of “To Be Or Not To Be,” certainly not due to his acting skills but because we perceive Powell as too good an actor. Ideally, Joseph Tura has to have some ham about him — not so much that he becomes unsympathetic, but enough for the audience to know he’s stuck up on himself. Jack Benny, whose popular radio persona was full of vanity (something he wasn’t in real life), made an ideal movie Tura. Fortunately, Powell had enough acting chops for a radio version of Tura to work.

Incidentally, nowhere during the broadcast is Lombard’s name mentioned, though the date of the program’s airing (Jan. 18, 1943, one year and two days after her passing) likely wasn’t a coincidence.

This broadcast is also unusual in that it is the only radio adaptation of “To Be Or Not To Be” that I know of. “Lux Radio Theater,” the leading program of its type, may have deemed the humor a bit too dark for its audience, so it was left for the Screen Guild Theater, a lesser series in the genre, to convert it from film to radio…and making matters trickier was that unlike “Lux,” “Screen Guild” was a mere half-hour program.

But here’s the surprise: it works.

The adaptation focuses on the “love triangle” involving the Turas and Polish flier Stanislav Sobinski (here, Jon Hall pinch-hits for Robert Stack). However, Sig Rumann reprises his film role as German Col. Ehrhardt. (And yes, the famous line “So they call me ‘Concentration Camp’ Ehrhardt” appears in the radio version.) The tone is a bit lighter in the radio version, as it incorporates the then-popular Spike Jones song “Der Fuehrer’s Face” into the proceedings.

Old-time radio has become a very popular collectible, and literally tens of thousands of episodes of programs are available. Yet “To Be Or Not To Be” has proven to be one of the most difficult film adaptations for collectors to find. Thankfully, now that’s changed, and you can hear this episode online. Simply go to — and hear for yourself.

Powell would remain married to Lewis until his death in March 1984; she died in January 1997.

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Celebrating two cinematic centennials

Posted by vp19 on 2010.01.01 at 11:10
Current mood:nostalgic

The opening scene from a future Carole Lombard biopic:

(The Peters home, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Oct. 6, 1908. As her husband and two sons look on, Elizabeth Peters, in bed, holds the newborn Jane Alice in her arms.)

I have so many dreams for my little Jane Alice, and what she’ll accomplish. Who knows –- maybe she’ll go to Hollywood, and be a movie star!

An offscreen scream is heard –– not from the film soundtrack, but from me in the audience. In just a matter of seconds, this fictional biopic has made “Gable And Lombard” look like a documentary by comparison.

Why? For the simple reason that in 1908, there were no such things as “movie stars.” People acted in films, yes, but actors were not identified, so the term “movie star” was nonexistent. And while Hollywood existed in 1908 –- at the time, it was even its own city –- few people outside Los Angeles knew, or cared. The tiny community certainly wasn’t synonymous with the developing motion picture industry.

We have just entered a year that celebrates the centennial of the beginning ot the recognition of both the concept of the “movie star” and of southern California becoming the focal point of the film industry. Neither happened completely overnight, or even within the year — but 1910 would be the catalyst for both.

So, who was the first person defined as a “movie star”? Mary Pickford? Not a bad guess, and in some ways you could define Mary as the first motion picture “superstar” (pardon that hackneyed word), but her period of recognition came a little later. It was another actress –- one few have heard of today -– who was the first “star” of note. Her name: Florence Lawrence.

Lawrence, an Ontario native like Pickford, was already known to film audiences…well, her image was. She was the most recognized player in Biograph films, and in fact was labeled the “Biograph girl.” But her identity remained a secret. (That seems inconceivable today, but many stage actors actually preferred not having themselves linked to motion pictures, as it was deemed lower-class entertainment.)

In February 1910, Carl Laemmle, head of the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP) and future Universal mogul, hired Lawrence from Biograph –- and from the start, he intended to promote her to the public by name. Advertisements appeared in newspapers throughout the country, calling Lawrence “the greatest moving picture actress in the world today.”

But the hype appeared for naught in March when it was reported that Lawrence had been killed in a streetcar accident. Not the case, however; it was a fabrication invented by Laemmle’s publicists. Later in March, Lawrence and IMP’s top male player, King Baggot, appeared in St. Louis and drew thousands of spectators. Soon, the phrase “moving picture star” entered the lexicon, something shortly contracted to “movie star.”

Lawrence was both a talented actress (she did many of her own stunts) and a fascinating personality. She was a passionate feminist, regularly appearing at suffrage rallies, and she also pioneered the concept of actress as inventor. Decades before Hedy Lamarr helped the Allied cause in World War II with designs for a torpedo guiding system or Julie Newmar invented a new form of pantyhose, Lawrence -– who loved to drive — devised turn signals and brake lights for cars, and with her mother created an automatic windshield wiper. (She didn’t patent any of her inventions, and they were soon technologically superceded.)

Lawrence made more than 140 films between 1910 and 1914, then took some time off from acting. Her career never recovered. By the time she returned to the screen in 1916, the industry had matured, and her previous popularity with the nickelodeon crowd didn’t mean much anymore. She would appear in only 18 more movies, increasingly being unbilled or placed in bit parts.

One guesses that movie-mad Jane Alice Peters saw her share of Lawrence films while still in Fort Wayne. Did they ever meet? The answer is most likely yes…for in 1932, Lawrence appeared in the Carole Lombard film “Sinners In The Sun,” though the Internet Movie Database doesn’t list the name of her character. I have no idea whether Lombard and Lawrence were in any scenes together.

Lawrence’s final film work came in 1936’s “Hollywood Boulevard,” when she was 50; however, her scenes were deleted. Despondent over her inability to find work, she committed suicide near the end of 1938 by ingesting ant paste.

This is downtown Los Angeles in 1910 (at right is the fabled “Angels Flight” tram at Third and Hill streets). The area was growing rapidly, though it had not yet usurped San Francisco as California’s dominant city. That would soon change for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were films.

In late January 1910, director D.W. Griffith arrived in the city to produce films. He wasn’t the first émigré from the east to make movies -– two companies had set up shop in 1909 — but he was clearly the most influential; among his troupe were future industry legends Pickford and Mack Sennett. Here’s Griffith directing a scene in California:

It’s often stated that Los Angeles became a film capital because independent producers, trying to evade the stifling Motion Picture Trust, liked being close to Mexico. But that’s a gross oversimplification. Had that been the case, San Diego -– only a few miles from the border -– would have been the focal point.

No, Los Angeles had many other things working in its favor -– a good climate; easy proximity to all sorts of terrain from mountains to beaches; and a largely supportive business community. All of these factors helped southern California conquer its chief motion picture rivals -– Fort Lee, N.J., just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, and Jacksonville, Fla. By the end of the 1910s, both had sharply declined as sites for film work.

So where does Hollywood specifically figure into this? In early February 1910, Griffith made his third film on the Coast, “In Old California” –- the first to be shot in a new section of Los Angeles known as Hollywood. (It had been its own city for several years, but in January, voters decided to bring it into Los Angeles to take advantage of its burgeoning water supply.)

A few months after “In Old California,” Griffith shot “Ramona,” an adaptation of Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel about white society’s injustice to Native Americans. Released in May, “Ramona” became a sensation, aided by the beautiful scenery of the then still largely rural Hollywood region.

Other companies followed, and within a few years the word “Hollywood” became not only synonymous with filming in southern California, but to the industry as a whole.

A wonderful Web site constructed by William M. Drew has all sorts of information on this largely neglected part of cinematic history. (Believe it or not, Florence Lawrence has no star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, though to be fair the films of her peak era were all shot outside California.) The site includes photos, contemporary clippings and more. Go to — you will be enthralled. And you’ll also get your history straight.

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Posted December 16, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, December 2009   Leave a comment

Closing out the decade

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.31 at 10:22
Current mood: optimisticoptimistic

As I write this, it’s already 2010 in some parts of the world, such as New Zealand, as midnight — and not only a new year, but a new decade (assuming you consider decades spanning “0” to “9”) makes its way westward around the world. Yep, the “oughts” (or whatever you want to call them) are done. No more can one wear glasses with “00” as eye frames without literally appearing out of date.

It’s certainly nowhere as big a deal as the last time we changed decades; remember a little thing called “Y2K”? I was in New York that night — it seemed everyone was. When the odometer of time changed from “1” to “2,” the closest I could get to Times Square was the southern edge of Central Park.

That’s a New Year’s Eve party in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 31, 1939; it fell on a Sunday that year. And seeing this photo made me think of the change-of-decade theme, something explored in stories such as these from late 1959 in the Los Angeles Mirror-News:

Those articles made me wonder…as 1939 rolled into 1940, were there similar looking back-looking forward articles about Hollywood? It was, after all, the end of a decade in which the film industry witnessed many changes, among them the gradual maturation of Carole Lombard from struggling starlet to top-rank star.

The answer: If there were any such stories (and there probably were), I haven’t been able to track them down. Perhaps we as a society were less automatically reflexive of calendar dates at the time. Or maybe there was simply no cause for concern, since the business had never had it so good.

That’s Vivien Leigh, of course, on the cover of Time magazine for Dec. 25, 1939. “Gone With The Wind” had premiered in Atlanta a few weeks before (an event Lombard attended as wife of Clark Gable), symbolically capping off a year that had been good to the industry, both financially and artistically. There were a few storm clouds on the horizon, such as how the war in Europe was affecting that continent’s movie market, but on the whole the business was at its apex. What was the need in looking back, or forward?

I wish everyone a happy new year, and for that matter a happy new decade. Only time will tell if we’ll be around to welcome Jan. 1, 2020.

We’ll leave you with this: At 6:45 a.m. (Eastern) tomorrow, after the “Thin Man” marathon concludes, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is showing the 1959 comedy “Bell, Book And Candle,” starring Kim Novak as the lovely witch Gillian. And in this photograph from the Dec. 30, 1959 Mirror-News, thanks to a gust of wind, Novak — holding her own personal Pyewacket — unwittingly predicts a staple of 1960s fashion…the miniskirt:

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A nifty New Year’s with Nick and Nora

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.30 at 10:26
Current mood: curiouscurious

What better way to ring in the new year than to be with the Charleses, and Asta, too? Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is making it all possible tomorrow, showing all six of William Powell and Myrna Loy’s “Thin Man” films — in chronological order — as 2009 leaves and 2010 arrives.

The fine blog “Hollywood Dreamland” — how can you not love a blog that uses a logo of Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray from “Hands Across The Table”? — critiqued each film in the series not long ago, and at the end of each summary I’ll link you to its comments on that specific movie.

The schedule (all times Eastern):

* 8 p.m. — “The Thin Man” (1934). A delightful film, blending sleuthing, mystery and a bit of comedy. MGM expected success by adapting Dashiell Hammett’s book, but thanks to Powell and Loy’s remarkable chemistry and the superbly spare direction of W.S. Van Dyke, the studio unexpectedly gained a franchise.

* 9:45 p.m. — “After The Thin Man” (1936). Nick and Nora head to San Francisco; the supporting cast includes a young James Stewart. Part of Powell’s remarkable 1936 output (along with “My Man Godfrey,” “Libeled Lady,” “The Great Ziegfeld” and “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford”), arguably the best single year any actor has ever had. As with “The Godfather,” many people prefer the sequel to the original.

* 11:45 p.m. — “Another Thin Man” (1939). There’s a murder on a Long Island estate, and new parents Nick and Nora are called in to solve it. With Virginia Grey and Otto Kruger. This was Powell’s first film following his recovery from colon cancer, an illness that cost him the chance to work with Ernst Lubitsch and opposite Greta Garbo in “Ninotchka” (the part went to Melvyn Douglas).

* 1:45 a.m. — “Shadow Of The Thin Man” (1941). The last of the four films in this series that Van Dyke directed, this one has the Charleses back in the Bay Area, investigating a race track murder. Barry Nelson is in the cast, along with Donna Reed.

* 3:30 a.m. — “The Thin Man Goes Home” (1945). What do you get when you blend the urbane Nick and Nora with Louis B. Mayer small-town sentimentality? This weird mix, in which Nick return to his hometown, only to be caught up in a murder case. With Lucile Watson and Gloria De Haven.

* 5:15 a.m. — “Song Of The Thin Man” (1947). The series finale has the couple trying to solve a murder at a jazz club. The supporting cast includes Keenan Wynn, Gloria Grahame in a bit part and, as Nick Jr., Dean Stockwell (before he got green hair).

Also note that at 1:32 a.m. — the halfway point of the marathon — TCM will air a 1936 short, “How To Be A Detective,” by the always engaging Robert Benchley.

If you’re in New York and want to take a walking tour of some of the Manhattan sites mentioned in “The Thin Man,” go to If you take along a wire terrier, so much the better.

To get you in the mood for some sleuthing, here’s a link to the original trailer, in which Powell (as Nick Charles) meets Powell (as his previous detective, Philo Vance). It’s charming.

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Oh, those Lombard legs!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.29 at 10:06
Current mood: excitedexcited

In July, Carla Valderrama at ran an entry called “Lombard Goes Pf-f-f-t” ( It came from a two-page spread in Photoplay called “Glamour Goes Pf-f-f-t”; I’m not sure of the precise issue, but since it was taken on the set of “Nothing Sacred,” I’m guessing in was from late 1937 or early ’38.

At the time, Carla commented, “I LOVE LOVE LOVE her shoes! ALWAYS but especially in the first clipping where she is sprawled out. She was never without a suave pair.”

I responded, “I love the stretched-out shot, too (revealing the Lombard legs in all their glory — I am in awe!). I would love to find the photo on its own, without the insets butting in.”

And wonder of wonders, now I have.

I thought the photo was taken by someone on Photoplay’s staff, probably stashed around in the magazine’s files somewhere. But, no…

…it was merely a publicity still from Selznick International Pictures. (Thank you, Russell Birdwell.)

And, as it turns out, someone is auctioning that photo at eBay. The photo is 8″ x 10″, a little yellow from age with some wear but on the whole in pretty solid shape (sort of like Carole in the photo; she’s seen with a cigarette). Amazingly, despite the obvious allure of Lombard’s legs, no one has bid on this pic as of this writing — and bidding opens at a mere $9.95. Bidding closes at just after 4:35 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. To check it out, go to

The seller also has another rarely seen publicity still from “Nothing Sacred,” this one showing Carole with co-star Fredric March:

Like its counterpart, it has not yet been bid on as of this writing, and bids also begin at $9.95. Bidding will end a few minutes after the other one. It’s in comparable condition as well. To learn more, visit

Meanwhile, I hope Carla had a merry Christmas and I wish her a happy new year…and while she’s probably hard at work on her Lombard bio, it sure would be nice to see a new entry at every now and then.

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No bio, but a nice autograph

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.28 at 10:19
Current mood: impressedimpressed

Carole Lombard’s eventful and all-too-brief life understandably makes her a desired topic for prospective biographers; indeed, I know of two such projects that are currently underway. As it turns out, in the mid-sixties a man named Sandford Dody wanted to do likewise.

Dody, who died July 4 at age 90, had written extensively about actors — those who were still with us. He ghost-wrote several autobiographies, including those of Bette Davis and Helen Hayes. But Lombard apparently interested him, because his estate includes a 1965 letter from Golden Age screenwriter Mary Loos, saying it would be difficult for those who knew Lombard to supply him information on her personal life. (A decade later, Larry Swindell, apparently not similarly dissuaded, produced a Lombard bio, “Screwball.”)

But included in Dody’s estate is this remarkable item:

Yep, it’s an autographed 11″ x 14″ photo of Carole. Here’s a closeup of the signature:

I’m pretty certain it’s genuine, something Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive corroborates and calls “absolutely authentic.” But just who is “Popsie”? Sampeck believes it was probably William Powell, her first husband, which would add further poignancy to this picture.

Before becoming a full-fledged writer (he wrote plays, in addition to books), Dody reportedly did a bit of acting, getting bit or extra parts in some films including the 1944 Betty Grable vehicle “Pin-Up Girl”; however, he is not listed in the film’s cast, or anywhere on the Internet Movie Database for that matter. So it’s possible Lombard personally autographed it for him. We may never know.

What we do know is that the autographed photo is currently being auctioned at eBay, and the seller is throwing in these two rare photos, also from Dody’s estate, of Carole and Fred MacMurray:

I believe the first is from “Hands Across The Table,” the second from “Swing High, Swing Low” (you can see the director of both, Mitchell Leisen, in each photo). Perhaps Dody planned to use them as illustrations in his Lombard bio.

Bidding on the photo package begins at $39.99, and one bid has already been made as of this writing; since bidding doesn’t close until 9:10 p.m. (Eastern) a week from Tuesday, who knows how high this will go? Three figures for sure, perhaps four if bidding gets intense. If you want to get in on the action, go to

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Large in size, large in price

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.27 at 00:59
Current mood: impressedimpressed

Seeing a new Carole Lombard portrait is in itself thrilling. Learning more about it only adds to the satisfaction.

So it is the case with the latest photo I present to you:

I think you’d agree that shot is stunningly elegant…and the seller of this item proudly notes that it was taken “by famed photographer ALEX KAHLE, and has his stamp on the back.” Alex Kahle may indeed be famed, but that doesn’t mean I would automatically know who he was.

So I did some investigation, and learned Kahle did much work for RKO, and in fact was trained by the legendary Ernest Bachrach. (Kahle’s listing at the Internet Movie Database shows he took photos of a few dozen RKO features — including arguably its two most renowned productions, “King Kong” and “Citizen Kane.”) He took this shot of Katharine Hepburn, Jean Dixon and Edward Everett Horton for the 1938 film “Holiday”:

Kahle isn’t listed as a staff photographer on any of the four films Lombard made at RKO, but he apparently took some general publicity photos of her. (Consequently, this was taken between 1939 and early 1941 at the latest.) Kahle’s date of birth isn’t shown at IMDb, though he apparently died in August 1968.

The seller says the Lombard portrait is oversized (10.5″ x 13.5″), is an original, and is in “very fine” condition (some wear on the left top corner). All that explains why he’s selling it for $700 under the eBay “buy it now” option; it will be available until just after 12:55 p.m. (Eastern) on New Year’s Eve (Thursday).

Have that kind of money to spend? Or are you just curious? Either way, go to to check it out.

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A ‘Swing’ slide…but no trombone

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.26 at 09:00
Current mood: hopefulhopeful

With all the holiday celebrating of late, a nice item of Carole Lombard memorabilia nearly slipped past us. Thankfully, to paraphrase the song from “Bells Are Ringing,” we found it just in time.

We’ve previously discussed glass slides, and how they were used by theaters to promote coming attractions ( Well, here’s one created to promote Lombard’s 1937 movie “Swing High, Swing Low”:

It’s from a company in Fort Lee, N.J. — one-time capital of the film industry — and since there’s no marking on it, it may never have been used. The seller believes it may be a one-of-a-kind item; I know I haven’t run across a slide for this film before. It’s 3 1/4″ x 4″, the usual size for glass slides.

Interested? Then you better hurry. The deadline for bids on this item is just after 8:45 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. No one has bid on it as of yet, and bids begin at $24.99. To bid, or learn more, go

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Merry Christmas from ‘Santa Claus Lane’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.25 at 10:05
Current mood: jubilantjubilant

I sincerely hope you and yours are having a most joyous Christmas, filled with the true spirit of the season…which isn’t defined by what you received under the tree. In honor of Christmas, here are some photos of Hollywood Boulevard as it appeared for the holidays during Carole Lombard’s lifetime.

First, from 1929:

A daytime and evening shot from 1930:

Jump ahead to 1934, and note the sign referring to “Santa Claus Lane.” That was the nickname given to the Boulevard by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to promote it as a holiday shopping destination. A parade by that name was annually held in late November.

In 1946, Gene Autry took part in the parade — the first held after several years of wartime restrictions — and after hearing children yell “Here comes Santa Claus!”, he came up with the idea for a song by that name. Autry co-wrote it and it became his second most-famous holiday recording, right after the one about that caribou with the crimson honker.

Speaking of western stars, here’s Leo Carrillo with Santa at the 1937 parade:

Carrillo, whose family lineage dated back to the early days of California, was a longtime member of the state Beach and Parks Commission. A beach and park near Malibu is named in his honor.

Also from 1937, a worker installs a decoration:

For the past few days, we’ve ended each entry with seasonal sounds; today, we’ll close the series with two. First, the last record by the man who revolutionized American popular music through both his playing and his singing — but here, he does neither of those things. It’s Louis Armstrong reciting “The Night Before Christmas” in February 1971, five months before his passing. He does it as only Armstrong could, with the warmth and gentle humor you’d expect from the man; one can easily imagine Louis inviting the neighborhood kids to his house in Corona, Queens to hear him tell the tale.

The second piece is in honor of sportscaster George Michael of “Sports Machine” fame, who died early yesterday at age 70 after battling cancer. Before his long tenure as a sportscaster, Michael was an excellent Top 40 announcer, working on WFIL in Philadelphia and the legendary WABC in New York. I’m certain he played the following song many a time during the holiday season — John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”:

Let’s indeed hope 2010 “is a good one, without any fear.”

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The Christmas Carole

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.24 at 01:54
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

Yes, Christmas Eve is here, and to honor the holiday, here are some Carole Lombard-related photos. We’ve run most of these in previous years, but are showing them again for those of you who may be newcomers to “Carole & Co.”

First, though, a pic we haven’t run before

It’s a holiday publicity still from Paramount; that we know from the information in the lower left-hand corner. But no “p1202-” number is visible (it’s possible the studio didn’t include holiday photos in the series), so I can’t pin down the year. I’m going to guess it’s either 1933 or 1934.

Now, some favorites from previous Christmas seasons.

While at Pathe in the late 1920s, Lombard was used in several holiday-themed photos. Here she is looking over presents:

Here’s a photo that someone converted into a card, though I’ve never tracked down the original image. This shows Carol in sort of an elf costume, decorating the tree:

Finally, a Pathe pic where Lombard is dressed as Santa, with Jeanette Loff as her elfin aide:

Move the calendar forward to 1930, and Paramount newcomer Carole Lombard, presents in tow, wishes German speakers a merry Christmas and a happy new year:

By decade’s end, Lombard was married to Clark Gable, and the couple sent a holiday telegram to columnist Jimmy Starr:

And from what would be Carole’s final Christmas in 1941, a woodburned plaque accompanying bedroom furniture she and Clark gave personal secretary Jean Garceau and her husband Russ:

A merry Christmas to all, from “Carole & Co.”

For our Christmas music today, something that on the surface would seem to be the most unlikely of collaborations — Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Fans of the former must have wondered what Bing was doing teaming with this rocker, while Bowie fans asked themselves why he was partnering with this relic. Both groups probably feared the result would be kitsch, particularly on a Christmas special…but it isn’t, not at all. Okay, the banter may seem a little forced, but once Bing and Bowie get to singing “The Little Drummer Boy,” the result is utterly charming. They complement each other beautifully, giving the song genuine depth; there’s nothing trite about this.

For Bowie, it was an opportunity to show he was more than a pop music chameleon who changed his persona every few years; for Crosby, it was a coda to several decades of holiday music that began with “Silent Night” in 1935 and of course reached its peak with “White Christmas.” This was the point when many young people probably began to appreciate Bing…unfortunately, he wasn’t around to find out. The Christmas special aired in December 1977, and Crosby had died in October.

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How does one dance in French?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.23 at 10:29
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

“Bolero,” Carole Lombard’s first dance film with George Raft, was a significant hit for Paramount, although some would say (with justification) that it hasn’t held up over the years. But one area in which “Bolero” holds its own against any other title in Carole’s catalog is posters. Paramount and its various international divisions created an array of posters for the film, and many of the designs are dazzling.

For example, take this one from France:

I think you would accurately describe it as stunning. Now just imagine the effect of it at 47″ x 63″, linenbacked and in excellent condition. (I can hear the “wows” coming from the readers.)

Well, you can have Carole and George decorating your wall (assuming you have the space!)...if you don’t mind giving up $3,000 in return. That’s the “buy it now” price for this item at eBay. (If you don’t have that kind of dough, make a reasonable offer, and perhaps the seller will agree to it.) Visit to learn more.

As it turns out, the seller also has a poster from the other Lombard-Raft dance film, the less successful “Rumba,” issued in 1935 (though it apparently wasn’t released in France until 1936). And here it is:

It’s evident that between “Bolero” and “Rumba,” Carole’s star stature had grown. Not only is she co-billed with Raft, but there’s also a portrait of her in the lower left-hand corner. I’m uncertain whether “Twentieth Century,” her breakthrough film in the U.S., had a similar affect in France, or whether Paramount had determined by now that Raft — as a hoofer — was not its answer to Fred Astaire at RKO and as such didn’t warrant as big a buildup.

This poster is ginormous — 63″ x 94″; it’s listed in very good condition and has been folded. That, and the relative low regard for “Rumba” as a film, may be why this poster’s price is a mere $2,500 (or best offer). To learn more, go to

Today’s Christmas “music” is a 1958 record, “Green Christmas,” made by the wonderful Stan Freberg. This satire of the mercenary side of the holiday caused some controversy in its day (some radio stations, thin-skinned over offending potential advertisers, refused to play it), and it still has plenty to say more than half a century later (even though cigarette ads have long disappeared from our TV screens). It’s “Mad Men” meets Christmas, of a sort. Enjoy.

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Carole’s got soul!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.22 at 00:50
Current mood: happyhappy

Scores of video tributes have been created in Carole Lombard’s honor in recent years. One of them that I particularly like was made recently, and uses all sorts of footage from Lombard’s life, both from her films and from home movies she made with second husband Clark Gable (and informal shots of Carole with first husband William Powell, too).

The musical soundtrack is from a group called Train; the song is called “Hey, Soul Sister.” And it works — wonderfully.

I first saw it at the “Carole Lombard Fans” group at the “Golden Age Of Hollywood” site (, and thought I should share it with you. So, without further ado…

I hope you deem it as wonderful as I do. Many thanks to The Profane Angel for a magnificent job. Visually, at least, it captures those qualities that endear Lombard to millions, then and now.

As a bonus, here are more of those Gable and Lombard home movies, courtesy of The Lombard Archive:

Yes, Clark and Carole may have made six-figure salaries and performed things on screen we mere mortals could never dream of doing…but when you got right down to it, they were just like any other couple with a home movie camera.

To close with seasonal music, as we’ve been doing in recent days, here’s the opening from one of the most beloved holiday specials ever, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965). With its heart, intelligence and absence of kitsch, it was unconventional, unlike what CBS expected when it approved the project…but it was just the way “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz wanted it. (For more on “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” go to This is the charming song, “Christmas Time Is Here”; watch it and you’ll understand why this became a perennial.

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A ‘Swing’ for poster-ity

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.21 at 01:14
Current mood: pleasedpleased

It’s news at “Carole & Co.” whenever a Carole Lombard memorabilia item emerges that hasn’t been seen in recent years. And that’s the case today, as a poster from one of her more popular films — at least during Lombard’s lifetime — has popped up.

It’s from “Swing High, Swing Low,” the musical drama that was Paramount’s biggest moneymaker of 1937, and it’s lovely:

Technically, it’s not a poster at all, but what is referred to in the trade as a “window card,” measuring 14″ x 22″. As the seller notes, “The top of this poster was blank so the theater using this size poster can put in their theaters name and dates of showing of film on the top of this poster.”

In this case, the name of the theater is the Crescent, in “Pontiac.” In Michigan, right? Not really…it’s on Michigan, specifically 313 W. Michigan Street in Pontiac, Illinois, a small city about an hour southwest of Chicago.

Research from shows that the Crescent opened in the 1920s. Here’s a window card from a film shown at the Crescent the year after “Swing High, Swing Low”:

It’s for Columbia’s remake of “Holiday,” with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. (I personally prefer the little-seen 1930 version with Ann Harding, an actress whose work, particularly during the pre-Code era, deserves more recognition.) As you can tell, in those days, films ran for only a few days at a time, so if you wanted to see it, you didn’t delay.

The good news is that the Crescent is still with us, though it’s been divided into two screens:

It’s notable that the theater has no traditional marquee, perhaps to conform with local zoning guidelines.

Now that you know about the theater, what about the window card? Well, it’s considered in fine-plus condition, it’s not trimmed or folded, which adds to its value, and you can buy it for…$675. (No one said it would come cheaply.) If interested, or curious, go to

We’re going to close this entry with the greatest Christmas song of the rock era, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love. She’s been performing the song on David Letterman’s show since his NBC days in the ’80s, working with Paul Shaffer and his fine musicians. Here’s how she did it in 1995, but check YouTube for her other “Letterman” versions — they’re all good.

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Snowed in with Lombard

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.20 at 01:39
Current mood: numbnumb

This is downtown Washington, D.C. (a block or so from the White House), on Saturday, as the District experienced its heaviest December snowfall on record. Well over a foot came down before it subsided Saturday night; if it tops 18.7 inches (and there’s a good chance it will), it will be the largest snow virtually any Washingtonian alive today has ever experienced. (The only two above that amount occurred in 1922 and 1899.)

D.C. is often derided for its panicky behavior when even an inch of snow is forecast, but you can’t fault the residents this time. I’m originally from Syracuse, N.Y., an area where you learn to like snow, but it would have had trouble handling this one, too. At least this took place on a Saturday (no solace to the merchants hoping for big crowds on the last Saturday before Christmas), and around the immediate area the snow was fairly lightweight and powdery, leading to relatively few downed trees or power outages.

So in honor of the inches and inches of white stuff, how about some photos of Carole Lombard in snow?

Hey, you’re saying, Carole spent most of her life in Los Angeles. True, but there are a few pics of her in snow…and we’re not referring to her childhood in Fort Wayne.

We’ll start in early 1929, when Lombard was shooting her first all-talking picture, Pathe’s (inappropriately titled) “High Voltage.” Most of the film was set indoors, but a few exterior scenes needed to be shot in the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains, so the 20-year-old actress, fellow cast members and crew went on location to do them:

While there, everyone assembled for a group picture, probably to impress their friends in L.A. about how they roughed it up north:

And here’s Carol (no “e” in her name at the time, remember!) in a closeup:

That guy had better have received the green light from Lombard to place his hand on her leg…otherwise, he was bound to hear plenty of her famed inventive invective! (This was soon after Carol received instruction in using profanity from her two older brothers.) The woman at left is Diane Ellis, who became a friend of Lombard’s and who also would be let go by Pathe before 1929 ended. Both moved to Paramount in 1930, with Ellis getting a nice supporting role in the Nancy Carroll film “Laughter,” but after marrying, she developed a disease while on honeymoon in India and died near the end of 1930.

The other Lombard film I can think of with snow is her next to last, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” — though I’m pretty certain the effects came on the RKO lot, not on location. Carole’s character, Ann, has gone off to the Adirondacks, and one-time husband David (Robert Montgomery), has headed upstate to woo her back from his best friend (Gene Raymond):

If I’ve missed any other films where you see Carole in snow, please let me know.

Oh, one more thing — because of the heavy snowfall in Washington on Saturday, Metro shut down its bus system and its above-ground rail service. So what’s the alternative? The Ronettes have the answer with one of those “it’s not a Christmas song, it’s a winter song” classics — “Sleigh Ride”:

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A signature gift

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.19 at 00:51
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

If you’re one of the few people these days who has plenty of money and are either a Carole Lombard fan or know somebody who is, here’s a potential holiday gift:

It’s a 5″ x 7″, heavy stock, sepia photo of Lombard, with an autograph. The handwriting looks genuine, and while it’s in blue ink rather than the green she’s known for, Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive has said she occasionally did sign in blue ink.

You can either “buy it now” for $1,500 or make an offer. The deadline is 2:49 a.m. (Eastern) Christmas Eve (Thursday). Want to check it out? Go to

For the next few days, we intend to close each entry with some music for the season. We’ll begin with the Drifters’ magnificent version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” This is by the original group of Drifters, not the later version who had a string of pop hits in the early 1960s. Bass Bill Pinckney, who toured with his own group of Drifters until his passing a few years back, opens the song, followed by the great Clyde McPhatter. This is an imaginative arrangement, and a splendid example of the Atlantic R&B sound. (And barring a sudden shift in the weather the next few days, it certainly appears most of the eastern seaboard will indeed have a white Christmas.) Enjoy.

Carole…in “Wonderland”?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.18 at 15:38
Current mood: coldcold

You might not automatically link director Tim Burton to classic Hollywood, but those of us who love the Golden Age have much to thank him for. Through his casting of Sylvia Sidney in films such as “Beetlejuice,” he helped revive interest in that one-time star of the thirties. Now, he’s indirectly doing the same for a film of that era.

On March 2, 2010 (3/2/10 — get it?), Universal Home Video, which has the rights to much of the pre-1948 Paramount product, will be officially releasing a film many have have sought for quite some time — the 1933 version of “Alice In Wonderland”:

The DVD release coincides with the theatrical release of Burton’s long-awaited “Alice In Wonderland” film, where he’ll bring his inimitable style to the Lewis Carroll classic.

Bootlegs of the ’33 “Alice” have made the rounds for quite some time. Many college-age folk saw the film in the sixties and loved it, perhaps for its pre-psychedelic references. {Remember Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”?) Now, finally, you can go ask (for) “Alice” legally.

When “Alice” came out in late 1933, it was every bit as anticipated as the Burton version is now. In fact, the movie made the cover of Time magazine on Dec. 25, 1933:

One of the more fascinating aspects of the 1933 “Alice” is that while many stars populate the cast, most are unrecognizable since they’re wearing masks based on the famous John Tenniel renderings of the characters. So while the tentative DVD cover promotes Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and W.C. Fields, you won’t visually recognize them. (You will, however, aurally recognize Fields’ unmistakable voice.)

Many of Paramount’s stars populated the cast, which begs the question: Could Carole Lombard have become one of them? (And no, we’re not talking about casting Carole as Alice, though something along those lines was employed as a running gag for the Lola Burns actress character in Jean Harlow’s “Bombshell,” also issued in 1933.)

The answer? Not likely.

The reason is simple: The Carroll characters were either male or non-glamorous females (e.g., the Queen of Hearts, the Cook). None of Paramount’s ingenues — Lombard, Sidney, Claudette Colbert, Miriam Hopkins — appeared in the film. (The closest to a “glamour” type was Mae Marsh, cast as a sheep.) And Paramount’s biggest star of either gender, Mae West, certainly wasn’t considered.

The ’33 “Alice” is a weird blend of “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” and “Through The Looking Glass,” with significant parts of each removed to keep the story going; the special effects are good by 1933 standards.

So who ended up playing Alice? It was a 19-year-old girl from Brooklyn named Charlotte Henry, who had appeared in about a dozen films, some of them in uncredited parts, before landing the role of Alice. (Her most significant pre-“Alice” part came in the 1932 Barbara Stanwyck film “Forbidden,” where she played an 18-year-old.) Despite her age, Henry looked young enough to pass herself off as Alice.

So, did being cast as Alice propel Henry into a major screen career? Sadly, no. While the following year she was cast as Little Bo-Peep in Laurel and Hardy’s charming “Babes In Toyland,” her career fizzled; perhaps being associated with juvenile roles backfired. She retired from films in 1942 and died in 1980.

A fascinating what-if to ponder regarding the actress Paramount initially envisioned as Alice, someone young, from England and with a respected show business bloodline to boot. We are referring to…

…Ida Lupino, two months older than Henry, who Paramount signed with the intention of having her play Alice. But when she arrived in Los Angeles, the production executives immediately realized that there was something rather aggressive, assured and adult in Lupino’s demeanor…and even in pre-Code days, sex appeal was not the objective in casting an Alice. Just as well, Lupino said at the time: “You can’t play naïve if you’re not. I never had any childhood.”

Instead, the future film noir star and director’s American debut came in a vehicle 180 degrees removed from “Alice” — the pre-Code film “Search For Beauty,” where she and Buster Crabbe play swimming champions exploited by promoters. (Universal issued it earlier this year as part of a six-film pre-Code package.)

Curiouser and curiouser.

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you live, but here in the Washington area we are anticipating a foot, or more, of snow…the biggest blizzard to hit D.C. in at least six years. So in honor of the occasion, some music — “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” naturally — performed by its lyricist, Johnny Mercer, and the always-wonderful Margaret Whiting:

Stay warm!

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A caricature worth a ‘Fortune’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.17 at 00:59
Current mood: annoyedannoyed

Most of you have probably heard the phrase “Fortune 500,” referring to the list of the largest companies in America. The first half of that derives from the publication that popularized it –– Fortune magazine, Time Inc.’s first foray beyond its namesake flagship. It premiered in 1930, between the October 1929 stock market crash and the depths the Depression descended into in 1931.

While Fortune’s bread and butter was financial coverage, there were occasional business-tinged stories designed with the layman in mind. One of them came in 1937, an article on the movie industry.

So, on a page opposite the story, Fortune ran this illustration of notables at Paramount’s commissary:

And look who happens to be sitting in the lower left-hand corner:

Yep, it’s Carole Lombard (if it wasn’t, why would we be running this?), although to be honest, Carole appears uncharacteristically ornery. Maybe she got up on the wrong side of bed that morning; maybe the coffee’s not to her liking. Whatever, this is one of the few times I’d be reluctant to cross her path…even if she is only a drawing.

So who are the other celebs in this scene? Here’s what the caption reads:

…considering the shooting time they would otherwise consume getting to and from Lucey’s or the Brown Derby. Here Leopold Stokowski, Ernst Lubitsch, and Frank Lloyd lunch together within earshot of Carole Lombard and George Raft, while Ida Lupino entertains out of town friends behind them.”

I read the caption before investigating the photo and wondered whether the illustrator had put Raft and Lombard together — after all, they’d had sort of a history, albeit a relatively discreet one — but no, that’s not the case. Just as well, considering it was 1937 and the illustrated Raft would’ve had a lot to answer for from a Clark Gable caricature.

This item is being auctioned at eBay through 2:08 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday. Bids begin at $9.97, and no one has bid on this yet. If this strikes your fancy, go to

And maybe you can find a way to cheer Carole up.

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Clark and Carole: Wait, there’s more!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.16 at 02:34
Current mood: giddygiddy

So you liked the photo you saw yesterday — the one showing Carole Lombard with husband Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and MGM honchos Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling — but thought the cost, nearly $200, was a bit too severe? Is that what’s troubling you, Bunky?

Well, never fear, because the seller of that pic has another one up for auction, also from Gable’s personal scrapbook. And here it is:

Photographically, it’s not as sharp as the pic from yesterday…but it more than compensates with the casual charm of Clark and Carole. Look at Lombard beaming as she puts her arms around her man’s shoulders. (Though I’m sure if Gable’s eyes were to wander towards some MGM starlet, Carole might put those arms a bit higher — around his neck.) Meanwhile, Clark, in glasses, tries to nonchalant his feelings. Nice try, Mr. Gable.

The seller doesn’t know when or where this was taken, but judging from what they’re wearing, it likely was one of their hunting trips. I’m hoping Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive might be able to pinpoint this.

Whereas yesterday’s photo remains at $199.99 as of this writing, today’s photo has a current high bid of $81…though this has five bids so far, compared to three for the other. Bidding on this closes at 5:22 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday.

If you want to get in on the action for this 5″ x 3 1/2″ photo heretofore unseen by the public, go to

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Of legends and ‘fixers’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.15 at 11:38
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

“Oh, Nicky, I love you because you know such lovely people.”
– Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) to husband Nick (William Powell), “The Thin Man,” 1934

Nora was being a bit coolly ironic when she said that; those “lovely people” assembled in the Charleses’ apartment included some rather motley types, including several Nick had sent up the river in his work as a detective (but all of whom, for some reason, held no grudge against him).

The point is that not all of your friends, or associates, are the most upstanding types. Some may do rather nefarious things. The entertainment industry is chock full of those folk, and scarcely any notable in show business hasn’t dealt with them at one time or another. For proof, take a look at this photograph:

Three of them are easy to recognize — Carole Lombard, husband Clark Gable and Clark’s MGM stablemate (and close friend) Spencer Tracy. (This photo was likely taken in 1939 or 1940, probably at a golf outing.) But who as the other two with these three cinematic legends? Well, they played a role in the movie business, too…and not always in the most savory of ways.

The man at extreme left is Eddie Mannix; the one who’s second from right is believed to be Howard Strickling. Both were longtime officials at MGM, ostensibly in charge of public relations (and Metro’s publicity machine was nonpareil, arguably the best of the major studios). But they did far more than that; they also headed “damage control,” making certain MGM’s stars, and the studio as a whole, avoided any tint of scandal — often through bribes and other chicanery.

As E.J. Fleming noted in his book about Mannix and Strickling titled “The Fixers”:

“Anybody in a position to help was paid. Lawyers. Doctors and medical people. Policemen. Judges. District attorneys. Photographers and writers. In a time when information flow could be more easily controlled than it is today, people like Eddie and Howard controlled what happened, and what people heard. And everyone believed them.”

Their coverups were many. After the death of MGM executive Paul Bern — who, more importantly for the studio, was husband of MGM star Jean Harlow — they were able to make it look not like a shooting from a common-law wife Bern was still married to, but instead a suicide, even concocting stories about Bern’s impotence to avoid any implications of impropriety regarding Harlow (though it’s likely Jean had no knowledge of this prior marriage when she wed Bern). Because of Strickling and Mannix, the public also never learned that Gable fathered a child by Loretta Young.

Strickling was the son of a midwestern grocer; Mannix a native of Fort Lee, N.J. (the town that was briefly capital of the film industry before Hollywood) and reportedly had close ties to the underworld. His second wife Toni had a long affair with actor George Reeves of “Superman” TV fame, and some allege her husband had a hand in Reeves’ mysterious death in 1959.

But let’s get back to that picture, or should we say the story of the picture itself. It belonged to Clark Gable and was a part of one of his scrapbooks — but was nearly destroyed in the mid-1960s by the young son Clark never got to see, John Clark Gable. Fortunately his mother, Kay Sprackels Gable, got hold of it in time and gave it to her nanny, Doris Clark, who stored it in a safe deposit box for several decades.

The photo, showing Clark and Carole at their most informal, is 5″ x 3 1/2″, with a small stain in the lower left-hand corner (it’s barely visible in the grayscale rendering). It’s being auctioned at eBay, and as I write this three bids have been made, topping at $199.99. Bidding will close shortly before 4:15 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. For more on this one-of-a-kind item, go to

Carole’s (no, make that Clayburgh’s) a real doll

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.14 at 02:50
Current mood: irritatedirritated

The premise was laudable when announced in 1998 — a doll of Carole Lombard, complete with an outfit from a famed studio designer who knew her, with proceeds going to a cause dear to all fans of classic Hollywood.

More than a decade later, with the doll now up for resale at eBay, we can re-evaluate it. But first, let’s see just what we’re talking about:

First of all, the hair is far too light — nearly Harlowesque on its platinumness — to evoke Lombard, except perhaps during 1931 and 1932 (and that really isn’t the most famous chapter of Carole’s career by a long shot). Here’s another view of the doll:

Now for a closeup of the doll’s face (or should we be like a gangster talking to his moll and call it a “dollface”?):

Even if the hair was completely evocative of Carole, it wouldn’t overcome this blandly generic face that has little to do with Lombard. What’s the problem? Well, check the certificate of authenticity that accompanies the doll, and you’ll get your answer:

The good news: The outfit is from “The Edith Head Collection”; Head was a designer whose Paramount career began while Carole was still under contract to the studio. The bad news: This outfit was designed not for Lombard herself, but for “Carole in ‘Gable and Lombard'”…

…in other words, Jill Clayburgh as Carole, not Lombard herself, in an outfit Head designed for the film. (Above is Jill, ostensibly in the dress the doll is supposed to replicate, with James Brolin as Clark Gable.)

Edith Head had been dead for a decade and a half when this doll came out; approval came from her estate. (Some of the proceeds went to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, designed to assist the destitute in the industry.) Licensing came fom Universal, which produced “Gable And Lombard,” the 1976 disaster designed as a salute to Clark and Carole but torpedoed by lackluster acting and a dreadful script.

Don’t hold this against the doll (#298), which stands 17 inches high and is in sparkling condition — or against the seller, either. Bidding begins at $19.99, with no bids made as of this writing. Bidding closes just after 8:25 a.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. If you’re a doll collector and wish to learn more, go to

As for Universal, if it truly wishes to honor Lombard with a doll, how about one modeled after one of her greatest triumphs — and filmed right there at Universal City, to boot? We are, of course, referring to…

…the glittering gown she wore in the opening segment of “My Man Godfrey.”

Paint it beautiful

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.13 at 19:14
Current mood: artisticartistic

Today marks the 30-month anniversary of “Carole & Co.” It was precisely 2 1/2 years ago — June 13, 2007 — that I began this community as a way of honoring my all-time favorite actress.

More than 1,000 entries later, “Carole & Co.” has 140 members (and please spread the word about us to your friends who are fans of classic Hollywood — I’d love to reach the 150 mark before year’s end). Additionally, my quest to uncover all things Carole Lombard has (figuratively) taken me places I scarcely imagined all those months ago.

Art history, for instance.

No, Carole was never the subject of a portrait by Da Vinci or Rembrandt (although had they met her, they’d likely have wanted to paint her). But between the world wars, screen stars were viewed as ethereal; their sheer size projected upon motion picture screens made them seem almost godlike to the public. So it was no wonder that many of the top artists of the day — both in painting and the increasingly sophisticated art of still photography — wanted to capture these images, often while the artists were in the employ of magazines or other media tied into the movie business.

I’m not sure why the following portrait of Lombard was made, but I’m certainly glad it was:

Awe-inspiring, isn’t it? By the way, that’s glare from the reflection, not an inherent defect of the painting. Here’s proof:

Finally, a closeup of that fabulous face:

To borrow a line from Cole Porter, Carole, you’re just out of this world. One almost expects her to turn to you and say, “Excuse me, but I’ve got to be heading back to Mount Olympus.” (Of course, Lombard never put on such airs when dealing with people, one reason she was so beloved in the film community.)

Now that you’ve seen the portrait, made in 1940, some information on the artist who created it, a man with the unlikely name of George Maillard Kesslere (1894-1979). Kesslere, a Syracuse University graduate, began his career in 1915 as a photographer in that upstate New York town, gaining renown for his portraits; in 1921, he opened an office in Manhattan, shutting the Syracuse studio the following year. During the 1920s, he took many portraits of Broadway stars, such as this one of Lombard’s friend Tallulah Bankhead:

In 1927, he took this portrait of a pre-movies Mae West to promote her new play “The Wicked Age,” as Mae shows off the legs she largely kept under wraps in film (by then, she was over 40):

Kesslere’s paintings were in the impressionist style, as in this one, “View Of Istanbul”:

His Lombard portrait measures 27″ x 23″ framed, and is considered in near-perfect condition. According to the seller, “Pastel needs to be repressed in frame to smooth out slight waves in paper. Frame has some minor damage.”

The seller isn’t really sure of its origin, but suspects Kesslere photographed Lombard first, then used it as a basis for the painting, adding, “I’ve owned this pastel along with a couple of other works oh his for the past 25 years. I came upon them in an auction lot from the east coast.” (Some folks have all the luck.)

It won’t come cheaply — bidding begins at $699 — but no one has bid on it as of this writing. Bidding will close at 12:30 a.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. If you’re interested, or just want to check it out, go to

Now excuse me; after viewing that Lombard portrait, I have a hankering to listen to this Julie London album:

Saluting Sinatra’s 94th

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.12 at 02:34
Current mood: touchedtouched

Like the classic Hollywood era that Carole Lombard inhabited, the “great American songbook” — the popular music that soon became defined as “standards” — has become an integral part of American culture, and still resonates nearly a decade into a new century. Today we honor the anniversary of the birth of arguably its foremost interpreter…Francis Albert Sinatra.

He was born in Hoboken, N.J. on Dec. 12, 1915. Learning his craft from the likes of Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, Lee Wiley and other top singers of the 1930s — though always determined to create his own identity, not be an imitator — Sinatra latched on with Harry James’ band in 1939, then left in early 1940 for Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra, one of the top bands in the business. It was here Sinatra gained renown, but he sensed times were changing. So he went out on his own, a wise move as the big bands slowly waned.

Frank rode high for much of the forties, but by decade’s end he fell out of favor and his career began skidding. But he came back even stronger than before, turning the new long-playing record into carefully crafted works of art. Whether as a balladeer or as a swinger, he told a story with his songs, one the listener came to believe thanks to the quality and conviction of Sinatra’s voice.

That’s Frank with Nelson Riddle, probably the greatest of his arrangers.

Let’s pretend you could issue or construct your own personal, 12-track Sinatra album, taken from his catalog…anywhere from the 1930s up to the ’90s. Which dozen would you choose? (Keep in mind this isn’t supposed to be a “greatest hits” collection — if there’s an obscure Sinatra track you adore, go for it.) It’s not easy to do, and perhaps if I were asked this next week, several of my choices would likely be different — but for now, here are my twelve:

“All Or Nothing At All” (1939, Columbia) — Not many people heard this in ’39…but four years later, when both James and Sinatra were far better known, it was reissued and became a huge hit. Even at age 23, it was apparent Frank knew what he was doing.

“If You Are But A Dream” (1944, Columbia) — A splendid example of Sinatra the young, romantic balladeer, enveloped in the intimate sound arranged by Axel Stordahl. Frank’s Columbia catalog went largely ignored for several decades until being rediscovered through repackaging in the 1980s. It’s a different Sinatra than many of us are used to, but no less effective.

“Saturday Night (Is The Loneliest Night In The Week)” (1945, Columbia) — The ’40s Sinatra could swing too, as this brilliant record — one of my father’s favorites — proves. Frank re-did it in the late fifties, but the original, with its clever Sammy Cahn lyric and driving rhythm, remains the definitive version.

“That Old Feeling” (1947, Columbia) — Sinatra and Stordahl used a smaller combo than normal to create the lushly spare sound of the 1946 album “The Voice,” then used much the same concept a year later to record this moving, lovingly crafted ballad. But for some reason, Columbia never released this at all during the 78 era. What were they thinking?

“Deep Night” (1951, Columbia) — In an effort to stem declining record sales, Frank and Harry James did a “reunion” session, and this magnificent version of an old Rudy Vallee song is the best of the bunch. (Barbara Rosene, whom we mentioned earlier this week, does a nice version of this too, although hers evokes Ruth Etting’s 1929 rendition.) Sinatra was making his share of fine records in the early fifties…trouble was, relatively few were listening.

“I’ve Got The World On A String” (1953, Capitol) — Not only one of Frank’s greatest records, but one of his most important. It came barely a month after he began recording with Capitol, and its style proved this was a new Sinatra, full of a buoyancy he largely lacked during his final few contentious years at Columbia.

“Can’t We Be Friends” (1955, Capitol) — I’ve long considered “In The Wee Small Hours,” Sinatra and Riddle’s 16-track anatomy of melancholy, the greatest pop album ever made (an opinion many agree with), but which gem to choose from this goldmine of music? I went with this one, because it showcases Sinatra’s vulnerability more than just about anything he ever recorded.

“Night And Day” (1956, Capitol) — Frank perhaps recorded this more than any other song, almost always putting a different spin on this Cole Porter classic every time (he even did a discofied version in 1977). I’ll take this version from Riddle’s “A Swingin’ Affair” album because it just lifts you. (Other Sinatra “Night And Day” versions of merit include the one from Don Costa’s “Sinatra & Strings,” and live versions with Red Norvo’s group in Australia in 1959 and with guitarist Al Viola in Paris in 1962.)

“To Love And Be Loved” (1958, Capitol) — Music from the Sinatra film “Some Came Running” provided the melody for this brilliant recording, which has sort of fallen by the wayside since it was issued as a single and not on an album. But Frank does a masterful job with it, and it certainly deserves much more recognition than it receives.

“I Have Dreamed” (1963, Reprise) — Of the eight tracks on the album “The Concert Sinatra,” all but one come from Rodgers and Hammerstein. This, from “The King And I,” is properly majestic. (Over the years, Sinatra may have recorded more songs from “The King And I” than any other Broadway show, including “We Kiss In A Shadow” and “Hello Young Lovers.”)

“That’s Life” (1967, Reprise) — In which Frank pretends he’s Ray Charles (right down to the ersatz Raelets who provide call and response to the song’s title) and shows off his soulful side. Perhaps as close as Sinatra legitimately got to the youth culture of the sixties.

“There Used To Be A Ballpark Here” (1973, Reprise) — Two great elements of Americana — Frank Sinatra and baseball — were developed in Hoboken. (Sinatra was an avid fan, and in fact was at the Polo Grounds in New York for the famous 1951 NL playoff decider between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants.) But you don’t have to be a baseball fan to get this song, as Sinatra makes it an allegory for changing times, and the passing of youth. It’s the standout track from “Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back,” his first album after a brief retirement. (I saw him in concert twice — at the Kennedy Center in 1983 and at the Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1986.)

Those are my twelve; now let’s have yours.

Carole in the comics

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.11 at 10:09
Current mood: creativecreative

The public’s interest in Hollywood during the Golden Age was so pervasive that material on the topic could be found just about anywhere — even the Sunday comics.

For years, many papers ran a feature called “Seein’ Stars,” which could best be described as a Hollywood version of Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not!” The format was similar — a large panel with several drawings of film personalities, usually stars but sometimes directors, accompanied by an interesting tidbit about them.

The creator of “Seein’ Stars” was a man named Frederic “Feg” Murray, who was from the Bay Area, graduated from Stanford and won a bronze medal in the hurdles at the 1920 Olympics. In 1934, he began “Seein’ Stars,” which initially ran on Sunday entertainment pages, but soon found its way onto the comics section in full color. The feature became so popular that for a time, Murray hosted a “Seein’ Stars” variety show on NBC radio.

As you might guess, Carole Lombard was a subject of “Seein’ Stars.” Here she is, featured on April 5, 1936:

Lombard is lovingly rendered from one of her swimsuit stills, with this below the illustration:

According to Orry-Kelly, style designer at Warner Brothers-First National Studios, has the most perfect figure of any film star. She keeps in shape with tennis twice a week.

What’s especially fascinating about that comment is that I’m pretty certain Orry-Kelly never worked with Lombard, so it wasn’t as if he was being sycophantic or touting the studio line. (Despite his praise, when Carole made her lone film at Warners, “Fools For Scandal” in 1938, she had her gowns designed by old Paramount pal Travis Banton.)

Note that Ethel Merman, who worked with Lombard in “We’re Not Dressing,” is also featured. At the time, she was still trying for screen stardom, but after 1938 she would return to Broadway and not make another film for 15 years.

Lombard appeared at least one other time in “Seein’ Stars” during her lifetime, on Aug. 20, 1939, although Murray simply reused the 1936 drawing and made it full color:

The 1936 panel (10 3/4″ x 15 1/4″, designed for a tabloid page, whereas the ’39 panel was shaped for a broadsheet) is currently being auctioned at eBay. Bidding begins at $9.99, although as of this writing no one has yet bid, and ends just before 1 a.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. To bid or learn more about the item, go to

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What’s in a number?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.10 at 17:34
Current mood: confusedconfused

That’s the cover of Julie London’s 1959 album “Your Number Please,” and thankfully before she passed on in 2000, Julie became recognized as much for her music as for those sensual album covers. (To be honest, London’s small, intimate voice always seemed most at home with small combos, not orchestras as on this album.)

However, Julie, a gifted actress as well as a singer, isn’t the topic of this entry; numbers are. Specifically, the numbers on Carole Lombard’s Paramount stills.

This came up when I discovered this Lombard photo, one I’d never seen before, being auctioned at eBay:

A stunning image of Carole in some sort of negligee, presumably from mid-1934, about the time when the Production Code’s stricter enforcement meant you probably wouldn’t see her on screen that way…unless the outfit was modest. And there’s nothing really daring about this; compare it to this racier image of Lombard from “Twentieth Century” a few months before:

According to the seller — someone with a track record of being conscientious where identifying vintage photo still numbers are concerned — this photo is p1202-864. Armed with that information, I copied the photo as “carole lombard p1202-864,” only to have my system tell me I already had something with that name. So I instead labeled it “carole lombard p1202-864a.”

What was the image I originally had by that name? It was this:

(Both images were originally in sepia; I have converted them to grayscale.)

Which one is the real deal? I doubled, then redoubled, the images’ sizes to check the numbers, but was unable to get an answer. A visit to’s excellent Lombard photo archive didn’t solve things, either. It listed the image I’d previously had as p1202-864.

It turns out that p1202-863 was likely taken at the same session as the other two:

So for now, I admit to being stumped.

Meanwhile, some more on that picture being auctioned at eBay: It’s an 8″ x 10″ original, and according to the seller, “There are two faint diagonal emulsion crack creases that run through her neck area on the photo. These for the most part can only be seen when you tilt the photo in the light.”

Bidding starts at $74.95, probably due to its comparative rarity; as of this writing, no bids have been made. Bidding will close at 9:45 p.m. (Eastern) next Wednesday. If you’re interested in bidding, or would like to learn more, visit

Now if we could only solve the riddle of the numbers…

A Rosene in full bloom

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.09 at 01:23
Current mood: satisfiedsatisfied

Carole Lombard never considered herself much of a singer; above is sheet music from her only genuine foray into song, “Swing High, Swing Low” (if you wonder what I mean by “genuine,” go to But that doesn’t mean she didn’t like music. After all, one of Lombard’s most passionate romances was with crooner-bandleader Russ Columbo, and Carole not only made a film with Bing Crosby, but adored his music. I don’t know what kind of record collection she had, but I’m certain she appreciated the great performers and composers of the day. (And in her day, there were many.)

One of the tangents we occasionally go into at “Carole & Co.” is the music of the 1920s and ’30s. First of all, it provides a feel for life in Lombard’s time. Secondly, it has genuine artistic merit.

These days, it’s difficult to find current performers who not only understand and appreciate this music, but interpret it as well. And that’s something the subject of today’s entry does magnificently. She’s a woman from Ohio named Barbara Rosene.

Rosene’s special passion is for songs from the 1920s and ’30s, honoring the likes of Annette Hanshaw and Ruth Etting. But she’s smart enough to make their songs her own; her music is neither a slavish imitation nor a mere nostalgia trip. Rosene brings the songs to life on their own merits, not as artifacts.

Rosene’s been performing for about a decade now. Originally, her forte was swing-era music from the late ’30s and ’40s, music she still has great fondness for. (She has toured with the Harry James Orchestra, whose leader, Fred Radke, played with James in the ’60s and ’70s.) But as the years went on, her interest grew in the pop music that preceded swing.

Over the past decade, she has made several CDs, all of which can be purchased at her Web site,

I’d like to tell you more about Rosene, but for the next few days, at least, I don’t have to. That’s because last week, Barbara appeared on the wonderful public radio program, “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” where she discussed her music and influences with host Rob Bamberger. (His show is three hours long; she appears in the final two hours.) You’ll hear some of her records, and in many cases compare them directly to the originals. To check it out, go to — but don’t delay, as it will probably be replaced by the next week’s show by Monday.

Fortunately, there are also several video samples of Rosene available on YouTube, and I’ve embedded a couple for your listening pleasure. The first few were done earlier this year at Manhattan’s famed Iridium Jazz Club with her band, the New Yorkers — some excellent musicians who beautifully complement her sound. We’ll start off with “Am I Blue”:

Here’s her version of Irving Berlin’s standard, “Say It Isn’t So”:

Rosene interprets a Hanshaw favorite, “My Blackbirds Are Bluebirds Now”:

Barbara breaks out her ukelele (somewhere, Cliff Edwards is smiling) to perform “Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now”:

And finally, the swingin’ side of Rosene, as she does “I Cried For You” and “I’ve Heard That Song Before” with the Harry James Orchestra:

I think you’ll enjoy her music as much as I do.

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Gotta hand it to her

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.08 at 00:29
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

Carole Lombard had an array of marvelous physical attributes; her glorious face, sleek figure and shapely legs are frequently cited as proof. But what about…her hands?

Thankfully, at least one Lombard portrait emphasized this expressive (and lovely) part of her. And here it is:

On the back is this snipe:

“EXPRESSIVE BEAUTY – The long, slim, graceful hands of Carole Lombard, Paramount player, enchances her blonde beauty. 2/23/33.”

Perhaps this photo was taken for Paramount, but it may not have been issued by the studio. For one thing, it’s 6″ x 8″, somewhat smaller than the usual Paramount pic. Second, there’s no visible P1202 number. Third, it’s stamped “ACME NEWSPICTURES,” a syndicate that specialized in photographs for newspapers and magazines. (This was some years before the word “Acme” became synonymous with Warners animation, most notably in the Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote cartoons.)

No matter, it is indeed an expressive, beauiful photo…not just the hands, but the face.

This photo, in excellent condition, is being auctioned at eBay. Bidding starts at $74.95; no one has bid as of this writing. Bidding will close at 11:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. To check it out, or perhaps to bid, go to

Worth lobbying for?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.07 at 07:14
Current mood: confusedconfused

Lobby cards have played a significant part in Carole Lombard memorabilia collecting for some time now, so it’s always fascinating when something “new” comes on the scene. And we’ve got just that:

It’s from Lombard’s first RKO film, “In Name Only,” and shows her and co-stars Cary Grant and Kay Francis. According to the seller, it’s 11″ x 14″, in near-mint condition, and it’s a design I haven’t come across before, so it understandably is considered valuable.

But $650?

That’s what the seller is looking for, under eBay’s “buy it now” option. I’m not a professional collector, so I honestly can’t gauge whether this is the price the market will bear, but this doesn’t appear to be an item for the casual buyer.

