March 10th, 2008

carole lombard 01
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Getting "Hands Across" across

While "Hands Across The Table," released in the fall of 1935, wasn't Carole Lombard's first significant hit -- that honor arguably belongs to "Twentieth Century" the year before -- it was nonetheless crucial for her career. It was her first Paramount film designed as a Lombard vehicle, elevating her alongside Claudette Colbert in the studio's romantic comedy field.

It was also her first film at Paramount since famed director Ernst Lubitsch, long an ally of Carole's, took over as head of production...the first (and, as it turned out, the only) time a director held such duties at a major studio. He had as much a personal stake in this as Lombard did.

So Paramount pulled out all the stops for Lombard (shown above with co-star Fred MacMurray and director Mitchell Leisen). And you can get a sense of how they did it by looking at a pressbook for "Hands Across The Table." It's a representative example of movie publicity at the time.

Inside were items for "publicity," "advertising" and "exploitation" that local theater owners could use to drum up interest in the film:

Let's examine one of the inside pages to get a feel for the kinds of things exhibitors could do:

The page features various display items -- lobby cards, window cards and even a slide (not shown) that exhibitors could employ to promote "Hands Across The Table" as a coming attraction. But theater owners did have to pay nominal fees to Paramount to procure the stuff. For example:

An exhibitor could order a set of 10 11" x 14" stills from "Hands Across The Table" for a whopping...$2. These days, just one of those pictures, in reasonable condition, would probably be worth at least 10 times that amount. A complete set of 10 might run a four-figure sum.

And lest you think all this is merely so much good old American ballyhoo, rest assured such tactics were also employed on the other side of the "pond." Here's a British pressbook for a later Lombard-MacMurray collaboration, "Swing High, Swing Low":

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When the ground shook

Last Tuesday, few if any noted that it was the 75th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inauguration ("The only thing we have to fear is...fear itself") as president; he would be the last president sworn in on that date, as a constitutional amendment moved the inaugural date up to Jan. 20 before he began his second term in 1937.

So it's perfectly understandable that even fewer probably recognize that 75 years ago today, southern California was rocked by an earthquake that left more than 100 dead and did considerable damage. Fortunately, the Los Angeles Times remembered, or at least its "The Daily Mirror" blog did.

If you haven't seen the blog, it runs front and inside pages and other material from the Times and occasionally its now-defunct afternoon sister paper the Mirror-News. Most of the focus is on 50 years ago, which means now it's running a lot of material from March 1958. But it also regularly looks at 1938, 1908 and other dates. It's both illuminating and entertaining, and if you're like me you'll soon bookmark the site (

So today, the blog ran three pages from the Times of March 11, 1933, covering the quake that had hit the city the day before:

What does all of this have to do with Carole Lombard, some of you may ask? Well, at the time, Lombard was working on the horror film "Supernatural" -- an assignment she didn't particularly like -- and was lambasting its director, Victor Halperin, when the quake hit. Legend has it that once the shocks were over, Carole coolly walked up close to Halperin, pointed at him, and said: "Victor -- that was only a warning!"

A classic anecdote, if true...but was it? In late June last year, in one of my earliest entries here, I examined whether it actually happened, based upon contemporary news accounts (

Anyway, the event happened 75 years ago today.
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