Simply seductive negativity, and a sensational end to a no-hitter   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.28 at 21:59
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

carole lombard p1202-274b

Over the years, Carole Lombard posed for many a come-hither portrait, but this ranks with the best of them. From that sensual glance in her eyes to several inches of stockinged ankle, this pose defies any mortal man to resist her siren song. And indeed, many wouldn’t resist — provided Lombard hadn’t (figuratively) reduced them to quivering gel by the time they reached her.

It’s a new image to my online collection of Carole’s Paramount p1202 portraits; this one, specifically is p1202-274. (The seller labels it from the “late ’30s,” although from the p1202 number, it likely is from 1932.) And the original 8″ x 10″ negative of this rarity now is available…though it’ll cost you. Bidding opens at $189.95; the auction closes at 6:12 p.m. (Eastern) next Sunday, or you can buy it straight up for $249.95. You can bid, buy or find out more by visiting×10-Negative-Late-1930s-/281453220831?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4187eb53df.

The seller also has this negative available:

carole lombard 2589b

No ID number was listed, but a check of my online files shows it matches p1202-226, also from 1932. The same buying and bidding conditions apply, although this auction will end four minutes earlier. Learn more information at×10-Negative-Late-1930s-/281453220831?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4187eb53df.

Finally, yesterday marked the end of the 2014 regular season in major league baseball, and while much of the focus was on Derek Jeter’s final game (both his New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were playing out the string) or the conclusion of Chicago White Sox slugger Paul Konerko’s career, the big news came out of Washington, where a no-hitter was thrown by the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann. It’s the first no-hitter by any Washington MLB pitcher (Senators or Nationals) since 1931, and the final out was next to miraculous. Rookie left fielder Steven Souza Jr., put into the game for defensive purposes, ran to the wall and snared the ball hit by Miami’s Christian Yelich. A fan recorded the sequence from left center at

Here’s the video from the Nationals broadcast:

The MLB Network’s “Ballpark-cam” focused on Zimmermann after Yelich made contact. Watch his doubt turn to jubilation:

Oh, and I missed it because I went over to Dodger Stadium for Fan Appreciation Day and my last live look at baseball this season, rather than stay home and watch it on Now on to the playoffs, with hopes the Nats can bring Washington’s long-suffering baseball fans their first World Series title since the 1924 Senators. (Don’t tell Dodger fans of my D.C. loyalties.)

Posted September 29, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

‘Motion Picture,’ July 1934: Springing a surprise   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.27 at 06:54
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

carole lombard motion picture july 1934ja

As spring turned to summer in 1934, Carole Lombard indeed sprang a surprise to movie fans. Heretofore known as an attractive actress of no perceived distinction, this clotheshorse had suddenly transformed herself into a comedic dynamo in “Twemtieth Century” (which will air next Saturday night on Turner Classic Movies’ “The Essentials” series) — and the July 1934 issue of Motion Picture magazine was spreading the news.

One of the keys to her Pygmalion-like change was that film’s co-star, John Barrymore…and it just so happened a story on him was in that issue. It turns out that helping him liberate Lombard from her previous self was his own liberation in playing the flamboyant impresario Oscar Jaffe, and he talks about it to William F. French:

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I’m especially surprised that the rather racy photo of Barrymore and Lombard is atop the second page — the one where Carole is showing lots and lots of leg, in a photo reportedly banned by industry censor Joseph Breen ( If it in fact was banned, Barrymore perhaps provided a copy to French.

Let’s focus on what Lombard had to say about the process:

carole lombard motion picture july 1934hb

Just as Carole’s character in the film is taught proper acting procedure through a pin poked into her derriere, so did Lombard learn the ropes via Barrymore’s intimidation. It was a drama lesson she never would forget — and she proved it three years later by insisting Barrymore, by then down on his luck thanks to John Barleycorn, get a key supporting role in “True Confession,” not to mention third billing.

Another article, also written by French, asks stars throughout the industry just which actors of the opposite sex have “it” (sex appeal). The responses often are surprising:

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carole lombard motion picture july 1934ba
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French quoted Barrymore as saying Carole had a “totally unexpected” glamour and fascination, but Lombard’s selection was Ronald Colman (“because he looks so experienced — and so scornful”). She never worked with him on-screen, but years later they would be castmates on NBC radio’s short-lived “The Circle.” (Meanwhile, John was chosen by Claudette Colbert.)

Lombard’s previous film, “We’re Not Dressing,” was reviewed:

carole lombard motion picture july 1934ka

This issue, featuring Margaret Sullavan on the cover…

carole lombard motion picture july 1934 cover ebay large

…is up for auction at eBay. Bids open at $19.99, and the auction closes at 6:02 p.m. (Eastern) Friday. If you are interested, visit

Posted September 27, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.26 at 13:47
Current mood: lethargiclethargic

carole lombard 2585b

Back in the day, long before the Surgeon General’s report, Carole Lombard smoked cigarettes; at the time, the vast majority of American adults did. It was deemed to exude an air of sophistication — at least that was the (mis)information tobacco companies provided through incessant advertising.

Above is a languid Lombard with a smoke, and here’s another portrait of her, cigarette in hand:

carole lombard 2584a

Each of these images, 8″ x 10″ reproductions in mint condition, are up for auction at eBay, with an opening bid of $4.99. Bidding closes next Friday. For the photo on top, go to; for the one below, visit

We earlier mentioned advertising, and Lombard herself participated in tobacco ads ( One of them, for Old Gold in 1934, has been reproduced as a metal sign:

carole lombard old gold ad reproduction 00a

The seller notes this “gives the effect of aging with its simulated rusted edges and scratched and faded paint. It has smooth rounded corners and includes mounting holes.” However, it measures a mere 7″ x 10″, so if you purchase one and anyone asks if it’s genuine, just reply that people were smaller then. (Also, it’s made of .040 gauge aluminum.)

It’s being sold for $16.95, nearly one-third off its regular $24.95 price, and at last check more than 10 were available. To buy yours, head to

Posted September 26, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

For Friday, lots and lots of (pre-Code) Loretta   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.25 at 11:38
Current mood: cynicalcynical

carole lombard virtue 36b

Few of you may remember this, but three weeks ago Friday, Turner Classic Movies showed Carole Lombard (shown with Mayo Methot) in “Virtue” (1932), one of the first movies in its series of 24-hour pre-Code marathons the channel is airing this month. That was the only Lombard movie on the 66-film schedule, which makes sense; Carole rarely is perceived as a pre-Code actress (“Twentieth Century” technically is one, but like “It Happened One Night” instead is seen as an early example of screwball comedy), and many of the pre-Coders she made for Paramount are unavailable to TCM.

Anyway, the pre-Code festival concludes this Friday, and the day’s top star is none other than another favorite of this site…

loretta young 17

…Loretta Young, whose pre-Code work has been a revelation to those of us who only were familiar with her more sedate films at 20th Century-Fox or her TV anthology series. Two of her films previously were part of the pre-Code package (“Taxi!” and “She Had To Say Yes”), but on Friday, she shows up six times –– including five films in a row. Here they are (all times Eastern):

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* 10:45 a.m. — “Loose Ankles” (1930). If the title isn’t sufficiently enticing, note the premise as stated at (, “‘Loose Ankles’ is the stoner movie for the 1930s, with the only minor difference being the drug of choice. This is a movie about how awesome it is to be drunk. … Replace this movie’s ‘wink wink punch’ with a plate of pot brownies and you may as well have ‘I Love You Alice B. Toklas’ or a season of ‘That ’70s Show.’” Co-starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

loretta young they call it sin 00 david manners

* noon — “They Call It Sin” (1932). Loretta, playing a southern belle who follows her love (David Manners, above) back to New York, is as ethereal as ever. Chances are many of you will deem the ending a bit of a cop-out, however. With George Brent.

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* 1:15 p.m. — “Heroes For Sale” (1933). This William Wellman-directed film primarily is a vehicle for Richard Barthelmess (seated), who’s superb as a war veteran who falls into all sorts of problems (drugs, finances) through no fault of his own. (It has much the same feel as the previous year’s “I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang.”) Young’s solid supporting role ends tragically, and Aline MacMahon, a member of that great Warners stock company, delivers a standout performance.

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* 2:30 p.m. — “Employees’ Entrance” (1933). Warren William, as sympathetic a cad as you’d ever want to meet, is at his unscrupulous best as a ruthless department store executive who gives homeless Loretta a job but has some other plans for her as well. Alice White, a big star at the start of the decade, has a fine supporting role, as does the reliable Ruth Donnelly.

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* 4 p.m. — “Midnight Mary” (1933). Before her passing in August 2000, Young called this her favorite pre-Code performance, and many would agree with her assessment. Made at MGM rather than Warners and directed by Wellman, Loretta is excellent as a girl falls in with the wrong crowd. She’s aided by Una Merkel in another of her heroine’s best friend roles (she also appeared in “They Call It Sin”) and Ricardo Cortez, everyone’s favorite oily pre-Code target (

The last Loretta film doesn’t air until late, and you’ll understand the reason why the minute you see it:

loretta young the hatchet man 00a

* 3:45 a.m. — “The Hatchet Man” (1932). Eighty-plus years ago, political correctness did not exist as a concept, and this proves Myrna Loy wasn’t the only Caucasian actress of the era who played Asian roles. Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, this Wellman-directed drama — with an all-whites-playing-Chinese cast — also stars Edward G. Robinson(!), Tully Marshall and Charles Middleton (was this a warmup for his iconic Emperor Ming in the Buck Rogers serials?).

Some other films worth noting are on the TCM schedule Friday. “A Free Soul,” the film that made Clark Gable a star with, along with Norma Shearer and an Oscar-winning performance from Lionel Barrymore, airs at 6 a.m.; “Ladies They Talk About,” a fun women’s prison romp starring Barbara Stanwyck, is on at 9:30; the gangster triumvirate of “The Public Enemy,” the original “Scarface” and “Little Caesar” are slated for 6:30, 8 and 9:45 p.m. respectively; and a TCM premiere, Clara Bow’s “Call Her Savage,” runs at 2:15 a.m. Learn more at

Posted September 25, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Oh brother, it’s time to wed   1 comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.24 at 02:00
Current mood: lovedloved

carole lombard william powell stuart peters wedding 00a front

When Carole Lombard married William Powell in 1931, her brothers Frederic and Stuart Peters attended the ceremony; a year later, when Stuart got hitched, the Powells returned the favor. On the snipe, this Paramount photo, taken by Irving Lippman, identifies all the parties:

carole lombard william powell stuart peters wedding 00a back

I’m sure some of you with a geneaology background can fill me in on whether Stuart and Rosemary had any children; I do know that Stuart, like Frederic and Carole as well as their mother, Elizabeth Peters, is at Forest Lawn:

carole lombard forest lawn stuart peters

The 7 3/4″ x 10″ photo is up for auction at eBay. The seller labels it in “Good condition. Folds in the corners. Small surface details only seen if direct light is applied. The photo has been trimmed in the borders.”

Bids for this relative rarity begin at $48.50, with bidding slated to close at 8 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday. Interested? Then visit

Posted September 24, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

So you want to get negative?   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.23 at 14:49
Current mood: creativecreative

carole lombard p1202-783

Well, you can, at least where Carole Lombard is concerned — but you’re going to have to pay the price.

That image above, Paramount p1202-783 where Carole wears a sun hat while leaning against a post and showing off those marvelous Lombard legs, is available as a negative. According to the seller, this is the original and only negative of that 1934 portrait; it’s 8″ x 10″, overall in good condition, and comes with a print.

And “pay the price” here is significant — as in $149.99. Still interested? Then go to

The same seller has this Lombard negative for sale as well (though there’s nothing negative about Carole’s megawatt smile!), also for $149.99:

carole lombard 2579a

I’m guessing this to be from 1937, as I think that’s the dress Carole wore in “True Confession.” Again, according to the seller, this is the lone surviving negative of that photo, and it too is 8″ x 10″ and in good condition. To buy or learn more, visit

As of this writing, the seller has 120 Lombard images available; check them out at

Posted September 23, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Had she lived…   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.22 at 15:15
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

carole lombard 011542 with mother last picture larger

This is said to be the last photo ever taken of Carole Lombard, shown with her mother on Jan. 15, 1942 following the war bond rally that night in Indianapolis. Roughly 24 hours later, both of them, along with MGM press agent Otto Winkler, would be victims of a plane crash in Nevada.

But suppose things had been different — that Carole somehow escaped her fate and lived to an advanced age? I’m not suggesting a Lombard who’d still be with us today; in that scenario, she’d be two weeks away from turning 106, older than Luise Rainer. Let’s imagine Carole at middle age, blessed with the maturity she admiringly saw in her mother.

Many have conjured up a “what if” for a Lombard in later years, and one of them is Robert Matzen, author of “Fireball,” the definitive book on that fateful flight. But many years before that, he wrote a bio-bibliography on Carole that can be found at eBay, so he knows plenty about her life as well as her tragic death. It makes for fascinating reading, as we project ourselves into an alternate universe where we read this press release…

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Actress vows to ‘come clean’ in Putnam hardcover

HOLLYWOOD, May 1, 1961 -— G.P. Putnam’s Sons announced today that the publisher will release the autobiography of motion picture and television actress Carole Lombard. The would-be author had stated previously that her book would be entitled “Just One of the Guys.” Last week, Miss Lombard, who will turn 50 in October, made a public appearance after months of seclusion following the November 1960 death of her ex-husband, Clark Gable. It is speculated that her memoir will discuss life with the one-time “king of the movies,” as well as their 1946 divorce, continued close friendship, and recent reuniting as co-stars of the romantic comedies, “Teacher’s Pet” and “But Not for Me.”

Miss Lombard’s career began in silent pictures for the Fox and Sennett studios and then continued in the sound era at Paramount. But it was the 1934 Columbia picture “Twentieth Century” that shot her to the top. She solidified her status as “queen of screwball” two years later with an Academy Award-nominated performance in “My Man Godfrey.”

Miss Lombard and Mr. Gable began their association in 1936 and once comprised the most famous couple in Hollywood. They were married during production of the highest grossing motion picture of all time, “Gone With the Wind.” They enjoyed status as the most prolific and profitable stars of the World War II years, and, despite rumors of marital turmoil, their separation at war’s end caught Hollywood by surprise.

Miss Lombard said she has been working on the manuscript for more than two years. In describing its title, she said, “It was the men who ruled the Hollywood roost, and I had to make room for myself in the ‘boys’ club.’ Then I had to do it again when I decided to produce some pictures, and especially when I wanted to direct features and then serve as executive producer of my TV series.”

That series, “Carole of the Belle,” features Miss Lombard as Carole Simpson, a divorced newspaper reporter raising her daughter on a Seattle houseboat called the “Puget Belle.” Now in its 11th season on NBC, “Carole of the Belle” was second in popularity in the last decade only to the CBS smash hit “I Love Lucy,” which starred Miss Lombard’s friend of more than 20 years, Lucille Ball.

In addition to her groundbreaking work in motion pictures and television, among the topics to be remembered by Miss Lombard are a car crash that nearly ended her career in 1925; her marriage to suave leading man William Powell; the strange death of Russ Columbo, a 1930s singer with whom she was romantically linked; a long-time friendship with tennis star Alice Marble; a brush with death when an airliner on which she had been traveling crashed in Nevada after she had disembarked; and her battles with HUAC and unwillingness to “name names.”

Famous for her salty vocabulary and known as one of the most down-to-earth of Hollywood’s elite, Miss Lombard said she would “pull no punches” in her book, although she was coy when asked if she would discuss her post-Gable romances with actor/director Orson Welles, and then her most controversial relationship of all, with actor Paul Newman, a man 15 years her junior.

Putnam anticipates an autumn 1962 release for “Just One of the Guys.”

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Before I give some comments, let Bob elaborate on his whys and wherefores:

How this came about…

A colleague of mine, Wendy, is reading Fireball and said to me yesterday, “The whole thing is such a tragedy because if anyone should have lived a long life and produced a great memoir, it’s Carole Lombard.” Wendy paused and said, “She’d have made a great old lady.”

Which got me to thinking. Suppose she hadn’t died on that mountaintop. Suppose she had lived a normal lifetime and worked the length of a normal career. What would have happened? Of course it’s pure fantasy, but when you have spent as much time in someone’s head as I have in hers, you get to a point where you can draw conclusions. Here they’re laid out. Somehow or other, the marriage would have ended, but Lombard didn’t hold grudges and after a time she and Gable would have been friendly. Without the tragedy of her death hanging over his head, three things would have changed: 1) Gable’s ambition wouldn’t have been snuffed out and his brand would have thrived; 2) the public would have been spared seeing Clark Gable as a mortal and he wouldn’t have aged prematurely, and 3) at age 41 and then 42 and 43, he wouldn’t have gone to war; he would have made very popular pictures from 1943 through ’45, during the biggest boom in Hollywood history.

In the meantime, Lombard would have made “He Kissed the Bride” (retitled “They All Kissed the Bride”) and “My Girl Godfrey,” and from there, she would have been off to the races as an independent, enjoying good roles with her contemporaries until 1950. I could see her producing and directing by, say, 1948, and not comedies either. I think Lombard would have gone for gritty film noir as a form of artistic expression. She had wanted to succeed at drama but never broke through, so it’s clear she wanted the challenge of meaty work. She would have been out front with Ida Lupino as a woman director and by this time she would have amassed fortune enough to finance A-pictures as an independent.

Imagine Carole Lombard called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Always a liberal Democrat, Carole would not be the one to rat out a colleague and it was likely she’d lean into the microphone on Capitol Hill and state clearly for newsreel cameras, “With all due respect, sir, you can kiss my ass.”

In 1954, when MGM severed with Gable, Lombard would have been there as his biggest supporter and sooner or later she would have made pictures with him to give her ex a boost -— returning a favor done for her by William Powell in 1936. I picked “Teacher’s Pet” because I could see Lombard in the Doris Day role, and “But Not for Me” where she would have been perfect in the cynical ex-wife part played by Lili Palmer.

Carole would not have spoken about Clark during his lifetime, but because she was indeed a “ham” and because she loved to tell stories (never letting the truth get in her way), I could see Miss Lombard following the trail blazed by Errol Flynn and publishing a scorcher of a memoir.

Romantically, she may well have slipped into a romance with Robert Stack, a premiere Hollywood stud and nice guy who was in love with her. The problem was that Bob didn’t need rescuing, and Carole was a rescuer/nurturer who went for powerful men. Always powerful men. Who fit the bill at this time? Obviously, Orson Welles, who would have been available after his divorce from Rita Hayworth. I asked Carole Sampeck to play along and it was she who labeled Welles a likely candidate, and also young Paul Newman, the next big thing in the late 1950s at a time when Carole would have just been turning 50 but, knowing her, still mindful to play the field.

And finally, I believe Lombard would have turned to television, the rival medium. In a white 1950s America dominated by traditional family values, the formula was for aging female movie stars to play wives and mothers, but not Lombard. Carole would have scratched and clawed to play a woman with guts, a divorcee and career-minded mother. A woman making her own way and suffering romantic misadventures week in and week out, making jokes at her own expense and guiding an onscreen child in lieu of the one she could never produce in life.

Notice that the press release gets Lombard’s age wrong by three years. She had already shaved a year off by 33 and sleight of hand would have killed another couple by the early 1960s. Nobody enjoyed pulling a fast one more than Carole Lombard.

So this is my version of the alternate reality wherein Lombard lived out her lifetime — what’s yours?

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OK, my thoughts on his thoughts, as well as on the “release”:

* Based on her relationship with Powell, I believe a Gable-Lombard separation would have been relatively low-key and amicable. (Of course, in Matzen’s scenario, the couple doesn’t have children; their presence probably would have complicated matters.) And a Clark and Carole “Teacher’s Pet” (I too can see her in the Doris Day role) would “reunite” both with Mamie Van Doren, who saw them arrive at the Sioux Falls, S.D. airport when she was a child named Joan Olander.

* Although Carole directed Alfred Hitchcock in his “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” cameo, I’m not certain she wanted to go down the directorial route. Producing? That’s an entirely different matter; Lombard was de facto director of “Smith” and, as we all know, was a very bright businesswoman. So rather than compete with Lupino aa a director, she might have hired Ida for one of her projects.

* I think Lombard would have liked film noir, particularly since so many of those movies were set in the Los Angeles she loved. Since she and Barbara Stanwyck were good pals, Stany might have attached herself to a noir Carole produced. (But I don’t think she would have eschewed comedies, especially ones she could both produce and act in.)

* Post-Gable relationships make for a fascinating “what if.” A Welles-Lombard romance would have been beneficial to both parties; for Orson, Carole would have provided the business sense he needed for his cinematic projects, while Lombard could draw upon Welles’ fertile mind (and occasionally guest on her TV series). And both could toss the bull around with the best of them. My only reservation is that she was about 6 1/2 years older, and Carole might have been reluctant to be with a younger man (the same is true for romances with the even younger Stack and Newman). Then again, by this stage of her life, she might’ve enjoyed the challenge of being the 1950s version of a “cougar,” or figuratively said, “Screw what anyone thinks!” (A Lombard at 50 or so would have retained her allure.)

* “Carole of the Belle”? Intriguing premise for a TV series, though I’m skeptical the concept could sustain itself for 11 seasons; she might have had to reinvent it every few seasons to keep it fresh. Do like the idea of Lombard as a divorced parent, though.

* Lombard before HUAC? She would have ripped them to shreds. (One tangent to this thought: Imagine the relationship between Carole and equally-outspoken liberal Lauren Bacall? They’d have been the best of pals. Conversely, might Democrat Carole and Republican Lucille Ball have had a falling-out? And in this alternate reality, is Lombard appear in a dream to provide the “go for it” impetus for Lucy to go into TV — and if not, does Desilu ever exist? Are “Star Trek” and its progeny ever made?)

* Had Carole and her party joined violinist Joseph Szigeti and got off at Albuquerque, there’s no certainty Flight 3 would have crashed. Perhaps things would be different for those on board, too. (Carole’s mother, had she lived, would have been 84 at the time this book was announced.)

* During my Lombard research, any shaving off of her years to me seemed more the work of the studios than of herself. When this “release” was issued in May 1961, Carole would’ve had no qualm about admitting she was 52.

* “My Girl Godfrey”? Was a project by this title actually considered?

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Bob ends with, “So this is my version of the alternate reality wherein Lombard lived out her lifetime — what’s yours?”

It just so happens that in October 1998, I wrote such a piece in cyberspace about Carole turning 90. It’s long since lost, but I recall a few elements, plus have added several recent ones:

* Lombard kept making movies until the early ’50s, when she followed the lead of her friend Lucille Ball and went into television. But instead of a sitcom, she took the Loretta Young anthology route — albeit for comedy, not drama — and did a series called…”Carole & Company,” where she performed with a troupe of regulars. (So that’s where I got the name for this site!)

* In the early ’50s, Carole — who hadn’t sung publicly since “Swing High, Swing Low,” but enjoyed singing before her friends — agreed to cut a few albums of jazz standards with small groups. None were big hits, though all were well received by critics.

* By the start of the ’60s, Lombard was a regular guest of talk-show hosts such as Jack Paar and then Johnny Carson for her sharp sense of humor and delightful storytelling. (Think Bette Davis in her later years.)

* As she aged, Carole became a favorite character actress in both film and TV, and beginning in the late ’60s made a series of popular comedic TV movies with old friend Myrna Loy. She capped her career in 1998 by portraying a genial witch matriarch (though she told the press, “No, I’m not channeling Billie Burke!”) on an episode of the ABC sitcom “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch,” filmed at the Paramount studio where she had been a contract player more than six decades before.

Ah, what might have been. What’s your Lombard “what might have been,” both professionally and personally?

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Posted September 22, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

For her birthday weekend, Carole to the ninth power   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.21 at 10:32
Current mood: excitedexcited

carole lombard p1202-1330d

We’re slightly more than two weeks away from the 106th anniversary of Carole Lombard’s birth on Oct. 6, and that weekend Turner Classic Movies is celebrating with nine, count ’em, nine of her movies.

OK, the first film scheduled wasn’t really designed as a Lombard tribute, but we’ll throw it in anyway. It’s part of “The Essentials” series at 8 p.m. (Eastern) on Oct. 4 as part of a “Riding The Rails” theme, so I think most of you can figure out what they’re showing — yep, it’s “Twentieth Century”:

carole lombard twentieth century 022a

I’m especially looking forward to comments from Drew Barrymore about her grandfather’s marvelous comedic performance, as well as what she has to say about Lombard (I’m presuming she’s a fan). Oh, and this will be followed by two other train films — Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes” (1938) at 10 p.m. (ET) and “Without Reservations” (1946), with Claudette Colbert and John Wayne, at midnight.

Then, on Monday the 6th, a surprise of sorts: TCM celebrates Carole’s birthday with eight of her films, less than two months after her 24-hour salute on “Summer Under The Stars.” I thought they’d run a few Lombard movies that day — if Oct. 6 falls on a weekday, she’s usually honored by the channel — but that many, this soon? If I were a Janet Gaynor fan (she’s also an Oct. 6 baby), I’d be ticked off.

That’s the good news for Lombard fans. The bad news is that seven of the scheduled movies ran on Aug. 10; the one that didn’t is “Swing High, Swing Low” (1937), which will kick the celebration at 6 a.m. (Eastern). Parts of it aren’t in the best of shape (as we’ve stated before, no complete 35 mm print of the movie survives and segments are taken from a 16 mm print belonging to director Mitchell Leisen), but you will get to hear Lombard sing in her own voice (in other words, without dubbing) for the only time in her career. Was she a vocal threat to her Paramount pal Dorothy Lamour (who sang with big bands and has a supporting role in this film)? No, but she’s competent at the very least.

carole lombard swing high, swing low 39

The rest of the schedule goes like this (all times Eastern):

* 7:30 a.m. — “Fools For Scandal” (1938)
* 9 a.m. — “The Gay Bride” (1934)
* 10:30 a.m. — “Made For Each Other” (1939)
* 12:30 p.m. — “To Be Or Not To Be” (1942)
* 2:30 p.m. — “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” (1941)
* 4:30 p.m. — “Nothing Sacred” (1937)
* 6 p.m. — “In Name Only” (1939)

If you have a friend or child who has never seen Lombard’s funny elegance in action, this day would be a good primer, though I’d probably start with the showing of “To Be Or Not To Be.” (“Fools For Scandal” and “The Gay Bride” are mediocre, “Made For Each Other” uneven.) “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” is hilarious and shows Carole photographed at her most ethereal, “Nothing Sacred” is a delightful Technicolor screwball and “In Name Only” shows off Lombard’s dramatic skills, opposite Cary Grant, no less. (Why didn’t fate allow them to co-star in a comedy?)

One of these days, we hope TCM can get a hold of some of Carole’s more obscure early Paramount features, many of which haven’t seen the light of day in years. For now, this will have to do.

gertie the dinosaur 00a

And if you’re an animation buff, keep it on TCM during prime time; at 8 p.m. (Eastern), it will run more than four hours of vintage animated shorts from 1912 to 1931. It’s what the channel is calling “Back To The Drawing Board,” featuring famous characters you may have heard of (Little Nemo, Gertie the Dinosaur) but have never seen.

Posted September 21, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

Of hedgehogs and Hollywood   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.20 at 11:07
Current mood: worriedworried

carole lombard swing high, swing low 37d adolph zukor mitchel

Carole Lombard poses with (from left) co-star Fred MacMurray, director Mitchell Leisen and Paramount mogul Adolph Zukor on the set of the 1937 musical “Swing High, Swing Low.” If any or all of them were zapped into the Hollywood of 2014, they might appreciate many of the technical advances that dazzle today’s cinema audiences. As for the rest of the industry? Not so much.

The mantra “Hollywood is in trouble” has been chanted in the movie colony since silent days, but currently it may have some truth to it.

guardians of the galaxy 00 chris pratt

This past summer was the least profitable at the box office since 1997, and even the core teen male audience Hollywood so dearly covets isn’t as interested in studio output, aside from exceptions such as Marvel’s surprise blockbuster “Guardians Of The Galaxy” (above is its Chris Pratt, real-life husband of Carole & Co. fave Anna Faris). What’s the cause?

According to Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, think of foxes and hedgehogs:

“The fox…is a fluid animal that knows many things, while the stolid hedgehog knows only one big thing.”

(And Turan doesn’t claim this as an original thought; he says this philosophical argument dates back to ancient times.)

Turan states that during its classic period (the one we celebrate at Carole & Co.) up until recently, Hollywood was the fox, “entertaining everybody by making movies for a wide variety of appetites and audiences.” The mass audience we think of from the Golden Age didn’t always watch the same movies, but there was enough range in film fare to placate nearly all demographic groups.

However, he writes Hollywood now has a hedgehog mentality:

“The one big thing it knows how to do is make sequels and superhero movies and sequels to superhero movies, all aimed at a young adult crowd with no end in sight. The race to secure prime spots has become so intense that studios have claimed release dates for as-yet-untitled superhero movies through 2020, which at this point feels a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Any movies made with adults in mind are shunted off into fringe release dates or late in the year (thus keeping them fresh in the minds of Academy Awards voters). Turan says this unnerves people both inside and outside the industry:

“A few weeks ago I ran into a member of the motion picture academy’s Board of Governors, the people who oversee the organization that gives out the Oscars, and the talk inevitably turned to this situation. ‘We’re supposed to be dedicated to the advancement of the art and science of motion pictures,’ the board member told me. ‘But where is the art these days?'”

Where is the art, indeed? And while Turan focuses too much on adult drama (as usual for both film and TV, the comedy genre is ignored), he cites two factors:

“One is the end of movie studios as free-standing entities, able to set their own course. Now they are part of massive conglomerates with mandates to hit profit predictions or else.

As director Ed Zwick was recently quoted as saying, this means that the studios ‘would rather lose $100 million and make $300 million than be in the game of making $30 million.'”

carole lombard clark gable louis b. mayer largest00

That certainly wasn’t the case for Zukor, or MGM’s Louis B. Mayer (shown with Carole and Metro’s meal ticket, Clark Gable), Fox’s Darryl F. Zanuck or to a lesser extent Columbia’s Harry Cohn (unlike the three studios cited above, Columbia owned no theaters as a financial fallback). They could make the occasional blockbuster, to be sure, but their output included medium-budget movies and low-budget second features.

Turan adds:

“The other factor turning Hollywood into a hedgehog is the importance of the overseas market. As a compelling chart in a recent Hollywood Reporter pointed out, eight of the 10 top-grossing films of this summer made more than 60% of their theatrical revenues outside of the U.S. That’s a big number.

With Hollywood needing the overseas lifeline, certain kinds of films, especially those dependent on sophisticated dialogue and potent psychology, are going to get short shrift. Also, what James Cameron explained to me almost 25 years ago holds true: As you go around the world, ideas of comedy change, ideas of beauty and romance change, but one man hitting another man plays the same way everywhere.”

But in Hollywood’s heyday, its films — and stars — had appeal in Europe as well as in other continents. Couldn’t it happen again?

This subject is something worth discussing, and you can read Turan’s thought-provoking column at

Posted September 20, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized

A really late-era p1202, with special guest star…   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2014.09.19 at 10:33
Current mood: surprisedsurprised

carole lombard p1202-1719d

Until this morning, I believed this sultry image — Paramount p1202-1719 — was the last image of Carole Lombard Paramount ever issued in its p1202 series, which had dated back to soon after she arrived at the studio in 1930. But it turns out I was wrong…and I almost missed it.

And, for that, you can blame Clark Gable.

A glance of eBay’s Lombard memorabilia list included a thumbnail photo of Clark and Carole together in public. Initially, I thought it was something I already had in my collection, so I didn’t investigate. This morning, I did — and I’m glad of it. Otherwise, this would have gotten past me:

carole lombard p1202-1720a front

This p1202-1720 knocked me for a loop for two reasons:

* Lombard’s p1202 portraits usually were solo shots, with no “guest stars” involved. Unless there’s something from the time “No Man Of Her Own” was released, none of them included Gable.

* The p1202 tag is at the bottom center of the photo, not in a corner (usually the right one), as was the case for the vast majority of such pictures.

That in itself is good. What’s even better is that the seller included the back of the photo, which includes information that provides answers…and leads to questions:

carole lombard p1202-1720a back

So Clark and Carole were at the preview of William Wellman’s “Men With Wings” (a Paramount picture, which explains why the photo was taken in the first place, by studio photographer Don English). Both had previously worked with Wellman, while Carole’s resume included four films with MacMurray (and a few with Milland in supporting roles). But the date stamped is Nov. 23, 1938; we know that even though Lombard’s last work at Paramount came in “True Confession” in the fall of 1937, she retained an office there until ceding it to good friend Dorothy Lamour. But did Carole keep ties to Paramount this late into 1938?

A check of “Men With Wings” at the Internet Movie Database indicates the likely answer is no. According to IMDb, the film premiered in New York on July 16, 1938; the preview was in Los Angeles, almost certainly some days beforehand.

Whatever the answer to that is, you don’t have much time to make this 7″ x 9″ photo your own (there are “a few stains on the back and a few creases on front,” but it’s still in good condition). The minimum bid is $14.99…but bidding on this genuine rarity closes at 5:34 a.m. (Eastern) tomorrow. If interested, visit

Posted September 19, 2014 by vp19 in Uncategorized