October 4th, 2008

carole lombard 06
  • vp19

Carole, showing "character" at a party

One of the films I wish Turner Classic Movies was showing in October as part of its Carole Lombard "Star of the Month" schedule is "Ladies' Man," shown on the cover of a program from the Futurist Theatre in Birmingham, England. (A date of May 1932 was shown on the border, meaning this film was showing there about a year after its premiere in the U.S.)

I saw "Ladies' Man" some years ago at a repertory house in New York, and to be honest, I didn't think it was one of Lombard's better performances; she appears tentative and stilted, not nearly as good as in her previous picture with William Powell (her soon-to-be husband), "Man Of The World." (That film is part of the Lombard "Glamour Collection" DVD set issued 2 1/2 years ago today.) Nevertheless, I wish more people could see "Ladies' Man" for several reasons. First, while Carole's performance isn't much, the film itself is okay. It's really a Powell vehicle, as the inside of the above program makes clear:

Second, it's a good measuring stick for Lombard vis-a-vis Kay Francis -- Carole's predecessor as "Star of the Month" -- who then was both a slightly bigger star and a more accomplished actress. (Not long after this film was released, Powell and Francis were wooed from Paramount to Warner Bros., where both found better films and more commercial success, although Powell wouldn't reach his peak until he latched on with MGM in 1934.) By 1939, the tables of popularity turned, Francis would act in support of her friend Lombard in "In Name Only."

I haven't found very many stills from "Ladies' Man" over the years...but here's one I just discovered. It shows Carole at a party (sort of appropriate, since the centennial of her birth is two days away, and I'm sure somewhere, plans are being made for a celestial celebration!). The original photo is sepia-toned from age, so I've sharpened it and converted it to grayscale for ease of viewing:

If it strikes your fancy, the original is currently being auctioned at eBay (http://cgi.ebay.com/VINT-1930-CAROLE-LOMBARD-AT-LAVISH-PARTY-LADIES-MAN_W0QQitemZ370092796610QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item370092796610&_trkparms=39%3A1%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A1%7C240%3A1318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14#ebayphotohosting), with bidding beginning at a reasonable $4.99 (no bids as of this writing). Bidding continues through just after 10:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday.
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