Archive for December 2014

Reflections on a year of substantial change   1 comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.31 at 08:40

Current mood: optimisticoptimistic

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As I write this, some of you, in Australia and East Asia, already are in 2015. I’m still in 2014, looking back on what’s been one of the most pivotal years of my life…a year three hours longer than others I’ve experienced. And that’s one of the reasons — perhaps the most important reason — why this year has been so pivotal.

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This is my new home, Los Angeles (Pacific time, not the Eastern time zone I’ve known for nearly all my life, hence those three extra hours), and this is the view this morning for anyone looking north or east towards the mountains from the basin. That in itself isn’t uncommon…but what is today is snow in areas that rarely see it, such as in this parking lot in Lake Elsinore, where my nephew lives:

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Temperatures around the city are in the mid-40s as I write this, and things are expected to get colder tonight, into the 30s — not good news for New Year’s Eve revelers or those planning to sit along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena for tomorrow morning’s Rose Parade. (It will seem weird to watch Times Square ring in the new year at 9 p.m. local time.) Safe to say, this weather is not what I expected to see on Dec. 31 when I made this announcement at Carole & Co. last January (

In 1914, six-year-old Jane Alice Peters (whom the world would eventually come to know as Carole Lombard) moved to Los Angeles with her mother Elizabeth and older brothers Frederic and Stuart. In 2014, this writer is hoping to do likewise.

And those hopes indeed came true, although the process — from finding an apartment to actually moving west — took several months and a few cross-country flights. But since late July, I’ve been an Angeleno, and I couldn’t be happier.


That’s me outside the Hollywood Costume exhibit at Wilshire and Fairfax on Oct. 24. There’s been so much of LA I’ve been able to partake as a resident, with more on the horizon. (And much of it will wind up as Carole & Co. entries.)

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The release of Robert Matzen’s “Fireball,” the definitive account of Lombard’s ill-fated flight, was the biggest piece of Carole-related news for 2014 ( The book drew nearly universal acclaim, and in Matzen’s numerous promotional appearances, he’s said he accumulated plenty of additional information that will appear in a second edition. A few of Lombard’s films were issued on DVD — though many of her early movies have yet to receive an official video release — and she again was part of Turner Classic Movies’ August tradition, “Summer Under The Stars” (on Aug. 10, the day after first husband William Powell was part of the SUTS lineup for the first time).

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It was a good year for this site, too. Carole & Co. turned 7 1/2 on Dec. 13, meaning we’ve been up for more than three-quarters of a decade, and Sunday marked our 2,900th entry. Assuming we follow our one-entry-a-day format, that means we should hit the 3,000 mark sometime in early April. And above is a copy of a business card I ordered to promote the site; I’ve handed out several hundred of these over the past year, and recipients have included TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, more than a few actors (including Facebook friend Francine York, seen with me below at Larry Edmunds Book Shop in June during a promotion for her friend Diane McBain’s new book) and fellow classic Hollywood buffs. Thanks to all for your support during 2014…

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…and for 2015, as Tony Bennett sings, “The Best Is Yet To Come”:

Posted December 31, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Simon writes, Ken discusses on TCM   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.30 at 20:10

Current mood: creativecreative

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Carole Lombard’s formal education may have ended during her junior year at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, but when it came to analyzing scripts, she was at the head of the class. Even in the early 1930s, soon after signing with Paramount, Lombard (seen with Robert Riskin, Oscar-winning screenwriter) had gained a reputation in the industry as a shrewd judge of dialogue. As a result, she comfortably worked with the likes of Riskin (“Virtue”), Ben Hecht (“Twentieth Century,” “Nothing Sacred”), Preston Sturges (“Safety In Numbers”) and other notable scenarists.

It makes one wonder, had Lombard lived into the 1960s, whether she might have worked for one of that era’s legendary writers…

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…Neil Simon, who achieved fame on both Broadway (where a theater is named for him) and Hollywood.

We can only conjecture, of course; Carole would have been into her fifties at the time Simon gained prominence and probably would have been cast in a character or supporting role. But one senses Lombard would have admired Neil’s wit, his vivid characters and ability to make audiences laugh.

But in January, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. will give us plenty of Simon — 17 films, in fact — as he is the subject of the channel’s “Friday Night Spotlight” series.

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What makes it all the more thrilling for me is that the wraparounds for all these films have been done by someone who’s been a longtime friend in the blogosphere (and whom I finally met in person last month) — noted comedy writer Ken Levine (“M*A*S*H,” “Cheers,” “Frasier”), whose blog,, is considered one of the best in the business and is among my favorite online stopovers.

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I’m eagerly awaiting what Ken has to say about these films…and since there are five Fridays in January this year, we get more opportunity to hear from him. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

Jan. 2
* 8 p.m. — The Odd Couple (1968)
* 10 p.m. — The Out-Of-Towners (1970)
* midnight — Come Blow Your Horn (1963)

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Jan. 9
* 8 p.m. — Murder By Death (1976)
* 9:45 p.m. — The Cheap Detective (1978)
* 11:30 p.m. — Plaza Suite (1971)
* 1:30 a.m. — California Suite (1978)

Jan. 16
* 8 p.m. — The Goodbye Girl (1977)
* 10 p.m. — Chapter Two (1979)
* 12:15 a.m. — Only When I Laugh (1981)

Jan. 23
* 8 p.m. — Lost In Yonkers (1993)
* 10 p.m. — Biloxi Blues (1988)

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* midnight — Seems Like Old Times (1980)
* 2 a.m. — The Sunshine Boys (1975)

Jan. 30
* 8 p.m. — The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
* 10 p.m. — The Prisoner Of Second Avenue (1974)
* midnight — Sweet Charity (1969)

Did you know that Myrna Loy was asked to send up her Nora Charles character in “Murder By Death,” but declined?

I’ve seen a few of these in theaters, while others I simply haven’t gotten around to. But make up for lost time with five straight Fridays of Simon, accompanied by what Levine calls “laughs and factoids.” Learn more about Simon and the spotlight at

Finally, we remember Luise Rainer, the actress who beat out Lombard for the Academy Award best actress in 1936 for “The Great Ziegfeld”…then followed it up a year later by winning for “The Good Earth.” However, her refusal to play the Hollywood game led to her leaving MGM, spending most of her remaining years in London, where she died of pneumonia Tuesday, less than two weeks before her 105th birthday. Despite her double Oscar achievement, Rainer’s passing drew relatively little notice in the press. However, she had a comeback of sorts after turning 100, visiting the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood in 2010 and a festival in Berlin the following year. Here’s footage from that latter appearance, as the German film industry awarded her a star:

Posted December 30, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

For the upcoming new year, think Young (as in Loretta)   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.29 at 18:32

Current mood: energeticenergetic

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Carole Lombard and Loretta Young were, at best, casual acquaintances, though both certainly respected each other and showed a wider range of talent than one might expect. In the first week of 2015, you’ll get an idea of what Loretta can do when both Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. and getTV show some of her films.

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Ten of Young’s films will run on TCM next Tuesday, Jan. 6 — the 102nd anniversary of her birth. All but one are from the pre-Code era, when Loretta worked tirelessly for Warners/First National and gained much of her fame. The schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6:15 a.m. — The Devil To Pay (1930)

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* 7:30 a.m. — Big Business Girl (1931)

* 8:45 a.m. — Platinum Blonde (1931)

* 10:15 a.m. — The Ruling Voice (1931)

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* 11:45 a.m. — Taxi! (1932)

* 1 p.m. — They Call It Sin (1932)

* 2:15 p.m. — Week-End Marriage (1932)

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* 3:30 p.m. — Employees’ Entrance (1933)

* 5 p.m. — Heroes For Sale (1933)

* 6:30 p.m. — The Unguarded Hour (1936)

“Taxi!”, as many of you know, initially was planned as a Lombard-James Cagney teaming, but Carole, relatively new at Paramount, perceived a loanout to Warners as a demotion of sorts and turned it down, a decision she came to regret. “Platinum Blonde” is better known as a Jean Harlow vehicle, but Loretta, playing a newspaper reporter (at age 18!), more than holds her own against the platinum princess.

Meanwhile, getTV has a pair of Loretta’s early 1940s comedies on tap Jan. 2 — “Bedtime Story” (1941), with Fredric March, Eve Arden and Robert Benchley, at 1 p.m. (Eastern), while at 8 p.m. and again at 12:15 a.m., Young teams with Ray Milland and Gail Patrick for the amusing “The Doctor Takes A Wife” (1940). Both were directed by Alexander Hall, director of Lombard’s “Sinners In The Sun” and director of “They All Kissed The Bride” (1942, featuring Joan Crawford replacing Carole following her death).

Like Lombard, Loretta is one of classic Hollywood’s most ethereal stars…and these 12 movies show she could deliver the goods as an actress, too. Tomorrow’s entry will preview another interesting feature TCM plans for January.

Posted December 29, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Saluting the heritage of the San Fernando Valley   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.28 at 19:19

Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

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For Carole Lombard and second husband Clark Gable in 1939, their new ranch in Encino must have been heaven on earth…close enough to studios in Culver City, Hollywood, Universal City, Burbank and elsewhere, far enough to experience refuge from the hectic city life of Los Angeles. In the 1930s. ’40s and beyond, many Angelenos sought the same sort of lifestyle in the San Fernando Valley — and not all were from the film industry, nor did they need a movie star’s salary to buy a home.

Some 75 years after the Gables settled in at Raoul Walsh’s old home, the Valley — now a huge part of Los Angeles proper, some 1.8 million of the city’s nearly four million population — has a home to exhibit its history. The Museum of the San Fernando Valley opened last month in Northridge, on the second floor of a one-time real estate office. It’s starting small, open only three days a week, but has hopes of becoming a big deal.

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Classic Hollywood is prominently featured in the history of the San Fernando Valley. Many film stars bought homes in the Valley, such as Ann Dvorak, seen here in 1935…

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…others, such as Van Nuys High alumna Jane Russell, spent their youth there:

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That’s an ad for the Valley-based Westmore family of makeup fame; Lombard used Wally Westmore’s services for the 1933 horror film “Supernatural,” where grey makeup gave her the visual effect on screen of being possessed by the spirit of a murderess:

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What was included in this Westmore makeup kit undoubtedly provided a more benign impression:

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Fabled portrait photographer George Hurrell spent many of his later years in North Hollywood:

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Barbara Stanwyck had a 6,500-square-foot home built in the Valley in 1937, then sold it to Jack Oakie in 1940 and later was dubbed Oakridge. The 9.47-acre estate was purchased by the city of Los Angeles in 2009 to serve as a community passive recreational site, and is prominently featured at the museum:

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(I presume Lombard and Gable are pictured in that painting because they were friends of Stanwyck’s and probably visited on multiple occasions.)

And Clark was the subject of a sculpture by local artist Henry Van Wolf:

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Other facets of Valley history are included too, such as its residents’ service contributions. Since 2002, veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict have met each week at a local Wendy’s to discuss stories. The “Wings Over Wendy’s” group founder, Art Sherman (green shirt), explains memorabilia for visitors…

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…including a helmet that saved his life during World War II:

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Parts of the Valley were rural for quite some time. In the early 1970s, I can recall a program televised early weekend mornings called “Agriculture U.S.A.,” a quiz show on ag topics featuring high school chapters of the Future Farmers of America (in retrospect, it almost sounds like a “Saturday Night Live” skit). One of the competing schools was from Canoga Park; now a highly suburbanized community, it’s highly unlikely an FFA chapter exists at that high school now. (However, there is a thriving farm program at Pierce College, one of two junior colleges served by Orange Line bus rapid transit.) In places such as Chatsworth, at the far western edge of the Valley near the mountains, you can regularly hear coyotes howl at night, and residents are urged to bring their pets indoors.

The museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, though it will be closed New Year’s Day. For hours and more information, call (818) 347-9665 or visit Learn more about Oakridge and its future at, and about “Wings Over Wendy’s” at

We’ll close with a song about the Valley…and no, it’s not from Moon Unit Zappa (fer sure!). Rather, it’s “San Fernando Valley” from Bing Crosby (and written by Gordon Jenkins, a later Frank Sinatra arranger), a hit from 1944 encapsulating the reasons why so many came to it in the first place:

Posted December 28, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Can this herald find a ‘Now And Forever’ home?   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.27 at 21:16

Current mood: enthralledenthralled

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“Now And Forever” is one of the few Carole Lombard films where she tends to recede into the cinematic woodwork; while she may be billed second, she’s sort of a third wheel, as much of the movie turns on the relationship between con man Gary Cooper and the daughter he finally meets, played by up-and-coming Shirley Temple. But Shirley — not yet put into the formula that made her the meal ticket for the studio that would become 20th Century-Fox — has an undeniable charm that makes the film succeed.

Here’s a herald from the movie, promoting a three-day run at a theatre in Payette, Idaho in mid-September 1934:

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The seller writes “It shows very only minor age/use/wear,” adding it has never been folded. If you’re into collecting heralds, which as the seller notes are as aesthetically beautiful as full-size classic movie posters and substantially cheaper, this may be for you.

Bidding opens at $17.88, with the auction closing at 4 a.m. (Eastern) Thursday. If you’re interested, find out more or place a bid at

Posted December 28, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Colorizers, fire away!   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.26 at 09:19

Current mood: artisticartistic

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I’ve never hidden my disdain for colorization of images of Carole Lombard and other classic-era personalities, whether they be stills or entire motion pictures. Yet I will concede there are exceptions to every rule, such as Richard Smith’s adaptation (above) of this vintage portrait, Paramount p1202-547:

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Rather than simply convert the black-and-white pic into a feigned color photograph, Smith added some artistic touches, which has the effect of making it appear more (not less) lifelike — as if Carole posed for it just the other day.

I bring this up because an original Lombard portrait is up for auction at eBay — and the description from the snipe on the back provides ammunition for colorizers…assuming they’re up to the task. This is from Paramount to promote “Rumba,” an image copyrighted late in 1934, but the p1202 number at the bottom right-hand corner is muddled (it looks to be somewhere in the low 900s, which would align itself with other “Rumba” pics):

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Nice image, but what color is that gown? The snipe, via Paramount fashion maven Travis Banton, tells you:

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“Smoky rose-beige in its palest hue.” Exercise restraint with your color tones, folks. (Not to mention the skin tones; regardless of your personal political views, none of us wants Carole to approximate the appearance of John Boehner.)

The seller labels this 8″ x 10″ single weight pic as an “Original, gelatin silver photograph in fine to fine+ condition. There is some corner and edge wear, as seen, but image area is practically flawless.”

As of this writing, 10 bids already have been made on this, topping out at $61. You can still get in on the action, since the auction closes at 9:53 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday. Get all the info by visiting

Posted December 26, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

The merriest of Christmases   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.25 at 10:16

Current mood: jubilantjubilant

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As we see Carole Lombard in a Christmas scene from “In Name Only,” her 1939 romantic drama with Cary Grant and Kay Francis, I’m adjusting to my first celebration of the holiday in Los Angeles. It’s probably not the warmest Christmas Day I’ve ever experienced — it was 58 degrees and windy at 9:45 a.m., according to KNX radio, and I can recall some positively balmy days in Washington on Dec. 25 — but on the whole, it’s a different experience. (How different? It reached 80 on Dec. 23, and that evening, when I went for some food shopping, all I needed was a long-sleeve shirt and sweater vest.) It may not break 70 for the next few days, so if you’re in the area or plan to visit shortly, take along a light jacket, even in daytime.

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Fortunately, Du-par’s, the beloved Los Angeles restaurant chain that’s been around since 1938, is open (as it is 24/7), and I’ll take the 3rd Street bus to the Farmers Market location (above) for a special traditional Christmas dinner — turkey and all the trimmings. So I wish you the best on this special day in Christendom, whether or not that’s your religion, with hope that peace envelops your life.

We’ll close with a version of “The Christmas Song” you probably have never heard before. Written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells during a southern California heat spell in 1944, it became a huge hit for Nat “King” Cole two years later, and many other singers soon tried their hand at it. (In those days, it was not uncommon to see several versions of the same song make the pop charts.) One of those singers was my longtime Facebook friend Monica Lewis, whom I’ve met several times since moving west this year. And here’s her take on this Yuletide chestnut (roasting on an open fire?), with Ray Bloch (later the bandleader on “Toast Of The Town”/”The Ed Sullivan Show”) and his orchestra:

Posted December 25, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

This ad’s a lemon…really   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.24 at 14:09

Current mood: creativecreative

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In 1933, Carole Lombard’s career really couldn’t be called a lemon, but she was perceived as a second-tier star at best. That’s probably not why she was hired to make this ad from the California Fruit Growers Exchange (“Sunkist”) promoting fresh lemon juice as a hair rinse:

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After all, as Lombard says in the ad, “Clean hair is the first essential of beauty.”

Sunkist also issued a booklet, “Lemon, the Natural Cosmetic,” featuring several Hollywood stars, including Leila Hyams on the cover:

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The Lombard ad, featuring the famed National Recovery Administration’s blue eagle and measuring 2 1/2″ x 12″, is being sold for $9.99 at eBay. If you’d like to “ad” it to your collection, visit

We’ll close this entry with season’s greetings from Billy Joel, recorded last Thursday at Madison Square Garden, as he performs one of the very best of holiday standards, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” And please do.

Posted December 24, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Wisconsin plays ‘Fast And Loose’   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.23 at 08:45

Current mood: calmcalm

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“Fast And Loose” has some significant singularities in the Carole Lombard cinematic canon. It was the only film she ever made in New York, and her lone movie with the famed character actor Frank Morgan. It’s also her only teaming with Miriam Hopkins, whom she’d battle for roles over the next decade, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. And finally, while it wasn’t the first time she used the first name Carole with an “e,” she would retain that spelling from then on.

