November 3rd, 2009

carole lombard 02
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Hedda remembers a lady named Brady

Hedda Hopper is best remembered these days as a Hollywood columnist for the Los Angeles Times and arch-rival of the Hearst papers' Louella Parsons. Unlike Parsons, however, Hopper had actually worked in the industry she covered, spending some years as an actress before turning to journalism. Above is how Hopper appeared in 1929, the same year she had a supporting role in the Carole Lombard film "The Racketeer." In fact, here they are in that film (Hopper would also have a small part years later in Lombard's "Nothing Sacred"):

Throughout November, the Times Los Angeles history blog "The Daily Mirror" is running an assortment of Hopper columns, giving us an idea of what her stuff was like at what may well have been the apex of the studio era. Her initial column for the Times came on Nov. 1, 1938 (

The column we're going to examine, from Nov. 2, 1939, has an item on Lombard -- but its main focus is on the passing of someone Carole worked with and Hedda called a friend. We are referring to Alice Brady, who portrayed the mother of Lombard's character in "My Man Godfrey" (for which she gained an Oscar nomination in the new category of best supporting actress). She's shown below from the Photoplay issue of March 1934:

Nov. 2, 1939 would have been Alice Brady's 47th birthday, but five days earlier, she had succumbed to cancer. Her movie career spanned a quarter-century and included nearly 80 films, including her finale, "Young Mr. Lincoln." Among her other notable films waere "In Old Chicago," "The Gay Divorcee" and the original "When Ladies Meet."

Hopper had known Brady for many years, so it must have pained her to write about her passing. But she tried to put a positive tone on the news. "It's so seldom that relief, instead of grief, comes to you when a great friend passes away," she wrote. "But interwoven with sadness is joy that at last Alice Brady has found surcease from pain."

Hopper added, "For years we've known she was suffering from an incurable disease, but for her sake we carried on the illusion that she wasn't even ill. She hasn't been without pain for years." (Consequently, one guesses she was already in the early stages of cancer while "Godfrey" was being filmed.)

Brady was able to make it to Springfield, Ill. for the premiere of "Young Mr. Lincoln," and when she returned she told Hopper how indignant she was that the great black operatic singer Marian Anderson had not been allowed to stay at the same hotel she did.

Later in the column, Hopper has a tidbit about Lombard and husband Clark Gable:

"Even in their work, these two seem to co-ordinate. While Clark Gable was neck down in the Pico swamps, for 'Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep,' Carole was in a pouring rain and burning bus with flames fed by the propeller of an airplane for 'Vigil In The Night.'

"She was soaked to the skin the entire day, pulling, lifting and lugging bodies. She said, 'Funny thing last night I had a backache, and couldn't understand why, till I started doing the same thing over this morning. And then a light dawned.'"

"They told me at the studio last Saturday when they worked all night, she didn't. But at 10:30 a Brown Derby truck arrived with hot toddies, food and coffee, and two waiters to serve. They stood by all night. And Carole never misses doing that."

Yet another reason so many workers in the business vied to be assigned to a Lombard film.

(P.S. I'm guessing "Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep" was an early working title for "Boom Town.")
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Alfred Eisenstaedt - photojournalist of the 20th century


Alfred Eisenstaedt was a staff photographer for Life Magazine in 1938 where he frequently teamed with senior editor Noel F. Busch.  In 1938, for example, Busch interviewed Carole Lombard and Eisentaedt photographed her.  They also interviewed and photographed Bette Davis that same year.   Eisenstaedt possessed the unique talent to capture a story in a single, tell-all moment. The photographer’s job, he once wrote, “is to find and catch the storytelling moment. His pictures let people and events speak for themselves. Portrait assignments became a specialty, and in the process he accumulated many little-known secrets about his subjects. 

Eisentaedt captured the mood of part of an interview that Lombard said was "definitely off the record." 

Many people consider Alfred Eisenstaedt the defining photojournalist of the 20th century. His best known work is probably the photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on VJ Day in 1945.  A sailor, elated because the war is over, kisses a nurse amidst a New York crowd, will perhaps always be Eisenstaedt’s signature photograph. Acclaimed as one of the Ten Greatest Images of Photojournalism, it reflects “Eisie’s” keen sense of spontaneity.

Candid photography is best described as un-posed and unplanned, immediate and unobtrusive. This is in contrast to classic photography, which includes aspects such as carefully staged portrait photography, landscape photography or object photography. Candid photography catches moments of life from immersion in it.   

Over the years 92 of his photographs graced the covers of Life Magazine.  Eisenstaedt's work is amazingly luminescent. He captures a spiritual glow in his subjects and in nature. Realizing that he was using natural light, the images and detail are very well illuminated regardless, much like what you find in Ansel Adams's work. His people have an animation of body and personality that makes the viewer feel more alive as well. Whether professional actor or ordinary person, they each resonate with the viewer through intense and attractive emotion.