August 25th, 2008

carole lombard 01
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A 'Bed' she didn't get into

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: You can learn a lot about Carole Lombard and her career from looking at her publicity pictures...particularly if you find an original that has copy accompanying it. For example, take a look at this photo:

Nice shot, and judging from the hair and the P1202 number (537), we can guess that it's from around 1933 or so. But add copy to the mix, and not only is the date pinpointed, but we discover something else:

First of all, it is indeed from 1933, Aug. 31 to be precise (when it was received, presumably at a newspaper, magazine or wire or feature service). But here's what the caption says (as best as we can discern, since it was crossed out):

"CHARM! -- It's epitomized by Carole Lombard, star of Paramount's 'She Made Her Bed.' Miss Lombard wears a beige ... cap with a diamond brooch." (Can't make out what kind of cap she has on -- corduroy?)

Regardless of the style of cap, the big news here is that Carole was appearing, or going to appear, in a film called "She Made Her Bed." Was that a preliminary title for "White Woman," which Paramount was to release in November? Not likely, since it doesn't look like something her character -- a lounge singer in the tropics -- would have worn. And her next film at the studio was "Bolero," set some years earlier.

So "She Made Her Bed" was almost certainly the title of a film Lombard was to have made, but didn't. However, a check of Larry Swindell's biography "Screwball," which often notes films she backed out of, has no mention of anything by that title.

Here's what apparently happened -- and many thanks to G.D. Hamann's wonderful blog (, which is chock full of industry news from the Golden Age of Hollywood. This is from James Francis Crow, filling in for the vacationing Elizabeth Yeoman, in the Aug. 25, 1933 Hollywood Citizen-News:

"Marguerite Churchill will end a one-year absence from the screen to play the leading feminine role in two forthcoming pictures for Charles R. Rogers at Paramount, the producer announced today. She has been signed to a long-term contract, with leave of absence stipulated for one New York stage appearance a year.

"Miss Churchill will take the role originally contemplated for Carole Lombard in 'She Made Her Bed,' the adaptation of Jack Lait's story of a Parisian artist's model, 'The Girl Without a Room.' Ralph Murphy will direct this one from an adaptation by Frank Butler and Claude Binyon.

"Miss Churchill will assume also the lead in 'The Handsome Brute,' from the original 'The Baby in the Ice Box.' This latter yarn is unique in movie annals in that it was taken from H.L. Mencken's 'American Mercury,' wherein it bore the by-line of James M. Cain. Although you'd never suspect it, the thing is described as the story of a heartless tiger trainer!"

We've written about Marguerite Churchill, shown above, before (; this film's title was eventually changed to "The Girl Without A Room." However, the other film Churchill was supposed to have appeared in, "The Handsome Brute," had its title changed to "She Made Her Bed." And Churchill dropped out, with Sally Eilers (shown below; she had made a few Mack Sennett films with Lombard) taking the female lead opposite Richard Arlen and Robert Armstrong.

"She Made Her Bed," which Lombard was apparently never considered for, was released in April 1934; that's Eilers and Arlen below. It is so obscure that the Internet Movie Database did not list any comments.

And yes, the "James M. Cain" listed above is the same man who wrote the classic novels "Double Indemnity," "Mildred Pierce" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice." But the cinematic result here was decidedly lesser; the New York Times reviewer wrote, "There is a fatal fascination about pictures like 'She Made Her Bed'...It is the fascination of horror -- of horror that any person, or group of persons, should ever have conceived its preposterous characters and situations, or, conceiving, should have ventured to commit them to even so ephemeral a medium as the films."

See what information you can discover, what tangents you can go on, merely from examining a 75-year-old publicity photo?
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