Archive for July 2015

Kristin’s starry birthday present   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.24 at 20:54

Current mood: bouncybouncy

Carole Lombard and Kristin Chenoweth may be separated by several decades, and that Kristin is renowned for her singing and Carole had to be prodded into vocalizing (only in “Swing High, Swing Low,” at the insistence of director Mitchell Leisen, did Lombard actually sing on screen rather than be dubbed). But both portrayed tempestuous diva Lily Garland — Carole in the 1934 film “Twentieth Century,” Kristin in the recently-completed Broadway revival of the ’70s musical “On The Twentieth Century,” following in the footsteps of Madeline Kahn.

But as of today, Lombard and Chenoweth have something else in common: Both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I attended the ceremony this morning, and it was, as you might guess, plenty of fun. It was the “first” Walk of Fame ceremony I’ve been to since moving west. (Why do I use quotation marks? When I visited Los Angeles in September 1996, I saw an ersatz ceremony, complete with honorary Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant, as part of a TV series filming starring Jack Carter.)

The Walk of Fame normally attempts to place a performer’s star in an appropriate place, either close to someone they worked with or were married to (Betty White and Allen Ludden’s stars face each other, as they should) or near where they performed. Kristin’s star, in the theatrical category, is between the Pantages Theater and the famed Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard (it’s across from the Hollywood/Vine Metrorail station).

Several guests were on hand to welcome the 4-foot-11 dynamo to the fold, including Carol Burnett, who said if she were doing her series today, Kristin would be part of every episode. (Remember, Burnett began in musical theater and had considerable success on Broadway before becoming a TV icon. Later this year, she’ll get a life achievement award from SAG-AFTRA.)

I took a few photos, and although my vantage point wasn’t the best, a few turned out OK:

This was the first time I’d ever “met” Chenoweth, and she’s every bit as advertised — a delightful sprite whose enthusiasm is contagious and genuine. (Oh, and in the third of the four photos above, she’s flanked by her parents, who came from their native Oklahoma for the ceremony.) Chenoweth is the 22nd Oklahoman to earn a star, joining the likes of Kay Francis, Glenda Farrell, James Garner and of course Will Rogers, and her star is the 2,555th on the Walk of Fame.

All in all, one heckuva birthday present. And next Friday, Kristin — whose persona is sweet and light (think Glinda the Good Witch in “Wicked”) — gets a chance to go bad when she plays Maleficent in the Disney Channel TV movie “Descendants.”

Playbill magazine has honored Chenoweth’s birthday by compiling an array of her performances over the years. Find them at


Posted July 24, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Tales from the pioneers of Hollywood   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.23 at 20:19

Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

When 12-year-old Jane Alice Peters, the future Carole Lombard, went before motion picture cameras for the first time in the summer of 1921 to make “A Perfect Crime,” the industry of movies — which she would come to know and cherish for the rest of her brief life, beginning about 1924 — was undergoing amazing growth in her new hometown of Los Angeles, specifically the section of the city known as Hollywood.

While the movies had settled in southern California about a decade earlier, it wasn’t until World War I scuttled Europe’s dominance of the craft that American movies — headquartered in Los Angeles/Hollywood by war’s end — assumed global leadership. U.S. filmmaking became the envy of the world, led by personalities such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and director D.W. Griffith, the quartet whom would found United Artists.

But what was Hollywood like for those who came west and got off the train (and nearly all of them arrived in that fashion)? A new book tells their stories, through one of film’s best historians and authors.

In “My First Time in Hollywood,” Cari Beauchamp collects and annotates stories of these pioneers’ first trip to Tinseltown before there was tinsel. Actors, writers, directors, cinematographers, all tell their tales of their initial visits to this strange new work. Arrival times range from 1909 to 1929, the close of the silent era.

Beauchamp spoke at the fabled Book Soup bookstore in West Hollywood Wednesday to discuss (and sign) her book, noting that she had accumulated so many stories, from a variety of sources, that a second volume — focusing on the talkie era — is likely.

Beauchamp was joined at the event by director and film history buff John Landis, who did a reading from the book. Both noted that when movie industry people began their influx to Hollywood, it was difficult to find housing because many landlords wanted nothing to do with them (“No Jews, actors or dogs allowed”). That changed once it became apparent motion pictures were a legitimate growth industry and weren’t going away anytime soon.

As the back cover notes, Beauchamp collected her recollections “from letters, speeches, oral histories, memoirs and autobiographies.” Together, they comprise a fascinating portrait of a community largely born and developed through motion pictures. (Photos of early-day Hollywood also are included.) I’m having a ball reading stories from the likes of Pickford, Harold Lloyd, Lillian Gish, King Vidor, Gloria Swanson, Ben Hecht and so many others. I highly recommend this volume.

Posted July 23, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

The appeal of Lombard is ‘Transparent’   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2015.07.22 at 12:22

Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

The image above proves Carole Lombard could look gorgeous in male attire. That thought came up recently, when I happened to see this picture:

That’s the Carole Lombard Building on the Paramount Pictures lot, although an examination of a studio map from 2009 reveals it’s in the section of the lot that initially belonged to RKO (where Lombard later worked for), then was purchased from Desilu many years later (see the lower left-hand corner):

And note what is headquartered in the building — the offices of the acclaimed Amazon Studios series “Transparent,” the award-winning dramedy about a retired male college professor who now tells his family he identifies as a woman. Its second season will be streamed later this year, and last month it was picked up for a third season, with plans for a five-season run.

One wonders what Lombard would think of not only this series, but the awakening transgender movement — something largely unimaginable in her time. We know Carole had a live-and-let-live philosophy regarding gays, and there was a tradition of female impersonators in the entertainment industry, so she might not have been fazed a bit by all this.

But it’s not meant as any slander of transgenders that anyone born in either gender would have difficulty emulating this:

Posted July 22, 2015 by vp19 in Uncategorized

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