January 14th, 2008

carole lombard 01
  • vp19

A day in Chicago

On Wednesday, Jan. 14, 1942, Carole Lombard, accompanied by her mother, Elizabeth Peters, and MGM publicist Otto Winkler, arrived in Chicago on the "City of Los Angeles" train. While Lombard's war bond rally in Indianapolis would not take place until the following evening, there was little time to rest.

There were meetings with officials of the Department of the Treasury, which was running the war bond campaign. (Lombard's mother continued on to Fort Wayne to see some friends, and planned to rejoin her daughter later.) Here, courtesy of Carole Sampeck and The Lombard Archive, are two photos taken of Lombard while she was in town:

With a star of Carole's magnitude in Chicago, the local press understandably wanted its piece of the action. While by now Lombard was a veteran, accomplished actress, to her reading lines on a film set and speaking to the general public were two completely different entities. We've previously discussed how Carole developed her technique for acting on radio (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/3807.html); while in Chicago, she admitted her previous fear of public speaking:

"Years ago I used to be afraid to make speeches, but when you've got bonds to sell, and the country the way it is, you go right ahead. ... This is the first unity Hollywood ever had ... From now on it's sell a bond, sell a bond, sell a bond."

In her youth as Jane Alice Peters, Lombard and her mother once heard Charlie Chaplin speak at a bond rally in downtown Los Angeles; to follow in his footsteps was very important to the patriotic Carole. Here's a picture of Chaplin selling bonds in New York in 1917;

Among the places on Carole's itinerary was the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper with huge readership throughout the midwest. Conservative and insular, it had largely been isolationist prior to Pearl Harbor, but had since changed tone dramatically.

While at Tribune Tower, Lombard not only was interviewed by reporters for the newspaper, but spoke over its powerful radio station, WGN, and visited its 20th floor color studio to pose for a portrait that would subsequently run in the newspaper -- a tradition among film stars who came in town (and with Chicago's status as a rail transfer between trains from the east and west coasts, nearly all stars visited Chicago at one time or another). As fate would have it, this portrait (as well as a second that ran a few weeks later) would instead serve as a memorial. Here are both:

Lombard put her signature at the studio, joining those of other celebrities, and it was reproduced in the Tribune under one of the portraits:

Lombard and Winkler stayed overnight in Chicago, then took a morning train to Indianapolis, where they met Elizabeth Peters en route. Early Thursday afternoon, the three arrived at Union Station, Indianapolis, where they were met by the mayor and other dignitaries.