Tonight marks the final Friday night of 2008. Had this been a Friday night during the year 1925, and had you been in Los Angeles, you could have seen a teenaged Carol Lombard, then a starlet at Fox, dancing with her friends at the new hangout for upper-crust L.A. teens -- the Cocoanut Grove nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel.
Lombard and her buddies regularly participated in Charleston contests, and Carol won her share until a new group from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer invaded the place. Its de facto leader was a 20-year-old from Texas named Lucille LeSueur -- though she wouldn't stay named that way for long. The world would soon know her as Joan Crawford.
The Lombard and Crawford groups regularly mingled, and they battled it out on the dance floor. Years later, Lombard said of their so-called rivalry,
"Joan had great body tension. She was better than I but she seemed to be working at it, and for me it was all play. It was a thrill to beat her, and she liked to beat me, too. But that wasn't the big thing with her. She didn't just want to get a start in pictures, she kept talking about reaching the very top. She wouldn't be satisfied until she was a real star, and that didn't worry me. I never thought about it."
Crawford was driven, no doubt about it. Another reason might have been sociological. Most of the crowd from both camps came from affluent backgrounds (in Lombard's case, more from breeding than actual money on hand). For example, Carol regularly danced with radio mogul Don Lee's son Tommy; her first date had been Jack Hearst, William Randolph Hearst's son. Lombard's female friends at the Grove included Helen Twelvetrees and Dorothy Sebastian (who would act with Crawford and Anita Page in the "Our Dancing Daughters"/"Our Modern Maidens"/"Our Blushing Brides" trilogy). Crawford came from a much poorer background, and she wanted to prove herself amongst these young giants of society -- whether on the motion picture set or the dance floor.
Carol's auto accident in 1926 forced her to bow out of the Grove scene for some time, though she eventually returned and would be a semi-regular until the end of the 1920s, by which time she was singularly focused on her film career.