Carole Lombard's fondness for animals is well known. Whether it be cats, dogs, goats, cows or horses, she made many friends among the four-legged set. But the following may be the most unusual Lombard animal still of them all:
That's right -- it's Carole with...a bear.
Of course, many Lombard fans are aware that a bear was featured in one of her films, "We're Not Dressing," shot at Paramount in early 1934. The bruin, named Droopy, was the pet of Carole's character, spoiled heiress Doris Worthington. (Sometimes in the film, a real bear was employed; in other scenes, it's obviously a person in an ursine costume.) However, this is the first time I've ever run across a still photo of Lombard posing with the bear.
The original nitrate negative of the still is now being auctioned at eBay, specifically at http://cgi.ebay.com/CAROLE-LOMBARD-Vintage-Original-8x10-Nitrate-Negative_W0QQitemZ180356433975QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item29fe14c837&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A4%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A200. Bids start at $19.99 (none have been placed as of this writing), and bidding closes at 2:20 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday.
It's an unusual picture, to be sure. Unfortunately, there's more information about the bear's participation in the film, and this story isn't very cheerful.
Ray Milland, then a relative newcomer to films, had a supporting role in "We're Not Dressing." In his autobiography, "Wide-Eyed In Babylon," he wrote that the trainer of the bear instructed the cast and crew that any females whose time of the month it was should not report to the set that day, because the bear would be hormonally affected. Unfortunately, one female disobeyed instructions, and the trainer was severely injured and later died. (One wonders if the human in a bear costume was brought in to work with Lombard during her menstrual cycle as a precautionary measure, was used after the mauling, or both.)
From what I can gather, the incident was kept out of the newspapers; G.D. Hamann makes no mention of it in his book compiling press accounts of Lombard during the 1930s.
The seller of this photo is auctioning another Lombard nitrate negative:
Who's that person with Carole? (With heels on, she looks slightly taller than he is.) The seller has no idea of his identity, and neither do I. If you do, tell us. If you're interested in the negative, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/CAROLE-LOMBARD-Vintage-Original-8x10-Nitrate-Negative-2_W0QQitemZ180356435140QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item29fe14ccc4&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A4%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A0%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A200.
Like the other one, no bids have yet been placed and bids start at $19.95. Unlike the other one, you'll have three extra minutes to snap this up, as bidding closes at 2:23 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday.