November 6th, 2008

carole lombard 04
  • vp19

Playing portrait sleuth

Let's try to emulate Carole Lombard's first husband, William Powell -- or, more accurately, two of the more famous characters he portrayed on screen: the great private detectives, first Philo Vance (left), as seen in the 1933 "The Kennel Murder Case," then Nick Charles in the first "Thin Man" film (1934), with Myrna Loy as wife Nora by his side.

What are we sleuthing? Specifically this portrait of Lombard:

It's certainly an attractive picture of Powell's one-time wife. Her smile conveys just a touch of impishness. But is it a Paramount still? Apparently not; there's no "p1202-" coding in sight. Instead, you have this in the lower left-hand corner:

"S.I.P."? One's tempted to believe that stands for Selznick International Pictures, for whom Lombard made two films...but we could be wrong. Let's turn to the back of the photo and see if there are any other clues:

Darn -- the paper caption has been removed, either deliberately or just through decades of time. Fortunately, the corners were taped down, so we still have those fragments. Will they be enough?

See "Culv" near the top? That's likely a reference to Culver City, where Selznick International Pictures was headquartered, down Washington Boulevard from MGM. I think we can safely say this is a still on behalf of Selznick. Now, the question is -- for which picture? "Nothing Sacred" or "Made For Each Other"? I lean toward the former, if only because there is a slight comic element to the photo, and "Nothing Sacred" had a far more comedic tone than "Made For Each Other."

If you like the picture -- an original from the 1930s -- hurry up and have your money ready, because you don't have much time. It's from Heritage Auction galleries through eBay; bidding begins at $100 (the still has an estimated value of $200-$400), and bidding closes at 1 a.m. (Eastern) on Sunday. To learn more, or to bid, go to

Thus concludes our detective training for today.
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