January 17th, 2009

carole lombard 06
  • vp19

Remembering 'A Gallant Lady,' part 2

The above, from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, ran in film trade papers shortly after Carole Lombard's death. While Lombard made only one film for MGM, the middling "The Gay Bride," she was the wife of one of its biggest stars, Clark Gable, and as such had spent much time on the Metro lot. She likely would have come back there for a film or two had she lived. And of course, MGM publicist Otto Winkler was a fellow victim of the air crash.

However, MGM's sorrowful lion represented the entire motion picture industry, still numb from the sudden, unexpected loss of one of its most popular and beloved personalities.

As promised, the second half of Adela Rogers St. Johns' tribute to Carole, "A Gallant Lady," which ran in Liberty magazine in March 1942. As with the first half, it's fairly long, and much of it will be found beneath a cut after a few introductory paragraphs. It's as touching as the first half, as St. Johns -- a writer who eloquently captured the spirit of the subjects she wrote about -- does so in completing this portrait of Lombard. You will be moved.

A Gallant Lady...Carole Lombard, part 2

by Adela Rogers St. Johns

“Before I say goodbye to you all –- come on –- join me in a big cheer -– V for Victory!”

Her arm went up, the fingers on one hand making the V symbol, V for Victory -– gave the crowd a grin in answer to the rocketing cheer –- and was gone.

It turned out to be Carole's goodbye to us all, her last appearance before any camera, that newsreel shot in Indianapolis where she sold more than two million dollars' worth of Defense Bonds.

V for Victory - what glorious last words! I hope that's the way everybody will remember her.

Because of them that final conversation I had with Carole became more and more significant. But in thinking about it, I realize that it didn't begin that day on the San Fernando ranch of the Gables, it actually began upon an afternoon of a New Year's Eve several years before.

I'd flown from New York to Hollywood on a rush job and dropped into Clark Gable's dressing room to say hello; the first time I had seen him since the Carole Lombard romance began to look serious.

I was feeling like a mother hen, not an unusual state for me but a little ridiculous when the chick was Clark Gable. But the things I knew he wanted were so darn simple. Women kept serving him squab and terrapin when all the Moose wanted was corned beef and cabbage or a steak and friend potatoes. There had been one flaming love affair that backfired and a lot of people got hurt. There had been two marriages that just couldn't be right. This time he ought to get a break. His basic integrity, his loyalty, his true simplicity, an almost shy inner fineness -– he deserved the best.

Carole Lombard –- I wasn't sure.

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Thanks to Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive for transcribing this piece, heretofore largely unseen by most of us.
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