To learn more about it, go to

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Transfer a film from then to now

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.06 at 01:27
Current mood: pensivepensive

Some time ago, I noted that in the late 1980s, Teri Garr — who has often cited Carole Lombard as one of her role models — said in a magazine interview that she wanted to remake one of Carole’s comedies (the precise one wasn’t mentioned). Obviously, it didn’t happen, but it does lead to an interesting topic: Which one of Lombard’s films would be easiest to remake today…assuming you retained a contemporary setting?

Aye, there’s the rub. It would be simple to remake a Lombard film and set it in the 1930s — but placing one in 2010 (where we’ll be in less than a month) creates plenty of challenges. It would rule out all of Carole’s so-called “big four”: “To Be Or Not To Be” is impossible to remove from a World War II context, “Twentieth Century” is as out of date as its title (stage stars and trains as a primary transportation mode are both obsolete), “My Man Godfrey” is invariably tied in with the Depression (a truth learned from the pointless 1957 remake) and while “Nothing Sacred” is still acerbic, it’d be hard for a newspaper to build up a Hazel Flagg today. (Would she work as the heroine of a reality TV show? Perhaps, but I’m really not sold on the concept.)

But as I see it, at least two Lombard films might be reworked with relatively little difficulty:

“Hands Across The Table” — As in “Godfrey,” there is a Depression theme, but it’s far more subtle and could be effectively translated into the economic downturn of the past year or two. After all, there are still manicurists searching for wealthy husbands, and men trying to put up a front of affluence after being wiped out (or downsized from Wall Street). I doubt the modern-day Regi Allen would live in upper Manhattan, though; perhaps some flat in Bensonhurst or Bayonne.

“Mr. & Mrs. Smith” — Okay, the remake might have to be retitled, so as to avoid confusion with the unrelated Brangelina film of the same name (its title came from a novel that had nothing to do with the 1941 movie), but marital farce still works. It’d have to be updated a bit, mind you; there’d have to be some reason (financial, perhaps) why Ann couldn’t live with David once their marriage was dissolved, since the stigma of an unmarried couple living together isn’t anywhere what it was in 1941 (or, more importantly, during the era of the Production Code). And unlike then, Ann could find steady employment regardless of her marital status.

Those are the two that come to mind. Another might be “In Name Only,” as love triangles never go out of date, but I was primarily looking for comedies. And I’d still dearly love to learn what Lombard film Garr sought to remake. (For a splendid, extended interview with Teri, go to,2390/)

Nominate a film of Carole’s you think could be shifted to modern times with minimal difficulty…and tell us why. This might make for some good give and take.

Another stamp emerges

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.05 at 10:06
Current mood: curiouscurious

We’ve previously noted that while Carole Lombard has yet to be featured on a U.S. postage stamp, she has received that honor from the obscure nation of Karakalpakia ( Now add another country to that list.

Here’s a stamp of Lombard, issued by the African nation of Sierra Leone:

An attractive image of Carole, like the Karakalpakia stamp based on one of her many famed portraits.

I’m not sure when this was issued, but do know that like many small countries, Sierra Leone produces an array of stamps geared to collectors rather than the pure postal trade as a way to produce revenue. A number of them have been Hollywood-themed, such as this set featuring Marilyn Monroe (whose image has been issued on stamps in scores of countries):

Here’s a set featuring scenes from Alfred Hitchcock films (what, no “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”?):

Charlie Chaplin (and Paulette Goddard) were featured on a stamp honoring Chaplin’s 1940 film “The Great Dictator”:

That last stamp is sadly ironic. While Karakalpakia is obscure in an almost comic, “Borat”-like way, we know all too well about Sierra Leone. It’s one of Africa’s most impoverished countries, plagued by a civil war that has killed or injured tens of thousands. Barbarism has also been connected with that country’s diamond industry.

With that in mind, perhaps the Lombard stamp understandably holds less appeal for you. But if you are a collector, and are interested, a mint, unused stamp is being auctioned at eBay. No one has bid on it as of this writing; bidding opens at $2.75 and ends at 5:25 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. To learn more, go to

Meanwhile, we retain hope that one of these days, Lombard’s home country will commemorate her with a stamp.


A colorful trip in time on Hollywood Boulevard

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.04 at 02:34
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

A recurring gag in comic strips such as “The Family Circus” has the children coming across some black-and-white photos of their parents (or, by now, grandparents) and innocently asking whether everyone lived monochromatically in those days. Honestly, though, I’d suspect even most young children know that’s not the case — but without visible proof, one can understand why there might be room for doubt.

Color photography began taking hold in the 1920s, though it wasn’t perfected until the 1930s; its use incrementally grew decade by decade so that it became ubiquitous by the 1970s. By then, aside from newspapers, you’d only see black-and-white images of productions intentionally designed to evoke a specific effect.

Color can still lead to wows when it comes from a time that’s unexpected. The History Channel has had success with programs featuring color footage taken during World War II, a war we heretofore hadn’t seen much of in color. On a more pleasant note, the series of “When It Was A Game” specials on HBO enabled us to see long-gone major league ballparks such as Crosley Field in Cincinnati or Griffith Stadium in Washington in color.

It’s this sense of surprise I received recently when I came across something on YouTube on life in the 1920s. In the middle of the clip, full of black-and-white footage, came silent footage that (figuratively) knocked me out. I paused the film and captured the image:

You can tell it’s Hollywood Boulevard, but it’s not from the 1920s. The giveaway is a sign on the left promoting the film “Trader Horn” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre — that was released in 1931. And judging from the tracks directly ahead, this may well have been taken aboard a streetcar.

Several seconds later, this came into view:

We’re further east along the boulevard, approaching Warners Theater. Alas, we can’t tell what’s playing.

Great images, giving us the feel for a colorful Hollywood day sometime in 1931. But wait — there’s more!

How about a Hollywood premiere, at night, in color? That’s what we have here, the premiere of Frank Capra’s “Dirigible” at Grauman’s. Whomever had this movie camera went to the upper floor of a nearby building (the Hollywood Roosevelt, perhaps?) to give us this angle. (The “S” in the upper right-hand corner is from the channel or company that had showed this footage.) If the information from the Internet Movie Database is accurate, this was from early April 1931.

Down at street level, we meet some of the fans:

Wonder whether Carole Lombard was at the premiere that night? I tend to doubt it, because 1) it was a Columbia production, and she had yet to work there; 2) she was still a relative newcomer at Paramount; and 3) she had not yet married William Powell, which probably would have provided her entry into such events.

It is fun to see that era of Hollywood in such a colorful light — and it would be a treat to find more color footage of the film colony from this period.

We’ll leave you with something that’s not in color, but is fascinating nonetheless. It’s a 1936 newsreel called “Star Reporter,” hosted by well-known broadcaster Ted Husing — and what’s of particular interest here comes at the 2:18 mark, when Husing introduces a screen test from a young Dorothy Lamour, at a time when she was known as a band singer (and a good one), not an actress. That would soon change thanks to films like “The Jungle Princess,” “Swing High, Swing Low” (in which she became good friends with Lombard) and others. But here she is singing a romantic ballad called, believe it or not, “Love Is Like A Cigarette.” (A song written with that title today would imply that love is carcinogenic!) Take a look:

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Lombard by the lake

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.03 at 10:15
Current mood: artisticartistic

Over the years, I’ve seen literally thousands of images of Carole Lombard, and have wanted to learn more about them. Take this one, for instance:

This leggy, lovely Lombard image has circulated a bit over the years — she always looks good in a swimsuit — and frankly isn’t all that rare. But there was always the question...where was it taken? At the ersatz “beach” Paramount used for many of its swimwear shots? Or someplace away from the studio?

Well, the “snipe” of the photo (a small message attached to the back) has been found, and it supplies the answer:

It reads: “ON LOCATION — It isn’t all work when a motion picture company goes on location as is proved by this informal, and extremely fetching, shot of Carole Lombard, star of Paramount’s ‘True Confession.’ Much of this production was filmed at mile-high Lake Arrowhead and Carole — as well as everyone else in the troupe — seized the opportunity for sun bathing and swimming between scenes. Carole shares starring honors in this picture with Fred MacMurray and John Barrymore. The group was housed at the swank Arrowhead Lodge and traveled daily back and forth across the lake by speed boat to the location.”

So to borrow the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s famed line, now we know the rest of the story.

In retrospect, two things should have made the location evident. First are the tall trees in the upper right-hand corner of the picture, trees that likely didn’t exist even in the most secluded section of the Paramount lot. Second is the scarf Carole is wearing — a scarf that’s found on another photo:

Moreover, she’s standing next to the flower decoration she was sitting in front of on the other photo. (This one also had a snipe indicating it was shot at Lake Arrowhead.)

That top photo — an original, as the snipe would indicate — is now being auctioned at eBay. It’s 8″ x 10″, and on the version being sold Lombard’s lips and nails are tinted red. This is a “buy it now” item, for $124.99, and will be on the market until just after 6:30 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday. To check it out, go to

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Meet this year’s girl

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.02 at 11:52
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

That’s Elvis Costello (back in his “angry young man” days) and the Attractions in concert in 1978, doing “This Year’s Girl.” And that title happens to be the topic of today’s entry.

For decades, the movie business has been searching for “another Carole Lombard,” that is, a woman with comedic talent, star quality, beauty and, dare we say it, sex appeal. No, there’ll never be a precise copy of Carole, but the goal is to find someone who can continue the tradition, walk in her footsteps. And while Lombard’s shoes were size 4 1/2 B, they certainly seem bigger to fill as time goes on.

For much of the ’70s and ’80s, Goldie Hawn was deemed holder of the “new Lombard” torch. For a brief time, that honor seemed passed on to Teri Garr. Others have been mentioned, too, such as Tea Leoni (who because of her early success in TV was more often compared to Lucille Ball). Candidates needn’t be blonde, either — some viewed Sandra Bullock as a candidate. (Keep in mind we’re discussing actresses with Lombard-like attributes, not necessarily someone who could portray her.) More recently, Cameron Diaz has been labeled in that tradition (

Now, another candidate is on the horizon, drawing comparisons to Carole. Her name? Anna Faris.

She first gained renown in the “Scary Movie” series of horror spoofs, then made a splash last year with “The House Bunny,” a film she produced:

Okay, it’s apparent she’s got the looks to be considered an heir to Lombard. But does she have the acting skills? Several critics have said yes:

* Nathan Lee, the New York Times: “All hail Anna Faris, fake bimbo par excellence, master of the birdbrained double take, our reigning queen of intelligent stupidity.”

* Dennis Cozzallo at the blog “Sergio Leone and the Inflield Fly Rule” (love that title!), wrote of her performance in the little-seen 2007 comedy “Smiley Face”: “The sublimely goofy, rubber-faced Anna Faris lifts [it] out of its self-imposed aimlessness and into rarified air, borne on clouds of pot smoke and good cheer. It’s not much of a movie — actress Faris accidentally ingests a baking sheet’s worth of marijuana-laced cupcakes and spends the entirety of the picture’s running time stumbling from place to place, trying to show up on time for an audition, desperately trying to come up with the money to pay off her dealer, and having the occasional conversation with the disembodied voice of the late Roscoe Lee Browne. … Faris, who could be a Carole Lombard for the stoned slacker set, makes it worth following along on this not-so-long, not-so-strange, but good-natured and occasionally hilarious trip.”

* Scott Foundas, LA Weekly: “[‘The House Bunny’] is basically on one level and Faris on another — in that exclusive aerie occupied by Judy Holliday, Carole Lombard, Lucille Ball and a few other blissfully original comedy goddesses. If only there was a Hawks or a Lubitsch around to keep her in steady employ.”

Therein may lie the problem. The decline of the studio system has made it rough terrain for actresses, particularly those whose forte is comedy (a genre that’s still viewed as somewhat subversive for a woman). Faris — who has said she loved watching Lombard, Ball and other classic comedic actresses in her youth — no doubt understands the problem she faces.

To her credit, she’s not afraid to take chances. In “Observe And Report,” the Seth Rogen film issued earlier this year, Faris gives a darkly comic edge to her role as Brandi, a shallow cosmetics saleslady in a mall who falls in with Rogen’s security officer. (The movie did lackluster business, probably because it came on the heels of Kevin James’ similarly-themed “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”)

Faris has amassed some capital with her fans and critics, and over the next few years, it will be interesting to see what she does with it. Here’s hoping she can parlay her considerable talent into a vehicle with the sophistication and intelligence worthy of someone compared to Lombard…that she can become more than merely “this year’s girl.”

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Pushing Carole up the coast

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.12.01 at 08:38
Current mood: contentcontent

It labeled itself “Monarch Of The Dailies,” and while much of that was hyperbole, the San Francisco Examiner indeed wielded a major influence on journalism, both in the West and nationally. That’s largely because the Examiner was the first newspaper property of William Randolph Hearst, who in the mid-1890s took over this neglected afterthought of his family’s mining empire.

Using some of the innovative journalistic techniques of Joseph Pulitzer, a man he admired, Hearst turned the Examiner into a dynamic, if often sensationalistic, force. (Hearst soon invaded New York, with his Journal becoming a bitter rival of Pulitzer’s New York World. This was one Hearstian element in “Citizen Kane” that Orson Welles got right.)

Over the decades, the Examiner amassed a substantial archive of material; several years ago, much of that was donated to the University of California at Berkeley. Some of its photo collection has ended up in the hands of collectors, and we’ve previously noted some Carole Lombard stills once property of the Examiner have been sold on eBay. Now another image is up for sale.

It splendidly shows off Lombard’s sleek figure, doesn’t it? Fortunately, the snipe on the back survives, so we can learn more about it:

It was sent by ace publicist (and Lombard pal) Russell Birdwell at Selznick International Pictures in support of Carole’s upcoming film “Made For Each Other” with James Stewart. (Unfortunately, the photographer is not identified.) We also see that the Examiner library received it on Dec. 21, 1938.

This 8″ x 10″ photo is being auctioned at eBay, though you don’t have much time — bidding closes at just after 8:10 p.m. (Eastern) this evening. Four bids have already been made as of this writing, currently topped off at $22.37. If you’d like to place a bid, go to

There is one other stamp on this photo, one issued several years after it was received:

I do not know whether this photo was used to accompany Lombard’s obituary in the Examiner or merely moved to that file.

The Examiner was a Hearst property for well over a century — but in November 2000, the company sold off the paper to acquire its longtime archrival, the San Francisco Chronicle, which in recent decades had become the city’s dominant daily. (As far as I know, no reports of unearthly screams emanated from Hearst Castle once the deal was struck.) Hearst’s media empire, once largely newspaper-based, now primarily focuses on TV stations and magazines. The Examiner, under different ownership, survives today as a free tabloid, a far different entity than in Hearst’s heyday.

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Posted December 15, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, November 2009   Leave a comment

A threat against Clark and Carole?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.30 at 08:59
Current mood: morosemorose

1940 would be a productive year for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, shown changing trains in Chicago that Dec. 28…professionally, at least, if not personally. (The couple was headed to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, publicly to treat a nagging injury of Clark’s but privately to find out why they were unable to conceive a child.)

But according to FBI files, it’s possible 1940 might have been a far more tragic year for the Gables.

That August, state FBI documents released in recent years, Gable’s home studio of MGM received a letter from an ex-convict who alleged that someone he’d spent time with at Folsom prison had approached him regarding a plot against Clark and Carole…a plan to kidnap the pair and hold them for ransom.

The plan’s chilling details were reportedly this. The man, disguised as a police officer, would kidnap the couple, drive them to a remote location, and chain or handcuff Lombard to a bed with a time bomb underneath it. Ransom would be demanded; once it was paid, Gable would be dropped off at the location with the keys to free her, in time for them to avoid the bomb’s exploding — and with enough time for the kidnapper to escape with the ransom money before police would be called.

The letter writer said he was not involved with the plot — in fact, he said, he had rejected participating — and was relaying details of what he had heard to avoid any disaster for Gable and Lombard. The person who wrote the letter said he could be reached at a boarding house, but when the FBI received the letter and tried to track him down, all leads failed; he’d reportedly left the boarding house without paying his fee.

We have no idea of the veracity of this information, or how close the threat came to being carried out. For all we know, the ex-con’s crony may merely have been boasting about his scheme.

We do know that in the wake of the 1932 kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., celebrities began taking security very seriously. Note the story “Kidnapers in Hollywood” mentioned on the cover of this July 1932 issue of Picture Play:

By 1940, such fears had somewhat receded from public consciousness, but stars were still being vigilant against extortion and other threats.

One of the people Clark and Carole would meet on their trip east was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for whom 1940 was also momentous; he won an unprecedented third term. But according to one source, that year FDR might have fallen victim to a scheme along the lines of what may have been planned for the Gables:

In November 1959, it was reported that Cornelius Vanderbilt said in his autobiography that in 1940, some wealthy Americans discussed plans to kidnap Roosevelt for several reasons, among them fears that the president would interfere with their chances to make large profits from the war crisis (a forerunner of the “military industrial complex” President Eisenhower would warn about in his 1961 farewell speech). The plot may have seriously been discussed, but never came close to materializing, Vanderbilt wrote.

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Reach for a Lucky, financially sweet

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.29 at 01:55
Current mood: discontentdiscontent

I’m not precisely sure when this photo of Carole Lombard was taken, but I’d estimate it was when she was 25 years old (late 1933 or early ’34). Let’s move her up to today at the same age, which would have meant she’d have been born in 1984 — and forget whether or not she would be a celebrity; we’re examining her as a person. Based upon current societal mores and scientific information, do you think the 2009 Lombard would be a smoker?

Didn’t think so, either.

But three-quarters of a century ago, plenty of people smoked, and few thought anything of it. Smoking was an accepted part of our society, although not many people with respiratory ailments partook of the habit. Otherwise, there was a veneer of sophistication, even glamour, about the practice. So it’s no wonder Lombard and other actors would pose for publicity stills accompanied by a cigarette.

Smoking was even a way for celebrities to supplement their income. As recently as the 1950s, active major league ballplayers would appear in tobacco ads. (Those firms were regular ballpark advertisers, too — look at any photo of the Polo Grounds, where baseball’s New York Giants played, in the fifties, and you’ll see a huge ad for Chesterfield in center field.)

Lombard endorsed several brands of cigarettes over the years:

It’s not known how much Carole got to hawk Old Golds in 1934 — but thanks to a document uncovered last year, we do know what she was paid for endorsing Lucky Strike cigarettes in 1937.

It was $10,000, which by 2008 standards was nearly $150,000.

Here’s what American Tobacco, Lucky Strike’s parent company, paid Hollywood stars to endorse Luckies in 1937-38:

$10,000 (2008 equivalent $146,583) — Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Spencer Tracy
$6,000 (2008 equivalent $87,950) — Fred MacMurray
$3,000 (2008 equivalent $43,975) — Henry Fonda, George Raft, Edward G. Robinson
$2,500 (2008 equivalent $36,646) — Bob Hope
$2,000 (2008 equivalent $29,317) — Ray Milland
$1,750 (2008 equivalent $25,652) — Gertrude Lawrence
$1,500 (2008 equivalent $21,988) — Gloria Swanson
Source: Tobacco Control 2008

I’m not sure Lawrence belongs here, as she was primarily a stage actress; however, it does show Lucky Strike wasn’t ignoring the Broadway crowd.

American Tobacco’s executive, George Washington Hill, was a legendary figure in advertising, inventing a number of aggressive campaigns, particularly for his flagship Lucky Strike brand. It was his company that coined the slogan “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet” in the 1920s, persuading thousands upon thousands of American women to take up smoking as a form of weight control. Lucky Strike also advertised on many radio series over the years.

Endorsing or being sponsored by a product didn’t necessarily mean the star actually used the stuff. (Jack Benny, whose popular radio program was sponsored by Jell-O for many years before Lucky Strike took over those duties, reportedly was no fan of the gelatin.) So we don’t know whether Lombard, or other stars, actually smoked Luckies — but from photographs, it was apparent they smoked some sort of cigarette, several decades before the Surgeon General cast tobacco in an entirely different light.

Fate prevented us from finding out the ultimate effect of cigarettes on Carole Lombard. She might have developed a raspy voice, as Bette Davis did, or, like Myrna Loy, it might not have had any appreciable effect. And never mind Lombard’s voice — how might it have affected her health in later years?

Finally, we know that Lombard was filmdom’s highest-paid actress in 1937, making about $450,000. Adjusting that to 2008 standards, that would be about $7 million — a good amount today, and similar to what the highest-paid actresses currently get for a single picture (although compared to actors, actresses in 1937 were far more bankable than they are in today’s movie market).

For more on Hollywood stars and smoking, go to

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Tour where she worked

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.28 at 11:52
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

The “she” of course being Carole Lombard, shown posing with a Renault during the filming of 1931’s “Up Pops The Devil” ( In fact, you can effectively visit two studios in one:

That’s because Paramount (where “Up Pops The Devil” was filmed) some years ago absorbed the adjacent RKO lot (where Carole made four films). It’s one of only a few studios that currently hold actual tours, as opposed to having sites that are glorified theme parks.

I took the tour in 1996, then returned four years later to attend a “Frasier” filming, and for any movie buff, the location is enveloped in history. Now, you can learn more about it online, thanks to a site called

As its name indicates, it’s dedicated to the studio tour experience, and of course Paramount plays a major part. Specifically, it’s at

At top is an aerial view of Paramount during the 1970s, followed by studio maps, first from 1992 and below in 2009.

Films have been made on the Melrose Avenue site since 1918, although Paramount wasn’t the initial company there but an entity named United Pictures, which produced films by Rudolph Valentino and Norma Talmadge, among others. Paramount moved to Melrose Avenue in 1926.

One thing I especially like about the Paramount site of is that it provides some detail on most of the lot’s various soundstages. In recent years, the studio has installed plaques outside each soundstage, providing some information; each plaque is designed to resemble the studio’s famed Bronson Avenue entrance. For example, here’s the plaque for Stage 5:

Nice idea, with one glaring drawback: The plaque notes that the stage was constructed in 1922, but the oldest movie listed is “Road To Rio,” from 1947. What gives? (It’s like this for most of the soundstages, though the ones on the RKO portion of the site at least acknowledge that “Citizen Kane” and the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals were made there.)

Evidently, someone at Paramount decided to largely ignore its pre-1948 history, since virtually all of those films are now property of Universal. So consequently, we know that “Vampire In Brooklyn” was shot on Stage 5, but as for films from much of the Golden Age (Ernst Lubitsch’s groundbreaking musical comedies, Marlene Dietrich’s work with Josef von Sternberg, Mae West’s movies that rescued Paramount out of bankruptcy), forget it.

From construction dates, we can at least guess what stages Lombard may have used — they include:

Stage 1 (1922)
Stage 2 (1922)
Stage 4 (1918)
Stage 5 (1922)
Stage 10* (1926)
Stage 12 (1929)
Stage 14 (1929)
Stage 19 (RKO, 1935)
Stage 20 (RKO, 1935)
Stage 23 (1928)
Stage 24 (1927)
Stage 25 (1929)
Stage 27 (1930)
Stage 28 (1930)
Stage 29 (RKO, 1930)
Stage 30 (RKO, 1930)
Stage 31 (RKO, 1930)
Stage 32 (RKO, 1930)

*Stage 10 was torn down this year to make way for a new post-production facility.

In addition, stages 16 through 18 were built during Lombard’s lifetime, but in 1941, after she had worked for Paramount and RKO.

I’m certain there are records somewhere (the Margaret Herrick Library, perhaps?) indicating on what specific stages Lombard films were shot. A building adjacent to stages 20 and 21 is named for her; Carole’s one of many people associated with the studio to earn such honors.

Stage 25 was where I saw the “Frasier” filming. It was a second home for Kelsey Grammer, who worked on that stage for two decades as Frasier Crane, first on “Cheers” before getting his own series. The place also means a lot to Ken Levine, who not only wrote many of those “Cheers” and “Frasier” scripts but has worked as a major league baseball announcer and a big-market Top 40 DJ. (Sitcoms, baseball and rock — quite a hat trick.) He has an excellent blog, “…by Ken Levine” (, that manages to be both uproarious and thought-provoking at the same time. Well worth checking out.

For more on the tours, which last about two hours and are conducted at 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. most weekdays, go to Advance reservations are required, and it’s something every film fan should take.

Meanwhile, Paramount, brush up on your history. You’ve effectively turned many legends into nonpersons a la “The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” and you wouldn’t want to rile up their ghosts, would you?

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Going negative — for a price

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.27 at 09:56
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

Of late, we’ve noted the increasing availability of negatives of Carole Lombard publicity stills at eBay and other auction sites. Well, it’s taken yet another turn, as one seller is now offering nine negative images of Lombard for a minimum bid of $999.99.

Oh, and that number’s not for the complete set — it’s for each one.

Yeah, that was my reaction, too. But before we discuss the price, let’s go over the images.

These are all original, 8″ x 10″ negatives of Paramount publicity stills. I’ve seen several of these images before, but there are also a few that are new to me (and possibly you, too). Fortunately, the seller provided positive images of the pics (and a print of each negative will be part of the deal). Here they are, in chronological order.

First, p1202-31, 98 and 388:

Next, p1202-757, 1233 and 1238:

And finally, p1202-1259, 1398 and 1485:

A solid, if not entirely representative, cross-section of Lombard’s Paramount still portfolio. (I’ve cropped the photos to eliminate borders; some of the print images are convex, so consequently some of the edges may not appear.)

Okay, the negatives are nice, but the price? What gives?

A glance shows the seller has a 100 percent customer satisfaction rate. This person has about 23 pages of items for sale, many of them stills or transparencies of more recent films and TV selling for $24.99 or thereabouts. (I’m guessing the seller was either a professional photographer or knew someone who was.)

However, this person is also selling nine other 8″ x 10″ negatives, presumably all from Paramount. What are the prices being asked for those?

* One of Alan Ladd for $299.99.

* One of Marlene Dietrich for $499.99

* Two of Gail Patrick, each for $499.99.

* Five of Veronica Lake, each for $799.99.

The comparative price range appears reasonable (the Dietrich price may seem relatively low, but it’s frankly not one of her better photos). I’m guessing that based upon experience with Hollywood memorabilia, this seller has an idea of what the market will bear, at least among serious collectors with plenty of money. And while many of us may fancy being in the first category, very few of us are in the second.

Normally, this is where I’d give you the specific information and a link to each photo, but since there are so many of them, I’ll instead refer you to the seller’s page at eBay, Bidding on the Lombard items close at about 1:25 a.m. (Eastern) on Thursday.

Oh, and one final thing: I have spent $5 on a MegaMillions ticket, one of the multi-state lottery games; the drawing is tonight. Should I win the seven-figure grand prize — the odds of which are infinitesmal — I promise to bid on all nine of these pictures.

Stay tuned.

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A southern California Thanksgiving, 1919

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.26 at 01:59
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

Jane Alice Peters, the future Carole Lombard, her two older brothers and their mother probably celebrated Thanksgiving as millions of other American families did. In 1919, when Jane had turned 11, they had been in Los Angeles for about five years, and had quite a bit to be thankful for; the World War had been over for about a year, with the American way of living fully returned to a peacetime mode, and they had withstood the flu epidemic that had plagued many households throughout 1918 and into a good part of 1919.

We have no idea how the Peters family celebrated Thanksgiving that year at their Los Angeles home. But if they decided to go out for dinner that day, they had several options. We know this because the Los Angeles Times historical blog, “The Daily Mirror,” just reprinted an advertisement from November 1919:

Truth be told, both of these destinations were popular venues with southern Californians just about any time of the year, so if the Peters family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at either of these places, chances are good they visited these sites at some other time.

Venice is a site most know about; it’s been a popular seaside destination for generations, continuing into today, and would earn a place in Lombard lore when the actress rented the pier’s amusement park for a huge party in June 1935. But many years before, here’s what Venice’s Windward Avenue looked like:

The other destination, Mount Lowe, has largely been lost to history, but for several decades it was a beloved getaway for many. It was a perfect example of the wide range of geography that gave southern California its unique appeal.

Thanks to Pacific Electric and its vast public transit system, it was theoretically possible to travel from the beach at Venice to a mountain resort nearly a mile above sea level in one day. It wasn’t a one-seat ride, mind you, as the map below shows, but it was a fascinating journey nonetheless:

And once you got to the end of the ride, you were at a place called the Alpine Tavern (later renamed the Mount Lowe Tavern), which had rustic charm inside and out:

Rooms and cottages were available for those who wanted to stay overnight and enjoy the view, a view Pacific Electric frequently publicized:

So what happened to Mount Lowe? Mother Nature and the Depression. In September 1936, a fire destroyed most of the tavern building. If Pacific Electric — then struggling because the rise of the automobile was lessening use of mass transit — had any plans to rebuild the site, they were literally washed away in the regional floods of early 1938 that tore out much of the track. In recent years, Mount Lowe has become a popular hiking trail, enabling people to get a sense of its glory days.

Since it is Thanksgiving, let’s close this entry with some music. Not too many songs deal with Thanksgiving, but this one does — in fact, you’ll hear it mentioned in the opening line. It’s “Big City Blues” by Annette Hanshaw, one of the best pop-jazz vocalists of the late 1920s; this is one of my favorites from her.

“Big City Blues” was written in 1929 for a now-lost musical called “Fox Movietone Follies.” I’m hoping you’ll like the song as much as I do…and here’s hoping you’ll avoid the blues — big city or otherwise — this Thanksgiving.

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Gable and Lombard’s bohemian rhapsody?

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.25 at 14:02
Current mood: curiouscurious

No, this entry has nothing to do with that pretentious mid-seventies hit from Queen…but it may put Clark Gable and Carole Lombard’s romance — or, should I say, the coverage of it — in an entirely new light.

Much of this has to do with the release of a book last year…

…”Hollywood Bohemians: Transgressive Sexuality and the Selling of the Movieland Dream,” written by a National Archives employee named Brett L. Abrams.

Bohemianism is defined as “the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits, with few permanent ties.”

Well, Clark and Carole were indeed artistic — and unconventional in their affair. Remember, Gable was already married at the time he and Lombard became “an item.” Had the two been midwest stage actors and similarly involved in the late thirties, chances are they 1) would have undergone much more negative scrutiny from their peers, and 2) been far more furtive about their romance.

In Hollywood, however, they respectively didn’t (press coverage and public reaction was overwhelmingly favorable despite Clark’s obvious technical adultery), and weren’t (they regularly appeared in public together). What made the film capital such an accepting environment?

Abrams argues the industry wanted it that way. As the book’s product description states:

“Between 1917 and 1941, Hollywood studios, gossip columnists and novelists featured an unprecedented number of homosexuals, cross-dressers, and adulterers in their depictions of the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle. … Hollywood’s image grew as a place of sexual abandon. … This book demonstrates how studios and the media used images of these sexually adventurous characters to promote the industry and appeal to the prurient interests of their audiences.”

Much of this is viewed through the LGBT lens (for what it’s worth, Abrams himself is gay), but his inclusion of Gable and Lombard, as well as other adulterous heterosexual relationships, widens the perspective.

After the Mayfair Ball in early 1936 (the event popularly recognized as triggering the Gable-Lombard affair), Abrams notes, “The couple attended events together, They even traveled to other cities as a couple. … The photograph enabled [the public] to see that the two were a couple despite the marriage status.” I believe Abrams is referring to this photo, taken during a May 1937 boxing match at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles:

And despite Gable’s marital status, MGM welcomed Lombard alongside Gable at the Trocadero on the Sunset Strip for a post-premiere party for the 1938 film “Marie Antoinette”:

In covering the party, Life magazine commented, “Always full of fun and careless of dignity, they are one of Hollywood’s delightful couples. They cannot marry because Gable’s wife has refused to divorce him.”

In other words, according to Abrams, “The image presented the two stars as adulterers who were respected, enjoyed, and liked in the movie world.” He also noted, “A photograph taken inside a studio party by a major media entity would only have happened with studio cooperation,” later adding, “The publicity about Gable and Lombard did not condemn the stars for their behavior.”

I’ve only read the excerpt of the book based on the Gable-Lombard relationship, but based upon that, it appears to have some worthwhile observations to make. For more about the book, go to

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Carole and Cary, under a negative ‘Sun’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.24 at 15:55
Current mood: determineddetermined

The Superman character has thrilled millions of imaginations for more than 70 years, through comic books, radio, television and movies. For much of that time, his extraordinary powers have been explained by his residency on earth, a planet in a solar system with a yellow sun, unlike his native Krypton, which had orbited a red sun prior to its destruction. (For a perceptive look at how Superman has changed since his 1938 inception, visit

Neither Cary Grant nor Carole Lombard, the Superman and Supergirl (or would Carole be better defined as Wonder Woman?) of screwball comedy, were aware of the powers they possessed in 1932, when they appeared in Paramount’s “Sinners In The Sun.” (Heck, the screwball comedy genre hadn’t been invented yet.)

“Sinners In The Sun” was among Grant’s earliest movies, as he was still in supporting roles. Lombard, who was top-billed, was a film veteran compared to Cary, but hadn’t quite found her niche yet (neither had Paramount). Here they are in the film:

Grant and Lombard wouldn’t be seen on screen together for another seven years; while they were both in “The Eagle And The Hawk” in 1933, Carole’s only scenes were with Fredric March.

The image above, one I’ve never come across before, is derived from a negative of the original publicity still (I punched it up a bit to improve its clarity, although the seller says the negative itself is in fine condition). It’s another in a series of Lombard negatives from this seller that’s being offered at eBay. Bidding begins at $24.99 (as of this writing, no one has bid), and will close at just after 10:35 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday (Thanksgiving in the U.S.). If you’d like to learn more about it, or bid, go to

An interesting photo of cinematic superheroes Carole and Cary before they began the battle for truth, justice and romantic comedy (a battle they never fought as a team, alas).

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Put some Ginger on your Thanksgiving menu (Fred, too)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.23 at 11:11
Current mood: thankfulthankful

If you met the proverbial man (or woman) from Mars and were asked to explain 1930s entertainment in one movie, which one would it be?

That’s a hard decision to make, since the decade was full of wonderful movies that encapsulate the era. Carole Lombard’s “My Man Godfrey” would be a contender; so might “I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang” or some of the decade’s other socially conscious films.

But perhaps the best choice would be to place the alien in front of a screen to view these two in action:

The films Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made have so much going for them — superbly crafted dance steps, classic pop songs from the top composers of the day, some solid comedic performances in the best Broadway tradition (both Astaire and Rogers were veterans of the stage), and excellent chemistry between the stars.

This Thursday, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is celebrating Thanksgiving by showing six Astaire-Rogers films we have much to give thanks for. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

6:30 a.m. — “Roberta” (1935). This not only features Fred and Ginger, but Irene Dunne (a fine musical star in her own right) and Randolph Scott, with music from Jerome Kern, including “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”:

8:30 a.m. — “The Gay Divorcee” (1934). The first starring vehicle for Astaire and Rogers (they had supporting parts in “Flying Down To Rio” the year before), this is an adaptation of Fred’s Broadway success “The Gay Divorce”…the title was changed by Hollywood. There’s plenty of great music here, such as this little-remembered gem, “A Needle In A Haystack”:

10:30 a.m. — “Swing Time” (1936). Many deem this the quintessential Fred and Ginger film, and you could make a good argument for it. It’s Kern again, with Dorothy Fields, and the songs are splendid. Here’s “Pick Yourself Up,” in which Ginger is teaching Fred’s character how to dance (you’ll get a laugh from the end of the segment):

12:30 p.m. — “Shall We Dance” (1937). The Gershwins provide the memorable music here, such as this tune, “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck.” Dog lovers will especially enjoy this segment.

2:30 p.m. — “Carefree” (1938). While this is generally considered not quite up to par with other Astaire-Rogers vehicles (the pun is intentional, as some of the film is set at a golf course), it does have its moments, such as “Change Partners” (and yes, that’s Ralph Bellamy as the “other guy”). This is the first of two films with Irving Berlin music TCM is showing.


4 p.m. — “Top Hat” (1935). And here is the other, an excellent film that has plenty of wonderful songs, including the brilliant “Cheek To Cheek.” But my favorite from the film — indeed, my favorite Astaire-Rogers moment — is “Isn’t This A Lovely Day.” Enjoy.


Give thanks to Fred and Ginger this Thursday for providing us with such bliss…and for potentially adding at least one Martian fan.

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The theater involved in a tragic day in Dallas

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.22 at 02:07
Current mood: restlessrestless

If you’re an American with any memory at all of living through the events of Nov. 22, 1963, you’re likely either a member of AARP or are eligible for membership. We are of course referring to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, an event that occurred 46 years ago today and changed both American history and a nation’s psyche — the latter partially because what happened, and why, has never been fully explained.

We do know this, however: A movie theater built during the classic era would play a part in the story. It’s the Texas Theatre in the Oak Cliff district of Dallas, not far from downtown.

The Texas opened in April 1931, with its first movie Buster Keaton’s talkie, “Parlor, Bedroom And Bath.” (The photo above is from December 1932, with the Clark Gable-Jean Harlow vehicle “Red Dust” the attraction along with a stage show.) Native Texan Howard Hughes, who not only helped Harlow to stardom through “Hell’s Angels” in 1930 but apparently previously had a discreet relationship with a young Carole Lombard (, was at the opening and helped finance the theater, reportedly the first movie house in Dallas with air conditioning — a system manufactured by Hughes’ company.

I have no proof that a Lombard film was ever shown at the Texas, but since she worked at most of the major studios from 1931 to the time of her death in 1942, the chances are pretty good that at least one of her pictures did play there. (During this period, the Texas showed fare from a variety of studios; among the other films on its screen soon after it opened was RKO’s “Cimarron,” which had premiered in February.)

While the Texas opened when silent film was in eclipse, it possessed a pipe organ (later removed). Here’s a description of what the interior reportedly looked like when it opened:

“The Texas Theatre was an atmospheric designed inside. It had silhouettes of Spanish looking buildings all around the sides and a ‘sky’ above. When you first went in, the ‘sky’ would begin to darken, then turn to twilight then dark. Stars would appear and a machine called a Brenograph would project clouds across the sky.”

One presumes that by 1963, at which time the moviegoing experience had become far less ornate, the Texas no longer had those features. On Nov. 22, it was showing a double bill of war films — “Cry Of Battle,” set in the Pacific during World War II, and “War Is Hell,” a Korean War drama.

Reportedly about 15 people were in the theater that Friday afternoon, and few if any realized what had just happened in the city — President Kennedy had been shot, fatally, as had a Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit. A man entered the theater without paying; a manager of an adjacent shoe store who had stepped outside noticed this and called police. Here’s a contemporary account of what happened, including the arrest of another man for the Tippit shooting and later cleared:

The man arrested in the theater, Lee Harvey Oswald, lived not far from the theater and had possibly seen films there before. Two days later, Oswald himself would be assassinated while in police custody, fueling conspiracy theories that live to this day.

The exterior of the Texas had been altered somewhat by this time. Here’s what it looked like in March 1964:

The “Texas” initially on the front had been changed (this was the one that had been up on Nov. 22, 1963).

The Texas continued for about another quarter-century, drawing curiosity seekers but few others. Oak Cliff was changing into a blue-collar, funky, multi-ethnic area ignored by suburbanites, and in the era of the multiplex, a single-screen theater such as the Texas had little to offer but faded charm.

That could have spelled the end for the Texas, especially after a fire gutted the interior in 1995…but it didn’t. Funding was found to bring the Texas back into a semblance of working condition, though full renovation — much less restoration — has not yet occurred.

Nevertheless, some events have taken place at the Texas, one of which will occur today…a showing of “Cry Of Battle,” with Van Heflin and Rita Moreno, at 1:30 p.m. (Central).

For more on the Texas, go to

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A pressbook for what was ‘To Be’ a tough sell

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.21 at 01:01
Current mood: morosemorose

Today, “To Be Or Not To Be” is recognized as among the finest dark comedies ever made and as one of director Ernst Lubitsch’s greatest achievements. But when it was released, its business was a bit disappointing, for a variety of reasons.

Carole Lombard’s passing before the film’s release was certainly a major factor; losing one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars cast a pall over the movie. But even had she been alive when “To Be Or Not To Be” came out, its often macabre, if comic, tone wouldn’t have played well with an America that had been on the verge of entering World War II when the film was being made and was now fully immersed in the conflict.

Consequently, publicizing this production wasn’t an easy task, not with the perfect storm of losing Lombard, dark humor and America at wartime. It was a challenge for United Artists, and you can get an idea of how it approached selling the film in a pressbook for the movie.

I have no idea whether UA had issued publicity for “To Be Or Not To Be” prior to Lombard’s death; if any such items were in the studio’s possession, they were likely destroyed. This pressbook was issued posthumously, as the publicity notes, “We announce the presentation of Carole Lombard’s last picture.” Beyond that, and the rather bland slogan “the picture everyone wants to see,” there really wasn’t much United Artists could do without appearing to exploit Lombard’s passing.

The pressbook that contains these pages is up for auction at eBay. One bid, for $9.99, has been made as of this writing, and bidding concludes at 9:05 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. If you’d like to bid, or learn more about it, go to

It’s a fascinating way to remember Lombard’s final performance.

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Beginning the ‘Bolero’ buildup

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.20 at 01:32
Current mood: productiveproductive

It’s late in 1933, and Carole Lombard has just begun work with George Raft on a film called “Bolero,” Paramount’s entry into the revived market for films featuring dancing. (And “Bolero” is strictly a dance film, not a musical, since there are no songs.)

Raft had a reputation as a fine ballroom dancer, and while Lombard didn’t have the Broadway experience of say, Ginger Rogers (who starred in “Gold Diggers Of 1933,” then teamed with fellow Great White Way emigre Fred Astaire in “Flying Down To Rio”), Carole had held her own on the dance floor in mid-twenties dance contests at the Cocoanut Grove against Joan Crawford, who’d strutted her stuff in “Our Dancing Daughters” and several other films.

Lombard viewed “Bolero” as a step up in her tenure at Paramount — so much so, in fact, that she turned down a loanout to Columbia, a studio that for the most part had handled her talent better than Paramount did, in order to work on “Bolero.” The project she’d rejected was a little film, tentatively co-starring Robert Montgomery, called “Night Bus.” (Myrna Loy would also spurn it.)

For its part, Paramount was feeling pretty confident about “Bolero,” and let the public know it by producing this publicity still:

It’s officially photo p1202-622, and here’s what the studio wrote on the “snipe” attached to the back:

“A study in white — Golden-haired Carole Lombard, Paramount star, has been assigned by Paramount to star opposite George Raft in “Bolero.”

(And “opposite” was sort of an exaggeration. Raft received dominant billing in “Bolero,” with Carole a distant second.)

“Bolero” premiered in late February 1934 and indeed became a box-office success. Lombard and Raft not only had a hit, but they hit it off, engaging in a brief, yet torrid affair. (Carole would later tell her strictest confidants that bedroom-wise, Raft was the best lover she ever had.)

The picture above that Paramount used to begin its “Bolero” push is now being auctioned at eBay. It’s an original, not a reproduction, in sepia tone (I’ve converted it to grayscale for purposes of clarity); the seller states there’s a stain at the top, though it must be on the background and not on Carole since I don’t see it. Nobody’s bid on it as of this writing (the minimum bid is $9.99), and bidding will close at 10:15 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday. To place a bid or further investigate, visit

Oh, and that little film called “Night Bus,” the one Lombard and Loy turned down? Well, it got bigger. Frank Capra, Columbia’s premier director, took the chores, Lombard’s Paramount stablemate Claudette Colbert accepted the female lead, MGM sent Clark Gable over on loan (Louis B. Mayer reportedly viewed it as a sort of punishment), who replaced Montgomery, and “Night Bus” was renamed “It Happened One Night.” Still, nobody viewed it as a potential blockbuster…except the public. Word of mouth turned “It Happened One Night” into a monster hit, one that defined the new genre of “screwball” comedy and would unexpectedly sweep the Academy Awards.

Shed no tears for Carole, though. A few months later, she indeed went over to Columbia and made a film that wasn’t quite as big a hit as “It Happened One Night,” but nonetheless established her as a genuine comedic star. We are, of course, referring to…

carole lombard

An accurate sign

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.20 at 12:30
Current mood: curiouscurious

Authentic Carole Lombard autographs are always valued…particularly if they’re signed on a photograph of her. Here’s on that just came on the market:

Is it the real deal? Yes indeed, states Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive:

“Yes, in my opinion. She liked this image, and used it quite often for autograph requests…usually in BLUE ink, too!

“Most frequent size we have handled in authentically signed pics for this image has been 5 x 7 over the years…rarely an authentically signed 8 x 10 will surface. Never yet seen or been offered an authentic 11 x 14…although we’ve been offered countless forgeries of this image in all sizes. I think you are safe doing the entry. The price is on the upper end of Reasonable if a 5 x 7, much too low if an 8 x 10.”

It is a 5 x 7, being offered by a Florida store. You can make an offer, or buy it outright for $500; the deadline for the former is just after 11 a.m. (Eastern) Saturday. You can learn more about it, and place an offer if you so wish, at


Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.19 at 11:11
Current mood: crazycrazy

If you remember the early days of “Saturday Night Live,” you recall those characters above — the “two wild and crazy guys” portrayed by original cast member Dan Aykroyd and frequent guest Steve Martin — immigrants to New York from eastern Europe who fancied themselves as ladies’ men, but frankly came on a bit too strong. In most of the skits, they were set on blind dates, and when the women arrived, the two would invariably yell with delight, “Fox-es!” (Of course, everything would all go wrong, and the guys never came close to first base with their dates and their “big American breasts.” And therein was the running gag.)

Nice, you may think, but where’s the Carole Lombard tie-in? Well, without further ado, may I present to you…Fox-es!

They are definitely two wonderfully sensual pictures of Lombard, but Fox? These look to be too mature a Lombard to have been from the mid-twenties, before her automobile accident. And wasn’t her hair a darker shade then?

Yes, it was…

…but Lombard also made two films at Fox after the accident. One was 1930’s “The Arizona Kid,” both her lone talking western and the only film I can think of where she played a villainness. The other came two years earlier, a little-remembered silent called “Me, Gangster.”

It’s likely the pictures were taken in conjunction with that film, given Lombard’s “bee-stung” lips (very 1920s).

The photographer was Edwin Bower Hesser, one of the renowned art photographers of the day; he was usually based in New York, but this was one of his infrequent forays into Hollywood. (And this was the original cream toning of the photos — I have not converted them to greyscale.) Both are roughly 10″ x 13″ and feature a Hesser embossment stamp, and are fascinating documents of Lombard’s allure as she made the transition from teen to twenty.

Both were recently put up for auction by Heritage Auction Galleries. The first one sold for $3,107. The second one didn’t sell, so it is being put up again. You can buy it for $2,390 (according to Heritage, the original estimated value was $8,000) or simply make an offer. (This second auction ends Monday.) To find out more, go to

The prices may seem “wild and crazy”; the photos definitely aren’t. Wonder if Aykroyd or Martin collect Hollywood memorabilia?

Stone, immaculate

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.18 at 01:24
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Not many of us were actually around during the heyday of Carole Lombard and other Golden Age movie stars…but we know enough about the times they lived in and how they were covered to understand why they were perceived as larger-than-life figures (something you certainly can’t say about the stars of today, regardless of their talent or charisma).

Among the press conduits between star and public were the movie magazines, and until color photography was perfected in the middle 1930s, most of the leading magazines used artwork for their covers, from some of the top portrait painters of the day. These covers gave an ethereal glow to many of these actresses (while actors were subjects, too, their appearances were far less frequent), and consequently they were perceived as ideals of beauty.

Several artists were frequent contributors to film magazines. F. Earl Christy was one; another was named Marland Stone. Not much is known about him other than that he died in 1975, but he was an active illustrator and his work graces many a magazine. Motion Picture was probably the publication he did most covers for; here are two of them from 1928, Joan Crawford in March and MGM archrival Norma Shearer in August:

Stone’s work continued into the 1930s. Here’s a portrait he did of Constance Bennett. This was used as the cover for Movie Classic magazine in March 1934:

As you might expect, Lombard also became a subject of Stone’s. It appears the first time they worked together was for the November 1931 cover of Motion Picture, though this appears to be merely a color reworking of a Paramount publicity still:

Three Novembers later, Stone again worked with Lombard for the magazine, and I’m not certain this was derived from a studio photograph:

Note the price is 15 cents, “formerly 25 cents.” A belated welcome to the Depression, Motion Picture.

In addition to the Fredric March story publicized on the front, there are also articles on Grace Moore, Janet Gaynor, Rochelle Hudson, Mary Brian, Anna Sten, Harold Lloyd, Dolores Del Rio, James Cagney, Henry Wilcoxon and Bette Davis.

This issue is being auctioned at eBay, and while the cover looks a trifle frayed, the seller maintains that inside, the issue is in excellent shape. The minimum bid is $74.95, which may explain why there are no bids as of this writing; bidding closes at just after 11 p.m. (Eastern) tonight.

To take a look, visit

Lombard appeared on the cover of Motion Picture at least two other times (in July 1936 and January 1938), although I don’t know whether Stone was the artist. (By then the magazine was selling for a dime.)

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Get immersed in Mercer

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.17 at 02:34
Current mood: artisticartistic

As a blogger (and journalist), words are an important tool to me, and I have plenty of admiration for those who use them well. Tomorrow, the world will celebrate the centennial of the birth of a man who used them brilliantly.

His name is Johnny Mercer, and he was, to put it mildly, one of the most important figures in popular music in the 20th century. How? Let me count the ways:

Lyricist: Mercer wrote more than 1,100 songs, collaborating with everyone from Harold Arlen to Richard Whiting (and perhaps he did team up with someone whose last name ended in “Z”!). Many of them were hits, and more than a few have become “standards” – “I’m An Old Cowhand,” “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “Hooray For Hollywood,” “And The Angels Sing,” “Blues In The Night,” “Laura.”

Vocalist: Mercer was a pretty solid singer in his own right, with an easy swing, a delightful sense of humor and a great feel for the blues. He had a number of hits, and not just with his own material, either. His duet partners ranged from Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey in the ‘30s to Bobby Darin in the ‘60s.

Executive: Mercer was one of the driving forces behind Capitol, the first notable record label based on the West Coast. It developed a reputation for musical quality during the 1940s, signing everyone from Nat Cole to Les Paul to Richard Whiting’s daughter Margaret. That was probably one reason Frank Sinatra signed with the label in 1953 after his falling-out with Columbia…and most of you know the rest. (Mercer sold his stock to EMI after it bought the label in 1955.)

You can tell I’m a Johnny Mercer fan, can’t you?

Well, you can join the fun in honoring Savannah’s most famous son on Wednesday. Turner Classic Movies has been running movies with Mercer music the past two Wednesday nights, and on the 18th they will be running said films all day long (11 of ‘em) – plus replaying a fascinating documentary on the man (produced by Clint Eastwood). Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

6 a.m. – “You’ll Find Out” (1940). Kay Kyser and band in a haunted house…with comic turns from Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre.

8 a.m. – “Navy Blues” (1941). Ann Sheridan, Martha Raye, Jack Oakie and Jack Haley in pre-Pearl Harbor Honolulu.

10 a.m. – “Top Banana” (1954). Phil Silvers (a year before Sgt. Bilko) and Rose Marie (post-Baby Rose, pre-“The Dick Van Dyke Show”) star in this backstager.

noon — “You Can’t Run Away From It” (1956). Take the plot of “It Happened One Night,” add Mercer songs 22 years after the original, and…this remake stars June Allyson (who would take the Carole Lombard role in a “My Man Godfrey” remake a year later) and Jack Lemmon.

2 p.m. – “Autumn Leaves” (1956). Joan Crawford stars in this drama with a young Lorne Greene.

4 p.m. – “The Americanization Of Emily” (1964). Excellent World War II film, with superb chemistry between Julie Andrews and James Garner (he deems this the favorite of his movies). The Mercer song is, of course, “Emily.”

6 p.m. – “Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s On Me” (2009). Lots of clips of Mercer; I particularly liked his duet with Nat Cole on “Save The Bones For Henry Jones.” You’ll come across plenty of tunes you know, but didn’t realize Mercer had written.

8 p.m. – ”The Harvey Girls” (1946). Judy Garland sparkles in this musical about old-time railroad hospitality, featuring “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe.” All aboard!

10 p.m. – “Here Comes The Groom” (1951). Big Crosby and Jane Wyman stars in this comedy, in which Mercer won an Oscar for “In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening.”

midnight – “Breakfaast At Tiffany’s” (1961). One of Audrey Hepburn’s most memorable films, and one of Mercer’s most famous songs, ”Moon River.” There’s such a lot of world to see…

2 a.m. – “Days Of Wine And Roses” (1962). Jack Lemon and Lee Remick battle alcoholism; both this and “Tiffany’s” were directed by Blake Edwards.

4 a.m. – “Going Places” (1938). Don’t know much about this one, other than it has Dick Powell, Anita Louise and an early Warners performance from Ronald Reagan.

But there’s even more of Mercer to savor. WAMU-FM in Washington has an outstanding program, “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” and last week it played a three-hour tribute to Mercer, focusing on his early compositions up to about 1941 or so. (I’m sure Lombard liked many of these tunes, though I don’t know if she ever met Mercer.)

There were all sorts of fine interpretations of Mercer music, including Fred Astaire’s “I’m Building Up To An Awful Letdown” (he wrote the music, Mercer the lyrics) and Mercer dueting with Ginger Rogers on “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo” (proof that Ginger could sing in languages other than pig Latin; she had a nice vocal style, somewhat similar to Connie Boswell, and it’s unfortunate she didn’t record more).

Finally, you’ll hear some radio broadcasts featuring Mercer, notably with Benny Goodman’s “Camel Caravan” in 1939. This includes the debut of “And The Angels Sing,” done by Martha Tilton, and one of Johnny’s “newsy bluesies,” brief musical snippets based on happenings in the news — he’d read the papers the day of the show and come up with lyrics.

Sorry you missed it? Well, if you hurry, you won’t. WAMU has put the show up online (as it does for all “Hot Jazz Saturday Night” shows) and it should be up until Sunday or so. To check it out, go to — but don’t be “lazybones” about it.

Celebrate the centennial of a man who indeed was “too marvelous for words.” (And marvelous with them, too!)

We’ll leave you with the debut of one of Mercer’s most famous songs, “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road).” It’s become so identified with Frank Sinatra, due largely to his brilliant 1958 ballad version, that relatively few remember it was introduced by Fred Astaire and sung in a much more jaunty manner. Here it is, from the relatively obscure 1943 film “The Sky’s The Limit,” followed by a few minutes from the movie co-starring Joan Leslie:

carole lombard

We’re batting 1,000!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.17 at 12:06
Current mood: happyhappy

This entry marks a milestone at “Carole & Co.” — it’s the 1,000th since this community began in June 2007. That’s a lot of posts, a lot of pictures…a lot of Lombard. And I’m glad to have provided it for you (as you have also done for me!).

We’ll keep bringing you more about Carole, her life and times, and people she knew and worked with, as we use this community to both celebrate — and investigate — classic Hollywood.

Some more Lombard pix in honor of this millennial post:

Again, thanks.

She’s ‘Everywhere’! She’s ‘Everywhere’!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.16 at 01:23
Current mood: amusedamused

“The Girl From Everywhere,” released near the end of 1927, is among the earliest surviving films featuring Carole Lombard (or, as she’s billed here, “Carolle Lombard”). It’s four reels long, sort of in between the length for shorts and features; some of the scenes are filmed in two-strip Technicolor. Reportedly Mack Sennett initially wanted to make this film a full-length feature, comically showing where his bathing beauties came from, but soon he decided to instead make this a sort of Hollywood satire (Mack Swain plays Wilfred Ashcraft, an ersatz Cecil B. De Mille).

I’ve never viewed the film, as it hasn’t been quite as available as some other of Lombard’s Sennett shorts, but from the various descriptions I’ve seen it may be fairly amusing. Here’s a publicity still from the film:

That’s Lombard apparently naked (and while it appears she’s suffered a black eye, I think that’s excessive shadow) receiving some pearls from diminutive Daphne Pollard, who’s playing wardrobe mistress Minnie Stitch. Lombard likely celebrated her 19th birthday during shooting, and she was beginning to heed Sennett’s advice and was gaining some weight to add some curves.

This photo is now being auctioned at eBay; it’s an 8″ x 10″ in good condition (actually sepia-toned) despite it being more than eight decades old. As of this writing, no bids have been made, not surprising considering the minimum bid is listed at $49.99. However, you’ll have nearly a week to save up the money if interested, since bidding won’t close until 8:30 p.m. (Eastern) next Sunday.

Want to take a closer look, or perhaps bid? Then go to

P.S. “The Girl From Everywhere” must have been successful, because the following year Sennett came up with a similarly-titled (and themed) picture, called “The Girl From Nowhere.


‘Swing High, Swing Low’ in the lobby

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.15 at 02:19
Current mood: hopefulhopeful

“Swing High, Swing Low” was probably Carole Lombard’s biggest hit at Paramount — in fact, it was the studio’s top money-maker for all of 1937. The irony is that no pristine print of it apparently survives (

But while we search for a first-rate print of “Swing High, Swing Low,” a rare artifact from the film is now being made available. Here’s something advertised as a “lobby card,” but it’s not your run-of-the-mill variety:

“Nice,” you may say, “but what makes it special?”

Well, I’ll tell you:

* Size — it’s 14″ x 17″, by lobby card standards downright Brobdingnagian.

* Finish — This isn’t cardboard or photo stock, but a linen surface. Pretty exquisite.

* Artwork — Adding “color” to this black-and-white still provides it a new dimension.

I have no idea how many of these Paramount had made — probably not very many, and I’m guessing most were ordered by big-city first-run houses rather than neighborhood theaters. It’s considered in good+/very good condition, with some minor wear but still in fine shape for something more than72 years old.

Given all that it has going for it, it’s no surprise that the seller is starting bidding at $149.99. As I write this, no one has yet placed a bid, and bidding closes at just after 8:15 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday. You can learn ore, or bid if you like, by going to

And if a 35mm print of “Swing High, Swing Low” is ever found, perhaps we can borrow this for the lobby of the theater that will be showing it.

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Let’s get the lowdown

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.14 at 01:18
Current mood: tiredtired

We’ve frequently noted the scores of movie magazines that were around when Carole Lombard was a star – Photoplay, Screenland, Movie Mirror, Picture Play, Screen Book, Motion Picture, Movie Classic, Modern Screen –– that we may have overlooked a few.

One of them was called simply Movies, and I really don’t know much about it. Apparently it existed as early as 1934, and it was still around in January 1940, when its cover was a photo of Mr. Gable and Mrs. Gable:

Nice cover of Clark and Carole, isn’t it?

Inside was an article, “Will Lombard Leave The Screen?” I haven’t read it, so I can only conjecture that it probably concerned Carole’s rocky shift to dramatic films and the rumors that she might focus her energy on being Clark Gable’s spouse and trying to have a child by him. (Interesting to see the headline on the cover read “Lowdown On Lombard,” a title that was used several times over the years in a variety of magazines.)

This may be a great article on Carole, or it could be as generic and bland as the magazine’s title. You can find out by winning this issue at auction at eBay. One bid has already been made, at $6.99; bidding closes at just after 9:05 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. The seller says the issue is in good conditon, with some wear on the spine and a crease in the lower right-hand cover.

Should this issue strike your interest, simply go to

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Tumblr for ya

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.13 at 07:06
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting items or sites regarding Carole Lombard, and I think I’ve found one. The URL is, part of the Tumblr site, and to date it features 20 pages (nearly 200 images!) of Lombard, with more being added.

True, there are plenty of places where you can find pictures of Carole, but what I like about this site is that more than a few of these images are new to me — and since I’ve been tracking down pix of Lombard for more than a few years, that’s saying something. Foar example, take this one:

It’s Paramount p1202-1632, probably taken in 1937. Nice photo of her. Or how about this Paramount pose from 1934?

This one’s p1202-860, and what I particularly like about this (and the first pic as well) is that it’s a prime example of how Lombard, working with her photographers, was able to successfully disguise the scar on her left cheek that she suffered in an automobile accident nearly a decade before. (Since it is a still picture, there likely was some touch-up work as well — but just that she decided to put that cheek front and center says something about the confidence she had developed by then.)

Then there’s this Paramount shot from about 1932 or so, p1202-418:

For some reason, I don’t have very many shots of her in the “400” number range, so this is welcome.

Lest you think it’s strictly a Paramount-related bunch of pictures at the site, rest assured that’s not the case. Here’s one that may have been taken at Paramount, but derives from a foreign-language magazine:

The caption reads, “Sorprendida en la ducha — eso es de presumir — Carole Lombard, estrella de Paramount, sonrie segura de sus innegables encantos.” That’s roughly translated from Spanish to English as, “Surprised in the shower — presumably — Carole Lombard, star of Paramount, is sure of her undeniable charm.” (1. Was this taken before or after the famed shower scene in “My Man Godfrey”? 2. She sure doesn’t look surprised. 3. Why would she be wearing a ring in the shower? 4. This reminds me of when Teri Garr was put in a shower on “Late Night With David Letterman” in the late 1980s.)

Even some photos we’ve seen in the past can be found in better condition at this site. For example, this is unquestionably the best version I’ve come across of Carole and Clark Gable with media mogul William Randolph Hearst at one of his fabled costume parties at San Simeon:

As stated earlier, it’s a nice site, one any Lombard fan would savor, and it wins the “Carole & Co.” seal of approval (which is currently clapping its flippers as I write this).

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Must be the shoes

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.12 at 00:15
Current mood: pleasedpleased

Carole Lombard was certainly a style icon of the 1930s, but most of the attention centered on her sleek figure, a favorite for dress designers such as Travis Banton. But she had much more to offer than that, as we’ve recently been reminded.

The blog “Glamour Daze,” which labels itself as “An Image Archive of Vintage Glamour,” put together a fascinating entry several days ago. It’s the first of a series on Hollywood stars’ shoe styles of the 1930s, and guess which star the series began with?

The site notes,

“A variety of women’s shoe styles were available in the 1930s; rounded toes with thick heels; pumps, flats, ankle straps with moderate heels; slip-ons, lace ups, buckled; spectator and two tones.

“The new fad for outdoor activities brought sandals back into fashion. Black was most common for day shoes but wine, maroon, and navy were also seen. For evening plain court shoes were seen gadding about with asymmetrical trims, peep toes and sling back heels.”

Yes, shoes were as important to women in the thirties as they are today (to see the entry, visit

How about some additional images of Carole’s footwear? Well, here they are:

Carole Lombard’s legs were magnificent…but the photos above prove she knew what to wear beneath them.

‘I Take This’…photoplay

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.11 at 08:19
Current mood: creativecreative

Movie tie-ins with books certainly didn’t begin with Harry Potter. Hundreds, if not thousands, of films have been derived from books, including Hollywood classics such as “Ben-Hur,” “All Quiet On The Western Front” and “Gone With The Wind.” And while Carole Lombard never starred in a film based on a blockbuster book, she did appear in several adaptations of novels. She also had a brief relationship with publisher Horace Liveright after he spent time in Hollywood to find literary properties he had rights to that Paramount could adapt (

One of Lombard’s book-to-movie adaptations was a film mentioned in yesterday’s entry, “I Take This Woman” with Gary Cooper:

That’s Carole and Coop in an inverted negative publicity still from the film which is being auctioned at eBay — the same seller we featured in the recent entry (According to the seller, the negative itself is in fine condition; the above was made using a lightboard rather than a scan.) It’s being auctioned through just after 9:45 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday, with bids beginning at $24.99 (none have been made as of yet). To learn more, go to

“I Take This Woman” was based on a novel, “Lost Ecstasy” by Mary Roberts Rinehart — and had it not been for her, this pairing of two Hollywood legends might have been forever lost ( It turns out that Rinehart’s novel, with the “I Take This Woman” title, is also being auctioned:

I’m guessing the illustrated cover is a dust jacket for this, not a cover for a separate printing.

Nice, you say, but what has this book to offer a Lombard fan? (Other than imagining her and Cooper as the characters, since even many of Carole’s most avid fans have never actually seen this movie.) How about four pictures from the film? Here’s one of them:

The book — which the seller lists in good condition — comes from Grosset & Dunlap — yep, the same publishers renowned for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew juvenile series. (In 1978, it also published Richard Nixon’s memoirs. The firm is now part of the British-owned Penguin Group.)

One bid has been made as I write this…for all of $1.99. You would think that with the many Lombard and Cooper fans out there, this would go for much more than that. And it very well may; bidding doesn’t close until just after 3:45 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. To bid or learn more, go to

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Tennis anyone?

Posted by [info]cinemafan2 on 2009.11.11 at 19:53
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

One of the things admirers of Carole Lombard note is that she had a passion for sports.  And tennis seemed to be the game she played most often and vigorously.  Alfred Eisentaedt captured her on the tennis court in the photo seen below left in 1938.  The other photo by another photographer was taken earlier.

No danger of cellulite here!

Tennis was a game that she played almost daily with Russ Columbo.  While he had played tennis since he was in high school, Lombard was a nudge for self improvement in the people she cared about.  So she shared her tennis instructor with him.  (And as you can see from the photo of her instructor below Miss Lombard took few foolish or unnecessary chances.)

Russ Columbo with Carole Lombard’s tennis instructor, Eleanor Tennant, whom Carole nicknamed
“Teach.”  and at play.  These photos were probably taken by Universal Studios as publicity shots for
“Wake Up and Dream.”

It would have been a fine sight to watch Russ and Carole at play.  I wonder who won?

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Imagine more ‘Glamour’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.10 at 00:19
Current mood: confusedconfused

A bit of good news for Carole Lombard fans: “The Eagle And The Hawk,” the 1933 movie about World War I pilots in which she has a relatively small role, will be available on DVD for $19.99 on Jan. 26 ( It’s part of a collection of Cary Grant films Turner Classic Movies is releasing…although you’ll only see Carole paired with Fredric March, not Cary. As it is making available much of the Warner archive of classic Warners, MGM and RKO product, Turner is now doing likewise with films from the Universal and pre-1948 Paramount catalog.

The news got me thinking about this:

Most of you are probably aware of this, the 6-film, 2-disc “Carole Lombard: The Glamour Collection,” issued more than 3 1/2 years ago by Universal. Many of you probably own it. Well, since TCM has just put out a second volume of Esther Williams films (the lady deserves it; I heard her on the radio some years back when she was promoting her autobiography, and she was engaging and genuinely funny), why not a sequel for Carole?

And so, we are going to create a hypothetical “Carole Lombard: The Glamour Collection, Vol. 2.” We’ll use the same criteria as the first — six films, all from the Paramount catalog (which Universal owns), none of which have officially been issued on DVD. Aside from one notable exception, I am pretty sure Universal holds the rights to these titles. Remember, you can only select six.

Here goes, listed chronologically:

“Safety In Numbers,” 1930

“Fast And Loose,” 1930

“It Pays To Advertise,” 1931

“Ladies’ Man,” 1931

“Up Pops The Devil,” 1931

“I Take This Woman,” 1931*

“No One Man,” 1932

“Sinners In The Sun,” 1932

“From Hell To Heaven,” 1933

“Supernatural,” 1933

“White Woman,” 1933

“Bolero,” 1934

“Rumba,” 1935

(I put an asterisk beside “I Take This Woman” because Universal may not have the rights to this film — to find out why, go to If you include this among your six, do list an alternate title were this not to be made available.)

There you have it — 13 films, including “I Take This Woman.” I honestly can’t call any of them classics, but they provide insight into the pre-major stardom, pre-Code Lombard. (Only “Rumba” was made after the Code began to be strictly enforced in mid-1934.)

So choose your six. (What are mine? You’ll have to check under the cut — but decide on yours first.) And who knows…maybe Turner will heed our advise and team with Universal to issue a second Lombard collection. (We can dream, can’t we?)

Not an easy decision, is it? Here’s what I’ve come up with:

“Safety In Numbers” — her Paramount debut.

“Fast And Loose” — written by Preston Sturges, and the only film Lombard made in New York (at Paramount’s Astoria studios).

“Ladies’ Man” — a complement to “Man Of The World,” also with William Powell, in the first collection.

“I Take This Woman” — a nearly lost film with Carole and Gary Cooper; perhaps the least-viewed Lombard film out there, simply because it was lost for so long.

“Supernatural” — not one of Lombard’s favorite film assignments, but an intriguing anomaly in her career.

“Bolero” — the first of two dance films she made with George Raft. Its pre-Code sensuality can be compared with the other Lombard/Raft collaboration…

“Rumba” — nowhere as interesting as “Bolero,” though it has its moments.

(Were “I Take This Woman” to be unavailable, substitute “Sinners In The Sun”; Carole and Cary instead of Carole and Gary, though Grant frankly has a small early role here and Chester Morris is Lombard’s leading man.)

Now let’s see your choices.

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carole lombard 01

Press for a ‘Ladies’ Man’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.09 at 00:00
Current mood: okayokay

Not long before Carole Lombard and William Powell were to be married, their second film together, “Ladies’ Man” (also starring Kay Francis), arrived in theaters. And an item promoting that movie is now being auctioned.

It’s a four-page press sheet from Paramount, chock full of things exhibitors could use in their advertising. Here’s what it looks like:

I had to do quite a bit of adjusting to make these semi-readable when enlarged; the item is nearly 80 years old and has aged considerably. But while there is some wear to the edges and a little bit to the corners, the pages themselves are uncut.

Bidding opens at $9.99 on this press sheet, with bids closing at jsut before 10:25 a.m. (Eastern) on Thursday. As of this writing, no one has bid on it. If you think you might be interested, go to

If you’re interested in how movies were marketed back in the day, this should prove invaluable.

Worth a ‘Look’ today

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.08 at 01:00
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

Slightly more than a year and a half ago, we discussed the pictorial magazine Look and its coverage of Carole Lombard ( and It so happens that the issue of Look with the most extensive coverage of Carole — from May 11, 1937, only its sixth issue — is currently being auctioned. It’s a multipage spread on the romance of Lombard and Clark Gable, done slightly more than a year into their relationship but nearly two years before it resulted in marriage. Here’s the rather grotesque cover of the issue:

Assuming you’ve survived that, here’s the section; I apologize if the photos aren’t in optimal viewing condition (double-click to see them at large size):

When I ran the photo of the Lombard scar shown above, I was asked whether it was true that she sued Look for publishing it. I had never heard of such a suit being filed, which doesn’t mean she wasn’t unhappy with the picture; even had the scar been airbrushed out, it simply wasn’t very flattering. (Lombard wasn’t vain about her looks by any means, but certainly was aware of their professional importance.) Moreover, her accident, and scar, were hardly a secret.

In 1938, she wrote a piece for Look on the world’s 10 most interesting men outside of Hollywood. Perhaps she did that as sort of a settlement, since she must have known a lawsuit would have been in sharp contrast to her self-effacing image.

The minimum bid for this magazine is just $2.99 — and what’s surprising is that no one as of this writing has placed a bid. It’s listed in “very good” condition, and a price of $2.99 would be a bargain for any Lombard or Gable fan, given the many pictures (several of them rather rare) in this spread. You don’t have much time left to bid, as this auction closes just after 7:40 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. To place a bid or just to learn more, go to

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Near the end of Pathe days

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.07 at 00:00
Current mood: mellowmellow

Carole Lombard’s tenure at Pathe — its famed rooster logo is on the outfit above — didn’t last very long, less than two years, ending in late 1929. (In fact, while she was there, she was usually known as Carol Lombard, not Carole; the “e” wouldn’t stick for good until the latter half of 1930.) Artistically, her time there was mixed, as she made several part-talkies and three all-sound features, none of them ranking among her most important work. Nevertheless, it was a crucial period for her, as she made the transition from Mack Sennett silent star to talkie starlet. She both gained confidence in her skills and became more familiar with the workings of the film industry — something that would pay off during the following decade.

Carol developed insights into the power of publicity, and began to take the process rather seriously (though not to the point where she couldn’t have fun with it as well). Part of this involved having promotional photos taken. While one could argue that Lombard didn’t make this into an art form until she was at Paramount — a studio whose PR machinery was much more sophisticated than Pathe’s — in these Pathe photos, you can see the Lombard persona beginning to blossom. (She was dismissed by the studio around the time of her 21st birthday, in the fall of 1929.)

If numerical order is indicative, more than 200 stills were made of Lombard during her time at Pathe (compared to more than 1,700 during seven years at Paramount) — and those refer only to those specifically marked as hers. Pathe labeled her photos with the prefix “CL-” just as Paramount used “P1202-” as its Lombard link. I have no idea specifically how many photos Lombard posed for at Pathe — but I recently came across what to date is the highest-numbered “CL” of hers. It’s CL-225, probably taken in the late summer or early fall of 1929. Take a look:

Pretty chic, doncha think? The person selling this photo on eBay has used the adjective “silky” to describe it…and with Lombard’s hose-clad legs front and center, the word is appropriate. (And those stockings are definitely silk; nylons wouldn’t come around for another decade.) Love that look on her face, too — it’s the perfect blend of youthfulness and worldliness.

In contrast, here’s Pathe CL-1, probably taken in early 1928, where she looks far more innocent:

CL-225 possibly explains why Constance Bennett didn’t want Carol as blonde competition once she signed a Pathe contract.

As noted earlier, the photo (which is actually a soft sepia tone, in near mint condition) is being auctioned at eBay ( As of this writing, one bid has been made, for $34.95; bidding closes at a few seconds before 5:15 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday.

It’s a fine artifact of Lombard’s evolution into a full-fledged actress.

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Viewing 1939 a bit differently

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.06 at 00:51
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

1939 is quite rightly viewed as the high point of the Hollywood studio system, the industry’s greatest year. But at times, it seems as if ’39 is only remembered for a handful of films, such as the three above — “Gone With The Wind,” “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” and “The Wizard Of Oz,” along with a few others.

In truth, 1939 was full of excellent movies — some of which, through no fault of their own, haven’t stood the test of time as well as some others. Fortunately, the good folks at UCLA are setting the record straight, beginning tonight at the Billy Wilder Theater on the Westwood campus.

The series is called “1939 Redux: Digging Deeper Into ‘Hollywood’s Greatest Year’,” showing 14 films (actually seven double features). And guess who’s starring in one of the films?

Yep, Carole Lombard, with Cary Grant and Kay Francis in the romantic drama “In Name Only.” It will be shown at 7 p.m. Nov. 22, followed by “Remember?”, a romantic comedy starring a pre-“Mrs. Miniver” Greer Garson.

The series actually begins tonight at 7:30 with two adventure films, “Only Angels Have Wings” and “Five Came Back.” The rest of the schedule:

* Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m.: “Jesse James” and “Destry Rides Again”
* Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m.: “Fifth Avenue Girl” and “The Great Man Votes”
* Nov. 15, 7 p.m.: “Babes in Arms” and “First Love”
* Nov. 22, 7 p.m.: “In Name Only” and “Remember?”
* Dec. 6, 7 p.m.: “Idiot’s Delight” and “Confessions of a Nazi Spy”
* Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.: “The Cat and the Canary” and “Son of Frankenstein”

Tickets are $10 in advance. $9 general; $8 Cineclub members, students, seniors and UCLA Alumni Association members with ID. For more information, go to or call (310) 206-8013. To learn more about the films in the series, visit

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April in Paris, er, Hollywood (thanks, TCM)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.05 at 00:01
Current mood: excitedexcited

As if we didn’t need another reason to love Turner Classic Movies, which celebrated its 15th anniversary earlier this year (, here’s one more. It’s been announced that next April, the channel is sponsoring a four-day film festival:

Appropriately, the event will be held in Hollywood, Calif., in three venues on Hollywood Boulevard associated with classic film — Grauman’s Chinese Theater…

…an earlier Sid Grauman palace, the Egyptian Theater…

…and the site of the initial Academy Awards, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel:

The festival will be held from April 22 to 25. As TCM stated in announcing the event,

The TCM Classic Film Festival will be a landmark celebration of the history of Hollywood and its movies, presented in a way that only TCM can, with major events, celebrity appearances and screenings of classic films.

The Festival will cover a wide range of programming themes, including the story of Hollywood. All screenings — more than 50 — will include special introductions and guest appearances to provide context about each film. Specific details about this unique fan experience will be announced in the weeks and months ahead, including guest appearances by actors, actresses, directors, producers and other key figures.

What films will be shown? TCM hasn’t announced them yet (let’s hope at least one of them stars Carole Lombard). What we do know is that Robert Osborne, the channel’s prime-time host, will serve as master of ceremonies. (It’s a task he should be used to, as he’s hosted a smaller-scale festival in Athens, Ga. for several years.)

You’ll need a pass to participate in the festival, and they will go on sale Nov. 18. For more on the festival, and to get on their mailing list, go to

It sounds like plenty of fun, and I may have to plan a trip west next April.

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A ‘Bolero’ before its time

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.04 at 00:00
Current mood: hothot

That’s Josh Brolin (James’ son) in a scene from the film “No Country For Old Men”…but something’s wrong with this picture. What is it, you ask? Look at the background, where you see a Carl’s Jr. fast-food restaurant. The film is set in Texas in 1980, when the California-based chain had no restaurants in Texas. (It expanded to the state in the mid-eighties, pulled out a few years later when sales proved sluggish, and now is returning to the Lone Star state.)

Yep, today’s topic is anachronisms. Since tonight marks the first time a major-league baseball game will be played after election day (game six of the World Series), the anachronism I really wanted to begin with was from the film that made Alex Rodriguez’s lady love Kate Hudson a star, “Almost Famous” — which is set in the early 1970s, but features Post-It notes, an item that didn’t come around until the 1980s. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any examples of that on the Web.

Another goof that comes to mind was from a TV movie some years back about the infamous 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York. In it, you see a poster advertising a Charlie Chaplin movie…amazing, considering Chaplin didn’t make a film until 1914.

The anachronism we’re examining concerns Carole Lombard’s 1934 dance film with George Raft, “Bolero,” where the two dance to that famous orchestral piece after the close of World War I (and of course, back then, there had only been one World War). Just one problem…

…”Bolero” wouldn’t be composed, or performed, for nearly another decade.

Maurice Ravel’s piece premiered in Paris on Nov. 22, 1928, and didn’t debut in America until the following November. (If you’re a jazz fan, imagine placing Louis Armstrong’s famed “West End Blues,” also from 1928, in a 1919 context, when the music was still in its infancy and far simpler. It wouldn’t make sense.) So “Bolero” was less than half a decade old to most American ears, though Paramount probably figured most film buffs weren’t classical music experts.

Ravel’s “Bolero,” commissioned by dancer Ida Rubenstein, is certainly among the most famous classical compositions of the 20th century. (The bolero is a form of Spanish dance.) Ravel and famed conductor Arturo Toscanini, who debuted “Bolero” in America, had a major disagreement over the tempo of the piece. Toscanini’s tempo was significantly faster than Ravel preferred, and they publicly quarreled about it for several months, further boosting “Bolero” popularity.

Here’s a film clip of Lombard and Raft performing the bolero, with the famed dance team of Veloz and Yolanda obviously doubling for them in most, if not all, of the long shots ( The orchestra’s version is clearly influenced by Toscanini’s tempo, which was more familiar to American audiences; I’ll add that to me, this arrangement sounds rather banal. Hear (and see) for yourself:


To hear the piece the way Ravel preferred it, with a slightly slower tempo that plays up its more sensual elements, here’s a 1994 performance by an orchestra in Cologne, Germany:

It’d have been interesting to have seen Raft and Lombard (not to mention Veloz and Yolanda) tackle that “Bolero”…it might have been too steamy, even by pre-Code standards.

Finally, there’s a nice thread at the Turner Classic Movies message board site called “Kyle In Hollywood’s CENSORED Poster Gallery” ( It had been called the Once-A-Day poster gallery, but got its new tag after board officials briefly deleted a rather racy poster of the Hedy Lamarr film “Ecstasy” — ironic, since the channel has shown the film.

The thread has all sorts of posters, usually (but not always) related to films TCM is about to show, and not long ago a poster for “Bolero” was run. (It’s actually something called a “window card”; the white space above the image could be printed with the name of the theater where it would be playing, along with its scheduled dates.) Double-click to view it at its actual, colossal size:

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Hedda remembers a lady named Brady

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.03 at 00:00
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

Hedda Hopper is best remembered these days as a Hollywood columnist for the Los Angeles Times and arch-rival of the Hearst papers’ Louella Parsons. Unlike Parsons, however, Hopper had actually worked in the industry she covered, spending some years as an actress before turning to journalism. Above is how Hopper appeared in 1929, the same year she had a supporting role in the Carole Lombard film “The Racketeer.” In fact, here they are in that film (Hopper would also have a small part years later in Lombard’s “Nothing Sacred”):

Throughout November, the Times Los Angeles history blog “The Daily Mirror” is running an assortment of Hopper columns, giving us an idea of what her stuff was like at what may well have been the apex of the studio era. Her initial column for the Times came on Nov. 1, 1938 (

The column we’re going to examine, from Nov. 2, 1939, has an item on Lombard — but its main focus is on the passing of someone Carole worked with and Hedda called a friend. We are referring to Alice Brady, who portrayed the mother of Lombard’s character in “My Man Godfrey” (for which she gained an Oscar nomination in the new category of best supporting actress). She’s shown below from the Photoplay issue of March 1934:

Nov. 2, 1939 would have been Alice Brady’s 47th birthday, but five days earlier, she had succumbed to cancer. Her movie career spanned a quarter-century and included nearly 80 films, including her finale, “Young Mr. Lincoln.” Among her other notable films waere “In Old Chicago,” “The Gay Divorcee” and the original “When Ladies Meet.”

Hopper had known Brady for many years, so it must have pained her to write about her passing. But she tried to put a positive tone on the news. “It’s so seldom that relief, instead of grief, comes to you when a great friend passes away,” she wrote. “But interwoven with sadness is joy that at last Alice Brady has found surcease from pain.”

Hopper added, “For years we’ve known she was suffering from an incurable disease, but for her sake we carried on the illusion that she wasn’t even ill. She hasn’t been without pain for years.” (Consequently, one guesses she was already in the early stages of cancer while “Godfrey” was being filmed.)

Brady was able to make it to Springfield, Ill. for the premiere of “Young Mr. Lincoln,” and when she returned she told Hopper how indignant she was that the great black operatic singer Marian Anderson had not been allowed to stay at the same hotel she did.

Later in the column, Hopper has a tidbit about Lombard and husband Clark Gable:

“Even in their work, these two seem to co-ordinate. While Clark Gable was neck down in the Pico swamps, for ‘Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep,’ Carole was in a pouring rain and burning bus with flames fed by the propeller of an airplane for ‘Vigil In The Night.’

“She was soaked to the skin the entire day, pulling, lifting and lugging bodies. She said, ‘Funny thing last night I had a backache, and couldn’t understand why, till I started doing the same thing over this morning. And then a light dawned.'”

“They told me at the studio last Saturday when they worked all night, she didn’t. But at 10:30 a Brown Derby truck arrived with hot toddies, food and coffee, and two waiters to serve. They stood by all night. And Carole never misses doing that.”

Yet another reason so many workers in the business vied to be assigned to a Lombard film.

(P.S. I’m guessing “Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep” was an early working title for “Boom Town.”)

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Alfred Eisenstaedt was a staff photographer for Life Magazine in 1938 where he frequently teamed with senior editor Noel F. Busch.  In 1938, for example, Busch interviewed Carole Lombard and Eisentaedt photographed her.  They also interviewed and photographed Bette Davis that same year.   Eisenstaedt possessed the unique talent to capture a story in a single, tell-all moment. The photographer’s job, he once wrote, “is to find and catch the storytelling moment. His pictures let people and events speak for themselves. Portrait assignments became a specialty, and in the process he accumulated many little-known secrets about his subjects.

Eisentaedt captured the mood of part of an interview that Lombard said was “definitely off the record.”

Many people consider Alfred Eisenstaedt the defining photojournalist of the 20th century. His best known work is probably the photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on VJ Day in 1945.  A sailor, elated because the war is over, kisses a nurse amidst a New York crowd, will perhaps always be Eisenstaedt’s signature photograph. Acclaimed as one of the Ten Greatest Images of Photojournalism, it reflects “Eisie’s” keen sense of spontaneity.

Candid photography is best described as un-posed and unplanned, immediate and unobtrusive. This is in contrast to classic photography, which includes aspects such as carefully staged portrait photography, landscape photography or object photography. Candid photography catches moments of life from immersion in it.

Over the years 92 of his photographs graced the covers of Life Magazine.  Eisenstaedt’s work is amazingly luminescent. He captures a spiritual glow in his subjects and in nature. Realizing that he was using natural light, the images and detail are very well illuminated regardless, much like what you find in Ansel Adams’s work. His people have an animation of body and personality that makes the viewer feel more alive as well. Whether professional actor or ordinary person, they each resonate with the viewer through intense and attractive emotion.





Suit yourself, Carole

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.02 at 01:50
Current mood: contentcontent

Here’s a stylish portrait of Carole Lombard in a suit, taken sometime in 1931:

By now, it’s apparent that the late 1920s Lombard — the “Carole of the curves,” as she was known in her Mack Sennett days — is long gone, replaced for good by this sleek, fashionable version.

Perhaps this was taken under Paramount auspices…but then again, maybe not. For one thing, the photo is 11 by 7 inches, as opposed to the conventional 11 by 8 1/2. For another, there’s no “P1202” marking. And finally, this was printed on the back:

This photo was received at the NEA agency on Dec. 10, 1931 and distributed by Acme Newspictures of New York; since there’s no snipe on the back, we have no idea what purpose this picture was intended for. But I think we can all agree that Carole looks pretty darn nice in this suit.

And if you act today, this photo could be yours. It’s being auctioned at eBay, with bidding closing at just after 7:10 p.m. Eastern Standard time. No one has bid on it at the time of this writing; bidding starts at $8.98, or you can simply buy it now for $24.98. It’s admittedly not in the best of condition — there’s some discoloration and rippling of paper — but it’s a charming photo just the same. If you want to bid or get a closer look, got\ to

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On location with Kanin

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.11.01 at 01:01
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it’s worth repeating: “Hollywood” by Garson Kanin is a book every fan of classic Hollywood should own, or at the least read –– especially if you are a Carole Lombard fan. (And since you’re here, I suspect most of you are.) Kanin directed Carole in her third-to-last film, 1940’s “They Knew What They Wanted,” and he paints an affectionate, vivid portrait of Carole and what made her tick. I once met Kanin and told him I envied any man who had known Carole Lombard; based upon how he describes her, I’m certain I wasn’t the only person to tell him that.

Much of “They Knew What They Wanted” was shot in the Napa Valley of northern California, and RKO made sure movie fans were aware of this fact. So much so, in fact, that it issued a publicity picture showing the cast working on an outdoors scene:

On the back is some information from RKO:

That’s Kanin in a pith helmet, by the way.

This photo — likely a rarity, since I’ve never run across it before — is currently being auctioned at eBay, though time’s a wasting; bidding ends at 7:26 p.m. Eastern Standard time tonight (set those clocks back an hour if your area observes Daylight Savings Time). Bids start at $19.99, and despite its rare status, no one has bid on it as of this writing. If interested, please go to

And check your library or used book store to see if Kanin’s “Hollywood” is available.

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Posted December 14, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, October 2009   Leave a comment

Sally forth…and happy birthday

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.31 at 00:00
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Ever met someone who was nominated for an Academy Award? I have — we even talked for several minutes. Here’s my story.

In the spring of 1989, Sally Kirkland appeared on Joe Franklin’s television show (she and Joe have been friends for many years, and she was a frequent guest) and announced that she would be appearing at the New York premiere of her latest film, “Cold Feet,” an eccentric western-based caper film co-starring Keith Carradine and Tom Waits. This was less than two years after Kirkland had starred in the art-house film “Anna,” about the trials and tribulations of a former Czech actress, for which she was nominated for an Oscar (she gives a touching performance, and won a Golden Globe award).

Anyway, Sally was in the lobby before the film opened, and we chatted for several minutes. She was engaging and down to earth; you could tell she liked being a star, but certainly didn’t act like the star stereotype.

Came time for the film, and people entered the theater. (Kirkland sat a few rows behind me, next to her friend, Al Pacino.) About a third of the way into the film, Sally’s character is driving an RV, and guess whose photo was hanging above the rear view mirror, between the sun visors? Carole Lombard’s.

Turns out Sally is a major Lombard fan; in fact, at roughly this time, she said her goal was to become “the Carole Lombard of the ’90s.” That didn’t quite pan out, but no matter; Kirkland has a fondness for Hollywood history. In 1998’s “The Island,” also known as “Norma Jean, Jack and Me,” she played an aging Marilyn Monroe, who’s secretly living on a deserted island with John F. Kennedy (Michael Murphy); the CIA delivers them supplies. Another of her films, “Forever” from 1992, concerns the William Desmond Taylor murder.

Kirkland, whose mother (also named Sally) was a Vogue editor, began acting in the 1960s as part of the off-Broadway scene. By the seventies, she had moved into movies, getting supporting roles in films like “Private Benjamin.” In the 1980s, Sally decided to get breast implants in hopes they would boost her career. While they did, they also caused her health problems, and she used the money she received from her supporting role in “EDtv” to have them removed. She has since been an active campaigner against implants.

Kirkland has more than 150 acting credits (including a half-dozen things scheduled to be released over the next year or so) and also teaches acting. However, it’s likely most people nowadays know her for her annual walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards (she’s entitled to it as a past Oscar nominee). Some ridicule her for this — but heck, were I in her shoes, I’d do likewise. It’s an honor shared by very few, so why not take advantage of it?

Oh, and the reason we’re discussing Sally Kirkland: Today happens to be her birthday. According to the Internet Movie Database, she was born in 1941; she’s also been listed as having been born in 1944. Whichever, we wish her well and many more.

For more about Sally, a wonderfully multifaceted individual, visit

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‘Pix’ to click

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.30 at 00:00
Current mood: relaxedrelaxed

There were all sorts of movie magazines created during the 1930s, when the public’s interest in Hollywood, its films and personalities appeared to be insatiable. It wasn’t, of course, and more than a few magazines that were created couldn’t cut the competition and fell by the wayside.

One of them was called Moviepix, with one word (an unrelated magazine, Movie Pix with two words, existed from the late 1940s into the 1950s). Moviepix made its debut with an issue dated February 1938…and at the time, who was the hottest actress in the industry?

You know the answer:

Yep, Carole Lombard, shown with “True Confession” co-star Fred MacMurray. Billed as “Hollywood’s Informal All-Picture Magazine,” Moviepix featured “hundreds of photos” in its debut issue, including a photo spread on Lombard and Clark Gable:

Moviepix must have seemed like a sure-fire concept, but it apparently wasn’t; in fact, I’m not sure it even lasted the year. However, that premier issue is now being auctioned at eBay. Bidding begins at $9.99 — no bids have been made as of this writing — and closes just before 10 p.m. (Eastern) Saturday. To bid, go to

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Where Lombard rests and why…

Posted by [info]cinemafan2 on 2009.10.30 at 14:19
Current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

Carole Lombard is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California as she requested in her last will and testament that she signed on August 8, 1939.  This was four and a half months after she married Clark Gable and three and a half years into her relationship with him.  In this her final will she requested that she be placed in a modestly priced crypt and that she be clothed in white for burial.

        A photo of a thoughtful Carole Lombard dressed in an elegant white outfit from early 1939.

Interestingly, when she married Clark Gable in March of 1939 she dressed in a discrete gray suit, a sensible choice for what was for her a second marriage and what was to be the third of five marriages for Gable.

Meeting the press the day after their elopement wearing what they wore to their Arizona civil wedding.

So why did she request burial specifically at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in a modestly priced crypt and that she be dressed in white for burial?  And why did she make these requests shortly after she married Clark Gable, supposedly at the peak of their legendary romance?  Did she request that she be buried alongside of Clark Gable?


Below is a photo of a pensive, almost haunted looking Lombard that was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, the father of American photo-journalism, for her interview in Life Magazine by noted journalist Noel F. Busch in late 1938.  It provides an insight into Carole’s thinking at that time.  Noel Busch later told Larry Swindell, her biographer, that Lombard corrected him when he referred to Clark Gable as the “love of her life.”   He said Lombard fixed him in a level stare and said almost grimly, “Russ Columbo was the great love of my life … and that is very definitely off the record.”

Alfred Eisenstaedt was famous for capturing in a single photo the essence of his subject.  The editors of Life chose this photograph of Carole for their cover article on Lombard for their October 17, 1938 issue.

Who was Russ Columbo and how is it that he left such a lasting impression on Carole Lombard? How long were they together?  And why, even after a fairly long relationship with Clark Gable, (six years in Hollywood time is a lifetime), was Carole still drawn to Russ?

Russ Columbo was a popular singer, orchestra leader,  musician and film actor who was born in New Jersey in 1908, (the same year as Lombard), but raised in California.  He took New York City, national radio and the recording world by storm in late 1931 when he was just 23 years old.  Tragically, he died in 1934 when he was 26 years old.


They met in the early fall of 1933 shortly after Carole Lombard’s divorce from William Powell while Russ was doing a return engagement at a major nightclub in Los Angeles.  She was on a date with screenwriter Robert Riskin.  Russ focused on her as he sang and she returned his gaze.  They both liked what they saw.   Riskin predicted that she would soon be hearing from Mr. Columbo.  He was absolutely correct.  A dozen yellow roses arrived for Carole at her Rexford Drive home from Russ the next morning.

This film clip from Broadway Through a Keyhole with Russ Columbo and Constance Cummings was made in 1933.  It shows what Russ Columbo looked and sounded like when performing before an audience at that time.  And the following film clip from Brief Interludes shows what Carole Lombard looked like then.


Body and Soul

Russ Columbo has been called a fervent Roman Catholic by his biographer, Tony Toran. Born into a large Italian-American family, (he was the 13th and last child born to his parents), he embraced the core tenets of that religion, (beginning with “I am the resurrection and the life…”), with a fervor that was all his own.

Russ was drawn deeply into Catholicism by his grief over the death of his eldest sister, Fanny, during the Great Pandemic of 1918. Only ten years old at that time, he was devastated by her death. She and her husband, Joe LeDucca, had raised him from infancy including moving him with them to California, while his birth parents were busy running various businesses to support their large family on the East coast.  (Fanny’s husband was the one who initiated Russ’ formal musical training with lessons on the violin.)  Up until that point his parents played almost the role of grandparents to him. He became closer to his parents and very protective of his mother after his sister’s death when he saw how deeply she grieved for her daughter.

Boy to man.  (left) Russ as a boy and (right) a rare color photograph of Russ in the 1930’s.

Perhaps because of his Italian background, Russ Columbo missed the prudishness sometimes associated with the largely Irish, and some would say Jansenist, Catholic Church in America.  He grew up to be a handsome young man and when he actively courted a woman it was both as a body and a soul. To him, first you won with the body and then you challenged the soul.  And this is how he approached Carole Lombard.  To Lombard who came of age in the hedonistic 1920’s Hollywood where scoring and keeping track was the norm, this was both a novel thought and at the same time very refreshing.

Russ Columbo with Carole Lombard’s tennis instructor, Eleanor Tennant, whom Carole nicknamed “Teach.”  and at play.

Their relationship had several stages.  Russ, who was an intensely romantic man, was a novelty for Lombard.  Initially she wondered if he was too good to be true.  He was unlike anyone she had ever met before.  He seemed to want more from her than she ever gave away to anyone yet he also seemed willing and eager to give her everything of himself in return.

Russ was enchanted by Carole.  He idolized her.  A great beauty, her independence and her gusto for life were exhilarating to him.  Her profanity, that was a distinct put off to some men, didn’t seem to bother him.  (She probably very rarely, if ever, used it on him.) Yet he wondered if she could really commit to anyone.

Russ and Carole shared a habit in that they both liked to sleep as they were created.  He particularly liked wrapping his arms around her and holding her close while humming so she could feel the vibrations coming from within his chest.  When her secretary, Madalynn Fields, told him that Lombard loved him physically and that should be enough for him, he responded to her that he was happy that the physical part at least was fine. But he was deeply offended by “Fieldsie’s” comment and he told Lombard so. He didn’t want her as just another fling, nor did he intend to be one for her. He wanted something more. He wanted her body and soul. He wanted Carole because he felt that together they completed one another.

(left)  Carole and Russ.   (right)  The team at work. Russ chats with “Fieldsie” Lombard’s secretary, while Carole visits with John Barrymore at a public event.

By early 1934 Russ realized that he also had to win over Madalynne Fields, Lombard’s social secretary and companion, as an ally to make real progress with Carole.  And he was well along in the process.  Lombard was then working with John Barrymore, an acting legend but also an unapologetic masher, on what would be her breakout motion picture, the screwball comedy Twentieth Century.  In this relaxed, congenial photograph, (above – right), we see the team of Columbo and Lombard at work.  They were able to bring out the best in the people around them. Perhaps this is what Russ meant by completing one another. Psychologically speaking, it was probably the healthiest relationship Carole was ever involved with in her entire life.

Looking the 6 ft. tall and beaming Russ Columbo eye to eye adoringly from atop platform shoes.

Russ had the potential to be a superstar greater than Lombard and she was savvy enough to know it.  She was as happy with the possibility as he was delighted with her first critical success in Twentieth Century.   Russ had a national radio show for NBC, a recording contract with a major recording studio and he performed live at top venues. He recently signed with Universal Studios to make films. They planned to use him in starring roles in musicals initially and then to broaden their use of him with comedic and dramatic roles.

Watching a polo match together in Santa Monica on May 21, 1934.

Russ achieved most of this career progress on his own after he broke with his talented but also unpredictable and wily manager and promoter, Con Conrad, in early 1933.  (Columbo leaned the hard way why everyone called Conrad, “Con.”)  He arrived in Los Angeles from New York after completing a nationwide singing tour organized by NBC seriously ill with a cold and the flu and nearly broke.   Yet he did not return to his parents home, rather he checked into a suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, got over his illness, and then went about rebuilding his career.

Earlier in his career he opened the Empire Room at the new Waldorf Astoria in New York City as a headliner with a sold out engagement over the holidays in 1931-32 when he was 23 years old. He held the record for live performances at the vast Paramount Theater in Brooklyn for nearly a quarter of a century.

While primarily a baritone, Russ sang in a rich voice that could move up and down the scale from tenor to baritone with ease. He sang both popular music and jazz and he could also sing opera, but he was not doing so professionally. Only once, while performing onstage in New York, after being stung by a reviewer who panned crooners as second rate singers who relied on a microphone just to be heard, he stepped away from the microphone midway through a performance, motioned to the orchestra to play and sang an aria in full operatic voice that could be heard up to the rafters. He stunned and delighted his audience.

Russ played the piano professionally and was a classically trained violinist. During another performance when his audience would not let him leave the stage even after he sang two encores, he didn’t know what to do next. So he borrowed a violin from an orchestra member and played a virtuoso classical piece for them. He brought the house down. Russ had been a child prodigy and played the violin professionally from the age of 13.  He made his stage debut on a guitar at a church function when he was five years old.  (He walked on stage with a guitar that was almost bigger than he was.)

(left) Master Russell Columbo, as he was billed, at age 13 and (right)  Russ Columbo at age 20.

Russ composed music.  Not only was he a composer of music but he was also a published lyricist of hit songs. And he was teaching Lombard both skills, sometimes in the middle of the night as Carole later humorously and privately explained to a journalist friend. She said that one time they got so engrossed in the process that they actually “forgot to take out the ashes.” As a comparison, Bing Crosby, while a very talented singer, couldn’t even read music.

Russ Columbo at the piano, circa 1934.

In addition to his musical talents and skills, Russ was blessed with a dramatic physical stage presence.  One contemporary New York critic said that “while he may have been born of Italian parentage, when he stepped into the spotlight on stage with his glistening black hair, chiseled facial features and athletic physique he looked to all the world like the statue of a Greek god come to life. And with his flashing black eyes and gleaming white teeth, he had a smile that could melt a sphinx.”

After returning to Los Angeles from New York in 1933, Russ played a leading role in Fox’s Broadway Through A Keyhole co-starring with Constance Cummings. He set a goal for himself with that film to define a new type of hero for the screen, not just a rough and bluff “man’s man” but a three dimensional man with feelings and sensitivities. He succeeded. He also filmed a delightful guest singing appearance with Constance Bennett in Fox’s Moulin Rouge.

Russ with Constance Cummings in Broadway Through A Keyhole, 1933.

Russ Columbo and Constance Bennett in Moulin Rouge, 1934.

In 1934 he signed a contract with Universal Studios to star in motion pictures for them. He was targeted to be their major musical star and was slated to play Gaylord Ravenal in their upcoming production of Jerome Kern’s Showboat.  (Wake Up and Dream was a quick film that he made while the production details of Showboat were being ironed out.)  Other films were in the works at Universal.  And the advance buzz on his performance in Wake Up and Dream had other studios interested in his services.  Russ was again a hot commodity.

Russ Columbo and June Knight in Wake Up and Dream, 1934.


By the summer of 1934, both Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo were deeply in love with each other. Carole had agreed to take instructions in Catholicism as a preliminary step to marriage.  She was also heavily involved in managing his burgeoning career. Russ loved her as a person and he trusted her judgment as an entertainment professional. With Lombard’s encouragement he had decided to take additional voice lessons to strengthen his baritone voice not only for the role of Gaylord Ravenal in Showboat but also to sing opera professionally.  A newspaper article written at the time expressed concern that he not forget his popular music roots or loose his incredibly smooth sound in the process.  The writer pointed out that while there were many good opera singers there was only one Russ Columbo.


All the hopes and the dreams ended in tragedy on Sunday, September 2, 1934.  Russ Columbo was killed, the innocent victim in an accidental shooting. He was 26 years old.

(left) Stewart Peters, Carole’s brother is Russ’ pallbearer on the far left.  The pall of gardenias, Russ’ favorite flower, was provided by Carole Lombard.  (right)  Bing Crosby is the pall bearer on the far right.  Walter Lang, the director and future husband of “Fieldsie,” Carole’s secretary, was also a pall bearer,  (Lang would later direct the film verson of The King and I.), as were actors, Gilbert Roland and Zeppo Marx, and musician, Sheldon Keate Calloway.

Lead, Kindly Light – Voice Male – the hymn that Russ Columbo requested be performed a capella as the recessional for his funeral. In the weeks before his death both he and Carole experienced an almost overwhelming sense of dread and doom. A few days before he died he spoke with his pastor and told him how he wanted his funeral to proceed if he was the one who died. He then went to confession.

A sobbing Carole Lombard is seen (above) leaving the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood with her mother and members of the Columbo family after Russ’ funeral.  During the service Carole sat in the front row with his family in the position of primary mourner.  At times during the service she wept uncontrollably.

The Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park where Russ Columbo is buried in a modestly priced crypt.

The Hall of Vespers where Russ’ crypt is located.


Carole Lombard was inconsolable for months following Russ’ death but when she did move onward she courageously lived life to the full.  Film critics have pointed out that the warm, luminescent screen presence we associate with her today was a result of a new maturity that grew out of her first experiencing real love with Russ and then real grief over his loss.  The differences in her film performances pre-Russ Columbo and post Russ Columbo are remarkable.


When she finally married Clark Gable in late March of 1939, over three years into their relationship and four and a half years after Russ’ death, she gave that marriage all that she could possibly give it.  They made a very striking couple.

(left) Gable and Lombard arriving at a prize fight in LA.  (right) At the LA premier of Gone With The Wind in January, 1940.

Carole created a private world for Gable at their Encino ranch that she purchased with her own money. (Gable was cash strapped after his divorce from his second wife, Ria Langham.)   She decorated the house primarily to suit him and in the process sold off her antique collection that she had acquired over the years, much of it with the help of friend, former actor and interior designer, William (Billy) Haines.

The den of the Gables’ ranch home in Encino.

She made sure Gable was served, and sometime cooked herself, the simple but well prepared food he liked, frequently a good steak and potatoes. (Carole gave up on gourmet cooking after her marriage to Gable.)  She went fishing and hunting with him and his close buddies such as MGM ceo, Eddie Mannix, and MGM director of publicity, Howard Strickling. She even learned to shoot skeet and soon became a better shot than Gable.

         Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

While as the wife of the “king of Hollywood” she was at the top if the social ladder in the film colony, yet she sold off many of her signature jewels, such as her star sapphire collection with their past associations.  She gave up many of her old friends especially those that Gable did not care for.  (Their home had no guest rooms.) She even rationed the time she spent with her family far more closely. (Carole’s mother and brothers usually visited her when Gable was not at home.) Perhaps because of their differing schedules, they maintained separate bedrooms.  And despite serious attempts and visits to medical professionals, their marriage was not blessed with children.

                  Gable and Lombard at a Hollywood gethering, January 8, 1941.

Loyalty was a characteristic that Lombard was expected to give in her marriage to Clark Gable and also was one that she was looking for in return from him.  For Lombard a double standard didn’t work.  Unfortunately loyalty to any particular woman was not, nor would it ever be, Clark Gable’s strong suit.  A former girlfriend said of Gable, “Of course, Clark never really married anyone.  A number of women married him, he just went along for the gag.”

To the public their marriage was the ideal union, and it was actively portrayed as such by Clark Gable and Carole Lombard with the assistance of the photographers and the staff of the publicity department of MGM. However, several of their close friends, such as actor Robert Stack who had known both Lombard and Gable since he was a teenager and who would co-star with Carole in her last film, To Be Or Not To Be, commented that for Lombard the marriage “was all give while getting little, if anything, in return.”


In her final will Carole Lombard quietly made a choice for eternity.  Burial in a modestly priced crypt at Forest Lawn in Glendale would put her in the Great Mausoleum near where Russ Columbo was buried. She did it as discreetly as possible, so that it would not be an embarrassment to her husband, Clark Gable, but she did it most definitely. It was the very first provision in her will.

Why did she request that she be buried in white? 

Was it because brides are usually dressed in white? Although Carole did not dress in white when she married Clark Gable, she had agreed to take instruction in the Roman Catholic faith as a preliminary step to marrying Russ Columbo just before he died.  Her first marriage to William Powell would not have been an impediment to a Catholic marriage for Lombard and Columbo since William Powell, who was 16 years older than Carole, had been previously married and had a teenage son.  Church canon law would not have recognized their marriage as valid.  So Russ Columbo and Carole Lombard could have been married in a Catholic church with the bride wearing white.

Did Carole Lombard request that she be buried alongside Clark Gable?

While she left most of her fortune to Gable and she named him as her executor she did not mention him in her burial instructions nor did she request that they be buried next to each other.


After her death in a plane crash on January 16, 1942 while on a war bond tour, her final wishes for burial must have caused consternation.   But they were there in writing in her will, (which was filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and therefore would ultimately be a public record), and could not be ignored without generating press interest.  So they were carried out “to the extent possible” by her widower, Clark Gable.  He was undoubtedly guided by his mentor, Howard Strickling, the head of publicity for MGM Studios.  Both were aware that Clark Gable had a reputation to protect and a legend to secure.

Howard Strickling has been called Clark Gable’s “fixer” by author E.J. Fleming.  He earned that title by his efforts on behalf of Clark Gable over the decades.  For example, he orchestrated the adoption of Gables’ illegitimate daughter by Loretta Young to Loretta Young in 1936.  (It was highly unconventional and may have involved illegal affidavits.)  Clark Gable took no further interest in his daughter.  She was raised as Judy Lewis by Loretta Young and her husband, Tom Lewis.  Gable even declined an invitation to his only daughter’s wedding in 1959 well after any concern about a breach of a “morals clause” was a thing of a long gone past.  (Gable wasn’t even under contract with MGM or any other specific studio at that time.)

In January of 1942, after Carole’s death, Strickling must have wondered if people would talk about Carole’s choice of burial site. Would they remember that Russ Columbo was buried there? And would this somehow diminish Gable and his marriage to Lombard?

Strickling also had to realize that any discussion of the genesis of the war bond tour or the role that Gable had been asked to play in it, and flatly refused, was potentially damaging.  The press had already picked up on the fact that Clark was not at the train station to see Lombard and her mother off at its beginning on Monday, January 12, 1942.  So Howard authorized a press release at that time that contained a lie, namely that Gable was unable to attend Lombard’s departure because he was in Washington, D.C. conferring with the military on how he might best serve his country.  Gable didn’t go to Washington, D.C. in January of 1942.  He went there months after Carole’s death.

Elizabeth Peters, Otto Winkler and Carole Lombard in the train station in Indianapolis on January 15, 1942.

To safeguard and enhance Gable’s reputation and to prevent further gossip the legend of the perfect marriage of Gable and Lombard also had to be protected. Clark Gable was making a film with Lana Turner, Somewhere I’ll Find You, at the time of Lombard’s death.  By January of 1942, Turner, who was about to turn 22 and who would ultimately marry eight times and have countless affairs, had already earned the reputation of a home breaker in Hollywood. And Gable was known to have a roving eye, a point of contention between himself and Lombard.

A photographic study of Clark Gable by George Hurrell.

On the night before she left on the war bond tour Lombard and Gable had a fierce argument over Lana Turner and he walked out on her.   He then hooked up with Spencer Tracy, his drinking buddy, and they went out on a binge and for a night’s entertainment.  This is why he was not at Union Station on Monday morning, the day Lombard left with her mother and MGM press agent Otto Winkler on the war bond selling tour.

Heating up the screen.  Lana Turner and Clark Gable in Somewhere I’ll Find You, 1942.

Clark Gable was born in Ohio on February of 1901. He was personally asked to make a heartland war bond selling tour by Harry Hopkins, a special advisor to President Roosevelt, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But Gable declined citing his shooting schedule for his film. Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, encouraged him to go and offered to suspend shooting on Somewhere I’ll Find You until he got back. But Gable said that he was not comfortable with public speaking even though he had New York theater experience.

Carole Lombard, who was born in Indiana, stepped in and volunteered to go in his place, even though she had virtually no stage experience and no public speaking experience. She tried unsuccessfully to get him to accompany her on the tour which according to E.J. Fleming was to include not only Indianapolis but also several other cities.  The war bond tour never made it beyond Indianapolis.

Photos of Carole Lombard taken in Indianapolis on January 15, 1942, the day before she died.

Carole and her mother at the end of the long evening.  Carole reached her quota of $500,000 and then surpassed it by selling over $2,000,000 in war bonds in Indianapolis alone.

After completing her engagement in Indianapolis, Carole Lombard, for reasons known only to herself, insisted on flying home to Los Angeles rather than continuing the war bond tour on the East Coast as planned and then returning home by train. Her mother and Otto Winkler tried to persuade her to do otherwise. Allegedly, Winkler put it up to a coin toss and Lombard won.

The crumpled middle section of TWA Flight # 3 after crashing near Las Vegas.


Given the worrisome details of the facts and the challenges that he faced, marginalizing Carole’s relationship with Russ Columbo and Russ himself was something Strickling viewed as a practical necessity.  Ever a ruthless pragmatist, it was a matter of creating a smoke screen and spinning the story so that it burnished the image of Clark Gable.

As with the tragedy of the Jean Harlow/ Paul Bern matter Strickling found a dependable ally in famed writer Adela Rogers St. Johns. (After Paul Bern’s murder St. Johns wrote an article that slandered Bern at Strickling’s urging.)  She was an old friend of Strickling and had recommended him for his job.  And Hedda Hopper, who owed her gossip columnist career to the influence of MGM also proved herself useful.  (MGM and Strickling boosted her to contain Louella Parsons.)   Their carefully worded articles and comments did the job intended. 

·         St. Johns, an experienced story teller, mixed fact and fiction in her article for Liberty Magazine published in late February of 1942.  She painted Columbo as a mere boy that Lombard pitied.   She went on to write tearfully about Gable, the brave but anguished widower and even that how deeply he missed Carole’s mother who died with her.  (Mrs. Peters wasn’t alive to comment.   Carole’s brothers inherited the money Carole left to her mother but Gable also sent Stewart Peters, the younger one of Carole’s two brothers, a demand for repayment of a small amount that Carole had personally loaned him.  After the funeral, Carole’s brothers had nothing to do with Clark Gable for the rest of their lives.)
·         Hedda Hopper, frankly a shrew, painted the talented, hard working and gentle Columbo as a narcistic fruit.  (Would she have dared to write something like that while Lombard was still alive?)  The best reaction to Hopper was one she received from Spencer Tracy after she published a blind item column about himself and Katherine Hepburn.  He encountered her at Ciro’s, a restaurant in Hollywood, and he gave her a swift kick in her rear-end.

Howard Strickling’s unseen hand was, and still is, at work here.  A master at his trade, he picked two sources considered credible by the public at the time and set them to worK putting his spin on the story.  Unfortunately it is perpetuated on many of the Carole Lombard and Clark Gable web sites we see on the Internet today.  If it were not for film critics like Leonard Maltin and biographer Larry Swindell and his ground breaking book on Lombard for which he interviewed of Noel F. Busch, (Screwball, the Life of Carole Lombard, 1975.), Strickling might have gotten away with his cynical spin on the facts.

Almost two decades later in late 1960, Howard Strickling guided Kay Gable, Clark’s fifth wife, with the arrangements for his burial at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.  Newsreel footage of Clark Gable’s funeral shows Strickling hovering near Kay and directing it.  Kay agreed to relegate herself to the position of a consolation prize, and after her death in 1983, would be buried beneath and to the left of Gable.  Clark Gable was buried alongside Carole Lombard, thus enshrining forever the legend of their perfect marriage.

Strickling played the role of fixer for Gable to the end, a role that he seemed to relish.  The myth and the legend that was “Clark Gable”, if not his real talent and screen performances, had in large part been Strickling’s creation.  In The Fixers, E.J. Fleming wrote:

Howard once described his job metaphorically saying, “Talent is like a precious stone, like a diamond or a ruby.  You take care of it.  You put it in a safe, you clean it, polish it, look after it.  Who knows the value of a star?”  According to him “there was only one each”  Garbo or Gable, they had to be protected.  That’s just what he … did.

The damage that he also did knowingly to the reputations of others as a result of his work was very real.  Perhaps this is why he never wrote an autobiography after he retired, even when offered money to do so.  If he told the truth he would undo much of what he had accomplished. And by revealing his methods of operation, (some of which were already speculated upon), he would not be edifying either himself or his collaborators.


Carole Lombard was not only a talented actress and a great beauty but she had a head and a heart.  She faced life with courage and with a smile on her face despite serious concerns. The reality of her life was not nearly as idyllic as she wished it to be nor was it as happy as many of her fans thought that it was. But it was a life lived every day at full throttle with love, kindness and humor for those around her. In her final wishes she expressed the independence of mind and the integrity of spirit for which she is so rightly known and admired.

Russ Columbo’ place in entertainment history has been helped immensely by the advent of Internet technology. Almost his entire songbook is now available on the world-wide-web. His lush voice and the utter sincerity of his delivery have captured the attention and the admiration of an entirely new generation of listeners around the world. Critics, who in their zealous promotion of emerging swing music discounted Columbo’s contributions to the great American songbook, are now seen as having had an agenda and are considered partial. A new generation of music critics is actively reconsidering Russ’ work and his contributions to American music.

Columbo’s time at film making was brief, but the promise he showed was very real. His personal charisma comes across on film just as readily as it did in person onstage, in his recordings and performances over the radio. He easily projects an appealing warmth and humor that was genuine.  It takes little imagination to see that Russ was making the transition from radio and recording star to motion picture icon.

But it was as a human being that Russ Columbo truly succeeded in his relatively short life. He loved his God, he loved music and he loved Carole Lombard with a deep passion, a sincerity and a sweetness that she had never experienced either before or afterwards. Perhaps this is why she regarded him as the great love of her life and chose to be buried near him.


May they rest in peace….awaiting, (if you are a believer), the day of the resurrection of the body, judgment and the rewards of eternal life.


In memory of Stella D. Cwiklo, née Wozniak, 1914-2001, a stalwart Russ Columbo fan who provided her insights to the author.

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Where Carole rests

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.29 at 00:00
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

There’s really no other place quite like it, a blend of reverence and kitsch. It’s where death — and life — are celebrated in unconventional ways. If the dead could vote (as some say they do in Chicago and Jersey City), this would have nearly enough of a population (250,000 to 350,000) to warrant its own congressional district, or at least a majority bloc of one. It’s famed for hosting funerals…but thousands get married here, too. Until Disneyland came into existence, it was southern California’s top tourist attraction; many have criticized it, some have satirized it.

We are, of course, referring to Forest Lawn, specifically the original cemetery in Glendale (the company has since opened several others). We know it as the place where Carole Lombard, second husband Clark Gable, her mother and two brothers are buried.

With Halloween on the horizon — an event initially designed to celebrate the memory of the dead, and still treated that way in many cultures — it seemed like a good time to delve into Forest Lawn, a place now nearly a century old and to some quintessentially southern California. We’ll begin with the celebrity angle of the place, something that re-emerged a few months ago when Michael Jackson was buried there. The following, “The Great Mausoleum Six,” is a video created by noted grave hunter Lisa Burks, on six Hollywood notables who now rest at Forest Lawn: Lombard, Gable, Jean Harlow, Irving Thalberg, his wife Norma Shearer, and Marie Dressler. I think you will appreciate it:

Now, we’ll explore the history of Forest Lawn, with help from a rather irreverent three-part video. Part one opens with a song from John Denver’s early days called “Forest Lawn,” a rather funny piece that notes the kitsch that can envelop the place. (And to answer your question, no, he’s not buried at Forest Lawn.) We get to view some of the cemetery’s printed material from the ’20s and ’30s; had Michael Jackson died in 1929, he could not have been buried at Forest Lawn, because at the time it was restricted to Caucasians. (That was later changed, of course, and black celebrities buried there include Nat Cole, Sam Cooke and early Motown great Mary Wells.)

Part two covers the next quarter-century of Forest Lawn, noting the 1944 burial there of evangelist Aimee Semple MacPherson (but using simulated silent footage from a 1976 TV movie where Faye Dunaway portrayed her). There’s also something from Time magazine in 1944 on the cemetery, which included a photo spread of celebrities there, including Lombard (her space can be seen at the 4:55 mark):

Part three looks at more recent times, and sums it all up; for legal reasons, there is no audio track:

As stated earlier, there’s really no other place quite like it.

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A number from ‘Numbers’ (a photo, too)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.28 at 00:00
Current mood: chipperchipper

Above is a clip from Carole Lombard’s first Paramount movie, 1930’s “Safety In Numbers”…though, truth be told, you won’t find much Lombard in this sequence (I’m not sure you even hear her speak in this clip.) But it certainly gives you an idea of what the film was about, as it focuses around a number called “The Pick-Up” for a musical act. It’s nowhere as memorable as some of the other songs from the film, such as “My Future Just Passed” or the charmingly silly “I’d Like To Be A Bee In Your Boudoir.”

This also gives you a feel for the appeal of Buddy Rogers and why he was nicknamed “America’s Boyfriend” — he has some real vivacity here. (Louise Beavers, the noted black actress, even gets to sing a bit; as you might expect from those stereotyped days, she’s playing a domestic.) Moreover, check out some of the dance footage near the end, using silhouettes and all sorts of weirdly angled photography that must have knocked audiences out in mid-1930 (Busby Berkeley-style inventiveness minus the huge stages). All in all, it’s the last vestiges of 1920s peppiness and optimism; within a year, it would seem hopelessly outdated.

And speaking of “Safety In Numbers,” here’s a still photo from the film that’s being auctioned at eBay:

Kathryn Crawford and Josephine Dunn join Lombard and Rogers in the picture. Given the dialogue printed at the bottom of the photo, I’m guessing this was distributed to theaters to use as a sort of lobby card. There’s also a stamp indicating that it was once the property of someone in Trois Rivieres, Quebec. (The seller is from Montreal.)

You don’t have much time to get this photo — bidding closes at 6:50 p.m. (Eastern) tonight — but even though two bids have already been made, the top offer as I write this is a very reasonable $3.14. Want to try your luck at landing this? Go to

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Carole, in train-ing

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.27 at 00:50
Current mood: gigglygiggly

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the completion of a transcontinental rail link across the U.S. In May 1869, crews from the Union Pacific and Central Pacific finally met at Promontory Point, Utah; on May 10, a ceremony was held which included the nailing of a golden spike to symbolize the achievement. (However, it wasn’t until September, when a nearby bridge was built, that uninterrupted transcontinental rail travel actually began.)

In September 1996, I rode Amtrak from New York to California, changing trains in Chicago; it took several days, but it was worth it to see the scenery and terrain. Every American should travel cross-country at ground level at least once in their lifetimes to grasp this country’s geography and get a feel for how the U.S. developed.

The photo above, taken from the May 10 ceremony, became famous, and the event itself became a milestone in American history. There’s a good chance Carole Lombard learned about it in school, as it had occurred only about half a century before, not that long ago.

Perhaps that photo was in the back of her mind when she posed for this shot, which probably was taken in some California railyard instead of Promontory Point:

It’s a rather charming picture — I love seeing Carole, smiling, in a conductor’s cap, and to view lots of Lombard leg is always a plus — but I have no idea when this was taken (I’m guessing the early thirties). Nor can I tell you who the other woman is; my first guess is that it’s Bessie Love, a 1920s star probably best known for starring in the 1929 Academy Award best picture winner, “The Broadway Melody.” But I could be on the wrong track (figuratively, of course). Nor do I have any idea why this photo was taken.

If anyone knows more about this photo, please let us know.

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The secret is out

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.26 at 00:13
Current mood: restlessrestless

Yep, it’s the Beatles, from their first album “Please Please Me,” with the wonderful ballad “Do You Want To Know A Secret” (that’s George Harrison singing lead). When the Beatles arrived in America in early 1964, virtually everything they had put on record suddenly sold — at one point, they had the five top-selling singles on the Billboard charts. This song was one of the many to see chart action; I can recall it being played during the countdown at WOLF radio in my hometown of Syracuse, N.Y.

But this entry isn’t about the Beatles, but Carole Lombard; however, this concerns a “secret” of sorts among some Lombard fans. What it’s about is her autograph.

On eBay, there is currently an item available which features two photos of Carole (nice, nothing rare), but the selling point is her autograph:

Lombard was never averse to giving fans her signature, either via mail or in person. Here’s a close-up of the autograph:

Okay, is it legit? Stylistically, it appears to be (for a sample of a Lombard autograph that’s certainly phony, see But it has something else in its favor — the ink color. Included on this card is something that looks to be from a Hollywood-related item from newspapers of that era.

It says Lombard always sends autographs and signed pictures using green ink; the present tense of the statement makes it appear this came out during Carole’s lifetime (also note she was called a “film and radio star”). I’m sure there were times in public when she may not have had a green pen handy and would have signed in some other color (remember, this was before ballpoints were invented, so she would have had to use a fountain pen), but I sense those occasions were relatively rare.

Some Lombard fans have low-keyed this information, perhaps fearing some unscrupulous collectors might use green ink to forge Carole’s signature, but not only was this information known during her lifetime, it’s been noted in several biographical accounts.

Back to the item. It supposedly comes from the collection of a longtime member of the Universal Autograph Collectors Club, Inc. (UACC), and the seller guarantees its authetnicty. (The small photo of Lombard at the upper right-hand corner of the card looks to be in period sepia.)

I’m a bit surprised the bidding is starting at only $29.99; if the winning bidder ends up paying that price, he or she apparently got a bargain (as of this writing, no bids have been made). Bidding will close at just after 9:10 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday, and I would be surprised if the price doesn’t hit triple digits by then.

To bid, or simply learn more about it, go to .

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Negatives to be positive about

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.25 at 00:05
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

“Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…”
— melody by Harold Arlen, lyric by Johnny Mercer

Let’s be thankful at least one person didn’t take this advice literally. To illustrate my last remark (borrowing another line from that great song)…

Two lovely portraits of Carole Lombard, both relatively uncommon, both apparently taken by Otto Dyar. And both appear to us through inversion of a negative.

According to the seller of the negatives, they were produced several decades ago years ago by at the time the only person in Hollywood who produced the highest possible copy negatives available from original stills. Each cost $50 to produce, but the quality of the resulting photos made the expense worthwhile.

Now you can own the negatives of those photos. For those of you who have a background in photography and can use the negatives to produce prints of your own, this might be a worthwhile investment.

The bidding on each negative begins at $24.99; as of this writing, no bids have been placed on either. For the profile shot, go to; bidding closes at 10:49 p.m. (Eastern) on Friday. The photo where she’s standing is at, with bidding ending a minute later than the other one.

Oh, and speaking of Mercer, the centennial of his birth is next month, and at 8 p.m. (Eastern) Nov. 4, Turner Classic Movies will present a documentary on this famed composer, “Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s On Me.” (It will be repeated at midnight.) Mercer did more than compose; he was an accomplished vocalist, performing both his compositions and those of others, and he was one of the co-founders of Capitol Records, the first important West Coast record label.

Also, every Wednesday during November, TCM will show films which used Mercer’s music — and there were many. In fact, on the 18th, the centennial day, TCM will feature Mercer musicals all day long. A two-disc CD of Mercer songs is also being issued; to learn more, go to

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A Technicolorful dramatic discovery

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.24 at 00:00
Current mood: thankfulthankful

Today’s entry has virtually nothing to do with Carole Lombard…but it does have something to do with classic Hollywood…and I think you’ll be as fascinated (and delighted) by it as I was.

The late 1920s, when cinema learned to talk, is one of the most compelling eras in film history. But not only was film developing a voice, but color, too. True, movies had possessed color since the earliest days, either hand-painted or color-tinted. It wasn’t until the 1920s that color that looked lifelike was able to be used (though it was what was known as “two-strip” Technicolor, which could capture most, but not all, of the color spectrum; “three-strip” Technicolor, which captured all colors, wouldn’t be perfected until the mid-thirties). It was an expensive process used rarely in silents, and then only in select scenes. Mack Sennett had brief color sequences in several Lombard two-reelers, such as “Matchmaking Mama,” below.

When talkies came around, some producers got the idea of merging sound and color, resulting in full-length Technicolor musicals which must have wowed audiences at the time. We can only guess, though, because unfortunately, both “On With The Show” and “Gold Diggers Of Broadway” do not exist in their full-length Technicolor form. Nor do three subsequent all-color musicals.

But earlier this year, a movie long believed lost for nearly eight decades was found, and it’s now the oldest surviving all-Technicolor feature film. However, it doesn’t come from one of “the usual suspects” (Warners, Fox, Paramount, MGM), nor is it a musical. Instead, it’s from a studio familiar to only a few film historians, and it’s a drama. The film I’m referring to is called…

It’s “Mamba,” from Tiffany, a minor studio trying to take a page out of the Warner Brothers playbook and vault from Poverty Row to prominence with a cinematic innovation — though an all-Technicolor drama didn’t really equate to hearing Al Jolson, already an entertainment legend, sing in towns far removed from Broadway. This was more along the lines of Warners’ first all-talking film, the stodgy, bloated featurette “The Lights Of New York.” Unlike “Lights,” Tiffany had some legit star power on board…on loan, of course. As a tyrannical German landowner in Africa when the World War breaks out, you have Jean Hersholt — yep, the same guy for whom the Motion Picture Academy’s humanitarian award is named:

His wife was played by Eleanor Boardman, who had won praise as the wife in “The Crowd” in 1928 (directed by King Vidor, her husband at the time), while Ralph Forbes plays a Prussian officer:

The color is surprisingly well-preserved for a film released nearly 80 years ago (it premiered March 10, 1930). So where was it? Australia, which along with neighboring New Zealand was usually the end of the line for film distribution. (Many movies feared lost have resurfaced there.) For some reason, this copy of “Mamba” was never returned to the U.S., and thus just sat there in its original cans, all nine reels’ worth.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that only four of the nine soundtrack disks accompanied it. (Several studios utilized the sound-on-disc format pioneered by Warners, which was soon supplanted by the more efficient sound-on-film.) But this setback was initially overcome, as other collectors had the remaining five discs.

Tiffany pulled out all the stops (even assuring potential customers that despite its title, it was not an animal picture) to make this a prestige production, and it not only won excellent reviews, but did record box office at the small theaters that showed Tiffany product. Here’s how Photoplay reviewed it in May 1930:

Unfortunately, unlike Warners, Tiffany had chosen its breakthrough at the wrong time. When the weakened economy of 1930 became the full-blown Depression of 1931, Tiffany couldn’t cope and went under in 1932. (Reportedly some of its negative footage was lit to bolster the burning of Atlanta in “Gone With The Wind.”)

You can learn more about this fascinating find — and even see two brief segments of the film — by going to The people behind the movie’s restoration hope to complete their work and make it available at film festivals as well as on DVD.

It’s stories like this that provide hope for fans of classic Hollywood, hope that similar miracles will take place for other films believed lost. Somewhere, there has to be a print of “Marriage In Transit”…

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Just a gigolo, everywhere he goes…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.23 at 00:00
Current mood: melancholymelancholy

That’s the great Louis Armstrong, recorded in Los Angeles in March 1931, doing “Just A Gigolo.” The song actually dates back to Austria following World War I, the bittersweet story of a former soldier now reduced by poverty to performing as a hired dancer. It became popular throughout Europe, and a New York publisher bought the rights and hired Irving Caesar to write lyrics that would appeal to a U.S. audience. He did, and the song became popular on the American side of the Atlantic. Armstrong, whose charming, soulful vocals was making him a favorite with Tin Pan Alley, tried his hand at it and won acclaim for his version. (Marlene Dietrich, no doubt familiar with the song from its original 1920s incarnation, recorded it with David Bowie for the 1979 film “Just A Gigolo.”)

A quarter-century after Armstrong’s version, Louis Prima recorded a version of it as part of a medley with the standard “I Ain’t Got Nobody.” Prima, a New Orleans-based swing pioneer dating back to the 1930s (he composed “Sing, Sing, Sing”), was gaining renown for his Las Vegas shows and this became a substantial hit. In the mid-1980s, David Lee Roth recorded his own version of the medley and also enjoyed chart success.

Armstrong’s recording was on the market in May 1931 when “Ladies Man,” starring William Powell as a gigolo of sorts and co-starring Kay Francis and Carole Lombard, arrived in theaters. And a rare still from the film, one I’ve never seen before, has surfaced on eBay. Here’s what it looks like after I worked on it and converted it to greyscale:

The photo was actually done in sepia, which makes it look like this:

It’s considered in good condition despite a bit of discoloration.

Fans of Lombard and Powell might well be interested in this photo. As of this writing, no one has bid on it; bidding starts at $24.99, and closes just after 4:05 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. Should this strike your fancy, go to

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Carole and Jimmy: “The Moon’s Our Home”

Posted by [info]stillsparkling on 2009.10.23 at 12:19

“Let’s live on the moon, just the two of us!” Jimmy Stewart suggests to Carole Lombard in a lovely radio play I listened to yesterday. The radio play was a Lux Radio Theatre performance from 1941 of the movie The Moon’s Our Home (1936) starring Margaret Sullavan and Henry Fonda. And this is what makes the thing so interesting. Fonda and Sullavan had been married (and divorced again) when they made this movie, which lends it that lovely layer of authenticity (and gossipy room for speculations, let’s admit it).

The movie is already very funny and charming, but Jimmy takes the role of Anthony/Sam and runs with it on radio. He’s devastatingly charming. I adore Margaret Sullavan and I think hardly any actress can come close to her, so I won’t compare Carole Lombard. I do think though that Carole made the role her own very nicely; I love the way she shifts from temperamental outbursts to sweetness in a matter of milliseconds and makes it incredibly funny. Her Cherry is great fun to listen to, and once again I get the impression that you just can’t help but like Carole Lombard. Carole and Jimmy had already made one picture together in 1939, Made for Each Other; their chemistry in this play is just as good.

And now that I’ve talked about it so much, here it is for all of you to enjoy too: The Lux Radio Theatre production with James Stewart and Carole Lombard.

The Moon’s Our Home

(x-posted from my lj to [info]jimmydaily & [info]carole_and_co)

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“Pictures of Carole…Carole, oh Carole…” (NSFW)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.22 at 00:00
Current mood: hornyhorny

During the second half of the 1960s, the rock band the Who made plenty of great records about bizarre, offbeat themes. One of them was “Pictures Of Lily,” the story of a troubled adolescent boy who receives a gift from his father: erotic pictures of a woman named Lily, pictures the boy says “helped me sleep at night.” (Yes, it’s an ode to the word that was not named in the famous “Seinfeld” episode “The Contest.”) Anyway, the boy falls in love with Lily — only to learn from dad that “she’s been dead since 1929.” The boy is frustrated; “If only I’d been born in Lily’s time/It would have been all right.” You can hear the song above, a version done for the BBC in the late sixties.

In 1930, a year after the fictional Lily passed away, many males got a chance to explore their fantasies under the guise of art. (Heck, some of them may actually have been interested in art, as well as the other stuff.) It was a magazine titled Screen Art Studies No. 4, and for 35 cents, you got 34 pages of women in assorted levels of undress. Artistic nudity, mind you, but nudity just the same, which is why I’m placing the cover (and a few of the others) under a cut:

That 1930 cover and other pictures… )

Carole Lombard wasn’t in any of the stuff under the cut, but she is in a photo, taken by the renowned Edwin Bower Hesser, where if you look hard enough, you might just be able to make our her nipples beneath the flimsy lingerie she’s wearing:

In the photo, it states Lombard “has become one of Pathe’s foremost artists.” Well, not by the time this magazine came out, sold at art supply stores and on newsstands (where it presumably wasn’t displayed). Pathe had dismissed her, probably for the crime of looking too much like Constance Bennett, and she was briefly without a studio.

Here’s a closer look at Carol (then with no “e”); see if you notice her nipple:

If the nipple is there, it’s very subtle. It doesn’t matter one way or the other — it’s a rather sexy photo, and I’m sure some males got a certain reaction out of seeing her that way. (We’ll leave it at that.)

This magazine, showing several other young stars (including Josephine Dunn, Lombard’s castmate in “Safety In Numbers” later that year) in sensual photos (the nudes hidden under the cut are not identified, and may not be actresses), is being auctioned at eBay…and despite a starting bid level of only $4.99, no one has made a bid on it as of this writing; bidding closes at just after 11:05 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. If you’re interested in the artistic nude form, or simply want to give something to lift the libido of a teenage son, go to (Hey, if it takes these kind of photos to secure a new generation of Lombard fans, so be it.)

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Constance comment: A birthday tribute Thursday

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.21 at 01:32
Current mood: impressedimpressed

Above is Jackie De Shannon, one of the many wonderfully talented people of 1960s music. She had her share of hits, both as a singer and a songwriter, and was an integral part of the Los Angeles pop music scene of the day. (She even appeared in a few movies.)

One of the songs De Shannon wrote was Kim Carnes’ huge 1981 hit “Bette Davis Eyes.” Nothing against Ms. Davis, one of the all-time great actresses, but had history turned out a bit differently…

…perhaps De Shannon instead would have written a song called “Constance Bennett Eyes.” (Then again, it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as slickly, does it?)

But you get the point — Constance Bennett, with those impeccable eyes and a face and figure to match, was one of filmdom’s great beauties, and often a pretty solid actress, too. If she had managed her career with a bit more diligence, and not rubbed some feathers the wrong way, she might be better remembered today. As it was, she was a major star for a few years and one of the highest-paid actresses in the industry.

One could argue that Bennett indirectly gave Carole Lombard’s career a boost. In 1929, Bennett signed with Pathe, and reportedly was behind the dismissal of Lombard and her friend Diane Ellis from the studio, since both were blonde like Constance and possible competition. Within a year, Lombard resurfaced at Paramount, a stronger, wealthier studio, and while it could be argued Paramount initially didn’t know what to do with her either, staying at Pathe — a studio eventually absorbed into RKO — might have doomed her to relative obscurity.

Thursday marks the 105th anniversary of Bennett’s birth, and Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is honoring her with a tripleheader of films. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6:30 a.m. — “Sin Takes A Holiday” (1930). A pre-Code romantic comedy in which a dowdy woman accepts her boss’ marriage proposal purely as a favor to him, evolves into a beauty, then considers having an affair. With Basil Rathbone (above) and Kenneth McKenna.

* 8 a.m. — “Bed Of Roses” (1933). TCM defines this as a drama, but there are many comic overtones to this pre-Code in which Bennett and Pert Kelton play prostitutes torn between work and genuine love. With John Halliday (above with Bennett) and Joel McCrea. Directed by Gregory La Cava.

* 9:15 a.m. — “Merrily We Live” (1938). And speaking of La Cava, he initially wanted Bennett as the female lead in “My Man Godfrey,” but William Powell, aware of Bennett’s flighty reputation, would have none of it (again, another break for Lombard). Bennett would wind up with this ersatz “Godfrey” for Hal Roach’s studio, where she had made a bit of a comeback with “Topper” the year before. Alas, in this film her character couldn’t dissolve into ectoplasm, which might have made the proceedings a bit more interesting. With Brian Aherne (who would co-star with Lombard in 1940’s “Vigil In The Night”) and Bonita Granville.

We mentioned Jackie De Shannon at the top of this entry, so let’s close with her. This is Jackie in 1964, performing (okay, she’s actually lip-synching to her own record, and watch her come in a few bars too early at the start, then smile off her mistake!) the self-penned “When You Walk In The Room,” which the Searchers would make a hit in 1965. They did a fine job, as have many who’ve covered this song, but check this out and I think you’ll agree her wonderfully sexy version (both visually and aurally) remains the definitive one:

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‘Shado’ dancing

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.20 at 00:04
Current mood: pleasedpleased

After a day of two riveting postseason ballgames — where the Los Angeles Angels rallied to beat the New York Yankees in the American League and the Philadelphia Phillies did likewise to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National, both by 5-4 scores — let’s return our attention to Carole Lombard items available at eBay. (The Yanks still lead the ALCS, 2 games to 1, while the Phils have a 3-1 lead in the NLCS and are one victory away from winning back-to-back pennants for the first time in the franchise’s 127-year history. Above, from, is game 4 hero Jimmy Rollins, whose two-out double scored the tying and winning runs, getting a celebratory shaving cream pie from one of his teammates.)

Here’s an issue of Shadoplay, the relatively short-lived younger sibling of Photoplay, showing Carole on the cover:

It’s the September 1933 issue, which would have hit newsstands sometime in August, about the time that Lombard was divorcing her first husband, William Powell. The stunning artwork is from Earl Christy, who produced many fine covers for both ‘plays.

Performers featured in the issue include Gary Cooper, Ricardo Cortez (, Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks, Pert Kelton (who at the time was having a fine supporting role in the Constance Bennett vehicle “Bed Of Roses”) and Richard Barthelmess. There’s also a story on “Little Women,” the adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott book starring Katharine Hepburn. And, of course, there are plenty of photos of Hollywood circa mid-1933.

The magazine is in near mint condition, perhaps explaining why the minimum bid is $94.95 (as of this writing, no one has bid yet). Bidding will end at 11:15 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. If you’re interested in bringing Carole and her comrades into your home, go to

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Carole + 5 (not to be confused with Kate + 8)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.19 at 09:25
Current mood: cynicalcynical

When the 2000-2009 decade of television is reviewed by historians, one word will stand out — “reality.” Beginning with “Survivor” in 2000, then followed with “American Idol” and the like, so-called unscripted TV has become the dominant force in prime time, at one point nearly leading to the sitcom’s extinction. (Unlike sitcoms, however, reality shows don’t have much of an afterlife, which is why you still see “Frasier” and “Seinfeld” in syndication.) Some reality TV can be absorbing and illuminating; for instance, “The Amazing Race” has won some critical praise, and a devoted core of fans. But other series respond to the more base, prurient aspects of the human condition…or do that to their participants. (It appears the Colorado “balloon boy” hoax last Thursday may have been perpetrated by the parents in order to return to reality TV.)

Above is another perfect example of such changes — Jon and Kate Gosselin, a Pennsylvania couple whom none of us would’ve heard of had Kate not had twins, and then sextuplets. A cable TV channel thought it might be interesting to see how the family coped with its unique situation, and thus “Jon & Kate Plus Eight” was born. It became a major hit by cable standards. Unfortunately, the Gosselins proved to have problems with their newfound fame — the couple began bickering, their spats becoming a frequent topic for celebrity magazine covers. They’ve now separated, are going through a messy divorce, and the cable channel plans to rename the series “Kate Plus Eight.”

There was no reality TV, or even reality radio in the 1930s, but exploitation of multiples was being done then, too. Take, for example, this magazine, with Carole Lombard on the cover:

It’s the January 1937 issue of Movie Mirror, and one of the stories inside is titled “Day by Day with the Dionne Quints.” The Dionnes were five girls born to a rural Quebec family in 1934 who became a media sensation, regularly appearing in newsreels. They were promoted heavily, so much that the town they lived in became a de facto tourist trap. All this eventually led to all sorts of psychological traumas for the girls, problems we hope the Gosselin children (or those of the California “octomom”) will never face.

Fortunately, this magazine also has real movie-related stories. Titles include “How Thelma Todd Is Haunting Patsy Kelly,” “Myrna Loy Reveals Her Own Mysterious Life” and “Cupid Upsets Movie Land’s Maddest Household — Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda.” (Not having read the issue, I can’t vouch for the quality of such stories, but they sure sound interesting.) Irene Dunne also models fashions and Eleanor Powell provides some dance tips.

The Lombard portrait was from James N. Doolittle (1886-1954), one of the era’s top photographers and a pioneer in using color. As an eBay seller of a Jeanette MacDonald portrait wrote, “In the 1930’s, color photography was in its infancy and therefore color work by history’s greatest photographers of that period is seldom seen. To produce color work during that time required enormous efforts but, the results could be absolutely stunning — even by today’s standards.”

And here’s that MacDonald portrait:

The Movie Mirror with Carole on the cover is currently being auctioned at eBay. As of this writing, one bid has been made, for $9.99; bidding closes just after 9:10 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesday, so you don’t have much time. Go to if interested.

Oh, and perhaps Jon and/or Kate should bid. One of the stories is entitled “Hollywood Children of Divorce.”

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‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ goes to Toronto

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.18 at 11:08
Current mood: amusedamused

It’s fascinating to see how Carole Lombard’s films were promoted and marketed…and today’s entry focuses on the last film for which the adjective “fun” could also be used. (Even if Lombard had been alive at the time of the release of “To Be Or Not To Be,” the sudden wartime conditions, not to mention the film’s darkly comic tone, would have made marketing it difficult.)

We’re going to examine her penultimate film, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” specifically to see how it was sold by the theater that first showed it in Toronto. (For what it’s worth, it should be noted that the Toronto of 1941 was far different than the city today; it was much smaller and had far less of a polyglot population.) We can get an idea of some of promotion for the film through Boxoffice magazine, which had correspondents throughout the U.S. and Canada. Here’s what ran in the April 12, 1941 issue:

The Uptown Theatre decided to play upon the title couple’s last name, offering free tickets to city residents named Smith. That was announced during a fashion show at the famed Eaton’s department store attended by more than 1,200 people (not all of them named Smith, of course) — but only seven tickets were distributed this way. A similar call at a swing dance attended by about 700 resulted in only one free pass. However, the Uptown considered the promotions successful because “the Uptown announcements were secured.”

Another promotion, for which no record of response was given, was mailing a flyer to everyone in the telephone directory named Smith. It consisted of a splash announcement for the movie printed over an image of Smiths from the directory.

Here’s another thing the Uptown did:

“Jim Cameron, exploiteer, also secured a handsome lingerie window in a downtown store which featured a large display for ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ consisting of numerous poses of Carole Lombard in fancy undergarments.”

Alas, there was no photo of the display accompanying the story (I’m sure many of Boxoffice’s readers felt similar despair), but I wouldn’t be surprised if these were among the images:

The Uptown, built in 1920, seated 3,000 and was arguably Toronto’s premier moviehouse for many years. It was damaged by fire in 1960, and although restored lost some of its architectural distinctiveness in the process. Here’s a view of its interior at the time:

The Uptown was again briefly closed in the fall of 1969 for conversion into a five-theater multiplex.

In 2001 new regulations mandated that the Uptown be made wheelchair accessible, which its owners declined to do, citing the estimated $700,000 expense. Instead, they announced they would be closing the cinema, and despite a “Save the Uptown” campaign, that’s what happened in September 2003. The land was sold, the building demolished and a 48-story condominium constructed on the site.

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Submitted for your approval…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.17 at 12:34
Current mood: morosemorose

“The Twilight Zone” has re-entered the public consciousness of late, since it was 50 years ago this month that Rod Serling’s anthology of fantasy storytelling premiered on CBS, where it would last for five seasons. Serling, already renowned as one of TV’s best writers (and, like me, a native upstate New Yorker), gathered some of the entertainment industry’s best talent — writers, actors, directors — for a series that was invariably thought-provoking. It’s been revived on TV a few times (though neither version had the literate veneer that marked the original). The Serling episodes remain popular, and the Sci-Fi channel invariably gets good ratings when it conducts its occasional marathons of some of those episodes.

Some of those episodes featured people who had either worked with or knew Carole Lombard. One of the first episodes shown, “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine,” was directed by Mitchell Leisen and starred Ida Lupino. Burgess Meredith starred in several episodes, and character actor Ernest Truex guested in one. But did you know Lombard herself appeared in an episode?

No, I haven’t gone off the deep end, nor did Mr. Serling find a time machine to transport his crew to the 1930s (a concept that, come to think of it, might have made for a good “Twilight Zone” episode). The key word is “appeared”; we see an image of Carole, adding to the plot.

It came in episode 99, “Young Man’s Fancy,” which aired on May 11, 1962 starring Alex Nicol and Phyllis Thaxter.

The premise? We’ll let Serling explain it in his own words (as the show’s host, he introduced all the episodes):

“You’re looking at the house of the late Mrs. Henrietta Walker. This is Mrs. Walker herself, as she appeared twenty-five years ago. And this, except for isolated objects, is the living room of Mrs. Walker’s house, as it appeared in that same year. The other rooms upstairs and down are much the same. The time, however, is not twenty-five years ago but now. The house of the late Henrietta Walker is, you see, a house which belongs almost entirely to the past, a house which, like Mrs. Walker’s clock here, has ceased to recognize the passage of time. Only one element is missing now, one remaining item in the estate of the late Mrs. Walker: her son Alex (Nicol), thirty-four years of age and, up until twenty minutes ago, the so-called ‘perennial bachelor.’ With him is his bride, the former Miss Virginia Lane (Thaxter). They’re returning from the city hall in order to get Mr. Walker’s clothes packed, make final arrangements for the sale of the house, lock it up and depart on their honeymoon. Not a complicated set of tasks, it would appear, and yet the newlywed Mrs’ Walker is about to discover that the old adage ‘You can’t go home again’ has little meaning in the Twilight Zone.”

That’s right — apparently the house is exerting a strange power over Alex, who decides not to sell it. Virginia believes the spirit of his dead mother is causing this. Then the house itself begins to change, to revert to its past. Appliances develop a 1930s look…music from that era begins playing on a 78 rpm record…and items from a quarter-century ago begin materializing throughout the house — including this magazine:

I’m guessing that was not an actual magazine from the 1930s, but one created as a prop. Lombard, who had been gone for more than two decades when this episode aired, was probably viewed as a perfect symbol of the past. I’ve never seen the original script — written by famed writer and frequent Zone contributor Richard Matheson — so I don’t know whether it was his idea, or someone else’s, to put Lombard there.

Eventually Alex’s mother reappears on the stairs, and Alex himself re-emerges as a young boy:

Virginia is told to leave, and as she does, Serling closes the episode with this:

“Exit Miss Virginia Lane, formerly and most briefly Mrs. Alex Walker. She has just given up a battle and in a strange way retreated, but this has been a retreat back to reality. Her opponent, Alex Walker, will now and forever hold a line that exists in the past. He has put a claim on a moment in time and is not about to relinquish it. Such things do happen — in the Twilight Zone.”

“Young Man’s Fancy,” which ran near the end of the show’s third season, isn’t one of its better-remembered episodes; in fact, some fans of the series don’t like it, arguing the concept is either too Oedipal or too reminiscent of “Psycho” (I concur with the former, but I don’t see the latter). Many wish the mother had been more menacing, making it more of a battle of wills.

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‘Vigil’ for a rare photo

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.16 at 00:01
Current mood: curiouscurious

Here’s a fairly rare portrait of Carole Lombard from early 1940, issued in conjunction with the release of her film “Vigil In The Night.” Carole’s not in costume here, but it’s a nice portrait of her from this stage of her career:

Since “Vigil” was an RKO film, this was almost certainly taken by the studio’s chief still photographer, Ernest A. Bachrach.

Adding to the fascinating nature of this photograph is what’s on the back:

It’s being used to promote the film, which will open at the Roxy Theatre on March 8, 1940. There were (and are) a number of theaters with that name, according to, but I would care to guess this probably refers to the Roxy Theatre in midtown Manhattan, which opened in 1927 and closed some 32 years later. (A famed photograph in 1960 showed Gloria Swanson standing amidst the wreckage as the theatre was being torn down.)

The largest of New York’s movie palaces — it was even bigger than the nearby Radio City Music Hall — most of the Roxy’s fare was Twentieth Century-Fox product, but every now and then it showed something from RKO (it carried “King Kong” at the same time Radio City did in 1933, for example), so it wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility for “Vigil” to have been shown there. Whether this was used for a Roxy program or a New York newspaper display, I don’t know.

No one has bid on it as of this writing; bidding closes at just after 1:05 p.m. (Eastern) Monday. (There’s also a “buy it now” option, but at $129.99, I’d be shocked if someone took them up on it.) If you’re interested in bidding, go to

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Drama was not ‘What They Wanted’

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.15 at 00:00
Current mood: embarrassedembarrassed

“I went to a showing of the first rough cut of ‘Swing High, Swing Low,’ in a small college town.

“In the tragic scene, where I screwed up my face to cry (I can’t help it if I look that way when I cry), the audience laughed. When I really turned it on and emoted, they howled. It was heartbreaking. I felt like crawling under the seats and losing myself among the gum and other useless things.”

— Carole Lombard, Photoplay, June 1937, “Carole Lombard tells: ‘How I Live By A Man’s Code'”

Three years after that incident that led to the deletion of that scene from “Swing High, Swing Low” (you can find the entire article it’s taken from at (, Carole Lombard endured a similar diminished feeling when another film of hers, “They Knew What They Wanted,” was released. Perhaps she got a precursor of it watching the “dailies”; those two photos above were taken for Life magazine during one of those sessions, with the photographer beneath the screen to get reaction from Lombard, director Garson Kanin and star Charles Laughton.

While “They Knew What They Wanted,” an adaptation of a long-popular Sidney Howard play, won favorable reviews for the most part, there was at least one group who wasn’t buying what Carole put forth on the big screen, and they made their reaction clear at the premiere.

Edwin Schallert, longtime drama and film writer for the Los Angeles Times and father of respected character actor William Schallert, said so in his column of Oct. 13, 1940:

The entire column is worth a look — Schallert also discusses Dorothy Lamour, color films and Charlie Chaplin’s upcoming “The Great Dictator” — but for those of you solely interested in the Lombard segment, we’ll run that here verbatim. It’s from the Times’ fine “The Daily Mirror” blog (

Carole Lombard’s Attempt at Serious Drama Gets Her Into Deep Acting Water

By Edwin Schallert

‘Twill be best, I believe, if Carole Lombard does not try too assidiously to become the dramatic actress.

Her portrayal in “they Knew What They Wanted” is a brave effort and she attains more success than in any other enterprise of this sort, but comedy is still her best metier.

Youngsters seeing the premiere of “They Knew What They Wanted” were inclined to laugh a little at the “hot” love scenes in the picture.

Of course, that can be attributed to direction, story treatment and other such matters than Carole’s portrayal, but no one has more securely established herself as the evoker of gay, irresponsible moods than this star and she has a difficult handicap to overcome when drama hovers in the air.

Of course, it’s perfectly true that youngsters have no business seeing a film like “They Knew What They Wanted,” but still they do, and they’re a fairly good “snap judgment” audience for any occasion.

Gone Far Enough

It remains to be seen whether these scenes will be taken seriously elsewhere, and in all cases. They are a bit of a test.

I think, however, that Carole has gone sufficiently far in experimenting with her “tragic” muse. Thalia’s her guardian angel just as much as she is Cary Grant’s.

After all, it’s no crime to be dedicated to comedy, either. On the stage in other days many actors and actresses have made that their forte through the years.

Incidentally, it’s much easier to go from being a success in dramatic films to comedy. Myrna Loy pretty well proves that. For her “Third Finger, Left Hand” is along the semi-screwball lines in which she scored hits before and she clicks again. Her chances of getting back to the serious base are much more to be depended on. It’s hard, though, when a player gains victory in the lighter vein first. …

Lombard worked with someone who knew that firsthand: Zasu Pitts, who worked with her in 1934’s “The Gay Bride.” Pitts — known initially as a comedic actress — also had a major role in the 1923 silent classic “Greed,” and again worked with Erich von Stroheim five years later in “The Wedding March.” But in previews for the sound version of 1930’s “All Quiet On The Western Front,” audiences laughed, and she was only seen briefly in a trailer for the silent version, replaced by Beryl Mercer. For most of the ’30s, Pitts was limited to comedy, both starring in two-reelers and getting supporting roles in features.

As for Schallert’s comments, one might initially believe Lombard took his advice — but truth be told, by October 1940, Carole had already decided to go in that direction, beginning work on “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Chances are with his knowledge of the industry, Schallert knew that, so perhaps he was being a bit disingenuous.

The next time out, laughter would be something Lombard would want to hear.

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Invitation to dance

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.14 at 00:00
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Dancing had been a part of Carole Lombard’s life ever since her teenage days in the mid-1920s, when she’d regularly take part in Charleston and other dance contests at the famed Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Carole was a pretty good dancer, but it was strictly recreation for her, not really a part of her professional livelihood. (This is where she and Cocoanut Grove rival Joan Crawford differed from the likes of Ginger Rogers, who’d had her share of Broadway musical and dance experience before going full-time into films.)

Carole was certainly athletic, but would she have been sufficiently talented in terpsichore to have partnered with, say, Fred Astaire? She might’ve been able to pull it off, but she clearly would’ve had to raise her dance game a few notches higher.

George Raft, a fine dancer but obviously no Astaire, was more her speed, and they teamed for two dance films — “Bolero” in 1934, and “Rumba” the following year. One of the “secrets” of those films was that Raft and Lombard didn’t perform some of the more complicated steps; rather, they were “doubled” in those instances by the renowned dance team of Veloz & Yolanda.

Paramount may not have admitted they were subbing for George and Carole at times, but the studio freely admitted they were on hand to give the stars instruction. Take this picture, for instance, showing Lombard with Frank Veloz:

Another photo of the two, used to promote “Rumba,” has cropped up, with a blurb on the back saying Carole was being instructed by him:

This latter picture, said to be in excellent condition, is being auctioned at eBay, though you don’t have much time to bid on it — the deadline is 9:45 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. No one has bid on it as of this writing; the minimum bid is $29.95 (a bit steep for some, but this is a rare image). If you’re a fan of both Lombard and the dance, this may be for you. To bid or learn more, go to

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It’s gold, exhibitors, gold!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.13 at 00:00
Current mood: dorkydorky

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that “Seinfeld” ended its run more than a decade ago; despite all the changes in our society, it still holds up beautifully. (I also have sort of a personal tie to the series in that I was a college classmate of one of its writers, Peter Mehlman, back in the mid-’70s.) Anyway, the photo above is of one of the colorful characters who populated the show — comedian Kenny Bania, whom Jerry frequently (and accurately) labels “a hack.” Nevertheless, Kenny keeps trying to make it on the comedy circuit, sure of the success of his material, which he tells Seinfeld, “It’s gold, Jerry, gold.

Kenny Bania came to my mind when I came across this:

Okay, to be honest, I didn’t think of him right away when I saw this; it’s an ad for Carole Lombard’s film “No One Man,” from the Motion Picture Herald, a trade publication, of Jan. 30, 1932. But take a closer look at the copy, and you wonder whether this ad could have written by Kenny Bania’s grandfather:

“Gold! Gold! Gold! A golden haired beauty who had too much! … The man who married her for it … The man who loved her in spite of it! The story that brought plenty of gold as a magazine serial and best selling novel! The Paramount Picture that will make plenty of it for the exhibitor who wants it. NO ONE MAN! GOLD!” The film was also described as “A natural that’ll put you back on the Gold Standard!

Uh, not quite. “No One Man” is usually considered one of Lombard’s least successful Paramount vehicles, did so-so at the box office and is rarely revived today. In other words, cinematic iron pyrite (fool’s gold).

While the ad’s tone can be deemed rather silly, it’s a delightful artifact of early-thirties Lombard — and Carole looks lovely. It’s being auctioned at eBay; you can buy it now for $15, or make a bid beginning at $9.99 (no one has bid as yet). Bidding closes just after 10:50 p.m. (Eastern) Saturday. If you’re interested, go to And at least whomever lands it won’t have to hear it tell jokes asking why the drink is called Ovaltine when the jar it’s in is round.

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Carole goes (to) West (premiere)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.12 at 00:00
Current mood: flirtyflirty

Today is Columbus Day (and for once, it actually falls on Oct. 12, the day of the year traditionally considered Columbus Day before it was converted into a federal holiday). So, what do you think Carole Lombard was doing on this day 76 years ago?

We apparently have an answer.

The following ad was recently reprinted in the Los Angeles Times blog devoted to L.A. history, “The Daily Mirror”:

It ran in the Times of Oct. 5, 1933, and it’s promoting the Hollywood premiere of Mae West’s new film, “I’m No Angel,” and Grauman’s Chinese theater on Hollywood Boulevard. And look who’s going to be there (specifically, look fifth from the top in the right-hand column):

Yes, Lombard was among those scheduled to be there; I have no idea whether she actually showed up at the premiere. (Someone want to check the papers of that time to find out?) Then again, look at some of the other names listed, and misspelled — “Katherine Hepburn” (OK, she had only been in films for a year and worked at another studio), “Lydi Roberti” (uh, that was “Lyda”), “Irene Dunn” (hey, where’s the “e” in her surname?) and “Marian Hopkins” (poor Miriam…and she was a Paramount star, to boot!). Also note the advertised presence of “Alice In Wonderland” — we presume that was Charlotte Henry in costume, as Paramount was promoting it as its upcoming holiday blockbuster.

It’s certainly easy to understand why so many industry stars and executives, especially those at Paramount, flocked to this premiere. West (shown in a portrait taken by Eugene Robert Richee) had rescued Paramount from possible bankruptcy earlier in the year with the smash hit “She Does Him Wrong” (the premiere of which Lombard had attended, as verified in newsreel footage), and so the studio was pulling out all the stops for this followup. West’s good-natured humor about sex, clever writing and musical ability (she had a real feel for the blues) endeared her to Depression audiences.

I’m sure Lombard knew West since both worked at Paramount, but just how well she knew her is uncertain; West had relatively little interaction with other actresses. I would care to guess Carole admired West’s comedic approach to sex and her writing ability.

As it turned out, “I’m No Angel” was a big hit as well. Only the strict enforcement of the Production Code in mid-1934 was able to derail West’s film career.

Bette Davis


Posted by [info]extranuance on 2009.10.12 at 16:08
Current mood: coldcold

I thought this was a very suitable post for Carole on Halloween.  I have always wanted to see this film but I keep missing it on TCM and it isn’t out on DVD.  Let me know if any of you have seen it and what you thought.

In New York city, Ruth Rogan is convicted of killing 3 of her lovers and sentenced to be executed. Meanwhile, lovely Roma Courtenay becomes a millionaire heiress when her brother dies. A spiritualist approaches Roma with an urgent message from her dead brother. He runs a rigged seance that doesn’t convince Roma’s boyfriend Grant but has Roma confused. Then unexpectedly, the executed Ruth Rogan’s spirit takes control of Roma’s body. Roma runs off with the fake spiritualist under Ruth Rogan’s control. Grant desperately tries to track Roma down and return her soul. Written by Gary Jackson.

Oh brother, there art thou

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.11 at 00:00
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

We know how close Carole Lombard was to her mother throughout her lifetime. Well, that also applied to her brothers. In fact, she enabled one of them, Stuart Peters, to share in her fame by posing with him for a Paramount publicity still:

I don’t have a precise date for this photo, but the seller believes it was in 1931 or ’32, and I’d tend to agree. The caption reads, “Carole Lombard, Paramount featured player, and her brother, Stuart Peters. Stu works on the stock exchange in Los Angeles.”

Stuart was the middle child in the Peters family, born in 1905, about halfway between Frederic, born in 1902, and Jane Alice. Stuart died in 1956 and, like his mother and siblings, is buried at Forest Lawn.

The photo of Carole and Stuart is being auctioned through eBay; it’s 8 x 10 inches and in very good condition. Two bids have been made, topped at $12.50, and you don’t have much time to join in — bidding closes at just after 5:45 p.m. (Eastern) today. If you want to get in on it, go to

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Cutting a man down to size

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.10 at 10:10
Current mood: amusedamused

In the past, I’ve noted that before Carole Lombard gained acclaim as a screwball comedy star, her films often had a scene where, learning the truth about a man in her life, she gave him a dressing-down, in effect making him feel small (

We’re not sure how Lombard acquired this figurative power to deflate her leading men, but perhaps it was something she picked up at Pathe several years before. Want some proof? Here goes:

Isn’t that a charmingly funny image? It was uncovered recently by Carla Valderrama ( as part of her research for her Lombard biography. She’s informed me it’s from Screen Secrets (a magazine I’d never heard of) from February 1929. It reads:

“CAROL LOMBARD, Pathe player, shows how to take a husband on your knee, give him a talking-to, and wind him around your finger. It’s all very well, if you have a knee like that to take him on, a mouth like that to do the talking, and a finger like Carol’s to wind him around.”

Of course, at that stage of her life Lombard hadn’t yet had a husband, but no doubt there had already been some men in her life whom she wanted to scale down to this size and lay down the law to. Certainly many female fan magazine readers felt likewise — and heck, perhaps there were some men who saw the image who wouldn’t have minded trading places with that puppet.

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Her house is a puzzle…

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.09 at 00:00
Current mood: restlessrestless


The Fort Wayne, Ind. house where Jane Alice Peters — the girl the world would eventually know as actress Carole Lombard — was born 101 years ago this past Tuesday (and is now home to a popular bed and breakfast) has been immortalized as a jigsaw puzzle.

According to the seller,

“This heirloom puzzle is approximately 8″ x 6″ and has 151 exquisitely cut pieces along with a decorative irregular edge and figural pieces as can be seen in the pictures.” The 151 pieces are wooden, made in the U.S. and laser-cut, while the figural pieces are shown below:

It’s defined as a “level 3” difficulty puzzle, meaning “More difficult. Requires some thought, patience and time. Undoubtedly includes a little “trickery”. Likely will have irregular edges.”

Sounds quite interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing — and apparently some people are, because two bids have been made as of this writing, topped at $12.50. Bidding closes at about 6:55 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. If you want to try to snare this puzzle, go to

Wonder if one of the bids was from a rather cavernous fictional mansion in Florida?

Women make their pitch (a baseball fan dance)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.08 at 00:00
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

My mother, who turns 89 later this month, is currently going through withdrawal symptoms. You see, she’s a Washington Nationals fan — never misses a telecast — and their season ended on Sunday.

It’s not easy being a Nats fan; for the second consecutive season, the team lost more than 100 games and finished with the worst record in the majors. But she’s an avid fan, knows all the players, follows the team’s moves in the papers. And while there wasn’t much to cheer about, the Nats had their moments. Like the home finale, where Justin Maxwell’s grand slam with two out in the ninth inning lifted Washington to a 7-4 victory over the Mets a week ago Wednesday to cap a three-game sweep of New York. The Nats then went to Atlanta and took four in a row from the Braves, ending the season with seven straight wins — a contrast to the 0-7 start to the season. (It marked the first time a major-league team had lost its first seven games and won its last seven.) And the season finale in Atlanta went 15 innings before the Nats won 2-1, giving mom a little extra baseball to take into the off-season. (She peripherally follows the postseason, but since the Nationals aren’t in it, it’s not that important to her.)

Keeping up with baseball is nothing new to my mother; she began following one of the most fabled teams in history some 60 years ago, the Brooklyn Dodgers of Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Roy Campanella. As she tells it, my father, a Brooklynite like my mother, was an avid Dodger fan, but was attending law school at New York University and couldn’t follow the team as closely as he’d like due to studies, so he had my mother watch the games on their new television set, explaining the intricacies of the game to her, so that when he came home she could tell him what happened beyond the final score. Wouldn’t you know it, she got hooked and watched Brooklyn games faithfully (both on TV and at Ebbets Field) until the family moved upstate a few years later.

Baseball sort of fell by the wayside for my mother over the years, though she attended a handful of games; I took her to see the Dodgers and Phillies at Veterans Stadium in 1994. But when Washington returned to the majors in 2005, her interest in baseball was rekindled, and though the Nats are currently as lackluster as those Dodger teams were star-studded, she loves them anyway.

Carole Lombard, as we’ve previously noted, loved baseball ( She played the game with neighborhood boys in her childhood, and retained interest into her adult life. The first photo, one we’ve run a few times before, shows Carole at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles in either 1932 or ’33, when the New York Giants held spring training in L.A. The second photo is one we’re running for the first time; it’s again at Wrigley, showing her throwing out the first ball of a game in 1938. I’m not sure whether it’s a Los Angeles Angels or Hollywood Stars game, as both called the park home that year. (The Stars moved into Gilmore Field in 1939, and Carole and Clark Gable attended their share of games.) This photo ran as part of the Oct. 17, 1938 Life magazine cover feature on Lombard, but for some reason it hasn’t been included in the magazine’s online archives. My thanks to Carole Sampeck — an avid follower of the Texas Rangers — of The Lombard Archive for providing this photo.

Lombard’s not the only actress to follow baseball over the years. Marilyn Monroe liked baseball, not just by briefly marrying Joe DiMaggio but attending games. A few months before her death, she saw Bo Belinsky of the American League Angels no-hit Baltimore at Dodger Stadium (which the Angels called home for a few seasons before getting their own ballpark in Anaheim). Washington native Goldie Hawn (she’ll turn 64 next month, and has never seen a D.C. baseball team in a genuine pennant race in her lifetime), whose main squeeze is former minor-leaguer Kurt Russell, periodically goes to games — in 1990, she and Kurt caught the final game at old Comiskey Park in Chicago. And now another actress famed for her baseball fanaticism has written a book about it:

It’s “Safe At Home: Confessions Of A Baseball Fanatic,” by Alyssa Milano of “Who’s The Boss?” and “Charmed.” Oddly, Melissa Joan Hart, whom we discussed in a recent entry ( and who also played a witch on TV, is an avid baseball fan as well; someone check to see if Elizabeth Montgomery regularly went to the ballpark.

Milano — who like my mother was born in Brooklyn (obviously long after the Dodgers left) but grew up on Staten Island — isn’t just an avid fan but a knowledgeable one. (As I write this, she’s probably leaving Dodger Stadium, delighted to see her team defeat St. Louis 5-3 in the opener of their National League Division Series.) If Lombard were around today, I could see her engaging in some protracted baseball discussions with Alyssa while sitting in the box seats.

Milano not only describes her passion for the game, but gives you some tips on how to take it a game, what to watch out for and so on. She’s even designed a line of sports related clothing ( for female baseball fans (and now football, too), eschewing the pink seen in much of the outfits major league baseball has licensed for women.

You don’t have to be a woman to enjoy this book, but I think it’s the audience who will most appreciate it. In fact, I think I may purchase a copy for my mother as a birthday present, as she waits for the Nationals to report for spring training in a few months.

(P.S. I bought mom the book, she just got it, and loves it!)

Time to play “tag,” and answer questions

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.07 at 00:00
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Around the classic Hollywood neighborhood of the blogosphere yesterday, there were quite a few tributes to Carole Lombard commemorating the 101st anniversary of her birth. One in particular fascinated me, probably because it was interactive and I enjoyed seeing the responses I saw.

It’s from the site “Dreaming In Black And White” (, which did several Lombard-related entries in recent days. One of them was a “tag” asking a half-dozen questions. I’m going to reprint the questions here, leaving my responses to them under a cut. Do your responses before you see mine, and wait at least a day before you comment on mine (or any others). I think this could be fun.

All set? Here goes:

1. Name your favorite Lombard film.

2. Carole’s career was cut tragically short in 1942. Though she worked with many amazing and talented actors, who would you have liked to see her with?

3. Who was your favorite Lombard leading man?

4. Do you think Carole’s relevant today? if so, why?

5. Do you agree with contemporary views that someone like Cameron Diaz is the new Carole Lombard?

6. On a scale of 1-10, how cool was Carole?

So, how did I respond?

1. The “big four” (“Twentieth Century,” “My Man Godfrey,” “Nothing Sacred,” “To Be Or Not To Be”) are all brilliant, but I’m going with “Hands Across The Table” because she’s splendid in it and has fine chemistry with Fred MacMurray. It’s probably her best Paramount vehicle.

2. Technically, she worked with Cary Grant in several films, but they never made a comedy together, an irony since they are generally considered king and queen of the screwball genre. I’m going to go with James Cagney, with whom she could have worked with in pre-Code days, but never got the chance. (Early in her Paramount tenure, before she was fully wise to the ways of the industry, she rejected a loanout to Warners as Cagney’s leading lady in “Taxi!” — a decision she long regretted.) He could have elicited something special from her, just as John Barrymore did.

3. William Powell, particularly in “My Man Godfrey.”

4. She’s relevant because she’s easily the most timeless of the classic Hollywood stars. Lombard has far more to say to women today than, say, Marilyn Monroe.

5. There’ll never really be a “new Lombard,” but Diaz has some of her qualities ( So do Kate Hudson and Christina Applegate, among others. Trouble is, today few well-written, sophisticated romantic comedies are being made.

6. Someone said 20, another 21, so I’ll have to top them and say 22 (only because my keyboard lacks the infinity symbol!).

Happy 101st, Carole!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.06 at 00:00
Current mood: happyhappy

It’s finally here…the 101st anniversary of Carole Lombard’s birth. In a way, it marks the end of something too, because for more than 21 months people have been celebrating Lombard’s centennial — first throughout the calendar year 2008, then from Oct. 6, 2008 until today. Obviously 101 doesn’t connote the same sort of urgency as 100, but no matter; Carole’s achievements, both as an artist and as a person, are always worth celebrating.

Lombard may have left us more than two-thirds of a century ago, but she still speaks to us today. On screen, she teaches actors of ensuing generations how to elicit emotions, most notably in the romantic comedy setting where she reigned supreme but also through her steadily improving skills as a dramatic actress. Off screen, she speaks to us about how the power of friendship and mutual respect can outlast a marriage that failed…of how treating others with dignity, even those deemed beneath yourr station in life, is the proper way to live…of how love for your country can be shown not only in words, but in deeds. If more of today’s celebrities learned from Carole how to use their fame in a constructive manner without having to adopt a facade of false piety, scandals could be kept to a minimum.

If there’s an afterlife, I’m sure somewhere Carole is celebrating the anniversary of her birth, sharing the occasion with her many friends. (And by “friends,” we don’t just mean fellow stars; that wasn’t her style. She was egalitarian, and her friends ranged from the lowliest crew members to studio executives.) And if she’s reading this blog, we want her to know we’re celebrating, too.

Happy birthday, Carole Lombard!

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With this pic, I thee wed

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.05 at 00:54
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

On the eve of the 101st anniversary of Carole Lombard’s birth, let’s look back to one of the highlights of her personal life. We’re turning the clock back to mid-1931, when Lombard, still a relative newcomer at Paramount, entered into supposed married bliss, joining in matrimony with one of the studio’s top actors, William Powell. They ultimately discovered they didn’t work well as husband and wife, divorcing in 1933 — but they remained good friends until Lombard’s passing in 1942.

There are a number of photos of Powell and Lombard’s wedding, but here’s one I’ve never come across before:

According to the person selling this photo, it’s a 6″ x 8″ “press candid” from a firm named “International Newsreel,” with a rubber stamp on the back of June 30, 1931. It looks as if there’s been some tinkering with the outline of Powell’s body, perhaps to create better contrast so his suit wouldn’t blend into the background. (It likely wasn’t taken at the wedding, but was issued to announce the couple had wed.)

No one has yet bid on this item as of this writing; bidding begins at $24.95 amd runs through 10:45 p.m. (Eastern) on Wednesday. If you’d like to bid, or just want to learn more, go to

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Let’s play three!

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.04 at 00:19
Current mood: optimisticoptimistic

Above is a postcard from the early years of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, fabled home of the Pirates for more than 60 years. Many great ballplayers called that field home — including Honus Wagner, Ralph Kiner and Roberto Clemente — but 89 years ago Friday, a different kind of baseball history was made there when the Bucs and Cincinnati Reds played the last tripleheader in major-league history. (Such an event is now prohibited under the current players-owners bargaining agreement; heck, these days you rarely see doubleheaders.)

The Reds won the first two games 13-4 and 7-3 before Pittsburgh won 6-0 in a game halted by darkness. The three games consumed exactly five hours of playing time; the first game was played in 2:03, the second in 1:56 and the shortened nightcap in 1:01. (Of course, back then you had few calls to the bullpen and no mascot races between innings.)

Come Tuesday, the 101st anniversary of Carole Lombard’s birth, she’ll have her own tripleheader on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. To some, that may not seem like much, but TCM pulled out all the stops a year ago for her centennial — remember, she was their star of the month.

What’s the triple bill, you ask? Here’s the answer (all times Eastern):

* 9:15 a.m. — “Brief Moment” (1933). Carole plays a nightclub singer who marries a wealthy playboy (Gene Raymond), then tries to reform him. A capable adaptation of a Broadway play, another example that Columbia knew how to create a vehicle for Lombard better than her home studio Paramount did.

* 10:30 a.m. — “Lady By Choice” (1934). An adequate comedy, with Lombard portraying a fan dancer who adopts a struggling elderly woman (May Robson) for publicity. Roger Pryor is her love interest; Walter Connolly’s in this too, as a judge.

* noon — “In Name Only” (1939). Yes, many of us regret that Carole and Cary Grant, the actress and actor most identified with the screwball comedy genre, never made such a film together…but at least we do have this fine romantic drama, with the able Kay Francis rounding out this love triangle.

Three films — amounting to a total of four hours and 45 minutes, slightly shorter than that aforementioned baseball tripleheader — may not satisfy some, but imagine if you’re a fan of Janet Gaynor (who was a friend of Carole’s). She’s also an Oct. 6 baby, and she’s getting only two films from TCM, at an earlier time (“The Young In Heart” at 6:15 a.m., followed by “Three Loves Has Nancy” at 8).

Incidentally, the Pirates and Reds, mired at the bottom of the National League Central, close out the season today in Cincinnati, probably thankful they’re playing only one game.

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Bette Davis

Carole Lombard being Vogue

Posted by [info]extranuance on 2009.10.04 at 17:21
Current mood: artisticartistic


Older (or younger) than they seem

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.03 at 00:24
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

If you were a fan of 1990s TV, you probably recognize the lady above — it’s Melissa Joan Hart in her two signature roles, first as Clarissa Darling on the Nickelodeon series “Clarissa Explains It All,” then as Sabrina Spellman on the sitcom “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” (a live-action adaptation of the Archie Comics character, which aired first on ABC, then on the WB).

Hart’s back on ABC, but this time she’s not playing a character. Instead, she’s one of the celebrities appearing on the popular competition “Dancing With The Stars,” and so far she has managed to avoid being eliminated. Here’s what she looks like today, in a promo picture from ABC:

Why are we bringing this up? To provide a fact that may knock you for a loop: Melissa Joan Hart is now older than Carole Lombard was at the time of her death. It’s true — Hart was born in April 1976…and not only is she 33, but she’s had two children.

It’s fascinating, because Hart is so identified with young characters. But that can be deceptive. For example, when the “Sabrina” series premiered in September 1996, Hart herself was no longer a teenager. (The show ran until 2003, by which time the Sabrina character wasn’t a teenager, either — but due to contractual obligations with Archie Comics, the series had to retain its original title.) When “Sabrina” ended its run in early 2003, Hart already was older than Jean Harlow had been at the time of her death.

Hart’s hardly the only actress to play characters much younger than their actual age. Even into the 1920s, Mary Pickford, entering her thirties, occasionally played teens. (Like Hart, she was relatively short, which made playing such roles easier.)

But it’s interesting to note that many actresses who came to prominence in the 1930s began their careers the other way, portraying characters who were definitely older than they were in real life. Perhaps the most obvious example is Loretta Young, who began in the silents. Here she is, second from left, in the 1927 Colleen Moore vehicle “Her Wild Oat”:

When that film was made, Young was 14 years old.

Flash forward to 1931 and the Frank Capra film “Platinum Blonde.” Here’s Young, embraced by Robert Williams, playing a big-city newspaper reporter; she’s age 18. (Harlow, the film’s titular character, looks on — and she’s actually an old maid of 20.)

And while we unfortunately lack actual motion picture footage of it, we know that Lombard’s first lead role was playing a woman who weds in the 1925 Fox silent “Marriage In Transit.” A lobby card from the film is shown below; it was made when Lombard was all of age 16 (and at the time probably unable to wed without parental consent in most U.S. states). When Hart was age 16, she was in the midst of her three-year run of playing Clarissa.

An intriguing study in contrasts, and proof once again that age is relative.

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A starry gathering

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.02 at 07:41
Current mood: cheerfulcheerful

Every now and then during the golden age of Hollywood, a studio would assemble its roster of star actors for a group photo. At a place like MGM, this would be conducted with an almost reverential solemnity, as if the gods and goddesses were gathering on Mount Olympus, Culver City division. The resulting photo was formal, with the grandeur one would expect from MGM.

Paramount, more of a free-wheeling studio, was considerably different. When its stars were collected, the result was more akin to a club photo from a high school yearbook, with an air of informality. Here’s an example of that tone, circa 1935:

And just look who’s front and center — none other than Carole Lombard. (Was she placed there because she was so well-liked, or because she was blonde and stood out? Probably a little of both.) Carole’s wearing slacks and appears to be holding a sombrero with her right hand — could you envision that in an MGM group shot? — and Baby LeRoy with her left.

I can’t identify everyone on hand, but among those present are Joel McCrea, Fredric March, Jack Oakie and Charlie Ruggles. If you want to try your hand at identifying, go right ahead.

Of course, you might find it easier to do if you had the photo there with you…and you indeed have that opportunity. It’s an 8″ x 10″ reprint being auctioned at eBay; bids begin at $6 (no one has yet bid as of this writing), and bidding closes at just after 5:25 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. Think you’re interested? Then go to

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James & Jill no Clark & Carole (you knew that)

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2009.10.01 at 15:49
Current mood: frustratedfrustrated

At times, attacking the 1976 film “Gable And Lombard” can seem as pointless as kicking dachshunds in the street — something that actually happened in the U.S. during World War I as an expression of anti-German sentiment (as if the dogs were acting as agents for the Kaiser).

But putting down “Gable And Lombard” (and by that we mean criticizing it, not euthanizing it) isn’t as cruel as puppy-kicking…or how the film inaccurately told the tale of two Hollywood legends on a scale unusually bad for even a biopic. We’ve roasted this cinematic turkey before (, and now someone else has joined the fun. Don’t look at it as piling on.

The book is called “Starring John Wayne As Genghis Khan,” and is written by Damien Bona, co-author of “Inside Oscar.” (The title refers to Wayne’s role in the 1956 film “The Conqueror,” a part he was ill-suited for. Worse, much of the film was shot in Utah, near an area where some fallout from atomic testing was still extant, and it is believed this eventually led to cases of cancer among Wayne and other cast and crew members.)

There is a bit of snark to Bona’s book — when describing examples of ludicrous casting, how can you avoid it? — but the tone never overwhelms the book. Every entry he cites has an introductory headline; for “Gable And Lombard,” it’s “Pretenders To The Throne.”

Bona begins with this perceptive comment: “One shouldn’t come down too hard on James Brolin and Jill Clayburgh for their performances in ‘Gable And Lombard.’ Nobody could have been seen to good advantage under those circumstances. What they need to be castigated for is their hubris in thinking they could approximate two incomparable movie stars.”

Bona blasts Barry Sandler’s script for making Gable’s character “sheepish, shambling,” minus the sly confidence that made men wish they could be him and women wish they could be with him. But Bona adds that if the script

“…neuters Clark Gable, it does just the opposite to Carole Lombard. Having heard about her reputation for salty language, Sandler turns Lombard into a lowlife vulgarian. By most accounts, she had as much class off the screen as on, but the film’s facsimile is a trollop who chatters endlessly about getting laid.”

The film’s emphasis on the Gable-Lombard sexual relationship diminishes them as characters, Bona adds:

“The worst aspect of this crass enterprise is its smarminess about the pair’s sexual relationship — all you need to know about the quality of ‘Gable And Lombard’ is that Carole Lombard is shown to be so fixated on her lover’s penis that she knits it a stocking cap.”

Well, at least the real-life Lombard could knit, as shown above. (We presume she is not knitting a penile stocking cap.)

Bona discusses the search to find actors to play the title roles, noting that columnist Joyce Haber asked her readers to make suggestions. For Gable, they wanted Robert Redford, followed by David Janssen (who not only openly sought the role, but believed Gable might have been his father since both possessed large ears). The top vote-getters for Lombard were Barbra Streisand(!) and Faye Dunaway (who, as we all know, ultimately ended up playing Lombard’s Cocoanut Grove dance rival, Joan Crawford).

Universal saw things somewhat differently before winding up with Brolin and Clayburgh. It first wanted Burt Reynolds, who to his credit wanted nothing to do with playing Gable (or maybe he read the script), then turned to Steve McQueen. Warren Beatty showed a bit of interest, but only if the characters’ names were changed to fictional ones. (Then again, the characters he and Dunaway played in “Bonnie & Clyde” weren’t at all similar to the real-life criminals.)

An early candidate as Carole, according to Bona, was Valerie Perrine, who had the sex appeal necessary for Lombard and who’d won an Academy Award nomination for “Lenny.” (Perrine’s iconoclastic attitude might have worked well for playing Lombard; many years later, it was reported her license plate read “RATS” — “star” spelled backwards. She still gets work in character parts.) Also considered was Sally Kellerman, who played Hot Lips in the 1970 “M*A*S*H” movie, but at 5-foot-11, she likely would have been far too tall for the role. (Then again, in Sandler’s script, Lombard was initially — and erroneously — a bigger star than Gable; you might as well make her taller than him, too.)

Bona said Clayburgh “resembled Carole Lombard not in the least (as thirties movie comediennes go, she looked more like Jean Arthur), nor did she have Lombard’s breathy vocal quality. … Mannered and shrill, Clayburgh simply lacks the effervescence that flowed so naturally from the real article.”

For proof, here’s Clayburgh on the left, then the “real article”:

It’s a testimony to the goodwill Clark and Carole won over the years that their reputations survived this debacle. Now if only someone would do a biopic about them, and do it right

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Posted December 13, 2011 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole & Co. entries, September 2009   Leave a comment

Get ‘depressed’ with TCM in October

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

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

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

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

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

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She’s back (with a vest-ed interest)!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A magazine that became a memorial

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

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

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

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Things go better with Lombard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carole + another youngster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hey, LeRoy (oh, baby)!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lombard and Hesser make ‘True Confessions’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carole shows some swagger (honest!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing persons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Coop’s stamp of approval

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web site:

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

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

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

Evan Bayh (D)

Web site:

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

Richard G. Lugar (R)

Web site:

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

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

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

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

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

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RKO elegance

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

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

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

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

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What they were saying about her

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

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

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

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

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

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A pier that has few peers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From a late friend’s collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Back home in Indiana? Not for this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The entry is at

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

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

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

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

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Carole, MGM style

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

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

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

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

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

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A Lombard hat trick

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

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

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

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

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One more ‘Brief Moment’

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

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

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

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

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

A blessed thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To ‘Carol,’ from John

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

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

The inscription reads:

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

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

‘Fools,’ er, ‘Food’ for thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

The trade magazine ad is being auctioned at eBay; the minimum bid is $9.99, abd thus far no one has bid on it. The deadline i