vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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The "White Woman" that might have been?

Carole Lombard's 1933 film "White Woman" was an exercise in "camp" decades before the term became part of popular culture. It's a potboiler set in steamy Malaysia, where Carole plays a nightclub singer who marries a rubber plantation owner, discovers his cruel nature and becomes attracted to the plantation overseer.

Much of the "camp" was supplied by Charles Laughton as the rubber baron. The year before, he starred in "Island Of Lost Souls," where his role as a doctor who blends humans with animals enabled him to indulge in overplaying. "White Woman" gave him another opportunity to do likewise.

But imagine if another actor of the time -- one whose persona was far more sedate -- had been cast as Carole's leading man. It apparently might have happened.

This is from an unnamed fan magazine in the fall of 1933; we can pinpoint the date because it refers to Lombard's divorce from William Powell that August. But it concludes with this:

"Miss Lombard's cinema career shines more brightly than ever. All who saw her excellent performance in 'Brief Moment' will agree. Next, it's 'White Woman' with Herbert Marshall."

Herbert Marshall
? I can't think of an actor more different from the flamboyant Laughton.

Marshall (1890-1966) hadn't planned to become an actor -- instead, he trained to become an accountant. He served in World War I and lost a leg; it was replaced by a wooden leg that was largely kept a secret from the public. His films included the Ernst Lubitsch masterpiece "Trouble In Paradise" and the Marlene Dietrich vehicle "Blonde Venus" (both 1932), as well as Alfred Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent" (1940). Usually low-key in his style, Marshall did occasional TV work later in his career.

Here's Marshall in a 1949 magazine ad for Rheingold beer:

I have no doubt a Lombard-Marshall teaming in "White Woman" would have resulted in a vastly different film than what Lombard and Laughton came up with.

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