March 26th, 2011

carole lombard 06
  • vp19

Russian for this pic of Кароль Ломбард?

A reflective portrait of Carole Lombard, specifically p1202-1408, which would place it from 1936 or so. The picture is currently on sale at eBay, but what's unusual about this image is what's on back. You could call it a snipe, but it surely didn't come from Hollywood:

Here's a closeup image of the back:

The name is clearly "Carole Lombard" in Cyrillic ("Кароль Ломбард"); slightly more than three years ago, we ran an entry on the popularity of Lombard and other classic Hollywood stars in Russia ( The seller labels it a photo from the "Russian archives," but because the alphabet on the snipe is Cyrillic doesn't necessarily mean it's Russian (just as the alphabet from which English is spelled also can connote French, Italian, Spanish and many other languages). According to Wikipedia, the following languages employ a Cyrillic alphabet:

* Slavic languages: Bulgarian, Belarusian, Macedonian, Russian, Rusyn, Serbo-Croatian (Serbian, Montenegrin and, sometimes, Bosnian standards) and Ukrainian.
* Non-Slavic languages: Abkhaz, Bashkir, Erzya, Kazakh, Kildin Sami, Komi, Kyrgyz, Mari, Moksha, Moldovan, Mongolian, Ossetic, Romani (some dialects), Tajik, Tatar, Tuvan and Udmurt.

Oh, and while Russian is clearly the largest language that uses Cyrillic, that alphabet was actually popularized by the First Bulgarian Empire in the 10th century.

So I'm not entirely certain the snipe is in Russian; it may well be one of the other languages cited above. (According to one response, it's Serbian.)

The seller apparently believes the snipe comes from 1938 because "True Confession" (which would have arrived in Europe sometime that year, a few months behind its late 1937 U.S. debut) is mentioned. However, it's apparent several other of Carole's films were listed -- I'm guessing the one directly above "True Confession" is a differently-titled "My Man Godfrey," since the co-star's spelling looks like William Powell's; ditto for "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and Robert Montgomery. And at the top, since Kay Francis is listed alongside "Cari Granton," that's probably a reference to "In Name Only." It's possible this snipe was made sometime during 1941, but it might also have been issued posthumously.

This is an 8" x 10" sepia, and here's what the version for sale looks like:

The photo is being sold for $50, and will be available through 3:47 p.m. (Eastern) on April 4. If interested, go to

And speaking of Russia: While listening to BBC World Service tonight for the latest on Arab political upheaval and the aftermath of the Japan earthquake/tsunami, I learned that today, the BBC is ending transmission of its Russian broadcast service for budgetary reasons, just as it recently ceased service to the Caribbean and the former Yugoslavia. (The BBC will retain an online Russian presence.) The service had begun in 1946, just as the Cold War was beginning, and for several decades the old Soviet Union often jammed the signal. But many people secretly listened to BBC Russian-language broadcasts to hear Soviet dissidents and "decadent" Western culture...including a band from Merseyside called the Beatles.

Fast forward to 2003, when Paul McCartney not only performs in Russia, but in Red Square -- and one of the highlights? "Back In The USSR," of course, the Beatles' clever take on the rock 'n' roll revival of 1968. With BBC Russian-language transmissions joining BOAC -- and the USSR itself -- in the dustpan of history, here's Sir Paul, rockin' the red:

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