Posted by vp19 on 2015.10.11 at 21:53
Current mood: nostalgic
It’s the fall of 1930, and word is starting to get out about this new player on Paramount’s roster. For Carole Lombard the baseball fan, she must’ve felt like a touted rookie just called up to the big club after spending some time in the minors.
Essentially, that was Lombard’s situation after a false start at Fox, an automobile accident that threatened her career, getting some seasoning at Mack Sennett and Pathe before the latter dismissed her, and a brief second go-round at Fox. Now, Carole (about to reclaim the “e” on her first name for good) had made two films for Paramount, one in New York, and had been signed to a long-term contract by this major studio. Not bad.
In its November 1930 issue, Herbert Cruikshank of Motion Picture wrote a feature on Lombard, one of those actresses people had seen on screen but couldn’t quite place where, called “The Three-In-One Girl”:
The lead sentence must have been particularly delicious for Carole: “Imagine Constance Bennett with Jeanne Eagels’ voice and you have Carole Lombard.” (Near the end of the story, we learned someone mistook her for Connie.) She had nothing against Eagels, who had died young in October 1929, but Bennett? Another matter entirely. It’s long been believed that when Constance signed with Pathe in 1929, one of her conditions was that the studio divest itself of potential blonde competition…so goodbye Lombard, goodbye close friend Diane Ellis.
This story apparently derives from an interview Lombard gave Cruikshank at New York’s famed Hotel Algonquin when she was in town filming “Fast and Loose” at Paramount’s Astoria studios. Did she mention what happened with Bennett at Pathe? Was it common knowledge in the industry? (Even if it were, it really wasn’t fodder for fanmags, who wanted to stay on the good side of stars and studios.) So perhaps Carole planted the reference to Connie, and the writer discreetly ran with it. (Also note that Carole is described as “tall”; either she had purchased shoes with unusually high heels while in NYC, or she simply exuded a larger-than-life aura to these easterners.)
One thing I particularly like about this piece is that Cruikshank sees Carole’s strength as comedy (“Let her make folks laugh and she’ll be happy”) — something that should’ve been obvious given her training with Mack Sennett, though Paramount kept trying to shoehorn her into an all-purpose leading lady over the next few years.
Another surprise here is her naming an actor who I had never heard of as one of her favorites. His name was Charles Kaley (1902-1965), a singing bandleader from Nebraska whose best-known film was “Lord Byron of Broadway” (1930); he made but five films, two of them shorts. Here he is with Gwen Lee in “Lord Byron”:
Also note she gave the writer her impression of Greta Garbo nearly six years before making “The Princess Comes Across”! All in all, a fun snapshot of Lombard as she slowly began to establish the persona she’d gain fame for throughout the ’30s.
Marland Stone’s portrait of Helen Twelvetrees graced the cover:
Inside is a fascinating feature on what passed for special effects in 1930, long before CGI, green screen and other innovations:
Star portrait subjects included Joan Bennett…
…and Anita Page:
Opposite the first page of the Lombard feature was Marion Davies, promoting Technicolor:
And there were plenty of movie ads as well. Fox touts a few of its releases:
From Paramount, there’s Harold Lloyd in “Feet First,” aka “Safety Last” with sound:
By now, Sennett had set up shop at Educational, still cranking out comedy shorts:
Ann Harding starred in a version of the stage chestnut “Girl of the Golden West”:
Lordly MGM used spot color to brighten the advance of its “Trader Horn”:
At Warners, vivacious Winnie Lightner starred in “The Life of the Party.” directed by future husband Roy Del Ruth:
And finally, up-and-coming Columbia cited the directors it had hired, including Frank Capra, Howard Hawks and Victor Fleming. Also note the “Miss Columbia” contest Harry Cohn used to spark interest in the studio, which unlike most of its brethren owned no theater properties: