Archive for July 2015

Do some 16mm ‘Dressing’   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.21 at 20:19

Current mood: giddygiddy

“We’re Not Dressing,” from the spring of 1934, is one of those Carole Lombard movies that’s more fun than it’s actually very good. Lombard’s the leading lady for Bing Crosby, playing a sailor hired to run wealthy Lombard’s yacht; when it’s shipwrecked on a desert island, Bing turns the tables and cuts the haughty heiress down to size, as they fall in love. (The story is derived from “The Admirable Crichton.”) And what a cast…pictured above with Bing and Carole are Ethel Merman, Leon Errol and Ray Milland as one of the men seated at lower right — later on, they encounter George Burns and Gracie Allen. Plus Crosby sings, of course: titles include “May I” and “Love Thy Neighbor.”

At about this time, Columbia’s “Twentieth Century” was hitting theaters, providing audiences with a new view of Lombard; this in contrast was the Carole the public heretofore knew, an all-purpose leading lady who looked great and did little else.

If you’re a fan of both the film and the 16mm format, you’re in luck, because a print of “We’re Not Dressing,” said to be in near-mint condition, now is available at eBay.

According to the seller, “This fun-filled musical comedy is in top shape, with no vinegar. This is the complete full-length feature, mounted on two 1,600 ft. reels. A great cast and a great collectible. And it’s loaded with songs by Bing and company.” (This is a safety-stock reduction print, not the original nitrate.)

Interested? Bidding begins at $199, with the auction ending at 9:30 p.m. (Eastern) Monday. You can bid, or learn more, by visiting

Posted July 21, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Playing the Palace…and the Roosevelt, too   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.20 at 22:33

Current mood: amusedamused

To officially mark her return to comedy in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” Carole Lombard used the first day of shooting at RKO to capitalize on a quote attributed to director Alfred Hitchcock: “Actors are cattle.” So what did Carole do? The September 1941 issue of Hollywood magazine supplies the answer:

Lombard treated Hitch in much the same way she treated Harry Cohn when she was loaned out to Columbia — giving it as good as she got — which probably explains why both were so fond of Carole. Had she lived and done more projects with Hitchcock, including some on his suspense turf, one doubts he would’ve been able to play the same mind games on her that he did with so many other of his leading ladies.

“Mr. & Mrs. Smith” made the rounds of moviehouses at the start of 1941, drawing praise from those who had missed Lombard generating laughter, and we have two souvenirs from that time period. First, from the Roosevelt Theatre at First Avenue and 10th Street in lower Manhattan:

The other is from the Palace Theater — but it’s not the famed venue on Broadway, because this is located on 14th Street. Which 14th Street remains a mystery; a check of shows no theater by that name on 14th Street, at least not in Manhattan. Anyway, here it is, and its format is similar to the two-sided sheet used at the Roosevelt:

Both leaflets measure 7″ x 11 1/4″ and are said to be in fine condition.

The Palace leaflet has a minimum bid of $13.99, with the auction closing at 9:43 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday. Bid or learn more by visiting

The Roosevelt leaflet auction closes at the same time, although its opening bid is a mere $11.99. Additional information can be found at

Posted July 21, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

A variety of vintage   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.19 at 17:45

Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

Carole Lombard shares a jail cell with Fred MacMurray in a publicity still from her final Paramount film, “True Confession” (1937). It’s one of several original stills from Lombard movies up for auction. Need proof it’s genuine? Check out the back, and the advertising stamp dated Oct. 4 of ’37:

The photo probably is from the same session that produced these images of Carole and Fred:

Other Lombard photos available, all blank on the back, include one from “No Man of Her Own”…

…and three from “Made For Each Other”:

Opening bids range from $19 to $28, and all auctions expire next Sunday. To learn more, visit

Posted July 19, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

More thoughts on Gable, Young and that pregnancy   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.18 at 20:57

Current mood: confusedconfused

Several days have passed since a story electrified the classic Hollywood community regarding new possible revelations on what happened between Clark Gable (shown here at a tennis tournament with Carole Lombard before they married) and Loretta Young that led to her secretly giving birth to daughter Judy Lewis in November 1935. It led to an estragement between mother and daughter for several years, although the rift was mended before Young’s passing in 2000. (Lewis died 11 years later.)

For those who haven’t seen the story (, it’s alleged that after hearing the term “date rape” on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 1998, Young said, “That — that’s what happened to me.” (According to Linda Lewis, Loretta’s daughter-in-law, she said it without rancor towards Gable.) Moreover, the incident that led to the conception did not happen on location in rural Washington state for the film “The Call of the Wild,” but on a train ride back to Los Angeles after that part of the shooting was completed.

So just what happened? The day after the Buzzfeed article, New York Post movie critic Lou Lumenick — who writes extensively about classic Hollywood — was somewhat skeptical. One of those he quoted was Robert Metzen, author of the critically acclaimed book “Fireball,” about Lombard’s 1942 fatal air accident, and a friend of mine (as is Linda Lewis). According to Lumenick, here are Matzen’s observations:

Matzen notes that “The Call of the Wild’’ director William A. Wellman wrote in his autobiography that there was “monkey business’’ between Gable and Young and that he asked Gable to cool it. And that 15 years later, as an Oscar-winning freelance actress, Young chose to work with Gable again on a second film, “Key to the City.’’

“So this sophisticated woman has to ask for the definition of date rape?’’ Matzen says. “This new story makes her sound sort of like an idiot. Loretta was no idiot. She was a Hollywood survivor capable of engineering the whole adoption thing, and she also steadfastly denied Gable’s paternity through the course of her life.’’

In Young’s defense, I’ll comment that while she admitted she and Gable flirted on the set, she denied those flirtations led to any sexual encounter while on location. (The Lumenick story quoting Matzen ran on Monday; two days later, Matzen elaborated his opinion at

On the other hand, Lumenick quoted biographer David Stenn, whose books include “Bombshell,” about Jean Harlow, and “Runnin’ Wild,” about Clara Bow, and he said he believes Young’s claim about Judy Lewis’ birth could have merit. He said in the context of Hollywood in the ’30s, what Gable did “is not only conceivable, but was acceptable. Millions of women wanted to be in Loretta Young’s position. If you look at Gable’s films that preceded [‘The Call of the Wild’], there are films where he manhandled women and they love it.”

Stenn calls the incident “a film historian’s nightmare.” At his site, Matzen concludes with, “The facts do not seem to align in this allegation against Gable. Were this a court of law, he would be innocent until proven guilty and walk for lack of evidence. No such rules seem to apply in the court of public opinion, where the charge itself constitutes a guilty verdict.”

I admit I’m torn on this. In 1998, when Young first heard the term “date rape,” social mores were far different from what they are both now and in 1935. “No means no” hadn’t yet truly entered the public consciousness 17 years ago, while in 1935 a man “sowing his oats” sadly wasn’t that big a deal; a bit caddish, perhaps, but little more. The end results of such affairs usually were found in Florence Crittenton homes, although Young used a complicated ruse to retain her baby and raise her into chlldhood and adulthood.

In the light of recent allegations against Bill Cosby and other incidents, “date rape” seems far more sinister than the allegation would have been had the term existed in 1935. And while I reiterate that Young harbored no ill will against Gable for what may (or may have not) have happened, it’s a relevant topic to bring up in a time when too many women remain victims of sexual violence.

Posted July 18, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Classic Hollywood, viewed through posters   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.17 at 21:46

Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

That’s a Spanish-language poster for Carole Lombard’s Universal film “Love Before Breakfast,” which as you can tell is a nearly literal rendering of the one-sheet Universal used in the U.S.:

The Spanish version is among quite a few original movie posters to be auctioned off via Bonham’s this Monday, part of an event titled “TCM Presents…Picture Perfect, The Art of Movie Posters.” I stumbled across this last night, while heading to a screenwriters’ meeting on Sunset Boulevard. (I’ve recently completed a romantic comedy screenplay — though it still needs some polishing — and am about 25 percent done with a second script, also in that genre.) It was being held on the same block as Bonham’s auction house, which just so happened was having a public viewing and get-together (among those on hand was TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz), and saw the Lombard poster on display. It measures 27″ x 41″ and has an estimated value of $700-900. Find out more about it at

Several dozen other movie posters comprising the auction also were on display, from silent days…

…to the golden age, featuring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert…

…to this preliminary painting for “Star Wars.” (It’s often forgotten a cast member on that first George Lucas film, Peter Cushing, actually acted with Lombard in 1940’s “Vigil in the Night.”)

For more about the auction, which begins at 1 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday, go to or call 323-850-7500.

Posted July 17, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Attention, Asta: You’ve got a rival   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.16 at 00:50

Current mood: amusedamused

With one pawprint, Carole Lombard’s beloved Pekingese, Pushface, joined the ranks of canine actors over the winter of 1935-1936. Pushface played a small role on the big screen in Universal’s Lombard vehicle, “Love Before Breakfast.” (Was its salary dog treats?)

Watching the proceedings are director Walter Lang (whom the following year would marry Carole’s close pal Madalynne Field) and supporting players Cesar Romero and Betty Lawford. This is a vintage photo, as the markings on the back verify:

This delightful photo is a rarity; it’s 8″ x 10″ and is said to be in “very good” condition (“there is a small tear at the top edge and some minor wear to the surface”). Bidding on this begins at $15, with the auction closing at 9:04 p.m. (Eastern) next Wednesday. If you’d like to get in on the action or simply wish to learn more, go to:

Posted July 16, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

‘Noting’ Lombard’s first Paramount director   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.15 at 19:51

Current mood: impressedimpressed

“Safety in Numbers” marked Carole (then Carol) Lombard’s debut at Paramount. Hired as one of the four chorus girls squiring heir-to-be Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Lombard didn’t win him at the end. But while she lost that battle, she won the war, or should I say a long-term Paramount contract, thanks to the strong impression she made both on audiences and the film’s director.

His name was Victor Schertzinger, and while his legacy as a director may have been forgotten, it’s entirely possible you know of him in ways you’re not aware of. Not only did Schertzinger direct both silent and sound films, he was a famed concert violinist, as well as a composer and screenwriter. In fact, he was the first to compose an original score to accompany a motion picture. And he composed music for a number of popular songs, including one that’s become a standard, “I Remember You,” and another a major hit during the swing era, “Tangerine.” (Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics for both.)

Scheertzinger (1888-1941) was born in Mahanoy City, Pa. A violin prodigy in his youth who performed with Victor Herbert and John Philip Sousa, he subsequently became a symphony conductor, and composed three songs for L. Frank Baum’s 1914 stage production of “The Tik-Tok Man of Oz.” Two years later, he was hired by Thomas Ince to compose a musical score for his epic “Civilization,” and he continued creating music for films and even directed many Ince projects.

When sound came to movies in the late 1920s, Schertzinger’s musical experience made him a natural. He composed music for Ernst Lubitsch’s groundbreaking “The Love Parade” in 1929, and later worked on “One Night of Love” (for which he received an Academy Award nomination for best director), “Something to Sing About” (1937, James Cagney’s second and final film for Grand National) and the first two of the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby-Dorothy Lamour “Road” pictures, “The Road to Singapore” (1940) and “The Road to Zanzibar” (1941). After finishing musical work on “The Fleet’s In” (1942), Schertzinger died of a heart attack on Oct. 26, 1941 at age 53.

Schertzinger’s name has come up because the mansion in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles where he lived from 1921 to his death is now up for sale ( The four-bedroom house and estate, comprising slightly more than an acre, has an asking price of $6.25 million (up from $3.327 million when it was last sold a decade ago). Let’s look at some recent photos of the site while we ponder whether Lombard ever was invited there in conjunction with “Safety in Numbers”:

What an impressive abode.

Posted July 15, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

‘Wanted’: A novel approach   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.14 at 22:23

Current mood: excitedexcited

“They Knew What They Wanted” released in the fall of 1940, would be Carole Lombard’s last excursion into drama…but because of global conflict, much of the world not under Axis rule didn’t get a chance to see it right away. In Sweden, for example, it didn’t open until Jan. 19, 1942 — three days after Lombard’s death in a plane crash.

At about this time, Swedish magazine specializing in novelizations of movies, Film Bilden, released an issue on “They Knew What They Wanted”:

Inside, along with a novelization of the story, is some information about Lombard — and though I can’t read Swedish, it appears there are no references to her death. Then again, I don’t have all of the pages here, so I could be wrong. Here it is, followed by the other pages I have from the issue:

This 36-page magazine is in good condition. Bidding begins at $9.99, with the auction ending at 12:35 a.m. (Eastern) Sunday. To bid or find out more, visit

Posted July 15, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Carole! George! ‘Bolero’! ‘Rumba’! Dance, dance!   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.13 at 18:08

Current mood: energeticenergetic

Great news for you dancing fools out there (and I say that affectionately): the two dance films Carole Lombard made with George Raft, the 1934 hit “Bolero” and 1935’s less-successful “Rumba,” now are on DVD — in a 2-for-1 package, in fact. (I refer to these as dance films rather than musicals since there is no singing, at least not from the leads. They were going only so far in competing with RKO’s Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.)

Keep in mind this is not an authorized release; Universal, which controls the rights to both films as part of the pre-1948 Paramount product it owns, has never deigned to release them officially, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But according to the seller, these are region-free DVDs that can be played “on any NTSC-compatible DVD player.”

The double feature is selling for $14.95, and as of this writing, more than 10 are available. Like to order one? Then visit

Posted July 13, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

A new perspective on a scandal   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.12 at 19:35

Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

It’s almost a certainty that while Carole Lombard was romantically linked and later married to Clark Gable, she was aware that he had sired a daughter out of wedlock by actress Loretta Young. But new revelations over the nature of that conception put the story in an unsettling new light, one that has contemporary resonations.

Most classic Hollywood buffs know Gable and Young teamed up in early 1935 to work on William Wellman’s film “Call of the Wild” for Darryl F. Zanuck’s 20th Century Pictures, where the actress was under contract. It’s also known that wintry weather in Washington state — where location shooting took place — delayed production, and until now many of us assumed Clark and Loretta got in on, pardon the term, to stay warm during inclement conditions, and that’s what led to the birth of Judy Lewis later that year.

According to Young’s daughter-in-law, that assuredly was not the case.

In a fascinating story from Anne Helen Petersen at Buzzfeed, Facebook friend Linda Lewis explained how her mother-in-law came to realize precisely what had happened to her in 1998, two years before her passing. In her later years, Young was a fan of the “Larry King Live” show on CNN, and that year an episode aired where someone brought up the term “date rape.” Watching from her home in Palm Springs, Young asked friend and prospective biographer Ed Funk to define it for her:

“She asked me what that meant and I explained to the best of my ability,” Funk [said]. The next night, Linda was over for dinner, and Young brought up the term again, asking for further explanation. Linda recalls telling Young that it was “basically when you’re with someone that you trust, or literally on a date with them, and you’re not compliant, or you’re saying no, and they’re not listening. And they either can’t hear it or believe the old myth of ‘Oh, you really want that.’ I said, ‘It doesn’t have to be violent, it doesn’t have to be rip-your-clothes-off. It’s when your no isn’t no.’”

“And there was this whole dawning,” Linda said … “Like, suddenly there’s a category that this thing that happened to her fits. And she was a good actress, but this was not fake. She said, ‘That — that’s what happened to me.’ We talked about it, and it didn’t make her angry at him, it just gave her a new frame that I think lifted a lot of her guilt.”

So what happened? Apparently nothing sexual happened between Gable and Young while shooting on location. However, once that was completed, they and other members of the cast and crew took a train back to Los Angeles to finish production. Petersen wrote of what happened next:

When 20th Century finally called the production home in February, Young thought their flirtation would come to a natural end. For the overnight train back to Hollywood, the stars were given individual sleeping compartments, while the crew, including Young’s companion, were seated and sleeping elsewhere on the train. At some point in the night, Gable entered Young’s compartment. Young never spoke of the specifics of what occurred to anyone — not to her sisters, mother, husbands, or children — until decades later.

In some ways, Young’s situation was impossibly unique. Yet it also recalls the millions of unwanted sexual encounters that entire generations of women did not talk about, in part because they couldn’t: They literally did not have the language to do so. The word “rape” was too extreme — something that happened to women in back alleys. The introduction of “date rape” into the vernacular gave a name for an experience that, to that point, had defied description, and thus reportage.

About a month later, Young deduced she was pregnant, a situation which a number of classic-era actresses faced (; unwilling to undergo an abortion, which not only was illegal at the time but deeply against her Catholic faith, she, her sisters and mother came up with a plan to circumvent the studio, which almost certainly would have ordered her to abort. They concealed the pregnancy through a variety of ruses, including a trip to Europe that summer and, once they returned to California, hiding out in a small house in Venice. A few weeks before the due date, Young (with the aid of some strategically positioned pillows) gave a brief interview to fan magazine writer Dorothy Manners, who wrote about it for the January 1936 issue of Photoplay:

By the time that issue hit newsstands, Loretta already had given birth. Young returned home, while the infant daughter, named Judy, was cared for by her housekeeper. But after a nurse on hand to oversee the baby sought to enlist the housekeeper in a blackmail plot, Judy was taken to a Catholic orphanage where she was cared for until Loretta officially adopted her in June 1937.

The rest of the story by now is fairly well known: Judy was taken into the family, raised by Loretta and her next husband, Tom Lewis, and she achieved personal and professional success. Judy was estranged from her mother for some years following the publication of the book “Uncommon Knowledge,” but their relationship warmed in the last years of Loretta’s life. Judy Lewis died in 2011.

Linda Lewis told Petersen she believed the time was now right to explain precisely the events that led to Judy’s birth. “Judy is not here to be hurt by this. And that’s what Loretta really wanted to avoid — because who doesn’t want to be conceived in love?” But what’s going on today eerily echo what may have happened aboard that train in February 1935, as Petersen notes:

After my extensive interviews with Young’s son, daughter-in-law, and longtime biographer, it seems clear to me that by keeping the secret of her daughter’s conception, Young was doing what millions of women have done before and since: using what little power she had to take back control of her life after it had been wrested from her.

But to understand this story — and why Young kept quiet for so long — one has to understand not only how women were made to understand their role in unwanted sexual advances, but also the expectations that governed Hollywood in the 1930s, and the well-honed studio system that ensured, at all costs, that stars hewed to them. But you also have to understand who Gable and Young were — what their larger-than-life images stood for, and all they stood to lose if the truth were revealed.

This is a story about the past, of course, but one with chilling echoes in the present: in the ever-accumulating allegations against Bill Cosby, or this week’s revelations about the rape of a 16-year-old member of The Runaways in 1976. It’s easy to look at Young’s elaborate cover-up and label it ridiculous. It’s harder to see what happened to her as indicative of larger structures of power — patriarchy, of course, but also Hollywood — that continue to make it so difficult for these stories to be told.

It’s a remarkable piece, one I hope will put Young in a more sympathetic light amidst longtime accusations of pious hypocrisy; please ignore a few isolated factual errors throughout and focus on the bigger picture. It’s at

Posted July 12, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized