Archive for February 2012

Hand in glove, it’s candidly Carole   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.29 at 11:29

Current mood: curiouscurious

Anyone care to venture a guess as to the when and where of this candid snapshot of Carole Lombard?

I’m guessing it to have been taken on the Paramount lot sometime in the mid-1930s, though I could be wrong. Interesting to see Lombard wearing gloves, too.

It’s a 3″ x 5″ photo, likely taken by a fan or non-professional, and it’s being auctioned at eBay. It’s in good condition, and one bid has been made already, for $19.99. The sale price may soar, as the auction doesn’t end until 1:28 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday.

If you’re interested, check it out at And if you think you know more about the particulars of this photo, let us know.

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Posted February 29, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Leapin’ Lombard (as in leap year)   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.29 at 01:08

Current mood: indifferentindifferent

Before beginning today’s entry, a reminder that the 2012 Favorite Classic Movie Actress Tourney gets underway on Monday, and it’s time for Team Carole to mobilize. To that end, here’s a banner I’ve created, showing Carole Lombard looking lovely and majestic in a swimsuit, towering over her rivals. If you wish to copy it for your site or to send to friends, by all means do so.

As the subject header implies, today we’re examining Carole from the perspective of Feb. 29, leap year’s day. At least one leap year baby figured into Lombard’s life — William Wellman, director of “Nothing Sacred.” (As we’ve noted before, he was born on Feb. 29, 1896, and because 1900 did not have a leap year day, as is the case for all years that end in “00” but whose first two digits aren’t divisible by four, Wellman didn’t celebrate his birthday on its actual anniversary date until he was eight years old.) Here’s Wellman giving Carole a shower on the set:

Truth be told, no particularly big events in Carole’s life took place on Feb. 29. She sent this letter to a Mr. Richards on Feb. 29, 1932, letting him know that in real life she was not a Lombard, that it was just “the name I have taken for my work”:

Four years later, Lombard probably didn’t do much of anything on Feb. 29, because she was sidelined with influenza. As the Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner put it, she would “be unable to portray her sophisticated self before the camera for at least a week.”

One advantage of this downtime is that it enabled the canine around the house to further hone its acting skills. At least that was the word from the San Mateo Times:

Harrison Carroll’s syndicated column, shown here in the Tyrone (Pa.) Daily Herald, has several Lombard-related items…such as the fun she, Clark Gable and several others had in disrupting Jock Whitney and Gilbert Roland’s tennis match. “There were some funny printed signs, but you’ll have to get the details elsewhere, because we simply can’t print them,” he wrote.

Carroll also reported that Fred MacMurray had stood Lombard up on the set of “Concertina” (the film we now know as “The Princess Comes Across”) — but Carole may well have encouraged him to do it all along in order to help him get a raise in salary.

Finally, the columnist asked her about those Gable rumors, Lombard replied, “I’m too tired. I’m in no mood to tie up with anybody. I’ve just been through one of those things [presumably Robert Riskin] and I want to play the field for a while. It’s more fun.” There were no photos of Carole while she was saying this, so we don’t know whether her nose grew slightly longer.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported another potential Carole-Coop pairing, and look who was going to write the script for Lombard and Gary Cooper:

The film was made later that year, Odets co-wrote the script (with Lewis Milestone directing), but instead of Coop and Carole, it was Coop and Carroll...Madeleine Carroll, that is.

Feb. 29, 1940 would be the final leap year day Lombard would experience — and nearly a year into her marriage to Gable, she kept a relatively low profile. Her films were speaking for her, such as her latest, “Vigil In The Night,” which was going to premiere at the Stanley in Chester, Pa.:

Meanwhile, Carole’s previous film, “In Name Only,” was still making the rounds in much of the midwest. It was playing the Patee in the university town of Lawrence, Kansas…

…and the Rapids Theater in Rock Rapids, Iowa — and if you found your name on that newspaper page, you won free tickets:

Elsewhere in Iowa, specifically the State Theater in orchestra leader Meredith Willson’s hometown of Mason City, fans had a final chance to view the movie that put Carole on the comedic map:

Just adjacent to the State ad was one for the Surf Ballroom in nearby Clear Lake, promoting “sweet swing” bandleader Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights. The Surf, still up today, is now best known as the venue where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (aka “The Big Bopper”) gave what would be their final performance as part of a traveling tour. The three decided to hire a plane to the next show; it crashed, and all died, on Feb. 3, 1959.

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Posted February 29, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Oh thank heaven for 1107   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.28 at 07:47

Current mood: frustratedfrustrated

Somewhere — the Paramount archives, perhaps? — is a complete file of the p1202 photos of Carole Lombard, an invaluable treasure trove of portraits (more than 1,700) from her seven-plus years at the studio. For now, though, we have to assemble such a collection piece by piece, and here’s one more for us to savor. It’s p1202-1107, from 1935, and it’s being auctioned on eBay:

Carole, wearing an outfit with her initials, makes glamour seem so easy, doesn’t she?

This was taken with a cell phone camera, so the seller assures us the image is “sharper and clearer” than what we see here. It’s an original 8″ x 10″, listed in “very good condition.”

Bids on this relative rarity begin at $21.99 (none have been made as of this writing), and bidding is scheduled to close at 12:36 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday. If you want to bid, or simply learn more about the item, visit

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Posted February 28, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

It’s off to work she goes   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.27 at 08:16

Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

One of Carole Lombard’s most famous publicity attempts came…by beinga publicist. In July 1938, she spent a week handling studio publicity for Selznick International, under the watchful eye of Russell Birdwell (one of the best in the business) but otherwise running the show. (She wrote about it a few months later for the Hollywood Reporter,
We’ve run several photographs of Carole handling PR, often with the famous “DANGER LOMBARD NOW AT WORK” sign. Well, here’s one I’ve come across for the first time:

We don’t have an image of the snipe on the back, but the seller on eBay has let us know what it says:

PRESS AGENT LOMBARD — Carole Lombard had turned from stardom to publicity work for a week, at Selznick International Studio in Culver City, California, “because,” she says, “stars sit in on story conferences, wardrobe conferences, directorial conferences and others, but never on publicity and exploitation, which are equally important.” Here is Miss Lombard at her desk on her first day’s work. She is handling the advance material for her own picture, “Made for Each Other,” co-starring James Stewart, and also publicity on “The Young in Heart,” starring Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Paulette Goddard. So much interest was aroused by the fact that Miss Lombard is the first star in history to turn press agent, that she was busy all day being interviewed by reporters.

OK, so it’s not “Miss Lombard at her desk,” but instead shows her, with sign, outside the Selznick International publicity office. It’s yet another indication of the genuine enthusiasm Carole had for the motion picture business beyond merely acting and being a star. (And good publicity for her, too.)

It’s an 8″ x 10″ original with a purple “1938” stamp on the back. According to the seller, “Border corners are soft/creased. Photo curls. Borders are rough.”

For such a relatively rare image, I’m a bit surprised no bids have been made on this photo as of this writing…especially since the starting bid is a more than reasonable $9.99. The auction is scheduled to expire at 6:05 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday; if you want to get in on the action, visit

Something to pique your interest following last night’s Academy Awards (congratulations to the winners, and I am thrilled for the love shown “The Artist”).

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Posted February 27, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

The something about the misunderstood Mary   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.26 at 15:15

Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

“Take business -– that’s supposed to be a man’s province. Yet I can name you the most outstanding success in the business life of the movies and that person is a woman: Mary Pickford. You can’t match her. She’s supreme in every department.”
— Carole Lombard, quoted in “Carole Lombard tells: ‘How I Live By A Man’s Code’,” by Hart Seymore, Photoplay, June 1937

Lombard knew firsthand of what she spoke. That’s her above with Buddy Rogers in a scene from the 1927 Pickford film “My Best Girl”; Carol had an unbilled role in this late silent, a fact relatively few are aware of (

Chances are Lombard didn’t spend that much time on the set, a day or two at most, as she only appeared in one scene, playing a “flirty salesgirl.” Nevertheless, working on a Pickford film was a feather in her cap, as she had been watching her films from childhood. During the 1930s, Carole may have visited Mary’s fabled home, Pickfair, for a few social functions — and later in the decade, Rogers (who also worked with Lombard in her 1930 Paramount debut, “Safety In Numbers”) would marry Pickford, and they’d be together through her death in 1979.

On this, the day of the Academy Awards, when it appears a (largely) silent film will capture its share of honors, it seems to be an appropriate day to examine the career of Mary Pickford, someone horribly misconstrued by current movie fans if they’ve merely heard or her, but never actually seen her. As Jeanine Basinger wrote in her splendid book, “Silent Stars,” people today “have no real grasp of who she was, how important and beloved she was, or how she pioneered stardom and the concept of the career woman. Isn’t it ironic that the biggest female star in history ends up being the most misunderstood?”

As we’ve stated before, one reason for this is that silent film gradually withered out of public consciousness as talking pictures further and further developed. The “language” of silent cinema, once second nature to movie audiences, became, pardon the pun, a lost tongue. In 2012, not many are around who saw honest-to-goodness silent films premiere, save for Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” and “Modern Times,” and those few who do were invariably no more than children. Our knowledge of that era is thus incomplete, at best. So this is normally how we perceive Pickford:

As Basinger wrote, she is thought of “as a bargain-basement Shirley Temple — that she was an older actress who masqueraded as a child, dimpling around, cheering everyone up while her characters lived a Dickensian existence with nothing but a bowl of gruel and a brave smile between them and disaster.” Replying with the phrase, “Utter nonsense,” would be an understatement.

Pickford, barely over five feet tall, could play a young girl (not a child!) as a result of her diminutive stature, but during the teens and ’20s she played women as often as girls, if not more so. And she had an inner toughness, a resiliency, that resonated with audiences of her time. “She was sometimes sentimental as befit her times, but there’s a difference between sweet and cloying,” Basinger wrote, “and Mary Pickford was never cloying.”

Pickford could do drama and comedy with aplomb, quickly developing a grasp for how acting for film differed from stage work. And as stated by Lombard, she was a remarkable businesswoman, often producing her own films. She was as much a partner in the founding of United Artists as husband Douglas Fairbanks or cohort Charlie Chaplin.

What’s the best way to explain Mary Pickford? See her in action — and thanks to YouTube, which has loads of Pickford performances available, we can do just that. (For many years, her films were largely unavailable, and late in her life she considered having them destroyed upon her death. Thankfully, Rogers and Lillian Gish talked her out of such a move; otherwise, she might even be more misunderstood than she is today.) Here are four examples of Mary Pickford at work.

First, “Ramona,” a 16-minute film adaptation of the Helen Hunt Jackson novel from May 1910, directed by D.W. Griffith. Mary plays the title character, with Henry B. Walthall as the native American who falls for her. One of the first big hit movies of the early teens, this was also one of the initial films to be shot in southern California. This is in excellent condition for a movie more than a century old, and I think you’ll be impressed by the naturalism Pickford, still in her teens, is already showing on screen:

Released later in 1910 — after Griffith and crew had returned east — here’s a much less ambitious (and more typical) film, the 12-minute “An Arcadian Maid,” again directed by Griffith, with Mack Sennett acting as the villain. This has some special interest to me, as much of it was filmed in Westfield, N.J., where I resided from 1995 to 2004. In fact, I lived across the street from the train station, and quite a few scenes were shot near the rail tracks. A few years before Pickford’s death, Westfield officials were able to procure a few films made in town from her office and held a festival in her honor:

Now let’s move up to 1912 and back to California for Griffith directing Pickford in the 14-minute “A Beast At Bay.” This antecedent of “The French Connection” and “The Fast And The Furious” features one of movies’ first car-train chase scenes, with Mary driving at a scary 54 miles per hour (without a freeway). The emphasis here is more on action than acting:

Finally, back east (specifically to Fort Lee, N.J.) for some top-of-the-line filmmaking from late 1912, the 16-minute “The New York Hat.” With Pickford (whose acting here is marvelously subtle) are Lionel Barrymore as a pastor, Lillian Gish as a shop customer, and uncredited work from her sister Dorothy, Mary’s brother Jack and Sennett. Moreover, Anita Loos wrote the script, with help from Frances Marion.

Several of Pickford’s features are available via YouTube as well, some in their entirety, others in segments. They include “Tess Of The Storm Country,” “Suds,” “Poor Little Rich Girl” and “Stella Maris.”

Pickford’s popularity soared as years went on, but professionally it often was stifling. In many instances, her characters underwent reverse growth, as public tastes often locked Mary into youthful roles well into the mid-1920s. “My Best Girl,” her final silent, showed that Pickford could do well on the modern comedy turf of Colleen Moore and Clara Bow. A few years later, Mary — who helped found the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — would win an Academy Award for “Coquette,” hardly her best work but already a de facto lifetime achievement award from Oscar. She would retire after “Secrets” in 1933, but it wasn’t for lack of looks, as this 1935 portrait from George Hurrell makes clear:

Despite her towering achievements as both an actress and businesswoman (she helped bring Ernst Lubitsch to America, even though their lone collaboration, “Rosita,” was not one of her favorite films), Pickford was a mere 24th on the American Film Institute’s list of 25 greatest actresses some years ago — one spot behind Lombard. I have no doubt Carole would be aghast over that ranking…not regarding herself, but Mary.

Late in life, Pickford said that it would have made more sense (artistically, rather than technically) if silent film had developed from talking pictures, instead of the other way around. Tonight, “The Artist” — part of which was filmed in a house where Mary resided in the late 1910s — could prove her right.

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Posted February 26, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Preparing for more madness   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.25 at 00:01

Current mood: hopefulhopeful

Looks like Carole Lombard’s getting herself in shape (in this image from the Mack Sennett silent “Run, Girl, Run”). What could it be for?The answer: March Madness. No, Carole’s not suiting up to join a basketball team; even if she was actually 5-foot-6 (the tallest Lombard listing during her lifetime) and in optimal physical shape, she’d probably be too small to be a Division I point guard today. No, this madness is a one-on-one event, and basketball’s not part of the equation.

If you remember, last year Monty at “All Good Things” sponsored a classic actress tournament, and Lombard reached the finals of the silents/1930s division before losing to Irene Dunne. Another tournament is on the horizon, but this one will be bigger and better than its predecessor, featuring 128 star ladies from four categories — silents/1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. There will be 32 in each group, further divided into four subcategories. Monty designed some banners for the event, but I’m going to borrow one from “A Mythical Monkey Writes About The Movies,” one of four sites sponsoring the tourney…you can guess why.

“Mythical Monkey” will host the silents/’30s tourney, and Lombard is top-seeded in the “Funny Ladies” bracket; guess who she’ll be facing in the first round?

That’s right — Gail Patrick. It’s Irene vs. Cornelia, redux! (And if you think that’s a catfight, wait till you see some of the other first-round matches.)

Others in the bracket:
#2 Myrna Loy vs. #7 Margaret Dumont
#3 Jean Harlow vs. #6 Marie Dressler (a “Dinner At Eight” replay!)
#4 Jean Arthur vs. #5 Margaret Sullavan

Other brackets in silents/’30s include:

“They Had Faces”
#1 Greta Garbo vs. #8 Anna May Wong
#2 Mary Pickford vs. #7 Janet Gaynor
#3 Lillian Gish vs. #6 Gloria Swanson
#4 Clara Bow vs. #5 Louise Brooks

“Tough Broads And Pre-Code Babes”
#1 Barbara Stanwyck vs. #8 Miriam Hopkins
#2 Marlene Dietrich vs. #7 Elsa Lanchester
#3 Joan Crawford vs. #6 Norma Shearer (that’s right — Crystal Allen vs Mary Haines of “The Women”!)
#4 Claudette Colbert vs. #5 Mary Astor

“Singers And Dancers”
#1 Irene Dunne vs. #8 Luise Rainer
#2 Shirley Temple vs. #7 Hattie McDaniel
#3 Ginger Rogers vs. #6 Joan Blondell (two “Gold Diggers Of 1933”!)
#4 Jeanette MacDonald vs. #5 Mae West (will it be the Paramount or MGM Jeanette who shows up?)

I see several ’30s notables didn’t make the cut here — have they been sent off into the ’40s competition, being hosted by “Rosalind Russell — Dazzling Star”? Let’s see:

#1 Vivien Leigh vs. #8 Ruth Hussey
#2 Ingrid Bergman vs. #7 Loretta Young
#3 Lauren Bacall vs. #6 Ann Sheridan
#4 Greer Garson vs. #5 Gene Tierney

Drama Queens”
#1 Bette Davis vs. #8 Claire Trevor
#2 Katharine Hepburn vs. #7 Jane Greer
#3 Olivia de Havilland vs. #6 Ida Lupino
#4 Joan Fontaine vs. #5 Lana Turner

“Funny Ladies/Girls Next Door”
#1 Rosalind Russell vs. #8 Jeanne Crain (does Roz have a home-site advantage?)
#2 Lucille Ball vs. #7 Maureen O’Hara (red hair all over the place!)
#3 Eve Arden vs. #6 Teresa Wright
#4 Jane Wyman vs. #5 Donna Reed

#1 Judy Garland vs. #8 Margaret O’Brien (this match is in St. Louis, right?)
#2 Rita Hayworth vs. #7 Hedy Lamarr
#3 Ann Miller vs. #6 Virginia Mayo
#4 Betty Grable vs. #5 June Allyson

Don’t really think of some of them as singers or dancers, but…

Now on to the fabulous ’50s tourney, held at “Noir & Chick Flicks.”

#1 Grace Kelly vs. #8 Rhonda Fleming
#2 Audrey Hepburn vs. #7 Dorothy Malone
#3 Deborah Kerr vs. #6 Kim Novak
#4 Sophia Loren vs. #5 Anne Francis

“Funny Ladies/Girls Next Door”
#1 Judy Holliday vs. #8 Pier Angeli
#2 Marilyn Monroe vs. #7 Joanne Woodward
#3 Thelma Ritter vs. #6 Eva Marie Saint
#4 Jayne Mansfield vs. #5 Janet Leigh

“Drama Queens”
#1 Elizabeth Taylor vs. #8 Shelley Winters (two from “A Place In The Sun”)
#2 Susan Hayward vs. #7 Jennifer Jones
#3 Ava Gardner vs. #6 Gloria Grahame
#4 Anne Baxter vs. #5 Eleanor Parker (this could be interesting)

#1 Doris Day vs. #8 Jane Russell (an intriguing match)
#2 Debbie Reynolds vs. #7 Jane Powell (two perky little blondes still with us)
#3 Cyd Charisse vs. #6 Dorothy Dandridge
#4 Vera-Ellen vs. #5 Leslie Caron

The final division features 1960s actresses, hosted by “All Good Things”:

#1 Jean Simmons vs. #8 Carol Lynley
#2 Faye Dunaway vs. #7 Vera Miles
#3 Romy Schneider vs. #6 Anne Bancroft
#4 Brigitte Bardot vs. #5 Claudia Cardinale (continental intrigue!)

“Funny Ladies/Girls Next Door”
#1 Natalie Wood vs. #8 Stella Stevens
#2 Jane Fonda vs. #7 Patty Duke
#3 Sandra Dee vs. #6 Glynis Johns
#4 Tuesday Weld vs. #5 Hayley Mills

“Drama Queens”
#1 Julie Christie vs. #8 Tippi Hedren
#2 Lee Remick vs. #7 Jean Seberg
#3 Catherine Deneuve vs. #6 Sharon Tate
#4 Liv Ullmann vs. #5 Susannah York

#1 Julie Andrews vs. #8 Edie Adams
#2 Shirley MacLaine vs. #7 Jeanne Moreau
#3 Ann-Margret vs. #6 Raquel Welch (heat vs. heat!)
#4 Shirley Jones vs. #5 Rita Moreno

Adams is a late substitution for Anita Ekberg.

To help promote the event, a few banners from Monty…

…and two more from Mythical Monkey:

The URLs for the participating sites:
“Mythical Monkey”:
“Rosalind Russell — Dazzling Star” (a terrific site, BTW):
“Noir & Chick Flicks”:
“All Good Things”:

For Monty’s overall tourney selections, go to (let’s just say I hope he’s right).

Overall, a heckuva lineup, though from a ’30s perspective, a few significant stars were left out — Kay Francis, both Constance and Joan Bennett. Had the silent-era actresses been shipped off to either their own bracket or left out entirely (I’m certainly not anti-silent, but those stars’ appeal is altogether different from that of sound-era performers), ’30s stars might have received a fairer shake.

Let the madness begin (as Carole continues to get herself in shape)!

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Posted February 25, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Hollywood photography…New York style   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.24 at 01:24

Current mood: surprisedsurprised

Not all of what we call “classic Hollywood” was made in Hollywood; heck, a good deal of it didn’t come from southern California. Paramount had a flourishing New York presence for much of the ’20s and a little into the ’30s until tottering studio finances forced it to sell its complex in Astoria, Queens. The Marx Brothers, initially major Broadway stars, made their first few films in Astoria, as did Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert…

…Tallulah Bankhead…

…and Ginger Rogers.

Even some westerners headed east for temporary work, such as Carole Lombard, shown at top in a scene from 1930’s “Fast And Loose.”

We also sometimes forget that these satellite studios not only handled moviemaking on sound stages, but other parts of the film process. Portrait photography, for instance. Paramount’s Astoria branch had its own studio photographer, Herman Zerrenner, who took all those star portraits above, and among the other pictures he took for the company was this one of Lombard, with the back also shown for provenance:

This 7.25″ x 9.5″ borderless publicity portrait, deemed in “very good to excellent condition with a light crease over the top left-hand corner and slightly trimmed borders,” is being sold for $125 straight up, or make an offer. The seller believes the photo to be from 1932, as there is a “circa 1932” marking on the back. However, “Fast And Loose” — the only film Lombard ever made in New York — is from 1930, and note the snipe refers to “Carol Lombard”; she reverted to “Carole” for good later in 1930, so any ’32 photo from the studio would have included that “e.” Finally, there’s an identical portrait in Lombard’s p1202 file — p1202-2, to be precise, obviously among the first she made after signing a contract with the studio and receiving a “p” code number:

Knowing Zerrenner took this probably means that several other of Lombard’s earliest p1202 images, such as p1202-1, 4 and 5 below, were taken not in Hollywood by Otto Dyar or Eugene Robert Richee, but by Zerrenner in New York — and these were issued not long after Lombard received a contract from Paramount:

To buy, bid or examine the photo on sale, visit

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Posted February 24, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Oh ‘Mamma,’ Carole’s coming back to Syracuse   Leave a comment

Oh ‘Mamma,’ Carole’s coming back to Syracuse

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.23 at 02:03
Current mood: excitedexcited

It would mark the end of an era for Carole Lombard, at the ripe old age of 20. No more would she be a mere part of the program, but she’d either be top of the bill or a second feature. Her comedic training as part of the Mack Sennett troupe — which would pay off for her several years later — had reached its valedictory. And perhaps most important, from here on in, when you saw Lombard, you’d hear her, too (unless you were in a theater not yet wired for sound).

This was “Matchmaking Mamma,” Carole’s final all-silent (and note it is “Mamma,” not “Mamas” as incorrectly listed in Frederick W. Ott’s “The Films Of Carole Lombard” — that mamma is Daphne Pollard, shown above with Lombard). Released in late March 1929 but probably filmed near the close of 1928, it concluded Carole’s tenure with Sennett; she subsequently went to Pathe, which distributed Sennett product, and where she had already worked on several features.

“Matchmaking Mamma” is a pleasant diversion if hardly great silent comedy. Like the other girls, Lombard mostly serves as decoration, especially in a two-strip Technicolor sequence where she performs as part of a pageant:

The funniest sequence comes not from Carole but her old Fairfax High chum Sally Eilers, who has to use her dress as a makeshift potholder when an entree falls out of an oven:

Film Daily reviewed it on April 14, 1929, and note the word it used to describe the movie — a word becoming increasingly associated with Sennett, as rivals such as Hal Roach had adjusted to changing public tastes in comedy and he hadn’t:

You can watch “Matchmaking Mamma” online; it’s in the public domain. But if you’d like to experience it on a larger screen, with other folks around for company, you’ll have your chance next month, as it’s part of Cinefest 32 from March 15 to 18 in my hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., whose movie and theater history I have written about before (most recently in Cinefest is no stranger to Lombard, having run several of her films over the years.

“Mamma” will run at Cinefest headquarters, the Holiday Inn in Liverpool, N.Y., just north of town. The four-day program includes silent and sound, shorts and features.

Learn more about this event at

I wanted to leave you with an ad for “Matchmaking Mamma” from a Syracuse newspaper, but alas, none could be found. In fact, here’s the only ad I’ve ever seen for it, from the Nov. 21, 1929 Frederick (Md.) News, and Lombard isn’t mentioned, even though by this time she had been a lead in several Pathe features:

Enjoy my hometown.

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Posted February 23, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Double your actress, double your fun…   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.22 at 00:22

Current mood: creativecreative

Here’s an update on what used to be one of the holy grails of Carole Lombard memorabilia — the portrait of two Caroles, created not through mirrors or reflections, but via camera trickery. We’ve seen it here a few times, but have never come across it in particularly good condition.Until now.Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to present the best-looking image of twin Lombards I have yet seen (with thanks to Tally Haugen for her work on this):

Not only is it far clearer than previous iterations of Carole x 2, but we’ve discovered it was a Paramount portrait with a p1202 number; in this case, it appears to be 736. That would make it from the spring or early summer of 1934, soon after photos showing off her new home on Hollywood Boulevard.

Why did Lombard agree to this? I’ve yet to see a snipe for this image, so we don’t have anything conclusive yet. It’s almost certainly an homage to Dorothy and Lillian Gish in “Orphans Of The Storm,” a D.W. Griffith film she may have seen during its first release in 1922. Perhaps someone suggested she should try some trick photography, or maybe this was her way of giving herself the sister she never had. Whatever, now that we have an idea of when it was issued, examining newspapers of the time (assuming a few of them ran this) could provide an answer.

Carole never played dual roles on screen, but quite a few of her contemporaries did. In honor of the concept, and since today is Feb. 22 (2/22), here are a few from classic Hollywood-era actresses. (We’re limiting ourselves to movies, so you won’t see Patty Duke here, nor will you see the evil or mischievous twins of fantasy females such as Samantha, Sabrina or Jeannie. Moreover, these are only adult roles, so I’ve also left out Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan in versions of “The Parent Trap.”) This isn’t meant to be a complete listing, mind you.

Bette Davis portrayed twin sisters on screen — in fact, she did it twice. Her debut as a multiple came in 1946, in “A Stolen Life”:

Some 18 years later, boosted by the recent Grand Guignol success she had with Crawford in “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?”, Bette again did the double trick in “Dead Ringer,” directed by her one-time co-star Paul Henreid:

Getting back to ’46, it turned out to be a good year for actress multiplicity. Olivia de Havilland did it in “The Dark Mirror” — heck, her selves even dress alike:

Did you know Loretta Young played a dual role, and at the tender age of 17, to boot? I didn’t, until the Warner Archive released 1930’s “Road To Paradise” as part of its recent pre-Code package of twofers (

And finally, both an actor and actress that Lombard knew did the dual trick on screen...with each other? You probably know who (and what) I’m referring to:

It’s Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea…and Claudette Colbert and Rudy Vallee…and Joel McCrea and Mary Astor…in Preston Sturges’ “The Palm Beach Story.” (Note neither Claudette had to worry about the wrong side of her profile showing.)

If I’ve missed any multiples of note, please let me know.

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Posted February 22, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

A photographer’s memories   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.02.21 at 10:25

Current mood: artisticartistic

An intriguing image of Carole Lombard and Clark Gable at a Hollywood movie premiere in 1936, from the Life magazine gallery of photographs (and doesn’t Gable’s ‘I don’t care’ pose eerily predict Robert Mitchum a decade later?). Today’s topic is on the man who took that image, one of the top photographers of his time, Carl Mydans.

Mydans was the magazine’s first Hollywood photographer, but his background was altogether different from those who took stills for movie studios. He had just worked with the Department of the Interior’s Resettlement Administration, taking images of a world far removed from the film capital (the photo was taken in northeast Alabama)…

…and not that far from the U.S. Capitol (1935 pictures of Washington slums):

The naturalism of such images caused trepidation among many in the film industry when Mydans arrived, with fear the veneer of glamour that was so crucial to Hollywood might be diminished in the pages of this new, hugely popular magazine. As Mydans explained in a 1992 interview:

In those days when they finished shooting a scene, someone would shout, ‘Stills!’ and the studio still photographer would come with his 8 x 10 inch camera on a big wooden tripod, and he’d make a picture on a big negative and a very sharp contact print from it. I did not take pictures of these carefully produced, frozen scenes. I took pictures behind the production with my little 35-millimeter Contax, and that worried them. Word spread that this new man from Life has been sent out from New York to destroy the Hollywood illusions their papier-mâché scenes were creating.

There was a hostility to me on many of the lots. The word went out also that I was breaking the rules by making pictures without joining the union. I told New York about this, and they said, “Join the union.” Some friends on the Paramount lot took me aside and said, “Look, Carl, you can’t join the union until the books open.”

I said, “The law says that the books must open once a year, so sometime I will have the chance to apply to join.”

Another friend took me aside and said, “Let me tell you something. The books do open once a year, but they open in somebody’s basement, somewhere in Hollywood. Try to find out where.”

Finally this was ironed out with an understanding. The union agreed to let Life make pictures on studio lots, provided a union man was present. He might sit in the corner and smoke a cigar and read a newspaper, just so long as we paid for his presence. That rule began with me, and it’s still the same rule today.

Lombard understandably backed the studio photographers, whom she had forged close professional ties with:

The first time I went to photograph Carole Lombard, she said, “I hope you understand my rule here. If anybody photographs me, all pictures must be shown to me. I will decide what can be used, and those pictures that I do not want used, I will tear the corners off.”

I brought her my first batch of pictures. She received me rather coldly, and she sat with the pictures and looked at them. Then without raising her head to me, she tore the four corners off of each print. I went out of her studio office feeling awful. But some weeks later, I was invited to come back and photograph her again. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but she received me very nicely. I photographed her, and I brought back to her all the prints that I made. And she okayed all of them.”

Here are a few of the prints she must have okayed — from the set of “Swing High, Swing Low,” taken in January 1937:

Why do I sense that seconds after that last one was taken, Carole gleefully said to the guys, “Made you look!”?

Some really nice photos of Lombard in the filmmaking process, courtesy of Mydans. You can find many of these images — and purchase framed, full-sized copies of them — at

Mydans continued with his excellent photo work for Life, traveling around the world. January 1942, the month Lombard died, Mydans and his wife were captured in Manila by Japanese troops, and were prisoners of war for two years until their release in a prisoner exchange program. Mydans returned to cover the fighting for Life, gaining renown for this photo of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in early 1945, making good on his promise to return…

…and later that year, an image Lombard would have savored to see, the Japanese surrender:

He continued working for Life after the war, and his most notable photos included Sen. John F. Kennedy and his wife campaigning in Boston in 1958…

…and of commuters on a train from Grand Central Station reading the news about Kennedy’s assassination five years later:

Mydans, born in 1907, continued working after Life expired in 1972, working for its sister publication, Time, into the 1980s. He considered himself as much a journalist as a photographer, regularly taking notes of his assignments in notebooks he kept for many years. He later had this to say about his craft:

“Most photographers remember very nearly every picture they have taken. Some, who like myself have made perhaps half a million, may remember all of them. And if a picture of theirs appears somewhere later, over the years, they will spot it immediately and, like a parent unexpectedly seeing the face of a son or daughter in a crowd, may hold it in view for a moment with the feeling that it is something profoundly theirs. In fact, they may even recognize some pictures as their own that they have never seen, because the photojournalists in the field often ship their film to their home offices unprocessed and do not have a chance to see those pictures that are not published. Their editors, always pressed for time, have creamed off what they think is the best of the take and sent the rest to the files where they may languish for years.

“Still during that instant of seeing the subject through the viewfinder there is a remarkable imprinting on his memory. Once a photographer sees and captures an image through his camera it becomes his for his lifetime.”

Mydans died in August 2004 at age 97.

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Posted February 21, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized