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carole lombard 02

Carole, for Carroll

Posted by vp19 on 2008.06.17 at 00:21
Current mood: curiouscurious

Yes, we're headed over to Sunset Boulevard, and please, no Gloria Swanson or William Holden jokes. The reason? To check out a bit of Carole Lombard-related history most of us had no idea ever existed.

We've noted that Lombard never got a chance to sign her name in cement in the fabled courtyard at Grauman's Chinese Theater (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/29489.html). However, there was another site in Hollywood where she and other celebrities did sign in. And unlike Grauman's Chinese, you couldn't walk over it...unless you somehow possessed Fred Astaire's dance-up-and-down-the-wall power from "Royal Wedding." That's because these signatures were hung on the wall of the building.

What building, you ask? The Earl Carroll Theatre, on 6230 West Sunset Boulevard (less than a block from that sign):

It opened on Dec. 26, 1938, and yes, Lombard and Clark Gable were among the VIPs there on opening night to witness the latest creation of the entertainment impresario (he had created "Earl Carroll's Vanities," a revue popular on Broadway for years). "Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world," read the sign abve the entrance. Inside, the decor was as eye-popping as his showgirls.

An impressive building at night, to be sure, and to get some attention during the day, Carroll borrowed from Sid Grauman's book of tricks and had some of his Hollywood friends post their signatures -- only theirs were done on large slabs hung to the front wall:

And look who had one of the signatures:

Maybe that doesn't entirely resemble Lombard's other autographs, but just how often did she go about signing slabs of stone a few square feet across?

Carole's signature is just below that of first husband William Powell, and adjacent to her two "Now And Forever" co-stars, Gary Cooper (howdy!) and Shirley Temple.

The photos of the wall are interesting...particularly when you discover who took them. It was none other than...

...Ansel Adams, the famed photographer whose images of the landscapes of the West did so much to help promote conservation.

What was he doing in the city? Well, to keep his studio financially viable, Adams occasionally did outside work. In late 1940, Fortune magazine hired him to take some pictures of Los Angeles, specifically life around the Lockheed plant in Burbank, as southern California, and American economy, gradually shifted to military production. Adams took many pictures of L.A., and you can glimpse many of them online by visiting the Los Angeles Public Library photo site (http://catalog1.lapl.org/cgi-bin/cw_cgi?getLimitedTerms+7098), or go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/1000photosofnewyorkcity/sets/72057594083888984/.

The Earl Carroll Theatre thrived throughout much of the 1940s, but like Lombard, Earl Carroll fell victim to a plane crash. He and his wife, showgirl Beryl Wallace (that's her face that was used on the logo above the entrance), were among those who died in an aviation accident in Pennsylvania in 1948.

The theatre, soon renamed the Moulin Rouge, eventually closed, but reopened in the late 1960s for the Los Angeles production of "Hair" and was renamed the Aquarius Theater. In July 1969, the Doors gave a series of well-reviewed concerts there, and some of the highlights can be heard on their "Absolutely Live!" album. The TV series "Star Search" was shot there in the 1980s, and the space is now used by Nickelodeon for some of its shows.

As for the star slabs, I nave no idea whether they were carefully taken down or thoughtlessly destroyed. One would like to think they're stashed in some warehouse, forgotten and just waiting to be discovered by a new generation of Hollywood historians.


shelleybear at 2008-06-17 13:21 (UTC) (Link)
I can't believe they were destroyed.
(Anonymous) at 2008-06-30 01:23 (UTC) (Link)

Earl Carroll

I read something about the plane crash that claimed Carroll...there was a fire in the baggage compartment, which was contained by an extinguisher system. However, the carbon dioxide seeped into the cabin, knocking out the crew and passengers. The plane simply flew into the ground.

Paul Duca
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