An item related to that film is now on sale at eBay — a program from the West Bend (Wisc.) Theater:

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Some other movies of note were playing there, including the Charles Ruggles “Charley’s Aunt” (an adaptation of a play later brought back to film as a Jack Benny vehicle) and Ernst Lubitsch’s “Monte Carlo” (featuring “Beyond The Blue Horizon”).

Here’s an enlargement of the “Fast And Loose” ad:

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Note that here, for some reason, Lombard is billed above Hopkins (although the accompanying illustration looks more like Miriam than Carole).

The seller wasn’t sure what year the program was from, but a check of the calendar links the dates to 1931.

The West Bend theater opened in 1929, and is shown below from 1954 (“The Caine Mutiny” is playing):

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It’s still around, though triplexed, and officially is known as the West Bend Cinema Brewhaus.

You can buy this program — which, unfolded, measures 9.5″ x 7″ — for $11. Visit to learn more.

Posted December 23, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

‘Screenland,’ September 1937: The truth about Hollywood diets!   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.12.22 at 21:22

Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Carole Lombard was one of several Hollywood stars renowned for their figures in mid-1937…so, when Screenland magazine assigned noted writer Dorothy Manners a story on stars and their diets for its September issue, it was only natural that Lombard was one of those consulted (as were Paramount cohorts Claudette Colbert and Marlene Dietrich, and MGM’s Joan Crawford, Carole’s old Cocoanut Grove dance rival):

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Oh, and I must commend Facebook friend Terry Welch for alerting me to this. She posted the first three pages this morning, told me where it was from…and it was on to the Media History Digital Library to examine the rest of the story, and upload highlights from the entire issue.

I’m particularly thrilled this article ran a hitherto unknown pic of Carole from silent days. Here it is, enlarged:

There was a “don’t try this at home” tone throughout much of the piece, and Carole was especially insistent about this (“I’m scared of it! What I eat might kill somebody else.”), but in short, her habits are no habits:

Nevertheless, she gave us a vague idea of the Lombard diet, and one of the surprises is that spinach was no longer part of it, several years after Carole had provided a recipe for spinach soup in a celebrity charity cookbook ( We also get yet another estimate of Lombard’s height, courtesy of Manners — “less than five feet, four inches.” Just how much less, the author isn’t saying; it could be anywhere from 5’3 3/4″ down to 5’2″.

Carole is a guest star of sorts in a somewhat humorous description of Claudette Colbert, party giver — and while Lombard was briefly renowned for her parties a few years earlier, Claudette’s were…well, let’s simply say that if she ever watched “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1970s, she empathized with Mary Richards (although in the best MTM tradition, Colbert made it after all):

This was written by Elizabeth Wilson, one of Lombard’s closest friends among the Hollywood fanmag corps.

The “Here’s Hollywood” gossip column from the obvious pseudonym “Weston East” (a distant relative of Photoplay’s “Cal York,” perhaps?) had this interesting anecdote from Lombard, which may explain why stage legends Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt limited their cinematic output to one film:

The diet story was publicized on the cover, which featured a Marland Stone illustration of Luise Rainer, one of the few 1930s stars still with us as of this writing:

One of the others, Olivia de Havilland, is the subject of a story where she examines love:

In another article, Screenland announced it was the first movie magazine to meet Loretta Young’s two adopted children (and we emphasize the word “meet” — neither was photographed). We know a lot more behind this story than most of the public did at the time, of course, and for those of you casting the first stone at Loretta regarding the circumstances of Judy’s birth, please remember the moral and social landscape of 1937 was nothing like it is today. That’s all I’m going to say on the subject here.

And of course there were ads for films — mighty MGM used spot color (orange, not red as in “The Bride Wore…”) to hype four new releases, including arguably the weakest William Powell-Myrna Loy comedic collaboration:

20th Century-Fox promoted its latest kitchen sink musical, “You Can’t Have Everything,” including supporting player Louise Hovick, whom the world knew better as Gypsy Rose Lee…

…while another actress who excelled under a different identity, Dorothy McNulty (later Penny Singleton), was a supporting cast member in Walter Wanger’s “Vogues Of 1938”:

While none of the songs in “You Can’t Have Everything” had much staying power, “Vogues” featured a future standard, “That Old Feeling.”

David O. Selznick gave Ronald Colman one of his signature roles in “The Prisoner Of Zenda”…

…and Shirley Temple headed an all-star cast in Fox’s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “Wee Willie Winkie,” which like “Zenda” featured quintessential Englishman C. Aubrey Smith:

Posted December 23, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized