January 16th, 2011

carole lombard 07
  • vp19

Bittersweet photos

Above are photos of Carole Lombard. first, shown alongside her mother, Elizabeth Peters, second, with her second husband, Clark Gable. Attractive images, though the reprint quality admittedly isn't the best -- but had it not been for tragedy, these might never have come to light.

For these pictures ran in newspapers on Jan. 17, 1942, the day after the airplane carrying Lombard, her mother, and Army pilots crashed into a mountain in Nevada:

Of course, hundreds of newspapers ran the sad news; the loss of servicemen only 40 days after Pearl Harbor would have been a big story, whether or not there had been a celebrity on board. But Carole's presence -- especially returning from the first World War II bond rally -- added poignancy. The U.S. was now in wartime, and this news hit home hard.

At "Carole & Co.", I've rarely dwelt on the crash, what led to it and such, for the simple reason -- one I've frequently stated -- that this community exists not to focus on how Lombard died, but examine, and celebrate, how she lived. That was why she was both a successful actress and a beloved personality both inside and outside the entertainment industry. I previously haven't run newspaper accounts of her death, and the only reason I've included these are because these photos shows how two communities whom Carole had graced remembered her.

The first, from the Chicago Sun, founded the year before by Marshall Field III of department store fame, is of Lombard and her mother in Chicago only a few days before the crash, as Carole received her instructions for the Indianapolis bond event from Treasury Department officials. (Her mother went to her hometown of Fort Wayne, saw friends, then met up with her daughter in Indianapolis.) The Sun would merge with another Chicago paper later in the decade to form the Chicago Sun-Times, now a tabloid best known as Roger Ebert's home base.

The second photo is from the end of 1940, when Lombard and Gable went to Johns Hopkins Hospital; the public was told it was so Clark could have work done on a sore shoulder, and that may have been done, but the actual reason the Gables were there wasn't disclosed for many years -- it was to determine why the couple was unable to conceive. This was from the files of the Baltimore News-Post, a Hearst afternoon daily that lasted until it merged with Hearst's morning Baltimore American in 1964. The successor, the News-American, expired in May 1986.

It was 69 years ago today. We remember, and mourn, all those lost.

  • Current Mood
    sad sad