For the final few years of Cary Grant's life, he appeared on tour, showing clips from his films and answering questions from the audience (written beforehand on cards). I never had the chance to attend one of these shows, but I wonder if Carole Lombard's name ever came up in questions. Probably not very often; alas, the actor and actress most associated with the screwball genre never made a comedy together, though there were several near-misses. Their lone co-starring vehicle was a drama, "In Name Only" (seen above).
From all accounts, Cary and Carole were on good terms, both personally and professionally (each could commiserate over how neither really got a break at Paramount). But at the start of 1939, several months before "In Name Only" began filming, both were co-starring in another medium -- radio:
This was a promotional photo for an NBC series called "The Circle," and one would guess that Grant received even fewer questions on this than regarding some of his lesser-known films, such as "The Howards Of Virginia." Not only do we not associate Cary with radio, though he appeared on many movie adaptation shows, including a "Lux Radio Theater" version of "In Name Only" with cinematic co-stars Lombard and Kay Francis, but "The Circle" would be to old-time radio what the Edsel was to late '50s automobiles.
The concept had some promise...put a group of celebrities together to discuss all sorts of matters, and voila -- the broadcast version of the fabled Algonquin Round Table. And "The Circle's" celebrities included not only Lombard and Grant, but Groucho and Chico Marx, Ronald Colman, Lawrence Tibbett (all above) and others. Sponsored by Kellogg's Corn Flakes, "The Circle" premiered at 7 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday, Jan. 15, 1939, just before Jack Benny's hugely popular comedy program.
It lasted slightly less than six months, and by then Colman and Lombard had long left the sinking ship, replaced by Basil Rathbone and Madeleine Carroll.
What went wrong? Well, the entire series was scripted, which apparently gave it an artificial feel; at that time, sponsors ran radio, and Kellogg's probably wanted to make sure that any words coming out of Groucho's or Carole's mouth wouldn't embarrass the company. (It probably remembered what happened with Chase & Sanborn two years earlier, when Mae West made an appearance on Edgar Bergen's program and did a rather risque Adam-and-Eve skit with dummy Charlie McCarthy.) Moreover, topics were rather tepid -- this was by no means a 1939 version of "The View" (imagine Lombard being a member of that crew!). For more on this ill-fated series and other early radio appearances by Carole, visit http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/38
But let's get back to that photo above showing Cary and Carole near the mike. It's an 8" x 10" reprint, and it's being auctioned at eBay. Bidding begins at $9.99, with bids closing at 11:15 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday. If you'd like to bid or merely learn more, go to http://www.ebay.com/itm/CAROLE-LOMB
And if you win the bidding, you don't have to tell your friends about the flop program it derives from -- tell them it's Grant and Lombard appearing on "Lux Radio Theater." (But if they're into old-time radio, don't try it; "Lux" aired on NBC at the start and close of its 22-year run, but Lombard's "Lux" appearances were made only on CBS.)