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Bad girls...talkin' 'bout the bad girls...

As promised yesterday, we continue our look at relatively hard-to-find books related to classic Hollywood. Like yesterday's book on the Wampas Baby Stars, this one examines a number of actresses; indeed, a few of them gained Wampas honors. But the characters they played rarely displayed your stereotypical heroine qualities. The book is titled "Vixens, Floozies And Molls," and is written by Danish film historian (and former actor) Hans Wollstein.



"Vixens" profiles 28 of Hollywood's "other women" (such as Thelma White, shown on the front cover); some gained renown during the racy pre-Code era, others later in the 1930s, when they couldn't show much raciness on screen due to censorship but made up for it in other ways. Even dedicated movie buffs with a good sense of film history will come across actresses whom they'd never heard of...and profiles that even the Internet Movie Database can't touch.

Wollstein writes in his introduction, "Hollywood's Other Women," of the post-Code version of such characters:

"By the mid-1930s, the other woman was everywhere in Hollywood. In crime dramas, melodramas, and drawing room dramas, in screwball comedies and outright farces. She was cold, calculating, wisecracking, austere, intelligent, dumb, blonde, brunette or redhead -- indeed she ran the gamut of Hollywood cliches of womanhood. Sometimes you couldn't help but root for her, especially if she was played by Claire Dodd or Helen Vinson or Gail Patrick. You had to, just look at the alternatives! The other woman of the 1930s not only lost her man to Carole Lombard (or Irene Dunne or Bette Davis) -- that we could easily have accepted -- but she was also beaten by such pathetic creatures as Loretta Young, Ruth Chatterton, Luise Rainer and, worst of all, Helen Twelvetrees. We still blame the screenwriters involved for that injustice!"

And yes, several of these actresses were Lombard "foes" on-screen. We've previously discussed one of them in great detail, Gail Patrick (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/75754.html). Her "Vixens" profile reveals some new, intriguing facts -- for example, she was a lifelong diabetic and became chairman of the American Diabetes Association in 1973. (So if you thought Mary Tyler Moore was the first notable actress to have diabetes and campaign against it, think again.) The Los Angeles Times ran this photo of Patrick on March 27, 1938:



Of the 28 actresses in the book, Patrick is clearly the one whose career is most associated with Lombard's, but others worked with her in lesser-known movies. If you have "Carole Lombard: The Glamour Collection" DVD set, you have "Man Of The World," which is really more of a William Powell film than a Lombard vehicle. Anyway, you'll find Wynne Gibson in support of Powell, playing a blackmailer.



Gibson specialized in playing hard-edged women, often prostitutes...in fact, her most famous role was in a segment of "If I Had A Million" (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/26161.html), playing a streetwalker who is given a million-dollar check (at random) from a dying millionaire. She uses her new fortune to check into a luxury hotel and sleep -- alone.

Another actress of note who worked with Lombard was Iowa-born Vivienne Osborne. Nearly 12 years older than Carole, Osborne began making films in 1919, although she spent most of the 1920s on stage in New York and had much more success on Broadway than in the silents. When sound arrived, she returned to films and signed a contract with Paramount in 1931, when she was nearing 35. Not happy there, she soon fled to Warners, where she made a few good films such as "Two Seconds" (1932). When that didn't really work, she began freelancing...and one of her roles was back at Paramount, in the 1933 Lombard film "Supernatural." Osborne could bring a semi-comedic zing to her femme fatale roles, but according to Wollstein:

"It was an entirely different matter when she played it straight -- such as in 'Supernatural' (Paramount, 1933), where she is an executed murderess whose spirit takes over the body of Carole Lombard. The laughs here are unintentional and the film an embarrassment to Lombard, who had begged the studio to forget the whole thing. Carole, of course, went on to better things, but Osborne remained stuck in potboilers, trapped, one might say, like her anguished spirit in 'Supernatural.' "

Carole's dismay over making "Supernatural" may have inadvertently led to one of the best anecdotes involving her -- and there are many -- based upon an actual event that shook southern California during filming (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/6116.html). Here's Lombard in the film, examining a portrait of Osborne -- unbeknownst to Carole's character, the conduit that will enable Osborne to inhabit her body:



Some of the other actresses' ties to Lombard are far less significant. You can find Katherine DeMille (Cecil B.'s adopted daughter) in a small part as a society girl in "Hands Across The Table." Paris-born Rita La Roy played Carole's suicidal golddigging friend in "Sinners In The Son" (1932) and also had a bit part in "From Hell To Heaven" the following year. And Helen Vinson portrayed one of Kay Francis' society pals in 1939's "In Name Only."
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