March 8th, 2008

carole lombard 06
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For you fans of Кароль Ломбард

My only travel outside North America came some 35 years ago this April, when my high school senior class visited what was then known as the Soviet Union. (Actually, we flew to Helsinki, Finland, then took buses into the USSR, transferring to trains in what was then called Leningrad.)

Truth be told, we never saw a Kremlin sunset quite so glorious as the one above, and aside from that area -- and the city's remarkable subway system -- much of the capital seemed rather drab and utilitarian. Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), where we also spent several days, was far more attractive, seemingly more European. But the people in both places were incredibly friendly.

Of course, Russia has long fascinated American filmmakers. Think of Greta Garbo in Ernst Lubitsch's 1939 classic "Ninotchka" ("Don't pronounce it -- see it!")...

...or the 1957 musical remake with Cyd Charisse (who turns 87 today!), "Silk Stockings"...

So what does all of this have to do with Carole Lombard, you may ask? After all, she never portrayed a Russian on screen.

Well, if you've looked over our list of members, we have several who live in Russia (LiveJournal is quite popular there) -- and as you might have guessed, the subject head at the top includes "Кароль Ломбард," which is "Carole Lombard" in the Cyrillic alphabet.

What makes this intriguing is that during Lombard's lifetime few, if any, Russians (or residents of the Soviet Union's other republics) were able to see her movies. In the 1930s, the Stalinist government drastically limited the number of foreign films imported into the USSR, probably for ideological reasons. It was a sharp cry from the 1920s, when Hollywood films were extremely popular. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford drew huge crowds when they visited the Soviet Union, and a book detailing the event was published in 1926:

However, that part of the world has long appreciated good filmmaking -- think of the likes of Sergei Eisenstein and "The Battleship Potemkin." So decades later, when classic Hollywood product became available in the Soviet Union before its collapse, Lombard and other top stars of the Golden Age won new fans, both for their acting and for their style. And such interest continues today.

So to our Russian members, we leave you this message: Our sincere thanks to you for being a fan of Carole Lombard. Translated into Russian, that phrase would be, "Наши задушевные спасибо к вам за быть вентилятором Кароль Ломбард."

(Oh, and since I live in the Washington, D.C. area, many thanks as well for Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals' star.)
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