March 4th, 2009

carole lombard 03
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Thanks for everything, Julie

Carole Lombard may have left us two-thirds of a century ago, but her work and personality, both on- and off-screen, continues to resonate. She's influenced all sorts of people, including many in the entertainment industry who have looked to her. For example, take these comments:

"I would love to come back in life as a new version of her, but take no stormy airplane rides. No one had her naturalness, buoyant spontaneity, beauty. What a dream she was. There is nothing like her today, is there? No wonder Gable loved her. I have many books on the glorious Carole Lombard."

Who wrote this? None other than...

julie newmar 070a

...the wonderful Julie Newmar, best known as TV's original Catwoman (and taking nothing away from the other ladies who have worn the catsuit in one form or another, still the definitive character). But beyond that she's had a splendid career, winning a Tony in "The Marriage-Go-Round" (a role she reprised on the screen), dancing in the MGM classic "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers," and guesting on many a TV show (who can forget her playing a devilish temptress on a "Twilight Zone" episode?).

One senses that many actresses from Newmar's heyday of the 1950s and '60s, watching the "late late show" or visiting revival houses, envied Carole and her '30s contemporaries for what they were able to accomplish, for the roles they played, for the way Hollywood designed vehicles expressly around their personalities. By the fifties, the studio system was waning, and that wasn't good for women. The female audience was largely left for television, and producers became more concerned with actresses' assets of the physical kind (which the statuesque, leggy Newmar certainly possessed) than with other qualities. At times, it must have been aggravating to be viewed solely in terms of sex appeal or "superstructure" (a word you'll find in many entertainment columns of the fifties, as well as measurements). The film industry isn't quite as blatantly sexist these days, but opportunities for actresses still haven't rebounded to the heights of the thirties.

I interviewed Julie at a memorabilia show in New Jersey in 1997; she was charming, bright and funny. She was lovely then, and still is now -- but there's more to her than just beauty. She now has a Web site, http://www.julienewmarwrites.com, where she periodically comments on a variety of topics, invariably with thoughtfulness and grace. I encourage you to check it out.

So thank you, Julie, for what you said about "the glorious Carole Lombard"...and rest assured, we think you're pretty glorious, too.
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