We'll kick off this new batch with an April 1933 story written by a woman billed as Sylvia, who was well known as a masseuse and an expert on exercise and physical cutlure -- thanks in part to her work with many of the film industry's top stars. She parlayed this into occasionally writing for Photoplay, and in 1935, she broadcast a weekly program on health and beauty on NBC's Blue network.
Here, Sylvia discusses her work with Lombard and how she transformed her from the curvy Sennett girl into a sleek star. Despite descriptions of "buxom" from Sylvia herself and "plump" in the cutline, the Lombard of late 1928 and early 1929 was hardly fat. But she wasn't sufficiently slender to make a big splash in films; the weight from the bananas Mack Sennett made her eat to have her develop curves to look good in a swimsuit now had to be taken off. Sylvia describes how she and Carole went about doing it, and in the process gives a pretty nice feel for her personality.
How Sylvia Changed “Carol of the Curves” to Svelte Carole Lombard!
You know that for years Sylvia, America’s most famous physical culturist and masseuse, has been Hollywood’s court of last resort for problems of beauty and figure. This month she gives another revelation in her fascinating series about how she helped noted stars through crises that threatened their careers.
Also, Sylvia has greed to do something she has hitherto declared impossible. That is, to answer personally your letters. On page 80 she answers many questions, and tells how easily you too may obtain her help. Look now to learn how America’s most expert help on beauty and health problems is yours for the asking!
The first time I saw her, I was standing behind her and she was walking across the studio lot. She was a big, husky girl in a short white silk sports dress, flat white tennis shoes, rolled down socks and a beret in her hand. And she was calling to the boys she knew as they passed, “Hello, Bob! Hello, Bill!” Hearty and hale like, just as her figure looked. The studio executive who was showing me around -– it was my first day at that studio –- looked at the girl, then turned to me. “There,” he said, “that girl is under contract. We’re supposed to give her parts. But look at that figure! Think you can do anything?”
“She’ll be my first patient,” I said.
I set up shop in Gloria Swanson’s old dressing-room bungalow and about five minutes later in came the exec with the same buxom girl I had seen from the rear. I’ll admit I was startled. Honestly, she had one of the most attractive and beautiful faces I’ve ever seen. And a nice expression, too.
“Think you can do anything with this one?” the boss asked.
“You bet I can,” I said. “Give me four weeks with her – and you’ll be amazed.”
“I’ll bet I will,” said the boss and left Carole Lombard with her fate -– and me! (I know there was a time they called her “Carol,” “Carol of the Curves,” in fact, which was the reason I was starting in on her; but I’ll stick to Carole.)
I liked Carole right away. You couldn’t be around her and not like her. She was breezy and clever and so regular and oh, how badly she wanted to get thin! She knew how fat she was.
I’d told the exec I’d have her in shape –- and with a shape -– in four weeks. It took me just three weeks to make her so that she could take a size twelve dress. And that first little white silk number I’d seen her in, which fit her plenty snug, was a sixteen! Cross my heart and hope to die!
Now that I’m no longer at the studio I can confess that I cheated a little bit. You see the studio was paying me a salary then, and a big one. The stars were paying the studio for my treatments; the money was taken out of their salaries each week. Carole was paying for a treatment a day – but I put one over on the studio and gave her an extra treatment every day on studio time.
A great deal of my success in Hollywood lay in making the stars obey me. And they obeyed me because they knew that had to. Unless their figures were nice their contracts weren’t renewed. Carole was perfect about it. She did everything I said. We used to have luncheon together almost every day in the little restaurant across from the studio. She used to watch great big juicy steaks and mashed potatoes and creamed peas going by to other tables and then she’d say to the waiter, “And as for me –- a green salad with French dressing –- mostly lemon juice -– and gelatin for dessert.”
Because she was such a good sport and never whined I used to let her have a little piece of angel food cake (now and then) and a large glass of iced tea. And that reminds me, when you girls drink tea –- either hot or cold -– be sure to squeeze eight or ten drops of lemon juice into it because that neutralizes the tannic acid. Tannic acid is bad for the liver.
How did I reduce Carole Lombard from a sixteen to a twelve? I’ll tell you. For two hours every day I pounded and squeezed and slapped that flesh away. You can do the same for yourself if you will. You see, the ordinary massage is only good for putting flesh on. By my method the flesh is squeezed off with the fingers and slapped off with the hands.
And here’s something else I did to take off flesh from just below the busts to the knee. I stretched her. Yes, that’s just what I mean. And here’s how you can do that. Lie on a bed and with the right hand hold on tight to the bed-post. Then get a friend or your husband or your mother or someone to pull the right leg (holding the leg at the knee) as hard as he or she can. Make the person helping you pull hard and you hang on to the bed-post hard, too, stretching as much as you can the entire time.
This stretching will actually pull fat away. It goes deeper into the fat cells than the hand can reach. It’s marvelous, but you’ve got to be able to take it. You’ve got to pull upwards while the person helping you pulls down. Then do the same thing with the left side, holding with the left hand and having the left leg pulled. You won’t mind that kind of leg pulling, for you’ll know it’s taking off those pounds.
