The marriage of Carole Lombard and William Powell (shown here in a photo by Warners’ Elmer Fryer, taken not long after Powell left Paramount) was nearing its first anniversary when Picture Play sent Laura Ellsworth Fitch to interview the woman the magazine still steadfastly referred to as “Carol.” The subject, or one of them: Hollywood marriage. The result: This feature, which ran in the June 1932 issue:
Even if much of this piece, “Blue Heaven,” isn’t completely verbatim — and some of Lombard’s long comments indicate it isn’t — it does reveal some of the traits that made her so popular in the movie community. As Fitch described her, “She has that pleasant rarity, grace.”
Carole reminded readers that even though film folk were seen at giant size in theaters, they weren’t superhuman:
“Fundamentally, we are just like anyone else — we live the same, think the same, marry the same, subject to the natural vagaries of individual humans. … We fall in love. We marry, and hope to make a go of it. The same thing happens every day all over the world. Perhaps some of us don’t make a go of it. In that case, we separate — also the same thing happens all over the world.”
Keep in mind that while film stars in 1932 earned salaries far in excess of the average American (quite a few of whom had no salary at all in the depths of the Depression), their paychecks at the time were comparable to business executives and others whose marital habits weren’t topics for national debate.
As for her marriage to Powell, Lombard was prescient, perhaps aware of some of the undercurrents taking place in the relationship:
“I think we have a good chance — we have such fun together. We hope it will work. If it doesn’t, we shall separate, and separate before it becomes ugly, or has a chance to mar what has gone before. And if it ever happens, it certainly won’t be because of Hollywood. That’s a pretty feeble alibi at best, I’ve always thought.”
Carole’s contempt for alibis is noted in the caption on the page opposite from the lead, in a portrait taken by Eugene Robert Richee, who also took the photo of her at the bottom of the first page:
Lombard also notes that she and Powell are impulsive enough to leave for some nearby resort getaway at two or three in the morning…”So we simply put on coats, stick toothbrushes in the pockets, get in the car and go.”
As for wanting a family, here’s what the 1932 Carole had to say:
“Naturally. But not until I’m entirely through with pictures. Never before that. It would be a rotten trick to play on a child, giving it a mother who called out, ‘Good morning, dear,’ as she left for the studio, got home in time to see it tucked into bed, and occasionally summoned it out to say, ‘Curtsy for the ladies.’
“I think that is dreadful. When I was a child I had such fun with my mother I’d feel like a thief if I deprived my own children of such happiness. And, too, from a purely selfish viewpoint, what is the sense of having a child if you can’t constantly watch its subtle growth and development every day?”
By “entirely through with pictures,” one assumes Lombard was referring to acting — although this interview was conducted when Carole was 23, and perhaps she had yet to envision herself working in film in other capacities.
Her self-deprecating humor is evident in this passage, where she jokes about her earlier work at Fox, Sennett and Pathe:
“Incidentally, I spent years wrecking one company after another. I swear that I was no sooner signed up and at work than the company’s finances would fall apart. I was a jinx. It’s a wonder no one found out and blacklisted me.”
And that “jinx” continued in early 1933 when Paramount declared bankruptcy, the second largest such bankruptcy in the U.S. at the time.
The interview wasn’t the only place in the issue one could find Lombard. She was also part of a Max Factor ad catering to blondes, with her image promoting “No One Man,” still making the rounds of many theaters that spring: