vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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Ponder this for a 'Brief Moment'

The era of the studio system was a far cry from today's moviemaking, when major stars generally control their own destiny regarding projects. Back then, the studios held all the cards -- though actors at times had significant input. While stars were hardly interchangeable, a studio that bought a property planning to make it a vehicle for star "A" ended up doing it with star "B."

That happened several times with Carole Lombard, both as star "A' and star "B." Here's an example of what we mean, courtesy of the fine historical blog "Hollywood Heyday" (http://hollywoodheyday.blogspot.com/). If you read Louella Parsons' column on March 1, 1932, you would have learned this piece of information:

"'Brief Moment' has been sought by several film companies. The bidding has ceased, we are told, and Columbia now finds itself in possession of the Sam Behrman play which has been a hit in New York. I surely thought another company would buy it from all that I heard Saturday, but what a difference a few hours make in this business.

"In purchasing 'Brief Moment,' Columbia had Barbara Stanwyck in mind. What an actress this little Stanwyck gal is! They say in 'So Big' she will be a sensation. I only saw the stills, but they look interesting.

"Frank Capra will probably direct and discussions on 'Brief Moment' will be in order now that Walter Wanger is here and Harry Cohn has returned from week-ending at Palm Springs."

Of course, as we all know, "Brief Moment" ended up starring not Barbara Stanwyck, but Lombard:

Lombard certainly didn't figure into any plans for "Brief Moment" when the property was purchased. For one thing, she worked at Paramount, not Columbia. For another, she had yet to be loaned out to Gower Gulch; that wouldn't come for another few months, resulting in "Virtue" and "No More Orchids" that fall.

So, what happened? If this was bought as a Barbara Stanwyck vehicle, why didn't she take the wheel?

I'm not a Stanwyck expert (although I view her as arguably the most versatile actress of the Golden Age), and a few educated guesses come to mind.

First, by the time this project was ready to shoot, Stanwyck had already left Columbia for Warners, where she beautifully complemented the studio's tough, urban style with "Ladies They Talk About" and " Baby Face."

Second, while Stanwyck and director Frank Capra had collaborated several times before with success, neither wanted it to become a permanent star-director relationship similar to Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg. (As Stanwyck and Capra were by far Columbia's most marketable star and director, Harry Cohn understandably saw things a bit differently.) Capra and Stanwyck would team up some years later, by which time their reputations had been firmly established.

It's hard to ascertain how a Stanwyck "Brief Moment" would have been different from Lombard's; the film Carole made is solid, if unspectacular. However, Parsons' comments say a lot about her.

* "What an actress this little Stanwyck gal is!" Huh? Stanwyck wasn't "little" by any means, but her home studio of Columbia certainly was to Parsons and the rest of the Hollywood establishment.

* "They say in 'So Big' she will be a sensation." With "Ladies Of Leisure," "Night Nurse," "The Miracle Woman" and "Forbidden," she already was, gaining much critical renown and audience response.

* "I only saw the stills, but they look interesting.* Louella was never known for her exhaustive research.

All in all, a fascinating slice of what was intended...and what might have been.

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