April 12th, 2009

carole lombard
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Her (new) name in the paper

In the field of Hollywood historical prospecting, nobody mines more gold than G.D. Hamann. Over the years, he's collected countless bits of information about the classic era of movies and the people involved in it.

Hamann goes through all sorts of newspapers, large and small, most of which bit the dust long ago and perhaps were preserved on microfilm. (Some never got that far, and at times the articles he collects might be incomplete clippings, which he'll note with dismay.) Is there a bit of hokum present at times? Sure, but that was true for much entertainment reporting of the time.

Recently in his blog, http://gdhamann.blogspot.com, he ran some items on Carole Lombard. In a way. that's nothing new, because he's printed his share of Lombard-related items. Most of those, however, were from the 1930s and early '40s. This new batch covers the 1920s, up to about 1930 -- and material on Lombard from this part of her career isn't all that easy to find.

In fact, the following item could well be the first time the name "Carol(e) Lombard" appeared in a newspaper. It's from the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 4, 1925:

Society Girl Into Silent Drama
"Another lovely society girl has succumbed to the lure of the movies. She is Jane Peters, daughter of Mrs. Elizabeth Peters, society leader, living at North Wilton Place. Incidentally, Miss Peters has taken the name of Carole Lombard.

"One of those things that never happens outside of story books has happened then to Carole Lombard, a beautiful little miss of 16 years of age. About two months ago Carole, without any preliminary appointment, went to the Fox West Coast Studios and applied for work in the pictures. Her beauty and dramatic possibilities won for her an interview with Sol M. Wurtzel, general supervisor of the Fox Studios, who had a test made. She was called upon to exhibit every type of emotion from light comedy to the darkest tragedy. The next chapter in this fairy tale relates that Carole is now signed on a five-year contract with the Fox organization and is playing her first role as leading woman in support of Edmund Lowe, whose current starring vehicle is The Best Man, directed by R. William Neill.

"Carole four years ago made a picture with Monte Blue as the star, but that terminated her picture career until the present, because her mother insisted that she finish her schooling before launching into her chosen Profession."

Lombard was all of 16 years old when this was printed, and had not yet reached the halfway point of her brief life. One can imagine her excitement over such publicity. Assuming the spelling of her first name is accurate here, it adds yet more confusion to the "Carol vs. Carole" controversy. We also learn that her mother, Elizabeth Peters, was as involved in Los Angeles society as she had been in Fort Wayne -- and that Lombard resided on North Wilton Place for several years (it was her address in the 1930 census).

Little more than a month later, on March 8, Lombard was mentioned in a piece by the Times' Edwin Schallert (at the time, his son, William, was all of two):

"Instead of abating, the interest of picture producers in newcomers appears to be waxing stronger from day to day, and the question is being raised everywhere as to what it is all going to come to.

"Girls who have the least suspicion of talent are not only being given small supporting leads in the pictures, but in several instances they have been put right into leading roles. It isn't confined either just to those who were so fortunate as to appear in 'Peter Pan,' like Betty Bronson or Mary Brian, who are already assigned to leading parts in other features. There are also Sally O'Neill, who has the outstanding role in Marshall Neilan's new picture called Mike; Greta Nissen, who is to be featured by Famous Players-Lasky in the story In the Name of Love, and Lucille LeSeuer, who is to do important parts in several forthcoming MGM features. Constance Bennett, Dorothy Sebastian, Georgia Hale, Jane Winton, Carole Lombard and Jane Mercer, comprise others who have been elevated from virtual obscurity to featured prominence. Only a few like Miss Nissen and Miss Bennett have had any professional experience either on the stage or screen."

"Lucille LeSueur" (whose name Schallert misspelled) would go on to far greater fame after being renamed Joan Crawford.

And not too long after Schallert's item, Lombard indeed was appearing in theaters as the feminine lead, opposite Edmund Lowe, in the now-presumed lost "Marriage In Transit":

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carole lombard 01
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70 years ago today, the second time around

We've previously noted that some of Carole Lombard's movies were re-released during her lifetime (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/95185.html). Here's another one I just discovered, thanks to the great Los Angeles Times blog, "The Daily Mirror." In fact, this particular revival occurred 70 years ago today. Here's the ad that ran on the Times movie page of April 12, 1939:

It was an appropriate time to run a "war" film, since things were tensing over in Europe due to Germany's recent territorial expansion. (On the front, the Times was more concerned that day with the divorce of Joan Crawford from Franchot Tone.)

In addition to the ad, the paper ran a large portrait of Lombard as well as a review. The writer noted that some of Carole's scenes had been snipped from the revival, but didn't disclose the reason why:

"As I remember the original, there was more torrid romance between Miss Lombard and March when he meets her on leave. But there's only two scenes now, and not even the briefest of embraces."

Damn, oops, darn Production Code (curse you, Joe Breen)!

I wonder what Lombard thought of seeing some of her Paramount product reissued, but I suspect she was spending more time exploring the joys of wedded life with Clark Gable, in addition to making plans for their new ranch out in Encino.

We'll leave you with a photo from the film showing Carole with Fredric March, a few years before they reunited for "Nothing Sacred":

The "Mirror" entry can be found at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2009/04/hollywood-star-couple-heading-for-divorce-april-12-1939.html
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