March 12th, 2008

carole lombard 03
  • vp19

High 'Numbers' likely for this gown

Nice little dressing gown shown above, isn't it? It's black velvet, with silver stars, long princess sleeves, train and silver tissue lining. There's a little bit of wear to the lining and train, but for the most part it's in pretty good shape considering it's nearly eight decades old.

So, how much would you expect to pay for this item?

How about possibly a five-figure sum?

For what's important here isn't so much the gown per se, as who wore it:

That's right -- it's the dressing gown worn by Carol Lombard (she wouldn't be permanently billed as "Carole" until her next picture) in her first Paramount film, "Safety In Numbers," released in 1930. It was acquired from Paramount's costume department, and is appraised in the $8,000-$10,000 range.

It's undoubtedly the highlight of the more than two dozen Lombard-related items to appear at the latest auction (the 31st) of movie memorabilia from Profiles in History, which calls it "the single most important piece of Lombard screen worn wardrobe to ever appear at auction." And unless an item is somehow uncovered from one of her Pathe or Sennett films, it's probably the oldest.

But there are plenty of other fascinating items available, too. Like movie posters? Here's a one-of-a-kind Lombard poster that's positively stunning:

One wishes the movie, "No One Man," had been half as compelling as this poster. On linen stock and in meticulous condition, it's expected to sell for $10,000-15,000, as is this poster from a Lombard film featuring the image of her co-star and later her first husband:

Profiles in History labels this "the greatest image we've ever seen of William Powell on any poster," and who are we to argue? Like the "No One Man" poster, it's also a one-of-a-kind.

Most of the other Carole Lombard items are still photographs, and in this auction you'll find 11 examples of the work of Otto Dyar (, a photographer at Paramount in the early 1930s:

Two other Lombard portraits are of particular, if almost prurient, interest. In this one, Carole has the pre-Code equivalent of a "wardrobe malfunction," partially exposing her left breast. No, you can't see any portion of her nipple, but she comes awfully close:

The other one ranks among one of Lombard's most notorious shots; it was taken by Pathe's William E. Thomas to help promote her first all-talking film, "High Voltage." The movie didn't live up to that title, but this picture (which is decidedly not from the film) certainly does:

Profiles in History states the photo "is adventurously risque even by the standards of pre-Code 1929, by a master photographer known for innovative and delicate control of composed lighting." Meanwhile, men viewing the picture wish Lombard would drop the drapery...or at least move a few fingers!

If this has raised your interest in the auction, which will take place March 27-28, visit To specifically see Lombard-related items, go to
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