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carole lombard 02

In NYC this June? Then feel the 'touch'

Posted by vp19 on 2017.05.23 at 08:39
Current mood: amusedamused

There they are, my all-time favorite actress and director, Carole Lombard and Ernst Lubitsch, during production of what would be Carole's final film, the dark comedy classic "To Be Or Not To Be." What makes Lubitsch and his urbane, bawdy-without-being-bawdy style (often described as "the Lubitsch" touch) so special to me? If you're in or near New York in the upcoming weeks, find out for yourself.

Film Forum, Manhattan's magnificent repertory house, is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the director's birth with a series of movies. "The Lubitsch Touch" runs from June 2 to 15, with additional showings of his films through July 2.

What is this "touch"? Film Forun labels it as "a sui generis subtlety, visual wit and sophisticated innuendo" -- a perfect complement for the personality of Paramount in the 1920s and '30s, although Ernst also worked at Warners, MGM and United Artists.

Lubitsch served as head of production at Paramount in the mid-'30s -- the only director of note to hold that position during the golden age of Hollywood -- helping lift Lombard's career after the studio had done relatively little with her. He also influenced many filmmakers, including Billy Wilder (who wrote several scripts for him).

"To Be Or Not To Be," where Carole finally fulfilled her dream of starring in a Lubitsch film, will air on two dates, with a pair of showings on both Saturday, June 10 and Sunday, June 11. Several of his more notable movies will get similar treatment, including the sublime "The Shop Around the Corner" (my brother Michael's favorite film), "Ninotchka" and "Trouble in Paradise."

One of my favorites, 1931's "The Smiling Lieutenant" (jazz up your lingerie!), runs on June 7...

...in a double feature with another Claudette Colbert collaboration with Lubitsch, 1938's "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife."

The schedule also includes several Lubitsch silent films, both from Germany and the U.S., proving he did not need dialogue to show his directorial subtlety.

Film Forum, a delightful venue I visited many a time when I lived near NYC, is at 209 West Houston Street (for you non-locals, New Yorkers pronounce it HOW-ston, just as Sam did) in lower Manhattan. The box office phone is 212-727-8110. See the complete schedule at http://filmforum.org/series/the-lubitsch-touch.

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More Lombard allegations from Mr. Porter

Posted by vp19 on 2017.05.20 at 14:07
Current mood: infuriatedinfuriated

We last examined Hollywood biographer Darwin Porter's writing about Carole Lombard in his 2005 book about Howard Hughes (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/57165.html). In it, he wrote Lombard had an affair with Howard Hughes, something alleged by other biographers, including Larry Swindell in "Screwball," who between the lines stated Carole had lost her virginity to Hughes.

But Porter also claimed was actually briefly cast in the "Hell's Angels" role that ultimately went to Jean Harlow. (He also spuriously quotes Carole as having boasted of previously having bedded Pathe mogul Joseph Kennedy, and discusses having "intermammary intercourse" with Hughes.)

Now Porter, with Danforth Prince, has made Carole part of his latest book, a biography of longtime (and oft-married) MGM star Lana Turner:

Lana's role in leading to Lombard's premature death (at the time, Turner was working with Clark Gable on "Somewhere I'll Find You") has been discussed for decades. However, Porter adds a potentially new, controversial angle: He claims that before her death, Carole decided to teach Gable a lesson by having an affair with Robert Stack, a castmate in "To Be Or Not To Be."

Moreover, Stack then discussed his affair with "intimate friend" Turner, according to Porter, adding Wesley Ruggles, the director of "Somewhere I'll Find You" -- who'd directed Clark and Carole in 1932's "No Man Of Her Own" -- later told someone (not Gable) the Lombard-Stack liaison was fact. (Note that none of the principals Porter cites is with us today, and that Lana always denied having an affair with Gable while Carole was alive.)

Porter has a reputation as someone who does next to no research and reguarly focuses on celebrities' sexual lives. (While a sample chapter of the Turner book available via amazon.com has no information on Carole, it does discuss the physical endowments of former Lombard lover George Raft.)

When this became a Facebook entry (https://www.facebook.com/groups/421288827952473/?fref=nf), Porter was repeatedly reviled for his style. Prince defends his use of what he calls "phraseology":

Ultimately, whether to believe it or not is up to you. But given Porter's track record...

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The Five Stars Blogathon (for National Classic Movie Day): My selections

Posted by vp19 on 2017.05.15 at 21:37
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Tuesday, May 16 happens to be National Classic Movie Day (the third annual celebration of vintage cinema), and this Carole Lombard fan is participating in an event sponsored by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. Specifically, it's called the Five Stars Blogathon.

The premise is simple: List your five favorite film stars and explain why you love them.

I only learned about the blogathon Monday, but got the green light to take part from Rick, who runs the site. (Thank you, sir.) Since this is a Lombard blog, you can guess who leads my list. The other four souldn't surprise you very much if you're familiar with my cinematic interests.

My time range is limited to what's loosely defined as the classic era, and all of my selections covered that period (although several worked into the 1970s and '80s). If I didn't choose one of your favorites, don't take it personally -- it doesn't mean I don't care for them or are denigrating their skills. They simply don't elicit as much passion from me as the five stars I chose. OK?

With that out of the way, here goes:

* Carole Lombard: She's been my all-time favorite actress for more than three decades; what makes her so special to me? Sure, she's ethereal in her beauty and a talented actress (especially in comedy, by far my favorite genre). But the more you read about Carole, the more you fall under her spell.

Lombard may have left this earth more than 75 years ago, but in terms of style, humor, personality and approach to life, she's as modern as tomorrow. I've frequently written that if all the stars from the mid-1930s were herded into a time machine and dropped into right now, she probably would have the least problem adjusting.

Carole was a feminist when feminism wasn't cool, regularly looked out for others lower on the totem pole than her and truly enjoyed the entertainment industry -- not so much the fame and riches it gave her, but its "inside" and technical aspects. It's no wonder many "what-ifs" of Lombard envision her as a movie producer as much as an actress. She was no saint by any means, but it's easy to see why she was so beloved during (and after) her lifetime and remains incredibly iconic.

* Myrna Loy: My second all-time favorite classic actress. Her comedic style was subtle in its charm, low-key yet sharp, somewhat in contrast to the more exuberant Carole. (If only Lombard and Loy, friends in real life, had done a film together.) Myrna made many movies with Carole's husbands William Powell and Clark Gable, as well as Cary Grant and other legendary leading men. She was a superb complementary actress, often easy to overlook, perhaps one reason she was never even nominated for an Academy Award.

Myrna made the adjustment to post-World War II films with minimal difficulty, and unlike several of her contemporaries, declined to go the Grand Guignol route of camp horror during the 1960s. She was admirable in other ways as well. Forward-thinking politically (Loy was among the first industry notables to complain about the stereotyped roles given black actors), she took several years off in the 1940s to aid the war effort as a nursing volunteer, then campaigned for fair housing when she lived in Washington during the '50s. Read her autobiography, one of the best recollections of classic Hollywood.

* Barbara Stanwyck: No. 3 on my all-time actress list, but for sheer versatility, an easy No. 1. Drama? Check (from pre-Codes such as "Baby Face" to '80s TV). Comedy? Check (romantic to screwball). Film noir? Check (and not just "Double Indemnity," arguably the greatest of that genre). Westerns? Check (this Brooklyn gal did many of her horseriding stunts, and deservedly is in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame). Who did os many genres, and did them so well?

Add a thorough sense of professionalism, smartness and understated sex appeal, and it's easy to understand why she was almost always working up until the end, making a seamless transition from big screen to small.

* William Powell: My all-time favorite actor, someone now appreciated as a role model for urbane gentlemen -- that wit, that charm, that voice! (It's no wonder Roger Ebert once wrote that "Powell is to diction what Astaire is to dance.") And Bill was a brilliant actor in both drama (watch "One Way Passage" for proof) and comedy (his fishing scene in "Libeled Lady" reveals his often-underestimated skill at physical comedy).

Only a gentleman such as Bill could woo blonde goddesses Lombard and Jean Harlow, as well as gracefully exit the screen many years later in the wonderful "Mister Roberts." If I could become any classic actor, Powell is whom I would be...and I'm certain many other men would do likewise.

* Fred MacMurray: For younger generations who only viewed MacMurray through the prism of Disney movies or TV's "My Three Sons," his earlier work is a revelation -- not just "Double Indemnity," "The Caine Mutiny" or "The Apartment," but the many romantic comedies he made in the '30s and '40s. And his leading ladies! Four appearances with Lombard and Stanwyck, even more with Claudette Colbert and a comedy with Marlene Dietrich. Like Loy, Fred was a fine complementary actor, not the easiest role to fill.

Invariably reliable in comedy, drama, even the occasional western, MacMurray -- who came to Los Angeles as a musician, playing with Gus Arnheim's orchestra -- was a smart actor off-screen as well, parlaying his success into a fortune in southern California real estate (he owned many notable properties, including the Bryson, the first of the Wilshire Boulevard high-rises). I'm delighted to see his acting persona rehabilitated.

There are my five -- see whom others chose at http://www.classicfilmtvcafe.com/2017/03/national-classic-movie-day-blogathon-2017.html. Your thoughts?

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Phoning it in

Posted by vp19 on 2017.05.10 at 12:40
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Been awhile since I've examined eBay for Carole Lombard items -- I've had other things on my mind lately -- but I came across this piece I'd never seen before. I believe it's from "The Gay Bride," judging from the dress she has on, but I can't confirm anything from this pic.

I do know it's an original from the seller hollywoodpaper2, and as of this writing you can buy it for $59.95. Interested? Then go to http://www.ebay.com/itm/GORGEOUS-SEXY-CAROLE-LOMBARD-VERY-NICE-1930s-PHOTO-HOLLYWOOD-GREAT-/322511974857?hash=item4b173631c9:g:JMsAAOSwiylXDQ9G.

Today, I wish to pay tribute to veteran character actor Michael Parks, a favorite of Quentin Tarantino, who has died at age 77. He had a lot of friends in the industry, but how many know he also had a hit record?

It came in the spring of 1970, from his NBC drama "Then Came Bronson," which lasted that one season. "Long, Lonesome Highway," the show's theme, is a charming record, making the pop Top 20, the top five on the adult contemporary charts, and even got some country airplay. Godspeed, Michael. Keep traveling.


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A long time ago, in a Culver City far, far away...

Posted by vp19 on 2017.05.02 at 17:39
Current mood: curiouscurious

This still from "To Be Or Not To Be" is the closest I could get to picturing Carole Lombard -- who never made a sci-fi film -- as Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia of "Star Wars" fame:

Why do I bring this up? Because my Facebook friend Dan Day Jr. just did an entry for his "The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog" ("Hitless Wonders" is a reference to Dan's beloved Chicago White Sox) on the intriguing "what-if" topic, "If 'Star Wars' had been made in the 1930s..." Not that weird a topic, as George Lucas meant to evoke the adventure serials of that era when he made the film. (http://dandayjr35.blogspot.com/2017/05/if-star-wars-had-been-made-in-1930s.html?spref=fb)

Anyhow, here's the cast he came up with. Nope, Carole's not included, but my second favorite classic-era actress is, along with many other '30s notables.

Luke Skywalker: James Stewart (presumably the young, pre-1939 "Jimmy")

Princess Leia: Myrna Loy (with William Powell in "I Love You Again"; this white dress of hers looks rather princessy)

Han Solo: Clark Gable (the Rhett Butler of sci-fi?)

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Lionel Barrymore (yes, the man who'd later be dastardly Mr. Potter here would be "our only hope")

Grand Moff Tarkin: Basil Rathbone (pre-Sherlock Holmes)
Darth Vader: Boris Karloff (perfect casting!)
C-3PO: Franklin Pangborn (a prissy robot? Why not?)
R2-D2: Billy Barty (certainly the right scale for the role)
Chewbacca: Noble Johnson (well, he had the facial hair to play a Wookie)

An fascinating cast -- and since Stewart, Loy, Gable and Barrymore were under contract to MGM in the late '30s, a film like this could've been made...although I can't imagine Irving Thalberg (had he lived) or Louis B. Mayer wanting to make a sci-fi adventure.

Day may come up with "Star Wars" what-ifs for other decades. We eagerly await his selections.

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A kingly salute to Clark on TCM

Posted by vp19 on 2017.04.29 at 15:08
Current mood: pleasedpleased

I wasn't yet born when Carole Lombard was alive, but Clark Gable and I shared the earth for several years -- in fact, I was a kindergarten student when he passed away in November 1960. But he's gained generations of fans in ensuing decades, largely because he played this, arguably the most iconic role in movie history...

...Rhett Butler in the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, David O. Selznick's "Gone With the Wind."

However, Gable's starring career, lasting roughly three decades, goes far beyond that classic performance. It's often forgotten just how he (and James Cagney, a far different character type) redefined the male persona in American film, an identity perfectly suited to sound, not the florid "Latin lover" of Rudolph Valentino and the silent era.

(A tangent, if I may: Could Valentino have transitioned into talking pictures? Recordings of his voice, along with the sound-era successes of contemporaries Ramon Novarro and Ricardo Cortez, argue he could have if he adjusted his style for the new medium, as they did.)

Turner Classic Movies in the U.S., which owns the rights to nearly all of former MGM star Gable's catalog, will honor Clark as its "Star of the Month" every Tuesday in May -- and since May 2017 has five Tuesdays, that means plenty of him.

Yes, that includes his only film with Lombard, 1932's "No Man Of Her Own." It will air at 10 p.m. (Eastern) Tuesday, May 2, following his Academy Award-winning performance in the classic "It Happened One Night," which kicks things off at 8, and before his role in 1935's epic "Mutiny on the Bounty." The complete schedule (all times ET):

May 2-3
Following the documentary, see several examples of Gable's early '30s magnetism, notably in "A Free Soul" (above, with Norma Shearer) and "Night Nurse."
* 8 p.m. -- "It Happened One Night" (1934)
* 10 p.m. -- "No Man Of Her Own" (1932)
* 11:30 p.m. -- "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935)
* 2 a.m. -- "Clark Gable: Tall, Dark and Handsome" (1996 documentary)
* 3 a.m. -- "A Free Soul" (1931)
* 5 a.m. -- "Night Nurse" (1931)
* 6:30 a.m. -- "The Finger Points" (1931)
* 8 a.m. -- "Sporting Blood" (1931)
* 9:30 a.m. -- "Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise" (1931)
* 11 a.m. -- "Hell Divers" (1932)
* 1 p.m. -- "Polly of the Circus (1932)
* 2:30 p.m. -- "Strange Interlude" (1932)
* 4:30 p.m. -- "Night Flight" (1933)
* 6 p.m. -- "The White Sister" (1933)

May 9-10
All eight of Clark's films with Joan Crawford (including "Dancing Lady," above), plus a few other leading ladies, including Constance Bennett and Marion Davies.
* 8 p.m. -- "Possessed" (1931)
* 9:30 p.m. -- "Strange Cargo" (1940)
* 11:30 p.m. -- "Dance, Fools, Dance" (1931)
* 1 a.m. -- "Dancing Lady" (1933)
* 2:45 a.m. -- "Chained" (1934)
* 4:15 a.m. -- "Laughing Sinners" (1931)
* 5:45 a.m. -- "Forsaking All Others" (1934)
* 7:15 a.m. -- "Love On the Run" (1936)
* 8:45 a.m. -- "After Office Hours" (1935)
* 10 a.m. -- "Cain and Mabel" (1936)
* 11:45 a.m. -- "Idiot's Delight" (1939)
* 1:45 p.m. -- "They Met In Bombay" (1941)
* 3:30 p.m. -- "Any Number Can Play" (1949)

May 16-17
Two of Gable's favorite leading ladies were Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy, and they share co-starring honors throughout the evening (and teamed with him in "Wife vs. Secretary," above).
* 8 p.m. -- "China Seas" (1935)
* 9:30 p.m. -- "Wife vs. Secretary" (1936)
* 11 p.m. -- "Red Dust" (1932)
* 12:45 a.m. -- "Manhattan Melodrama" (1934)
* 2:30 a.m. -- "Hold Your Man" (1933)
* 4:15 a.m. -- "Too Hot to Handle" (1938)
* 6:15 a.m. -- "Saratoga" (1937)
* 8 a.m. -- "Men in White" (1933)
* 9:30 a.m. -- "The Secret Six" (1931)
* 11:15 a.m. -- "Parnell" (1937)

May 23-24
"Gone With the Wind" is followed by Clark's three films with good friend Spencer Tracy (they're shown on break from "San Francisco," above) and an assortment of other Gable goodies.
* 8 p.m. -- "Gone With the Wind" (1939)
* 12:15 a.m. -- "San Francisco" (1936)
* 2:15 a.m. -- "Test Pilot" (1938)
* 4:30 a.m. -- "Boom Town" (1940)
* 6:45 a.m. -- "The Painted Desert" (1931)
* 8:15 a.m. -- "Honky Tonk" (1941)
* 10:15 a.m. -- "Across the Wide Missouri" (1951)
* 11:45 a.m. -- "Lone Star" (1952)
* 1:30 p.m. -- "Adventure" (1945)
* 3:45 p.m. -- "Homecoming" (1948)
* 5:45 p.m. -- "Somewhere I'll Find You" (1942)

May 30-31
For some reason, Clark's 1958 comedic vehicle "Teacher's Pet" with Doris Day wasn't available to TCM...but it has one from another leading lady of his still with us, Sophia Loren in "It Started In Naples" (above). That opens an evening of later Gable, including his posthumously released valedictory, "The Misfits" with Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift.

* 8 p.m. -- "It Started In Naples" (1960)
* 10 p.m. -- "Mogambo" (1953)
* 12:15 a.m. -- "The Misfits" (1961)
* 2:30 a.m. -- "Run Silent, Run Deep" (1958)
* 4:15 a.m. -- "Key to the City" (1950)
* 6 a.m. -- "To Please a Lady" (1950)
* 7:45 a.m. -- "Never Let Me Go" (1953)
* 9:30 a.m. -- "Betrayed" (1954)
* 11:30 a.m. -- "Band of Angels" (1957)

Gable frequently downplayed his ability as an actor, and while it's true much of his stardom was a by-product of his vibrant personality, he more often than not delivered the goods on screen. Carole would vouch for that.

For more on Clark and the "Star of the Month," go to http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/1311308%7C0/Clark-Gable-Tuesdays-in-May.html.

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Here comes Cortez -- on screen and in print

Posted by vp19 on 2017.04.24 at 12:59
Current mood: impressedimpressed

If you're a fan of everyone's favorite pre-Code bad guy, Ricardo Cortez (shown with Carole Lombard in the only film they made together, 1932's "No One Man"), good news: Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is showing plenty of Cortez on Thursday, the 40th anniversary of his passing. The bad news for Lombard fans is that "No One Man" isn't one of those films -- no surprise, since it's never aired on the channel. But nine others are, beginning with Greta Garbo's first American silent. The schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6:15 a.m. -- "Torrent" (1926)
* 8 a.m. -- "The Younger Generation" (1929), directed by Frank Capra
* 9:30 a.m. -- "The Maltese Falcon" (1931), the first film rendering of Dashiell Hammett's book and a fine version in its own right
* 11 a.m. -- "Transgression" (1931), with Kay Francis
* 12:15 p.m. -- "Flesh" (1932), with Karen Morley, directed by John Ford
* 2 p.m. -- "The House on 56th Street" (1933), with Kay Francis
* 3:15 p.m. -- "Midnight Mary" (1933), with Loretta Young, directed by William Wellman
* 4:45 p.m. -- "Phantom of Crestwood" (1933), with Karen Morley
* 6:15 p.m. -- "Hat, Coat, and Glove" (1933), with John Beal

I've seen several of these, and Cortez is always engaging. If you're unfamiliar with his work, he's worth checking out.

It so happens this Cortezathon coincides with the release of a biography of the actor -- Dan Van Neste's "The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Times of Ricardo Cortez":

You can order this comprehensive (590 pages, 160 illustrations) volume via Amazon.com at https://www.amazon.com/Magnificent-Heel-Films-Ricardo-Cortez/dp/1629331287 or through its publisher, Bear Manor Media, at http://www.bearmanormedia.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1154.

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A double dose of Lombard at the TCM Classic Film Festival

Posted by vp19 on 2017.03.23 at 13:19
Current mood: touchedtouched

It's arguably the most pivotal picture in Carole Lombard's career, the movie that turned her from a rather directionless all-purpose star into the screen's best-loved purveyor of screwball comedy. And "Twentieth Century" will be part of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival April 6-9 in Hollywood -- which is appropriate, since the theme of this year's event is "Make 'Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies."

"Twentieth Century" will be shown at 9:30 p.m., Friday, April 7 at the Chinese Multiplex 1, the second Lombard film to be shown that evening. The other runs at 7:30 at the Chinese Multiplex House 4, and at first glance seems a bit out of place...

..."Vigil in the Night," arguably Carole's greatest dramatic performance but at the same time not the easiest of filmgoing experiences -- especially for those who love Lombard's comedic turns. So what gives?

"Vigil" here is categorized under "Hey, That's Not Funny," dramatic-oriented movies. Others in that group include "Requiem For a Heavyweight" and "Lady Sings the Blues."

"Twentieth Century" is part of the category "Divorce/Remorse" (and while Lombard's Lily Garland and John Barrymore's Oscar Jaffe aren't officially married in this movie, they might as well be). Others labeled in that manner are the William Powell-Myrna Loy gem "Love Crazy" (1941), at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Egyptian (the same theater where Myrna danced in Sid Grauman's troupe in the 1920s) and Cary Grant and Irene Dunne's classic "The Awful Truth" (1937), noon Saturday at the Chinese IMAX.

The event should be plenty of fun, with plenty of notable guests, and of course there will be a tribute to TCM maven Robert Osborne. Passes remain available, and you can learn more (and purchase one) at http://filmfestival.tcm.com/attend/.

To see the list of announced films, go to http://filmfestival.tcm.com/programs/. For the complete schedule day-by-day, visit http://filmfestival.tcm.com/programs/schedule/04-06-2017/

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We're going to 'Stand Tall!' Sunday. Join us.

Posted by vp19 on 2017.03.10 at 07:49
Current mood: optimisticoptimistic

We're not sure if this behind-the-scenes photo of a smiling Carole Lombard during production on "To Be Or Not To Be" was taken during a table read of the screenplay, but you can be sure that Lombard participated in many a script table read from her first talkie on. And this Sunday, I'll get a similar feeling.

That's because my romantic comedy screenplay "Stand Tall!" will get its own read. Needless to say, I'm excited.

I've mentioned this script a few times before at this site, but just to reacquaint you, "Stand Tall!" is a romcom spin on a perennial sci-fi subgenre, the "giant woman" movie -- although our oversized leading lady would rather entertain people than attack them. As the logline describes this towering tale, "A Vegas waitress made 16 feet tall falls in love with the scientist who accidentally enlarged her. She sacrifices her size and fame to save him when he's kidnapped by a blackmailing mobster." (See the entire 102-page screenplay at https://filmfreeway.com/projects/476988.)

Its sensibility is simultaneously retro and feminist, a little bit kitsch but with lots of heart. People who have read it generally like it (though that doesn't mean it didn't need improvements; I've refined and rewritten it more than a few times). I've had "Stand Tall!" read a few times in segments, but this marks its premiere as a start-to-finish, one-take read.

This table read is being conducted by the Meetup group "Table Reads; Valley Edition," a group of fellow screenwriters. It will take place from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. this Sunday (March 12) at Tea Pop, 5050 Vineland Avenue in North Hollywood. If you're in SoCal, you're cordially invited to come by, have some tea or coffee and listen to this romantic and comic tall tale. I'd enjoy getting your reactions (and suggestions for future rewrites).

My hope is that sometime soon, I can do another "Stand Tall!" table read with professional actors, perhaps inviting a few potential producers to take a look. (If you're a producer who likes romantic comedy, please visit Sunday.)

My screenwriting career continues to progress; your support is appreciated.

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A legacy in 'Jeopardy'?

Posted by vp19 on 2017.03.09 at 18:11
Current mood: frustratedfrustrated

More proof that America's collective classic movie IQ has considerably diminished.

I understand this photo of Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery was the introductory clue for an answer/question on tonight's episode of the popular game show "Jeopardy!", where Lombard has frequently been used as a source (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/44141.html). Tonight, the clue was that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie weren't the original "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." (OK, so that 2005 film, adapted from a novel by that name, is completely unrelated to the 1941 comedy directed by Alfred Hitchcock.)

None of the three contestants could identify Carole. Moreover, all three were women.

I'm certain this will appear in the J! Archive, a fan-based site listing all the hundreds of thousands of "Jeopardy!" items since the series was revived in 1984 (http://www.j-archive.com/). Alas, too many people are casual film fans who only know of Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin and a few others.


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RIP and thank you, Robert Osborne

Posted by vp19 on 2017.03.06 at 17:38
Current mood: sadsad
He will be missed, not merely as the personality most identified with Turner Classic Movies but as an excellent writer and film historian.

carole lombard 06

After partaking of 'This Woman'

Posted by vp19 on 2017.03.04 at 12:30
Current mood: relievedrelieved

In my three-plus decades of Carole Lombard fandom, I've seen many fascinating things regarding the career of my all-time favorite actress. And last night, I crossed one more thing from my Lombard "to-do" list:

I finally saw "I Take This Woman," her 1931 pairing with fellow Hollywood legend Gary Cooper.

For decades, viewing this movie was deemed impossible, as it was feared lost. But in 1998, a 16mm print was found at the home of author Mary Roberts Reinhart, whose 1927 story "Lost Ecstasy" was adapted into a film. The print, acquired by Lombard fan Tom Toth (who died this past December), was restored and was shown in June 2001 at New York's Film Forum, then made the rounds of the revival circuit and a few other venues. Nevertheless, relatively few have seen it.

But not many knew that a 35mm print existed -- and because rights issues with the Reinhart estate apparently had kept the title out of circulation, it was in close to pristine condition. The UCLA Film and Television Archive got hold of the print, upgraded and restored it...and Friday, it was shown to the public in 35mm form for the first time since the 1930s on the opening night of UCLA's Festival of Preservation.

First, let's get technical: This restored print is in fabulous shape, with all the visual and aural subtlety you'd want from a 35mm film. (In one closeup of Carole, the scar from her mid-1920s automobile accident is clearly visible.) Kudos to the restoration and preservation people.

Now to the movie itself -- is it worth watching? Artistically, it wasn't anywhere in the league of the other half of the double feature, Ernst Lubitsch's elegant masterpiece, "Trouble in Paradise." (This was such a popular film, even into the television age, that UCLA archivists had to use all sorts of sources to create a restored version.) It was duly noted that at this stage of their careers, neither Lombard nor Cooper had fully grown into their cinematic personas.

It's more a programmer than a masterpiece, but still valuable viewing for fans of both Carole and Coop. He's the laconic westerner who hadn't quite developed the depth that would make him a favorite of both Lubitsch and Frank Capra; she hadn't established herself yet, playing an earnest eastern heiress not that far removed from the Irene Bullock of her "My Man Godfrey" half a decade later (minus Irene's comic magic). They have genuine chemistry in their love scenes.

Sent to a stay at her family's Wyoming ranch following her latest escapades, Lombard's Kay Dowling bets she can conquer Cooper's cowboy Tom McNair. But something about Tom has piqued Kay, because she decides to stay with him when her train heads back. They marry and build a life together in a small shack without her fortune, but the isolation drives her nuts and she returns east, planning to secure a divorce. Tom, now a trick-riding star in a circus, sees her with his new troupe and Kay comes to the conclusion he was right for her all along.

Paramount initially envisioned the property as a starring vehicle for Nancy Carroll before she fell out of favor with the studio (according to the Internet Movie Database, Ann Harding and Fay Wray also were considered before Lombard drew the assignment). It premiered at about the same time Carole married William Powell, and the marriage plus her illness following their honeymoon may have prevented Lombard from taking advantage of the good reviews she got at the time.

So what's next for this upgraded "I Take This Woman"? More reperatory playings? A video or DVD release? An airing on Turner Classic Movies or some other channel? We'll have to wait and see -- but let's hope many more Lombard (and Cooper) fans have the opportunity to see this title and judge it for themselves.

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Ryan and Emma rode it. Soon you can, too.

Posted by vp19 on 2017.03.01 at 21:46
Current mood: happyhappy

Carole Lombard, in white wide-brimmed hat, is pushed out of a New York subway train apparently constructed on the Paramount lot in the opening of her 1935 film "Hands Across the Table." We have no idea whether Carole ever rode another train associated with Los Angeles, but chances are she did at one time or another:

We're referring to Angels Flight, the beloved funicular that from 1901 to 1969 carried millions of riders up and down Bunker Hill (the above photo is from 1960), then was revived half a block south in 1996, after urban renewal wiped out the neighborhood. We've written about this before (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/460299.html), and we have some good news to report: In six months' time, Olivet and Sinai, the two cars that have sit so forlornly at the top of Angels Flight since September 2013, will be up and about by Labor Day.

What's that? You thought they already were running? You probably got that impression from watching "La La Land," the love letter to Los Angeles that, for a minute or so, was the Academy Award winner for Best Picture.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were shown riding it in a scene, although such a shoot was apparently prohibited while the funicular was shut down (http://www.ladowntownnews.com/news/angels-flight-cameo-is-a-no-no/article_54745b3c-b016-11e6-a4e1-2f30aa74eea5.html).

But Wednesday, mayor Eric Garcetti announced that a public-private partnership will run Angels Flight under a 30-year contract, with some safety precautions added (http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20170301/after-a-cameo-in-la-la-land-angels-flight-railway-set-to-fly-again-by-labor-day).

It'll be wonderful to see this bit of vintage Los Angeles back in service again, and I eagerly await an opportunity to ride.

Gosling said regarding the film in general and Angels Flight in particular, "This was an opportunity to show an L.A. that's still there...you've got to squint your eyes a little, but there are still places in L.A. that are still part of the golden years of Los Angeles and Hollywood in its heyday. I lived around the corner for a long time from Angels Flight, though I never got to ride Angels Flight because it had ben shut down." (A fatal accident in 2001 shut the funicular, and it wasn't reopened until 2010.) "Those places are still there...these gems, and we were able to shoot them one by one." (http://laist.com/2016/11/25/angels_flight_la_la_land.php#photo-1)

This fall, you'll be able to ride Angels Flight, too -- indeed a gem in this "city of stars."

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'Paradise', then a 'Woman'

Posted by vp19 on 2017.02.27 at 21:45
Current mood: enthralledenthralled

For those of you planning th be at the Billy Wilder Theater on Friday for the premiere of the restored 35mm print of the Carole Lombard-Gary Cooper 1931 film, "I Take This Woman," a UCLA Archive official reports it will air second, following the 7:30 p.m. showing of Ernst Lubitsch's famed "Trouble in Paradise" with Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall:

I've also been told the nitrate print of "I Take This Woman" archivists worked with was "in very good condition."

To buy tickets for Friday, the opening night of UCLA's Festival of Preservation, go to https://www.cinema.ucla.edu/events/2017/ucla-festival-of-preservation.As of this writing, tickets are still available.

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A world premiere of sorts for this 'Woman'

Posted by vp19 on 2017.02.21 at 17:17
Current mood: ecstaticecstatic

Last Friday, we alerted you that one of Carole Lombard's most rarely-seen movies, her 1931 Paramount vehicle "I Take This Woman" with Gary Cooper, will be shown Friday, March 3 at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood as part of UCLA's Festival of Preservation (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/858493.html).

If you're a Lombard fan and haven't secured your tickets yet, here's some impetus for you, directly from UCLA archive officials: That night, you'll see the film in a form it hasn't been seen in 86 years -- in 35mm. (Hear that, 35mm buff Quentin Tarantino?)

Yes, after decades of being feared lost, "I Take This Woman" resurfaced and was shown in 2001 -- but that was from a 16mm print found in the collection of author Mary Roberts Rinehart (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/45444.html). "I Take This Woman" was an adaptation of Rinehart's novel "Lost Ecstasy." But according to Todd Weiner, a UCLA archivist, the print to be shown March 3 "is a totally different element"; it "was formally catalogued into our online database in 2010."

Weiner says this "Woman" derives "from a 35mm nitrate print that was held in our Republic Pictures Collection on deposit from Paramount Pictures." (I have no idea how it got there.) The archive restored the print with preservation funding from the Louis B. Mayer Foundation, while laboratory services were provided by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics and DJ Audio, Inc.

Below is how it was catalogued in the UCLA archive; until now, I had no idea it owned a print. The archive has restored other Lombard films, including several of the two-reelers she made for Mack Sennett.

Now do you want to see "I Take This Woman" (as well as Ernst Lubitsch's newly-restored brilliant heist comedy "Trouble in Paradise")? Then order tickets at https://www.cinema.ucla.edu/events/2017/ucla-festival-of-preservation.

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In two weeks, 'Take This Woman' in Westwood

Posted by vp19 on 2017.02.17 at 16:32
Current mood: excitedexcited

Attention to the many Carole Lombard fans in southern California: You'll soon be able to watch what arguably is her least-known (and least-seen) feature film -- one that pairs her with another classic Hollywood legend, Gary Cooper.

"I Take This Woman" will help kick off the 2017 UCLA Festival of Preservation at the Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Boulevard (near the intersection with Westwood Boulevard). It's part of a double bill with a restored version of one of Ernst Lubitsch's classics, 1932's "Trouble in Paradise."

While "I Take This Woman" has been occasionally revived since a restored print was premiered at New York's Film Forum in June 2001 (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/45444.html), relatively few have seen it, and it hasn't been shown on Turner Classic Movies or made available on home video. I have no idea whether either may happen in the near future, but chances are few, if any of you, have seen it. Now's your chance -- the films start at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 3.

I've already bought my ticket, and hope to see many other Lombard lovers there. You'll get to see Carole in this equestrian outfit, for which the vest was auctioned off a few years ago:

To learn more about the festival and buy tickets (which are $10 for the general public), go to https://www.cinema.ucla.edu/events/2017/ucla-festival-of-preservation.

The following day should also be a treat, as at 3 p.m., the Wilder is showing Constance Talmadge, one of Lombard's comedic inspirations, in the 1920 silent "Good References"; it was feared lost until a copy was recently found in Prague. Here are Carole and Connie with Clark Gable in 1933:

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'To Be' at the Egyptian...and climb those '39 Steps'

Posted by vp19 on 2017.01.25 at 07:19
Current mood: creativecreative

At the close of 1937, Carole Lombard's final film for Paramount, "True Confession," played Sid Grauman's famed Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The venue looks considerably different nearly eight decades later, restored to much of its 1920s luster...

...but tomorrow evening, Lombard returns to the Egyptian -- a place she almost certainly visited as a teen when it opened in the 1920s (heck, she probably saw future friend Myrna Loy dance in one of Grauman's stage shows) -- for what would be her final film, Ernst Lubitsch's magnificent dark comedy "To Be Or Not To Be."

Lombard, Jack Benny and Robert Stack head a superb cast in this story of wartime intrigue in German-occupied Poland, as Lubitsch brilliantly skewers the banality of the Nazis. It initially played at Grauman's Chinese on the other side of Hollywood Boulevard.

"To Be Or Not To Be" understandably wasn't well received when it opened 75 years ago this spring. It was the darkest period of World War II -- even had Carole's premature passing not cast a pall over the production, audiences simply weren't in a mood to see Nazis as buffoons -- but in ensuing years, it's rightly been hailed as a superb example of political satire. (It played for more than a year at a Paris moviehouse in 1960-61.)

Also on the Egyptian's twin bill is an early film from the man who directed Lombard's next-to-last movie, Alfred Hitchcock:

"The 39 Steps" was made in Great Britain in 1935 and arguably was the first movie to introduce the Hitchcock style to American audiences. Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, who like Hitch soon would jump to the other side of the pond, star in this suspense thriller. Here's the director on the set with Donat and Lucie Mannheim:

Both films will be shown in 35mm. If you've never seen either, or both, on the big screen (and even if you have), it's a wonderful experience. Some would argue in the light of recent events, these movies are essential viewing.

The double feature begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Alas, I have a prior commitment to a script reading, but if you're in SoCal, you should go -- the Egyptian is a wonderful venue. The theater is at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, not far from the Hollywood/Highland Red Line subway station.

For tickets (which are $12) and more information, go to https://tickets.fandango.com/transaction/ticketing/express/ticketboxoffice.aspx?row_count=159248385&mid=198787&tid=AAOFX.

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Warm up with some soup, courtesy of Carole

Posted by vp19 on 2017.01.19 at 17:00
Current mood: hungryhungry

In the 1941 romantic comedy "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," Carole Lombard's character Ann discovers she's not legally married to her husband David (Robert Montgomery), leading to all sorts of complications. Perhaps they could've been smoothed over if Ann and David had tried some spinach soup, courtesy of...Carole!

We ran this Lombard recipe back in December 2011, and while I haven't been able to recover a full-sized illustration of the page it ran in ("Fashions in Foods in Beverly Hills," Beverly Hills Woman's Club, 1930), we do have the ingredients, and thus can reprint it for your culinary pleasure.

no title

Given the cold, rainy and/or snowy weather much of the U.S. currently is undergoing, spinach soup might just come to your rescue. I've enjoyed it numerous times, and once I'm back on my feet with a home of my own, I look forward to having it again.

The recipe:

Mix together

2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons grated cheese


2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 cup cooked spinach

Let simmer for about 20 minutes over a slow fire.

It should come out looking something similar to this:

I've usually made it with canned spinach, though fresh spinach works well too, and have tried variations with spiced flour, different style cheeses, seasoned salt and such. It always comes out tasty -- use your imagination.

On the same page, "Pathe Player" Lombard (the first edition of this cookbook came out in 1929, while she was on Pathe's roster) also had a recipe for lettuce soup. I've never had the courage to try it, but if you're willing to, here it is:

To make lettuce soup, cook several good heads of lettuce, from which the outer leaves have been removed, with three cupfuls of milk. A double boiler is best, and the lettuce should be cooked in the milk about 20 minutes. Mix together

2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon chopped onion

Add to the lettuce and milk, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper and cook in double boiler 10 minutes

This apparently is the finished product:

Carole said her recipes "will be novel to many housewives, I think, and a welcome change from the standard varieties." Try them out, and see if you agree.

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The 'outsider' who never got in: Imagining a President Hearst

Posted by vp19 on 2017.01.19 at 10:32
Current mood: weirdweird

Carole Lombard was a frequent visitor to Hearst Castle, such as at this circus-themed 75th birthday party for William Randolph Hearst that she and Clark Gable attended in April 1938. Here's another, lesser-seen pic of Carole and Clark with the media magnate:

Why are we running these pics? In less than 24 hours, America's executive branch will be making a switch, from Barack Obama to Donald Trump:

And while many are comparing the unlikely rise of Trump to the fictional Lonesome Rhodes, portrayed so brilliantly by Andy Griffith in 1957's "A Face in the Crowd" (a film Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is airing Friday)...

...one also could compare Trump to Hearst. Both were outsiders who sought the White House, but Hearst had to settle for two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and failed bids for New York City mayor and New York State governor. (Lombard briefly dated one of his sons in the mid-1920s.) What would a President Hearst have been like?

Of course, it largely would've depended upon when the publisher gained the presidency. The progressive Hearst of 1908 was a far cry from the conservative Hearst of 1932. It was this change that probably made Hearst such a tantalizing figure to Orson Welles, and is why the lord of San Simeon takes such a commanding role in the composite magnate that was Xanadu's fictional Charles Foster Kane.

I asked my Facebook friend Lara Gabrielle Fowler, who's been researching a planned Marion Davies biography, for her thoughts on Hearst vs. Trump. Here's what she had to say:

"I've gotten a lot of questions about this and I've always said they're not comparable but had trouble thinking of why. After some thought I've come to the conclusioh that Hearst had a real respect for sophistication and culture that Trump doesn't."

To some who view Hearst through the prism of "yellow journalism," screaming headlines and all-caps editorials, that may not make much sense. But she elaborates:

"Trump is low and crass. Hearst was highly cultured and sophisticated. Trump's cabinet is the epitome of incompetence, where I think Hearst's would have been on the verge of being too experienced. He respected people who were knowledgeable and could teach him things. He was a major proponent of education, while Trump has a disdain for education and knowledge."

The University of California Berkeley campus had a major benefactor in Hearst's mother Phoebe. And speaking of women...

"Also, Hearst's cabinet would be filled with competent women on an equal par with men. There wasn't a misogynistic bone in that man's body."

The most visible example in today's eyes is architect Julia Morgan, who designed many Hearst projects, including the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner building on Broadway (it's being converted into residential space) and, of course, Hearst's truly palatial home between the Bay Area and LA, now a state-owned major tourist attraction -- a far cry from Trump Tower or the incoming president's Mar-A-Lago:

"The similarities are clear -- powerful men in the private sector. But I think they end there."

Of course, we don't know how a President Hearst would have handled having Marion Davies in his life (although she didn't become a major part of it until about 1917), if he couldn't have married her. (His wife Millicent refused to grant him a divorce for sundry reasons.) But both as an actress and as a person, Davies -- a talented and beloved Hollywood figure whose charity extended to many, even Hearst himself when his corporation hit hard times -- certainly was in a far higher league than any of Trump's women.

It's going to be a fascinating four years, at the very least.

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The Profane Angel Blogathon: Here's what was contributed

Posted by vp19 on 2017.01.18 at 19:31
Current mood: impressedimpressed

The Profane Angel Blogathon, created to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the death of Carole Lombard, completed its third and final day today, and I want to thank its co-hosts, In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood (https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/) and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies (http://phyllislovesclassicmovies.blogspot.com/). You did a yeoman job, and I was proud to participate.

Here's a list of everything that ran -- and what I said about the co-hosts also applies to the contributors. The entries I've read have all been fabulous, offering new insights to this beloved Hollywood legend, her life and times. Thanks to all of you.

Silver Screenings examines that raucous comedy of yellow journalism, "Nothing Sacred": https://silverscreenings.org/2017/01/12/carole-lombard-takes-on-the-high-profile-illness/. It's also covered by Real Weegie Midget: https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/lombard/.

"Hands Across the Table," the first of Lombard's four pairings with Fred MacMurray, is contributed by Love Letters to Old Hollywood: http://loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com/2017/01/lombard-and-macmurray-fall-head-over.html, along with scores of screengrabs from this charming comedy.

Wide Screen World compares "Made For Each Other" to another movie involving an ailing child: http://widescreenworld.blogspot.com/2017/01/made-for-each-other.html. It's also the film that made Christina Wehner a Lombard fan: https://christinawehner.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/made-for-each-other-1939/.

Mike's Take On the Movies looks at "Virtue," which many deem Lombard's best film prior to "Twentieth Century": https://mikestakeonthemovies.com/2017/01/16/virtue-1932/.

How about two entries from That William Powell Site? https://thatwilliampowellsite.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/carole-lombard-immortal/ and https://thatwilliampowellsite.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/bill-and-carole-post-divorce-bffs/.

The Old Hollywood Garden takes us on board the "Twentieth Century," Carole's career-changing performance: https://theoldhollywoodgarden.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/twentieth-century-1934-2/.

"My Man Godfrey" may have been about a "forgotten man," but it's well remembered by Taking Up Room: https://takinguproom.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/forgotten-man-where-art-thou/. And The Wonderful World of Cinema from Virginie Pronovost (can't go wrong with those initials, folks!) reviews Lombard's Academy Award-nominated performance in it: https://thewonderfulworldofcinema.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/12106/

We'll never know whether Lombard could have been a conventional "Hitchcock blonde," but she enlisted the master of suspense to direct the fine romantic comedy "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." A Shroud of Thoughts tells us all about it: http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2017/01/mr-mrs-smith-1941.html.

Co-host Phyllis wrote this piece about Lombard's first home in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the flooding little Jane Alice Peters experienced in 1913: http://phyllislovesclassicmovies.blogspot.com/2017/01/carole-lombards-childhood-home-and.html, as well as a look at the star sapphires Carole adored: http://phyllislovesclassicmovies.blogspot.com/2017/01/carole-lombards-star-sapphires.html.

Back to Golden Days reviews Lombard's fateful final few days: http://back-to-golden-days.blogspot.pt/2017/01/the-profane-angel-blogathon-final-hours.html.

Some guy at Carole & Co. wrote this about the updated edition of Robert Matzen's "Fireball": http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/857304.html.

Carole, Coop and Shirley Temple provide plenty of star power in "Now and Forever." Critica Retro examines the film in both English and Portuguese: http://criticaretro.blogspot.com.br/2017/01/agora-e-sempre-now-and-forever-1934.html?m=1.

"Vigil in the Night" is as solid a drama as Lombard ever made, and it's reviewed by The Stop Button: https://thestopbutton.com/2017/01/17/vigil-night-1940/.

I wasn't aware how Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz helped Clark Gable cope after Carole's death until reading this entry from Whimsically Classic: https://whimsicallyclassic.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/carole-lombard-blogathon/.

The second Lombard-MacMurray teaming, "The Princess Comes Across," is the topic of this entry from Wolffian Classic Movies Digest: https://wolffianclassicmoviesdigest.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/the-princess-comes-across/.

My friend and White Sox fan Dan Day Jr., happy today that former Chisox and Montreal Expos star Tim Raines was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (along with Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez), wrote this about Lombard's final film at Columbia, "Lady By Choice," at his The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog: http://dandayjr35.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-profane-angel-blogathon-lady-by.html?spref=tw.

Classic Movie Hub Blog provides an always-welcome pictorial entry of Lombard and second husband Gable: http://www.classicmoviehub.com/blog/carole-lombard-the-profane-angel-blogathon-lombard-and-gable-pictorial/.

Carole's final film, the Ernst Lubitsch-directed "To Be Or Not To Be," gets coverage from both Cinema Cities (https://cinemacities.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/carole-lombard-in-to-be-or-not-to-be-1942/) and Karavansara (https://karavansara.live/2017/01/16/carole-lombard-the-profane-angel-blogathon-to-be-or-not-to-be-1942/).

Lombard's six screwball movies are viewed by Old Hollywood Films: http://www.oldhollywoodfilms.com/2017/01/carole-lombard-screwball-queen.html.

Many of us may regret that the lone Lombard pairing with Cary Grant was a drama and not a comedy, but The Flapper Dame nevertheless loves "In Name Only": https://theflapperdamefilm.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/in-name-only-1939-carole-lombard-blogathon/.

Again, thanks to all of you...and somewhere, Carole is thanking you, too.

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The Profane Angel Blogathon: A new, improved 'Fireball'

Posted by vp19 on 2017.01.16 at 15:19
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

It was 75 years ago today that Carole Lombard joined the ranks of the angels, decades sooner than it should have occurred. This entry honors her as part of The Profane Angel Blogathon, sponsored by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood (https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/) and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies (http://phyllislovesclassicmovies.blogspot.com/)

In a just universe, Lombard, her mother Elizabeth Peters, MGM publicist Otto Winkler and the others on board that DC-3 -- many of them Army Air Force pilots -- should have gone on with their lives and helped win World War II. But fate decreed otherwise, and many in the entertainment industry still cherish Carole's memory.

It's a memory nearly all now know only secondhand; if you were out of your teens when the crash took place, today you're at least 95. A mere handful of Hollywood folk who actually met her are still around.

Fortunately, biographers have researched Lombard's life story, and have done a wonderful job. In recent years, three new books about Carole have been issued, and today one of them -- "Fireball," by Robert Matzen -- has been reissued in a new trade paperback edition through Goodknight Books (https://www.goodknightbooks.com/titles/fireball-carole-lombard/).

"Fireball" was a terrific book in its first go-round, and in fact won the Benjamin Franklin Award in 2015 as the best biography from an independent publisher (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/779384.html). This time, according to Matzen, it's even better. Check out these added elements:

* Information on Lombard's Baha'i faith.
* New information -- including eyewitness accounts -- on Carole's day in Indianapolis on Jan. 15, 1942.
* Her full Cadle Tabernacle speech. (Lombard fan Brian Lee Anderson has uncovered an audio recording, a link to which can be found at http://www.indystar.com/story/news/history/retroindy/2017/01/15/75-years-after-her-death-zinnias-carole-lombard/96244106/, along with a touching story about his mother, who attended the war bond rally at the state capitol.)
* The body of one of the victims of the crash was found on Mount Potosi in 2014, and the new edition includes that information.
* Twice as many pages of photos, from 16 to 32.

"Fireball" covers the totality of this tragic, inexplicable event, telling the stories not just of Lombard, but of its other victims. The original made for compelling reading -- I'm certain this version will do likewise.

Matzen has written a book about one of Lombard's co-stars, James Stewart ("Made For Each Other," several radio programs). It's called "Mission," and examines a sometimes-overlooked aspect of this quintessential American actor -- his military service during World War II.

At the time of Carole's death, Stewart already was in the service (he had enlisted in the Army Air Corps the previous March after he was initially rejected for being underweight), and that month was commissioned a second lieutenant. Stewart -- who sought to be sent overseas -- had to settle for training other pilots until he was transferred to England in November 1943. By March, he was flying combat missions.

Stewart flew 20 such missions as a command pilot. His forays often took him deep into Germany. By war's end, he had been promoted to colonel and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the French Croix de Guerre. Like his friend Clark Gable, who joined the Army a few months after Lombard's death, the war profoundly affected Stewart. Both lost many new friends through the conflict.

It showed in Stewart's post-war career -- the one-time light small-town innocent of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" developed a deeper resolve in his film roles, beginning with "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946). Matzen examines this pivotal movie, which led to later triumphs in westerns and with Alfred Hitchcock, and how Stewart's air career affected his portrayal of George Bailey at https://robertmatzen.com/2016/12/18/a-jagged-edge/.

Finally, more Lombard book news: Michelle Morgan reports her bio "Carole Lombard: Twentieth-Century Star" will get an American release in May. More info soon.

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To Francine, with love (RIP)

Posted by vp19 on 2017.01.07 at 12:48
Current mood: thankfulthankful

Most readers of Carole & Co. know that for the past several years, I've opened every entry with a photo of Carole Lombard. Today, I'm making a rare exception...and not because that's me in the pic above. Rather, it's because it was the first time I met Francine York, a splendid actress and even better lady whom we lost yesterday.

The event came in June 2014 at Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard, when actress Diane McBain promoted her new book (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/705489.html). Francine, a longtime friend of Diane's, dropped by, as did Tippi Hedren. York posed with both.

Francine and I had known each other via Facebook for several years, but this marked the first time we had met in the flesh. She was gracious -- and as you can see, her glamour made even me look good.

We met several more times, including at Cinecon 50 over Labor Day weekend 2014 (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/722471.html), where Francine received a film career achievement award. I congratulated her, and she kissed me...and there's nothing like being kissed by a beautiful Hollywood actress.

Some of you are saying, who was Francine and why did she receive such an honor?

Chances are that if you've watched 1960s television, you saw Francine; she seemingly was a guest star everywhere. Drama ("The Untouchables," "Perry Mason"), comedies ("I Dream of Jeannie," "Gomer Pyle USMC," "Green Acres," "Bewitched"), sci-fi/fantasy ("Lost in Space," "Batman," "Land of the Giants") -- York always was a welcome presence. (While she starred on several pilot episodes of projected series, none were picked up.)

She was a reliable actress in movies as well, appearing with Elvis Presley in "Tickle Me," Jerry Lewis in several films including "It's Only Money" and many other stars. The closest she came to a major cinematic triumph was starring in 1973's "The Doll Squad," sort of a precursor to "Charlie's Angels" (three attractive women battle evildoers), although the exploitation-oriented film was substantially more violent than the eventual Aaron Spelling TV production.

The statuesque (5-foot-8) Iron Range of Minnesota native blended sex appeal with talent in the '60s and '70s, and continued to get plenty of work through later decades. In 2000, she appeared with Nicolas Cage in "The Family Man"; later TV roles included parts on "The King of Queens" (as Jerry Stiller's romantic interest), "Hot in Cleveland" and "The Mindy Project." She even appeared in a video for a CD by fellow Iron Range native Bob Dylan:

While she never married, she looked after longtime director Vincent Sherman until he died at age 99 in 2006.

Last month, I received a holiday card from Francine; she had heard of my recent struggles, and sent me one where she was dressed in a Wonder Woman costume; the message was, "To a WONDER-ful 2017!" I was thrilled to receive it, and mailed one back to her Sherman Oaks residence saying in part, "Like a true superheroine, you came to my (emotional) rescue," adding my best wishes for her personally, and professionally, in the upcoming year.

Alas, in this real world, not even superheroines can conquer cancer. Francine, wanting to keep working, understandably kept her condition a secret to all but her closest friends. It wasn't until her Facebook post Thursday night, saying she may have to go to the hospital, that we learned something was amiss. She died the following morning. (Obituaries have listed her at age 80, although she claimed her birth came in August 1938; of course, for professional reasons many actresses alter their listed age. Heck, even Lombard did it for a time.)

Thank you, Francine. I love you.

A screenwriting dream of mine was to write a role for her, as her joie de vivre would enliven any production. One of my projects, the thriller-romantic comedy "Fugitive Sweetheart," includes a part designed for her as small-town Colorado newspaper publisher Alexandra Wintergreen, who hires eastern emigre Duane Llewellyn as a reporter. He learns the paper's copy editor, Susan Birch, actually is his old New Jersey high school classmate Eloise Kellogg, who's changed her identity under the federal witness protection program. (I once mentioned it to Francine, and she was interested.)

In York's honor, I'm renaming the character the similarly-euphonious Francine Wintergreen.

Here are several obituaries for Francine, giving you an idea of her fascinating career and life:
The Hollywood Reporter: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/francine-york-dead-batman-doll-squad-actress-was-80-961611
Variety: http://variety.com/2017/film/people-news/francine-york-dead-dies-batman-bewitched-1201954404/
TV Guide: http://www.tvguide.com/news/francine-york-dead-batman/?ftag=fbsoshares
MeTV: http://www.metv.com/stories/rip-francine-york-the-batman-actress-and-1960s-star-has-died-at-age-80/ (She appeared in promotions for the channel.)

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National Screenwriters Day: This 'princess' had a semi-secret identity -- script doctor

Posted by vp19 on 2017.01.05 at 11:11
Current mood: contemplativecontemplative

Today marks the inaugural National Screenwriters Day (http://nationalscreenwritersday.com/). Since Carole Lombard had a great appreciation for screenwriters -- she worked with many of the best of her era, including Roberft Riskin, Norman Krasna, Ben Hecht and more -- it seemed proper to write a screenwriter-oriented entry today. (Lombard's premature passing prevented her from working with Billy Wilder, who knew and admired her.)

From the early '30s on, Lombard gained a reputation as someone with a sharp sense of what worked in a script and what didn't, even though she never wrote one herself. Writers often used her as a sounding board. (She was romantically linked to Riskin, whose partners also included Glenda Farrell. In the 1940s, Riskin married Fay Wray, who also appreciated writers -- John Monk Saunders was a prior husband.)

In the classic Hollywood era, each major studio had its own script department, and revisions almost always were done in-house. It wasn't until the studio system broke down in the 1960s, long after Lombard left us, that the concept of "script doctors" -- outsiders who would examine and suggest changes to scripts -- took hold. Many such people, including Quentin Tarentino and Joss Whedon, first gained industry fame as script doctors. Meanwhile, someone whose reputation came before the camera, not behind it, did likewise:

That's right...Carrie Fisher, best known in popular culture as Princess Leia from the "Star Wars" franchise (and who died Dec. 27 at age 60), was for a time considered one of the premier script doctors in Hollywood.

For those of us who know Fisher as a humorist (she also wrote several novels), it shouldn't be much of a surprise; she had a wonderfully witty way with words. And this skill of hers wasn't hidden to the public -- this story came out in 2015 (http://www.themarysue.com/carrie-fisher-script-doctor/). Nevertheless, it was one of her more unrecognized talents. She rarely if ever gained a screen credit for her scriptwriting surgery.

Some of the films Fisher aided may surprise you -- "Hook," "Sister Act," even "Lethal Weapon 3" and "Outbreak" (http://hellogiggles.com/10-movies-absolutely-no-idea-carrie-fisher-helped-write/). As Fisher once said, "I'm a good script doctor because I respect the original tone or dialect of the original and try to rewrite it according to what it is already. ... There's usually not a lot of me in it, just some line I put in it."

Other sources to learn about Fisher as script doctor include http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/carrie-fisher-secretly-hollywood-best-script-doctors-article-1.2925689, http://www.slashfilm.com/carrie-fisher-script-doctor/ and http://mashable.com/2016/12/27/carrie-fisher-script/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link#5ri4oGzuomq8. It's from the last I derive my closing quote. Asked what it takes to heal bad dialogue, she said: "Make the women smarter and the love scenes better."


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Closing the book on a challenging year

Posted by vp19 on 2016.12.31 at 12:59
Current mood: optimisticoptimistic

Cheers from Carole Lombard; from where and when I write this, less than 12 hours remain in 2016. And I dare say that for many of us, we bid it good riddance.

If you live in Southern California, chances are you've seen this image on a billboard or bus: an ad for Health Net showing an adorable kid getting ready to ride a box down the stairs (though the "stairs" are drawn around him, so we know in real life he won't be hurt). For me, this year was much like that little boy's voyage, although my staircase brought plenty of figurative bumps and bruises.

Three days into 2016, I relinquished my apartment. After spending three somewhat uncomfortable weeks in Jacksonville, Fla., with my brother (the feeling was mutual), I returned to Los Angeles at the start of February. Despite my recent setbacks, it's a city I've grown to love. Here's a pic of LA's skyline from a few winters ago, when the higher elevations of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains actually get some snow:

Upon my return, life was hardly that picturesque. Unable to find sustained work once I returned and making a few crucial mistakes involving money many of you provided me (for which I apologize), I bounced from shelter to shelter, which I'm still doing today.

Take it from me, Skid Row is a scary place, although I've been fortunate in that I've never had to spend a night on the street. (And given the recent rain and cold in the Los Angeles area, my heart goes out to those who must endure those dreadful conditions.) I've been working temporary assignments since late October, though the hours are sporadic, but I can see flickers of light at the end of my tunnel.

I haven't discussed my recent life very much, both out of embarrassment and because I don't like to depress people. Had I been able to continue my online proofreading work -- which ended about the time I settled in -- none of this might have happened. Things are going to get better, but I have to be patient. Through my romantic comedy screenplay "Stand Tall!", which I still hope to sell (https://filmfreeway.com/projects/476988), I may be able to corral other screenwriting assignments. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed I can find some sort of permanent job, which then will enable me to get an apartment.

Despite all these travails, I'm keeping the faith for 2017, with hopes that you will too. The upcoming year will be this site's 10th anniversary, and although I understandably haven't written much of late, much will be going on. The 75th anniversary of Lombard's passing will be commemorated with a blogathon, and I've promised to participate. I'm hoping Michelle Morgan's terrific Lombard bio gets some sort of American printing. And as more people discover Carole, her talent and magic, this site will continue to thrive.

Goodbye to 2016. Can't say too many of us are sorry to see it go.

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At last, my review: 'Twentieth-Century Star'

Posted by vp19 on 2016.12.05 at 16:57
Current mood: gratefulgrateful

I'm certain many of you were wondering, "Just when is he going to review the new Carole Lombard biography?" Well, truth be told, I've been very busy of late, getting plenty of work from an agency...work that requires long commutes from downtown Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley. So I simply haven't had much time to gather myself and write something.

Now I have -- and rest assured, Michelle Morgan, I love "Carole Lombard: Twentieth-Century Star." There are a few flub-ups scattered throughout its pages, minor things that I hope can be fixed for a softcover or American printing of the book. (This comes from The History Press, a British publisher.)

What I like most about this book is that it lets Lombard explain herself in her own words, through comments from newspapers or fan magazines of the time. Yes, some of them may have been sanitized by the studios for public consumption, but if you read between the lines, the real Carole comes through. For example, here's part of an interview Lombard gave reporter Ellsworth Finch in mid-1932:

"I love movies. I must, otherwise I'd have got myself a saner job long ago. I hang on stubbornly, hoping that someday I'll have a crack at a really intelligent, fine picture. I laugh about the stupidities afterward, but at the time it is heart-breaking and nerve-racking. The stories, little confections that have been stirred up by half a dozen hands into a tasty morsel that would drive any adult into acute nausea! The whole system is so cockeyed. The talent is there, but it is so badly used -- the wrong people doing the wrong things, world without end, amen! Casual anecdotes of ordinary studio routine are more harrowing than the darkest Russian tales you can name. It's such a pity -- directors and writers forced into niches where they don't belong. And of course, the actors are eventual victims too."

If we somehow zapped Lombard ahead 84 years into the largely comic- and animation-driven movie world of late 2016, her indignation probably would be amplified tenfold. And one wonders whether a Paramount executive called her into his office to suggest she be a mite kinder to the film industry.

The biography is well-organized, with plenty of fascinating pictures and background on Lombard's family. No matter what part of Carole's career you're particularly interested in, chances are you'll find it here.

And finally, a disclaimer I've mentioned several times before -- I assisted with research on this book, as the above dedication notes. She adds in the acknowledgements,

"Vincent Paterno, Carole Sampeck, Debbie Beno, Douglas Cohen, Bruce Calvert, Robert S. Birchard, Dina-Marie Kulzer and Ann Trifescu have all been gracious enough to share their photos, letters, rare documents and other memorabilia with me. Vincent also trawled the archives at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- a kindness I will never forget."

Neither will I forget being attached to a project such as this. Thank you for letting me be part of it.

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