June 10th, 2009

carole lombard 03
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Carole, the editor (with a very special message)

For someone who was an admittedly awful speller, Carole Lombard sure managed to be active in the media business.

As many of us know, this is a photo of Lombard from July 1938, when she spent a week handling publicity for Selznick International Pictures. But did you know that about 2 1/2 years earlier, she had been working (so to speak) the other end of the line?

It's true. Want proof? Check the April 1936 issue of Screen Book magazine:

Screen Book occasionally brought in stars to serve as "guest editors." And while they probably didn't do much more than select some photos (somehow I just can't picture Lombard with one of those old thick red pencils editors used then, striking a line through sections of copy that didn't make the grade), the stars enjoyed dropping by a fan magazine to see "how the other half lives." This was probably particularly true of Lombard, who more than most of her acting contemporaries was keenly interested in the workings of the publicity process.

(Is that a pencil she's holding in her hand, or is it a cigarette?)

Carole wasn't the first star to serve as a guest editor. in fact, she got a congratulatory "welcome aboard" telegram from one of her predecessors:

There were, naturally, some Lombard-related items in the magazine, but to me, the most interesting is a "guest column." Lombard either wrote it herself or was interviewed by a staffer, who transcribed it in her name.

It's an open letter to prospective actors and actresses dreaming of stardom in Hollywood. Carole doesn't deride such ambition -- after all, she admits, she's in that business herself, so why should she? -- but she does offer helpful, realistic advice to those wishing to make screen acting their living. Rather than retype the column, I've enlarged it to the point where it should be able to be easily read. Double-click on it to do so.

All in all, Lombard did a nice job of "editing" -- but as one who's in the business myself, I'd have to say she made a wise decision to portray journalists (as in "Big News," where she played a reporter) rather than to actually be one.
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