As soon as Carole had her treatment she was as lively as a baby. She was just nothing but a big kid then! For besides the pounding squeezing, pulling and pinching, I always worked on her back and the back of her shoulders. You can do that, too. With your two hands dig under the muscles at the back of your neck, across, reaching over the back of your shoulders and as far down around the spine as you can. And that will give you pep! Carole used to jump up from my treating table and dance around like a kid -– just because she felt so good! You’ll feel lively, too, when you’ve worked on your back that way –- and the more weight you lose, the livelier you’ll feel. Here is a sample day’s menu in Carole Lombard’s diet:
Small glass orange juice
Small glass of water
One slice whole wheat toast with a tiny bit of butter
Coffee –- black
I let her have the coddled egg if she had a hard day’s work ahead. You probably know how to prepare a coddled egg, but in case you don’t: Bring some water to a boil. Turn off the gas. Put the egg in the water without breaking it and let it stand for eight to ten minutes. That’s the best way to cook eggs.
Glass tomato juice
1/2 head of lettuce
Whole sliced tomato
French dressing -– mostly lemon juice
Dish of gelatin –- with a spoonful of thin coffee cream
You see, I gave her plenty of food that would produce red blood. For I know what the lack of red blood will do –- cause anemia.
Tomato or orange juice
Small bunch of celery
Two lamb chops
Skin of a baked potato
Two tablespoons small green lima beans
Four tablespoons steamed carrots (wonderful for the complexion)
A very, very little prune whip (Carole loved that)
I give plenty of food on my diets, as you can see. But what I tried to teach Carole and what I want to teach you girls, too, is that you must learn to choose food that is non-fattening. You’ll notice that I occasionally let her have a tiny piece of angel cake or, as I just told you, the prune whip. But in each case it was very little; a rare treat. That tiny bit occasionally won’t hurt you -– but you’ve got to use discretion.
Carole was one of those grand, happy-go-lucky persons. And everybody loved her. From the time she first came into my room to be treated until she left, the telephone was ringing constantly; people asking for her. From the errand boys to the actors, they all loved her. She didn’t take herself or anybody else seriously. She had a grand, cheerful grin. She was always ready for a party. She loved to dance and laugh and I’m telling you that’s half the battle in being beautiful and lovely.
Then I heard that her contract had not been renewed, and the way she took it is a wonderful example for everyone. I saw her the morning she was told.
“Hello, darling, how do you feel?” I asked.
“I feel great,” she said. “This is the best thing that ever happened to me. There are two other blondes of about my type on this lot. I’ll do much better somewhere else.”
I knew that she was just putting up a brave front. But her prophesy came true. She did do much better somewhere else. So just take Carole’s attitude for your own. In Hollywood –- or anywhere else -– you can’t let people see when you’re down. Keep a stiff upper lip. Believe me, that attitude will do more to give your face character and even real beauty than anything I know. As for your figure -– well, you’ve got to work on that!
And here’s the funny part about Carole Lombard. No -– I’ll take that back. It isn’t funny, it’s grand. She never put on fat again. Because –- she used her common sense! Even after she left me she kept up exercises for reducing. She danced a lot, which is a fine reducer. And she was sensible about her food. She did not have to stay on a strict diet; she just had to be sensible, choose her foods well, and not overeat. Gosh –- how I wish I could train all you girls to do that. And I wish I could train you to work as Carole did to get thin.
The kid used to scream while I was giving her a treatment. Bill Boyd’s dressing room was right next to my treating bungalow. He and Bob Armstrong used to yell out, “Don’t tell me you’re doing that for your art’s sake.”
“She’s doing it for art’s sake and for my sake and for her own sake,” I used to yell back.
Carole reduced because she had to. You see, they decided –- before I came on the lot -– that she should be a dramatic actress instead of a Sennett girl. They gave her a test and her acting was fine –- but her figure! That was her incentive to get thin. She knew she would never succeed on the screen unless she was thin. After she was thin, it is true that her first big dramatic part was in a terrible picture. It wasn’t her fault that the picture was bad and her contract wasn’t renewed. But now -– look at her. She isn’t afraid of the biggest dramatic part they can hand her!
There’s just one more thing that I want to tell you about Carole. She had been in a very bad automobile accident before she came to that studio. It had left a scar on her cheek. Did she cry and moan about it? She did not. She didn’t pay any attention to it -– but went right on.
And because of her attitude I tell you that scar is actually attractive.
Believe me, you girls and women can learn a lot from Carole.
And –- what’s more -– if you want to be the Lombard type don’t forget that you can reduce from a size sixteen to a twelve. I know – because I did it for Carole and, if you will follow my instructions, I can do the same for you!
Although Sylvia doesn't give the name of the studio, it's obviously Pathe, and the executive in question is almost certainly Joseph P. Kennedy. (She also doesn't mention that when she worked over Kennedy, she followed Lombard's instructions and gave him some harder-than-usual slaps.)
Someone on Photoplay's copy desk made a mistake with the caption below. What is it?
Well, as any Marion Davies fan could tell you, Carole Lombard never appeared in "Show People." She did appear in a movie released at about the same time called "Show Folks" (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/92965.html), a fact someone had forgotten nearly 4 1/2 years later.
Finally, there's an advertisement adjacent to the end of the story headlined, "How Do Sportswomen Manage?" It begins, "Cup winners can't be quitters -- whatever the time of month. The woman who competes for honors in any field of sport must take her sporting chances with Nature. Any strenuous match may suddenly bring on her sickness. ..."
It's for Midol, and somehow I doubt you would see an ad with that kind of tone on WNBA telecasts...