October 4th, 2007

carole lombard 04
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An unlikely meeting

Over the years, Carole Lombard crossed paths with all sorts of people, but here's a visual record of a meeting you probably never expected to see. That teenage boy with Carole is Sabu, a native of India who became the first actor from his country to become a star in Western films (that's "Western" as in Hemisphere, not as in cowboy).

This picture was taken in Hollywood in 1938, during Sabu's first tour of America. He had become a star a year before in the British production "Elephant Boy," portraying an elephant driver -- something he had actually done when discovered. His natural style and athleticism made the film a hit, and producer Alexander Korda put him under contract and in another film, "Drums," which starred Raymond Massey. (Korda would provide production money for Lombard's final film, "To Be Or Not To Be.")

This was probably the only time Sabu and Lombard met, as he filmed in England. His biggest hit came there in 1940, "The Thief of Bagdad." Shot in Technicolor, this reworking of the 1923 Douglas Fairbanks epic is every bit as classic as the original.

Two years later, Sabu starred in an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book."

By 1943, Sabu had moved to America and in fact became a U.S. citizen the following year. Signing with Universal Pictures, he enjoyed some brief initial success, but the productions he was put into never rivaled his British work. He enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1944 and would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his work as a tail gunner.

After the war, Sabu found fewer good roles, and married actress Marilyn Cooper in the late forties; they had two children. Sabu died of a sudden heart attack in California on Dec. 2, 1963 at age 39. He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Hollywood Hills.
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