Posted by vp19 on 2015.08.15 at 17:39
Current mood: contemplative
When you read about the life of Carole Lombard, often it’s difficult to believe that the prime of her career began slightly more than eight decades ago…and that we’re slightly more than 17 months away from the 75th anniversary of her premature passing. There’s such a modern, timeless air about her, you almost expect to see her on Hollywood Boulevard, just stepping out of Musso & Frank’s with a few of her writer pals. (I’ve often said that if we could go back to 1935, herd all the stars of the day into a time machine and deposit them in 2015, Carole would have less difficulty adjusting than nearly all of her contemporaries.) In other words, the lady was ahead of her time.
And this entry is part of the Anti-Damsel Blogathon, which is just as its name implies — a salute to women of classic Hollywood, in both silents and talkies, who kicked ass, took names and empowered themselves both on and off screen. It’s hosted by the Last Drive-In (http://thelastdrivein.com/2015/08/15/its-saturday-and-the-anti-damsel-blogathon-2015-is-here/) and Movies Silently (http://moviessilently.com/).
In other words, think Emma Peel, only minus the karate kicks…and what red-blooded man would object to being rescued by Lombard? (She’s shown below helping pull people from an overturned bus in “Vigil in the Night.”)
During an early ’70s TV interview, Diana Rigg — beginning the transition from Avenger to dame of the West End, cited Carole as a type of actress to emulate. I sense Lombard would have returned the favor regarding Rigg.
But empowerment transcends the physical, and even if Carole hadn’t been such a fine athlete, she definitely was empowered. An ardent feminist — a trait she learned from the Baha’i faith of her mother — Lombard believed women could achieve just about anything (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/157005.html, http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/332743.html).
So it should come as little surprise that Lombard’s interest in the film industry went far beyond appearing in front of the camera, although she had an uncanny feel for lighting and cinematography and was renowned in the business for her sense regarding scripts. Carole truly felt at home in the movie business…and let’s emphasize that word, “business.”
This is a carbon copy of the contract Carole signed in September 1940 to appear in the RKO comedy “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Those of you who are regular readers of Carole & Co. may note we ran this several days ago as part of an entry on an auction for the item at eBay. Nobody bid on it earlier this week, so it’s once again in the mix with an opening bid of $2,500. The auction ends at 3:45 p.m. (Eastern) Friday; if interested, visit http://www.ebay.com/itm/ORIGINAL-CONTRACT-1940-MR-MRS-SMITH-SIGNED-BY-CAROLE-LOMBARD/281773637739?_trksid=p2045573.c100033.m2042&_trkparms=aid%3D111001%26algo%3DREC.SEED%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D29979%26meid%3D0de74667c318431dbb359ef54b94df01%26pid%3D100033%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D4%26sd%3D151779552788.)
What the contract doesn’t say is that Lombard herself put up some of the money for the movie, making her a de facto producer — which may be how she was able to arrange 5 percent of gross revenue beyond the $150,000 she received from RKO. Several months later, when Ernst Lubitsch heeded Jack Benny’s request to have Carole replace Miriam Hopkins (who wanted more speaking lines in the script), she wielded enough industry clout to sign a similar deal. (At the time, Lombard essentially was a freelancer — unlike most of her contemporaries, bound by ironclad studio contracts — and was to have made “They All Kissed the Bride” at Columbia following “To Be Or Not To Be.”)
People who knew Lombard later said she had little desire to direct movies (unlike her one-time Paramount stablemate, Ida Lupino), but was interested in producing movies, starring herself as well as others. And given her track record, she almost certainly would have succeeded.