November 8th, 2008

carole lombard 06
  • vp19

"Vamp" it up for an extra added attraction!

While Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. did a fine job with Carole Lombard as its star of the month for October, it appears Film Forum in New York has won the battle of Carole one-upsmanship. It's holding a Lombard festival from Nov. 21 to Dec. 2 (, and its array of films is, for the most part, a bit more varied than what TCM aired. Several of them even have new prints.

If that wasn't enough, Film Forum will do something many of us thought TCM would do...and didn't.

The above is the opening image of the intro to TCM's "Silent Sunday Nights," one of my favorite programs on the channel. On most Sunday nights of the year, normally about midnight (Eastern), TCM comes up with films from the days before cinema spoke. While it shows many of the big silent hits everyone remembers, it also explores different facets of film that even the most avid of movie buffs have never seen -- foreign films, movies made specifically for (and often by) the emerging black community in the U.S., and so on -- all introduced by the knowledgeable Robert Osborne. It's a fascinating part of TCM's programming that's worth a time-shift if you can't stay up that late.

One would have thought that since Carole Lombard made several silent pictures, a few of which survive, TCM could have showed one of those features, such as "Show Folks," on one of the "Silent Sunday Nights" during October, or even aired a few of her Mack Sennett two-reelers (something TCM occasionally does with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and the overlooked Charley Chase). But no, that didn't happen; the closest TCM has ever come to showing the silent-era Lombard are some segments from Sennett's "Run, Girl, Run" in the 1957 Robert Youngson compilation "The Golden Age Of Comedy."

Fortunately, Film Forum isn't fumbling this opportunity. It has announced that on Sunday, Nov. 23 -- when two of Carole's films with Fred MacMurray will be shown -- it will also show Lombard's 1928 Sennett short "The Campus Vamp," with live piano accompaniment. It'll make you feel like dancing:

Was Lombard a great silent comic actress? I'd hesitate to say yes, as she was still learning her craft. However, she was part of an ensemble at Sennett, and she performed her job (beautiful eye candy) quite well, aided by her genuine high spirits.

"The Campus Vamp" was issued in the fall of 1928, near the end of Lombard's run with Sennett. It's not quite a classic, but it is charming; you'll even see a brief sequence in two-strip Technicolor.

Some of you may have seen "The Campus Vamp" on a budget DVD issue of "Nothing Sacred." But seeing Carole Lombard, here not yet 20, strut her stuff on a big screen -- even without her saying a word -- in the company of an audience is a different experience entirely.

To get the silent Lombard in your lap, go to Film Forum on Nov. 23 and see "Hands Across The Table"; its scheduled showings are at 1, 4:35 and 8:20 p.m. I'm not certain whether "The Campus Vamp" will be shown before or after the feature, one of two at the theater that day ("True Confession" is the other).

So if you're in New York that Sunday, travel to West Houston Street (and remember -- in this instance, it's pronounced HOW-ston!) in lower Manhattan and catch the silent side of Lombard. Personally, however, I would recommend using the subway over driving:

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