Posted by vp19 on 2012.11.13 at 09:52
Current mood: frustrated
This 1935 snapshot of Carole Lombard, taken by an unidentified fan, shows one element of life as a classic-era movie star…interaction with fans. It went with the territory, and Carole and her contemporaries knew it.
Here’s how we commonly think of fan-star interaction — fan mail, here sent to Anita Page (at one point in the late 1920s, she received more fan mail at MGM than any star with the exception of Greta Garbo). But it was more complex than that. Stars and their staffs (either their own or the studio’s) monitored fan mail and discerned repeat senders. Those regular writers who had genuine interest in and affection for them as people, not just as film stars, were usually respected, sometimes treasured.
Fans, of course, had favorite stars. One of the era’s movie magazines decided to turn the tables and run a piece on stars’ favorite fans. The following ran in Picture Play in its December 1932 issue, which would have gone to press roughly 80 years ago today.
Assuming most of that is on the level and not studio-supplied hyperbole, it does provide a different angle to the fan-star relationship.
The Lombard anecdote is at the end of one page and the beginning of another, so let’s isolate it for easier reading (as we’ve noted before, Picture Play stubbornly listed Lombard’s first name as “Carol” well into the 1930s):
I’m not sure whether Lombard actually saw the chairs, or she received a description and said they didn’t meet her needs. (Of course, a year later, after divorcing William Powell and finding a place of her own that needed furnishings, she might have regretted turning it down.)
While that story is new to me, it wasn’t the first time Carole’s interaction with a fan had reached print. Earlier in 1932, it was reported that an anonymous fan, without explanation, had mailed her a $1 bill each week for an entire year (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/421396.html).
It was a different time, when fan mail could bring otherworldly stars from far-off Hollywood closer to mere mortals. Working with fans (to a point) was all part of the game, and Lombard played it — even autographing snapshots of her that fans had taken days before (in the era before instant cameras), as this May 1938 image indicates: