Archive for April 2012

The planned Hollywood palace for Hitler   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.30 at 10:32

Current mood: relievedrelieved

In Carole Lombard’s final film, “To Be Or Not To Be,” she plays an actress converted into a member of the Warsaw underground after Germany invades Poland. But imagine a considerably altered universe, one where Lombard (the plane crash never happened) participates in a Hollywood underground after the Nazis conquer the U.S.

Not a universe any of us would want to live in, certainly, though it might be an intriguing premise for a “what-if” novel (“Stars take on the Nazis –– but this is no movie!”). However, one of the potential settings for this concept has its roots in reality, and to find it, you simply have to go up in the Pacific Palisades, near Rustic Canyon, above Will Rogers State Historic Park and its polo field:

Ironically, Rogers unknowingly set all this in motion in 1933, when he sold a tract of land in the hills. The owners, mining engineer Norman Stephens and his wife Winona, had come under the Resputin-like spell of a German known only as Herr Schmidt, who claimed to possess supernatural powers.

Schmidt persuaded the couple that he had foreseen an eventual German victory over Europe, throwing America into chaos. He suggested they build a compound in the hills for a German sympathizers’ retreat, one they could use as a place to rule once the U.S. was conquered.

The Stephenses took him at his word, and spent $4 million (with German interests likely adding money of their own) on an infrastructure for a small village, including a terraced hillside, sprinkler system for watering plants, water tank and power station. More was planned, including a four-story mansion. (Ironically, Mrs. Stephens asked noted architect Paul Williams — who was black — to create blueprints for the mansion after the initial group’s plans were rejected.) Here’s what the entrance looked like:

In the late 1930s and the start of the ’40s, many Nazi sympathizers and fascists in southern California actually used the area as a weekend retreat. However, on Dec. 8, 1941, in the wake of Pearl Harbor the day before, federal agents stormed the compound, arrested Schmidt and confiscated many items, including a shortwave radio that supposedly could transmit to Germany.

After the war, the Stephenses — who apparently were not charged — sold the site to the Huntington Hartford Foundation, which turned it into an artists’ colony (one of those who used the site was author Henry Miller of “Tropic Of Cancer” fame). It eventually was abandoned, with the power generators donated to Loyola Marymount University, and fell into further disrepair after a fire in 1978.

The graffiti-strewn ruins are still there, since the city of Los Angeles doesn’t have funds to raze them. They present a weird sight.

Had the unthinkable actually happened and the Nazis defeated the Allies, would Adolf Hitler — who committed suicide in his bunker 67 years ago today — have used it? In real life, he spent little time in conquered territory (a few hours in Paris after France fell, and that was it). On the other hand, Hitler, chief propagandist Josef Goebbels and other Nazi officials were both fascinated by and fans of Hollywood movies…a topic we’ll more fully explore one day.

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Posted April 30, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

A ‘Breakfast’ with texture   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.29 at 10:06

Current mood: impressedimpressed

Q. When is a movie publicity still not actually one? A. When it’s not issued by the studio.

Here’s an example featuring Carole Lombard — a portrait taken at Universal to promote “Love Before Breakfast” in the spring of 1936 (it was referenced in a caption under the picture). But this didn’t come from Universal; according to Cliff Aliperti of, it ran as a premium in newspapers such as Hearst’s New York Mirror and a group from Atlantic City called the Emo Movie Club (half a century before “emo” became a term for a music subgenre).

This 8″ x 10″ was issued on linen-textured paper stock and apparently was part of a series. Among those honored were Ann Dvorak, Constance Bennett, Kay Francis and Ralph Bellamy:

Since the Mirror ran this collection, it made marketing sense to include a photo of its popular columnist Walter Winchell, who actually appeared in several movies:

The Lombard portrait can be bought for #12.79; if interested, go to×10-Linen-Textured-Premium-Photo-/200751908132?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ebdbf0524. For other photos Aliperti has available (there are 81 in all, including a few for recently deceased stars such as Thelma Todd and John Gilbert), visit

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Posted April 29, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Ridin’ the rails with Carole (an Expo Line salute)   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.28 at 01:53

Current mood: pleasedpleased

Today marks a special day in Los Angeles (as a Washington Nationals fan, I could be referring to highly-touted prospect Bryce Harper’s debut at Dodger Stadium tonight, but no). It’s the day the Metrorail Expo Line opens for riders, serving the Exposition Park area near the University of Southern California and on to the doorstep of Culver City. It’s the first rail service to that part of town in nearly 60 years.

