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carole lombard 01

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.


R.A. Kerr at 2017-01-17 17:07 (UTC) (Link)
Both of these books look interesting, and I'm also looking forward to Michelle Morgan's new book in a few months. Thanks for recommending these titles – I don't think I would have heard of them otherwise. :)
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