July 18th, 2007

carole lombard 04
  • vp19

Lombard + Harlow? It's "Greek" to me

Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow had much in common. Both hailed from affluent midwestern stock. Both were among the most beautiful women of their time. Both were genuinely nice people, beloved for their generosity and lack of pretense by those they worked with, regardless of their status on the lot. Both evolved from struggling beginnings into talented actresses. And both left us much too soon.

It should come as no surprise that Carole and Jean were friends. What may surprise you is that at one point, there was a chance they would appear in a movie together.

Here's the info, courtesy of G.D. Hamann's painstaking research (http://gdhamann.blogspot.com/). In the April 27, 1931, Hollywood Daily Citizen, columnist Elizabeth Yeaman made the following report:

"[Director Lowell] Sherman is...moving over to the United Artists lot where he has been borrowed by Samuel Goldwyn to direct 'The Greeks Had a Word For Them.' This is the Zoe Akins play now current on Broadway under the title of 'The Greeks Had a Word For It.' Goldwyn planned to use the title 'Three Blondes' but found that this was owned by another company. The plot revolves around three blondes of easy virtue. Ina Claire, recently signed by Goldwyn, will have the starring role, and Jean Harlow, borrowed from Howard Hughes, and Carole Lombard, borrowed from Paramount, will make up the blonde trio. Lowell Sherman also will play an important role as well as direct...Sidney Howard, who has just returned from a European vacation, is writing the adaptation for 'The Greeks Had Word For Them.' "

Keep in mind that in the spring of 1931, both Harlow and Lombard were fairly low on the Hollywood totem pole. Jean had made a splash the year before with Hughes' "Hell's Angels," but she was still perceived as more decoration than actress. Carole had made a few films at Paramount, but was largely unproven. So it's no surprise that had this gone through, both would have played supporting roles to Broadway emigre Ina Claire. And it's interesting to ponder how making it might have changed their careers.

It didn't pan out for Harlow because her contract at the time was still tied with Hughes. As for Lombard, she became ill in late August 1931 and had to bow out.

The film was eventually made and released in early 1932, with Joan Blondell and Madge Evans supporting Claire. Below is a scene from the film, with, from left, David Manners, Evans, Blondell and Claire:

The story of three golddiggers was remade in the 1950s as "How To Marry A Millionaire," with Marilyn Monroe as one of the trio. (Not many are aware that "Millionaire" was subsequently adapted into a sitcom later in the fifties, with Monroe's character played by a young Barbara Eden.)