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COFFEEDAN'S TRIVIA EXTRA -- The many sides of Carole Lombard


coffeedan
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After working my way through Carole Lombard -- The Glamour Collection, I thought I'd devote at least one long post to the lovely Carole. Even if the Universal 2-disc set is a little short on extras, it's so good to have films like WE'RE NOT DRESSING, HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, and TRUE CONFESSION finally available on DVD.

 

One notable absence: the 1932 film NO MAN OF HER OWN, which features Lombard and Clark Gable in their only screen pairing, seven years before their eventual marriage. (They were both married to other people at the time they made the picture.) I can't help wondering if the film was originally part of the set. There's a still of Lombard and Gable on the back cover of the DVD, the same one that graced the cover of the VHS release of NMOHO. And that's also Lombard and Gable on the menu page of HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE on disc 1. What's up with that?

 

I'm hoping that can be rectified with another Universal collection that includes not only NO MAN OF HER OWN, but SUPERNATURAL, LADIES' MAN, BOLERO,and SWING HIGH, SWING LOW -- just for starters.

 

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Some "vital statistics" from the Nov. 23, 1935 issue of Liberty:

 

"Happy-go-lucky, natural-straining, ex-Jane Peters, Carole Lombard is being touted as Hollywood's best-dressed dame. Lacquers her dachshund's toenails -- and the sissy likes it! Loves blue and just got herself a 150-star sapphire, price fabulous but unknown. Has had 200,000 photos made of herself, no two the same. Is an amateur pilot. Hates glamour. Thinks that coldness she occasionally shows on screen is a dirty trick of the camera. Started in Westerns, quit them because they didn't show her up as a vigorous type -- just a simpering phony. Went over to Mack Sennett. Was rescued from the custard by Bill Powell and taught her acting p's and q's by John Barrymore, whose star still influences her. Is crazy about giving parties. Has a home with a white-walled, black-floored, sapphire-draped dining room, self decorated. Lives alone except for Fieldsie, her sektry; and goes places with Bob Riskin, writer."

 

"Fieldsie" was Madeleine Fields, one of Lombard's fellow comediennes on the Mack Sennett lot. They were lifelong friends, and Fields became Lombard's personal assistant after Lombard signed at Paramount.

 

By the way, the only actresses who were photographed as frequently as Lombard in those days were Marlene Dietrich and Claudette Colbert.

 

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As mentioned above, Lombard started her career under her real name, Jane Peters. Then she became Jane Alice Peters and Carol Jane Peters before she settled on Carol Lombard, borrowing her last name from a close friend of her mother's. She added an "e" to her first name on the advice of a numerologist.

 

In a freak auto accident early in her career, she was thrown through the windshield and suffered a nasty cut running from the left corner of her mouth almost up to her left eye, which took 14 stitches to close. After a series of plastic surgeries, it was rendered practically invisible. As she said later, "My mouth was so stiff that for several months I could hardly move it. I just had to keep a stiff upper lip!"

 

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Her temperamental outbursts were legendary. "Carole Lombard was the first woman I ever met who used four-letter words like a truck driver," said Hollywood columnist Radie Harris. You can see a few good examples in the outtakes on the Criterion DVD of MY MAN GODFREY and in the blooper reel included with THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD on Warner Home Video. Although her language gets salty at times, her favorite expletive seemed to be "Nuts!"

 

But she quietly gave it up when she married Clark Gable, who told her simply and plainly, "I will do the swearing in this family."

 

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Lombard's relationship with Clark Gable gave her life stability. Following their joint appearance in NO MAN OF HER OWN in 1932, they forgot about each other until they met again at a party given for the wife of writer Donald Ogden Stewart in 1936. By that time, Lombard had quietly divorced William Powell, and Gable had bought an expensive divorce from his second wife, Rhea Langham. From that time on, Gable and Lombard were inseparable.

 

They loved playing practical jokes on each other. At one of his premieres, Gable received a ham with his picture on it, along with a note from Lombard. In return, he sent Lombard a pair of "prima donna" ballet slippers several sizes too large. One Valentine's Day, when Gable was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel, he found a dilapidated Model T Ford, painted white with big red hearts, in his usual parking place. Tied around it was a big red ribbon with a card that read, "To my Valentine, from Carole Lombard."

 

Writer Howard Sharpe mentioned a time when he arrived at a Paramount projection room to view a rough cut of an unfinished picture. "Suddenly, from one corner, as I groped my way through the semidarkness, there came shouting laughter and a peculiar rattling," he recalled. "I peered over the wall of loges, and saw Carole Lombard and Clark Gable on their knees shooting craps for buttons."

 

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Gable and Lombard married in 1939, and it settled both of them. She called him "Pappy"; he called her "Junior." Lombard got him through the tough months he was filming GONE WITH THE WIND, a tremendously challenging role for him. In turn, Gable encouraged his new wife to try dramatic roles, and she made four serious pictures in the next two years -- IN NAME ONLY and MADE FOR EACH OTHER in 1939, and VIGIL IN THE NIGHT and THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED in 1940. But she longed to return to comedy, and made MR. AND MRS. SMITH with Robert Montgomery and director Alfred Hitchcock, and had finished TO BE OR NOT TO BE with Jack Benny for director Ernst Lubitsch by the end of 1941.

 

By that time, the United States had entered World War II, and Lombard was soon appearing at War Bond rallies raising money for the troops. She had just appeared at a rally in Indianapolis on January 15, 1942, when her plane crashed into the side of a mountain near Fort Wayne early the next morning. There were no survivors. The newsreel cameras had recorded her last words: "Before I say goodbye to you all, come on -- join me in a big cheer. V for Victory!" She flashed a V with her fingers and the crowd went wild, one last time.

 

Carole Lombard was only 32 when she died that January night in 1942, but she left us a lot of laughter in the dozens of pictures she made in the last half of her life. Don't forget that TCM will be devoting a whole day to her films on August 17!

 

;) Coffeedan

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Thanks for that, coffeedan!

 

TCM recently aired "Vigil in the Night" and am now a newly converted Lombard enthusiast. I now refer to her as 'the luminous one', and have recorded her name in the "Breathtakingly Beautiful" thread for posterity.

 

I look forward to viewing many of the films you mentioned in your informative overview of her short career.

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Dan, it is so good to read your great, informative posts; you made my day today. Please, keep them coming! I also watched all those movies include in the Lombard Set. What a gifted comedienne she was! A great actor and grand person. Carole Lombard was truly an "original", never a phony, like so many others.

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Wow nice article you've written.

I own the DVD set but haven't watched any yet.

I've seen most of those movies on AMC I think,

but long enough ago that I don't remember any of them.

Looking forward to seeing them and enjoyed your article.

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