As a rail buff, I thought I’d honor this opening with a few rail-related photographs of Carole Lombard, who probably rode the Pacific Electric red and yellow cars in the late 1910s and much of the 1920s. Heck, she made have rode it on a few occasions in the 1930s, though by then she owned a car and didn’t need transit, especially as a celebrity.

We’ll start with a few images from her films. First, from “Hands Across The Table,” Carole’s character getting off the Lexington Avenue line at Grand Central Station, along with buddy Marie Prevost:

I think that may have been Lombard’s only on-screen tie-in to municipal transit; the other photos we’ll show concern intercity railroads. Of course, one of Carole’s most famous films was named for a legendary train…

In 1939, Carole and Cary Grant (whose most famous train scene would come two decades later) rode the rails home from a football game in the drama “In Name Only”:

Now for the railroading real-life Lombard. Here she is arriving in New York City in January 1935:

Five years later, after Christmas 1940, Carole went east by train again, taking Clark Gable with her. We’ll see them first boarding in Pasadena on Dec. 26…

…then two days later, changing trains in Chicago:

Finally, sort of a railroad gag photo, as Carole and another actress (Raquel Torres?) evoke the famous 1869 meeting of the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah. I don’t see any golden spike around, but I do see golden gams:

The Expo Line will actually reach into Culver City later this year, with a station a few blocks away from the current Columbia studios that began as Thomas Ince’s first studio and is most famously known as MGM’s dream factory. In a few years, the line will extend to Santa Monica, as rail continues to transform and revive Los Angeles (look at the improvements to downtown over the past two decades).

Opening ceremonies were held Friday:

Expo Line trains will be free from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday (other Metro lines will have their usual fares). Regular service and hours (5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.) begins Monday.

For more on the Expo Line, visit

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Posted April 28, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Bridal…sweet   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.27 at 09:45

Current mood: mellowmellow

Hard to believe we’re barely more than a month away from June, the traditional month for weddings. And here’s a little inspiration for any potential bride — Carole Lombard in wedding wear:

Actually, it’s Carol (no “e”) Lombard, the name she used while at Pathe in 1929 (two years before she actually took the vows for the first time). It’s CL-112, presumably taken at the same session where she posed in a full-length photo of the gown for CL-109:

CL-112 is being auctioned at eBay; it’s an original 8″ x 10″, said to be in excellent condition. Bidding starts at $249.95 and continues through 11 p.m. (Eastern) next Wednesday. If you’re interested or would simply like to learn more, visit And thanks to Tally Haugen for her work.

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Posted April 27, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Two great pics, one old friend remembered   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.26 at 01:39

Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Those Hollywood Paper pictures of Carole Lombard keep on coming. Here are two more, one of which brought back memories of a friend from long ago.

A charming photo of Carole from the late 1930s, taken by RKO’s Alexander Kahle. It’s got a snipe with that unique typewriter face belonging to RKO’s publicity office, and though it advertises a film called “Memory Of Love,” we know it as “In Name Only.”

Above the snipe is a marking of Nov. 8, 1939 — long after “Memory Of Love” became “In Name Only” — and we learn it’s from the “Call-Bulletin.” It’s almost certainly from the San Francisco Call-Bulletin, a Hearst paper and partner to its better-known sibling, the San Francisco Examiner. But take a look at the upper right-hand corner of the image below.

“From Collection of Susan Marie Rice.” Susan was a longtime Lombard collector who lived with her family in Glendale, not far from Carole’s final resting place at Forest Lawn. When I made my first visit to southern California in June 1989, I visited Susan, who showed me a few of the items in her considerable Lombard collection. Some years afterward, she passed on at a much too early age.

This 8″ x 10″ photo, in good condition, can be bought straight up for $139.95, or you can bid for it beginning at $119.95, in which case bidding will end at 10:38 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday. You can learn more at I only hope that whomever ends up with it has as much affection for Lombard as Susan did…which admittedly will be a difficult task.

I have no personal tie-in with the other photo being offered, other to say that it’s a beauty of Carole with second husband Clark Gable at the Encino ranch where the other photo was taken:

Don’t they just look so content and relaxed?

This photo is from Culver Pictures, and was distributed by Gable’s home studio of MGM:

This is in similar condition to the other photo, and has the same buy now or bid setup. It even has the same bidding deadline to the very minute. However, it’s substantially cheaper — $99.95 to buy, $89.95 for the minimum bid. For additional information, visit

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Posted April 26, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Meet the ‘man-proof’ Miss Lombard   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.25 at 02:19

Current mood: curiouscurious

You know “True Confession,” the 1937 movie starring Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray. But do you know True Confessions (with an “s” at the end), the popular magazine which featured Carole on its cover several times?

True Confessions really wasn’t a fan magazine, but it occasionally put Hollywood stars on the cover because…well, they boosted newsstand sales. And every now and then, it would run a story on a screenland personality.

Lombard achieved both of these feats in the August 1934 issue:

The story asks, “Carole Lombard — Is She Man-Proof Now?” That was a common phrase in the 1930s; indeed, Myrna Loy once made a comedy called “Man-Proof.” This story is seven pages long, with photos on four of them, and would probably be an interesting snapshot of Lombard in the year following her divorce from William Powell. I’m just guessing, though, since I’ve never seen this story, nor is it listed in the Robert Matzen book “Carole Lombard: A Bio-Bibliography.”

However, someone will be able to check it out, because the magazine is being auctioned at eBay. It’s listed in very good condition, and bids on it begin at $9.95 (none have been made as of this writing). Bidding concludes at 10:03 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday. If you’re interested in owning this piece of Lombardiana or would like to learn more, visit

Oh, and if you win the bidding — or somehow already own a copy of this issue — please forward us the story so fellow Lombard fans can check it out.

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Posted April 25, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

A ‘Brief Moment’ of cleavage, and more   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.24 at 01:29

Current mood: chipperchipper

Some more hosannas for Hollywood Paper, the eBay seller that’s of late been issuing a slew of vintage Carole Lombard portraits, some of which are new to even veteran collectors and all of which are fascinating to examine. This lead photo is proof:

That’s Carole, with Gene Raymond and Monroe Owsley, in “Brief Moment,” issued by Columbia in the fall of 1933. Adding to the intrigue is looking at the back of the photo and trying to guess where it may have surfaced earlier, if there are any markings.

This one makes it fairly easy to play detective; it appears to have been used by Liberty magazine for Adela Rogers St. Johns’ two-part tribute to Lombard in March 1942, “A Gallant Lady” ( and It doesn’t have a snipe, but I can provide you with one from another version of that photo in my online collection:

This 8″ x 10″, in good condition, can be bought straight up for $59.95, or you can place a bid beginning at $49.95, in which case bidding will end at 10:36 p.m. (Eastern) Monday. Find out more at

Lombard portraying a mother was a key part of the publicity push for Selznick International’s “Made For Each Other,” and quite a few photos were taken of her with the various babies who played her son from newborn to toddler. This one doesn’t have a duplicate among my photos for the film:

This is in excellent condition, and the only purchase option is to buy it for $59.95; it might be a nice gift for a classic movie fan who has a baby or is going to have one. All the information is at

The third pic is a Paramount p1202, part of the series where Lombard shows off her new Hollywood Boulevard home in mid-1934. And like a photo we ran not too long ago, the home’s colors are described in detail ( Let’s take a look at p1202-703:

Let’s magnify the snipe for that color information:

You can buy this 8″ x 10″, listed in very good condition, for $89.95. Or if you prefer, place a bid beginning at $79.95, with bids concluding at 10:32 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday. Bid or simply visit

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Posted April 24, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Looking back: April 1933   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.23 at 01:51

Current mood: weirdweird

Compared to the tumult Carole Lombard experienced in March 1933 — an earthquake, a (briefly) lost ring and more — April was a placid month for her. Privately, there may have been troubles in her marriage to William Powell, but both managed to put up a good front about it.

There was no mention of any marital troubles in Hearst columnist Louella Parsons’ report on Powell’s contract talks with Warners (this ran in Hearst’s San Antonio Light April 8), just a note that Bill and Carole would have to postpone a trip to Europe that ultimately never took place:

In the Hollywood Reporter that day (a Saturday), it was noted that Mr. and Mrs. Powell were hosting a party at the Little Club of the Ambassador Hotel:

It was one of the couple’s favorite haunts, as they’re shown with an unidentified woman (I do not know whether this was taken at the April 1933 event):

How’d it turn out? Apparently very well, if Harrison Carroll’s syndicated column that ran in the April 17 San Mateo Times was accurate:

Carole — whose dancing prowess dated back to her days at another Ambassador venue, the Cocoanut Grove — got to show off her skills in the Ironwood (Mich.) Daily Globe on April 12, as she helped demonstrate “the Hollywood Tango” with its creator, Gene La Verne:

On April 5, Film Daily reported La Verne called Lombard one of the three best dancers in Hollywood:

We recognize one of the other two, of course, but who was Marion Shockley? Like Jean Harlow, she hailed from Kansas City, was born in 1911 and was petite (5’1″); unlike Harlow or Lombard, she was a WAMPAS Baby Star (for 1933). However, she worked almost exclusively in short films and left the business to marry Bud Collyer (radio voice of “Superman” and later host of “To Tell The Truth”). They had three children, and she died at age 70 in 1981.

The trades reported that Lombard and Cary Grant were to play the leads in the Paramount property “Gambling Ship.” A blurb ran in the New York-based Film Daily April 13:

But the day before, the West Coast-based Hollywood Reporter ran that Lombard would not participate at all:

Carole’s replacement, Frances Dee, would herself ultimately be replaced by Benita Hume. “Gambling Ship,” one of the more obscure movies in the Cary canon, was released in late June.

Several other possible projects for Carole evaporated in April. Two were reported on the same day, April 17, by the Hollywood Reporter:

I have never heard of either “Half Married” or “The Trumpet Blows,” but Lombard would both team with George Raft and be loaned out to MGM the following year. And she ultimately would work with Robert Montgomery, but it would be at RKO under a director who was still in England in the spring of 1933.

Harrison Carroll reported Carole would be making a film with Gary Cooper in the April 22 San Mateo Times:

As for “One Sunday Afternoon.” Gary made it, Carole didn’t. Fay Wray — probably pleased to once again be working with a tall leading man of the same species — took the female lead.

Louella resurfaced with some Lombard news in the April 28 San Antonio Light:

Here’s where things get confusing (or maybe it’s just another editorial goof on Parsons’ part). Paramount indeed made a film called “All Of Me” in 1934, and George Raft was indeed in the cast, but it was a drama starring Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins, not a Broadway backstager with music. (And, needless to say, this has nothing to do with the 1984 body-switch comedy “All Of Me” with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin.)

Now for something even more bizarre. Check out this April 7 ad from the Alton Democrat in northwest Iowa:

Lombard never made a film called “Billion Dollar Scandal,” you say, and you’d be right. But this wasn’t a one-shot, because exactly one week later, something similar ran in the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette:

Constance Cummings was the female lead opposite Robert Armstrong, not Lombard.

Speaking of Armstrong, the runaway success of “King Kong” may have led RKO to dust off a few of his earlier Pathe films in order to cash in (wonder if studios did the same thing with Fay Wray product?). That’s the only explanation I can see for the Lombard film “The Racketeer” running on the bottom half of a double feature in Massachusetts, advertised in the April 17 Fitchburg Sentinel, nearly four years after its release:

Finally, this note from Dan Thomas’ syndicated column from the April 10 Edwardsville Intelligencer in southern Illinois, about Lombard’s pride in her athletic prowess:

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Posted April 23, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Pattern yourself after Lombard   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.22 at 07:59

Current mood: contentcontent

Before Carole Lombard gained renown for her acting, she already was admired for her fashion sense and ability to make virtually anything she wore look good, such as this nightgown. And speaking of nightgowns, a Hollywood Pattern for one with Lombard’s picture on the package is now available through eBay.

This, among the first Hollywood Pattern packages to feature Carole, is for a small-sized nightgown, listed as “32-34” — so if you have any thought of using this, you had best be slender (although I understand there are ways to resize patterns to make them more useful). On the package, it’s described as “One piece nightgown. Neckline and armholes with ties on the shoulder are bound with novelty binding. Or a circular collar may finish the neck. Hemline is finished with binding or lace. Tied ribbon belt and patch pocket. Fabrics — batiste, flat crepe, muslin, pongee, crepe de chine.”

Don’t let the tattered envelope deceive you. According to the seller, all the pattern pieces and the construction sheet are there.

For those of you into vintage fashion — and if wandering through cyberspace is indicative, there are many of them — this might be worth your interest. And there’s nothing inherently outdated about its design.

This is a new addition to eBay, and as of this writing no one has put in a bid, which begins at $7.50. Bidding closes at 8:40 p.m. (Eastern) Saturday. Bid, or learn more, by visiting

We’ll also note two other things worth checking out on TV today and tomorrow. The wonderful TV Land sitcom “Hot In Cleveland” has a “catch-up” marathon of its latest season from 9 a.m. (Eastern) to 5:30 p.m. — 10 episodes in all, with seven of them repeated beginning at 2 p.m. If you’ve never seen this sitcom, featuring the legendary Betty White (whose comedic skills remain remarkable at age 90) along with sitcom veterans (above Betty, from left) Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli and Wendie Malick (she just turned 60!), what are you waiting for?

Getting back to classic movies, the silent side of Laurel and Hardy will be examined from 6 to 10 a.m. (Eastern) Monday when eight of their silent short films, from 1927 to 1929, will air. For many of us, it’s difficult to picture Stan and Ollie without their distinctive, appropriate voices — but they managed to be funny without them, and many of their fans actually prefer their silents. Two of my favorites are “Big Business” (1928) at 8:30, which builds and builds and builds on a gag, and “Double Whoopee” (1929) at 9, featuring a young Jean Harlow in a small but very memorable appearance, as the photo below indicates:

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Posted April 22, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Pickford vs. Pickford   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.04.21 at 00:25

Current mood: hopefulhopeful

From what we know about Carole Lombard’s admiration for Mary Pickford (that’s “flirty sales girl” Lombard with future Pickford husband Buddy Rogers in Mary’s 1927 comedy “My Best Girl”), this following story would probably dismay her — and Mary, too.

Late in Pickford’s life, she established something called the Mary Pickford Foundation, which helped educational and other worthy charities. Some years later, another group of people with a particular interest in silent film created an organization titled the Mary Pickford Institute for Film Education, a spinoff from the Pickford Foundation.

The Institute helped program the fabled Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax Boulevard during the 1990s and created documentary films on Pickford and other noted silent-era performers. Several of them were shown on Turner Classic Movies in its early years (it turned 18 earlier this month, and a belated happy birthday to that repertory house of television!). In addition, the Institute — which received funding from the Foundation — became a storehouse for silent and Pickford-era memorabilia, props and other items.

Note we said “received.” Therein lies the problem.

The Foundation has withdrawn financial support from the Institute, which now is in danger of folding. According to Bob Gelfand at the CityWatch website,

…Apparently the Foundation would like to take over the assets and activities of the Institute. The argument that is quietly made by Institute staff is that the business people are trying to take over the artistic side of things or, worse yet, perhaps quench the artistic efforts and use Foundation money for completely different purposes.

This will look like small stuff to the general public. After all, it’s just a bit of sniffling over the leftovers from a long dead performer who is mostly forgotten anyway. But there is another way to think about it. This Los Angeles of ours, whose city government will do just about anything to keep film production from leaving, has been weak in protecting and preserving our cinematic history. The major studios have been equally poor at remembrance.

What’s left? We have the Academy of course and we have the local universities. But when a small but dedicated group is trying to take up some of the slack, we should at least be rooting for them. The city of Los Angeles should be making use of our cinematic heritage to attract cultural tourism. They like to claim they are doing so, but in reality the effort is fairly unimpressive. Here’s one example. If you walk into a bookstore in Germany, you can find a poster showing Harold Lloyd hanging by one hand high above the city, holding onto the hand of a clock on the side of a building.

The picture is known worldwide, to the point that it has achieved iconic status. But try asking any city politician or staffer in the Department of Cultural Affairs where that building is. Worse yet, try asking any of the above how they could make use of that picture and all the locations like it to bring in tourists and film scholars with an interest in the subject.

To repeat: We have a private group that has been preserving the Pickford legacy and marketing LA’s film heritage all over the world, and Los Angeles has yet to take notice.

This is one of those “more in sadness than in anger” arguments. It would be greatly to be desired if the Foundation could rethink their current position and keep the Mary Pickford Institute in a healthy state.

To read the piece in its entirety — something I recommend, as it also includes some fascinating details on both Pickford herself and the Silent Movie Theater — go to I’ll leave you with Gelfand’s final paragraph on the topic:

This is our Hollywood Heritage, and it deserves our respect and attention to its preservation. It would be a blessing if the Pickford Foundation can find the way to preserving its offspring the Institute.

Keep your fingers crossed.

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Posted April 20, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized