Looking back: June 1932Posted by vp19 on 2011.06.26 at 06:13
Current mood: amused
Our latest installment of Carole Lombard news snippets from 79 years ago this month has sort of a beach theme to it -- not posed, as is obvious from the photo above, but actually at the oceanfront.
The first item, while printed in the June 4, 1932 Calgary Daily Herald, refers to something that had taken place in Malibu the previous Sunday (May 29). It discusses beachwear, noting that "Among those who flocked to the Malibu sands last Sunday were Carole Lombard, Sylvia Sidney, Wynne Gibson, Adrienne Ames and Juliette Compton." (All five were Paramount players at the time; this article isn't credited, but it could well be a studio news release.)
The article adds, "Wynne Gibson won first place in the contest by changing her bathing suit twice and her pyjamas once." (So this was a competition?) Gibson's swimsuits were a white knit one-piece and a two-piece affair, with "brown jersey trunks and a brown and white stripe top." As shown below, Gibson, whose sex appeal was evident in films such as "If I Had A Million," certainly had the figure to fill out a swimsuit:
Lombard's swim outfit was similar to that shown of her above -- a "brassiere and trunk ensemble," as they called it -- but it was made of "heavy black knit material." She won plaudits for "a striking beach pyjama outfit in white crepe with hand-painted flower motif of yellow, henna and brown." Sounds like what's shown below:
One Canadian province east in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the June 2 Star-Phoenix ran a syndicated column from Robert Grandon that used a drawing of the Lombard water-ski pose as an illustration -- contrasted with a swimsuit circa 1917 -- for the story, "Old Sennett Bathing Beauties Seek To Forget Days Of Exposing." Of Lombard, also cited for her Malibu appearance, Grandon wrote, "But unlike the days when she furnished the epidermical background in Mack Sennett's custard-pie comedies, Carole was really bathing...Since she became wed to William Powell, Carole has developed a love for the ocean."
Grandon called Lombard the latest Sennett alumna to make it big; "Their name was legion, but few survived," he wrote, noting, among others, both Gloria Swanson's success and the passing of Mabel Normand.
Returning to newspapers in the States, the Newburgh (N.Y.) News ran a photo of Carole in the above gown (though in a slightly different pose), along with a portrait of Claudette Colbert, to complement a June 25 story, "Hollywood 'Girl Rush' Ended." The article's theme was that about one-fourth as many young women were making their way to Hollywood to seek success in the movies as compared to the late 1920s, citing a few reasons:
"For one thing there are a lot of girls who haven't enough money to get to Hollywood right now. And the majority who have enough have sense enough to hold on to it. The past few years also have brought columns of warnings on the difficulties of crashing the film studios."
Left unsaid was that the studios themselves were hardly rolling in dough in mid-1932; by now, the Depression had hit the industry hard, and salaries of just about everyone were being cut. And those "columns of warnings" probably didn't include the more sordid tales of girls who didn't make the grade, and had to resort to prostitution or similar efforts to stay fed.
Like others in the industry, Lombard's salary was cut...but somebody, somewhere, was providing her a bit of a bonus, as witness this United Press story published in the Pittsburgh Press on June 14:
"One of the mysteries of Hollywood as yet unsolved revolves around the fan mail received by blond Carole Lombard.
"For 52 weeks running Miss Lombard received an envelope containing a crisp $1 bill. They were bills so fresh they might have just come from some mint. All efforts to trace the sender failed and not one of the letters contained a mark of identification.
"Wonder if Miss Lombard ever lamented that some fan with a complex for $1,000 bills wasn't stricken with the bug, instead of an admirer who only could muster a dollar a week."
Down the road, of course, Lombard collected more than her share of $1,000 bills without any help from a secret admirer.