January 9th, 2012

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Carol closes out '29



A few weeks ago, we ran an entry on how Carole Lombard (who, at the time, was almost exclusively referred to as "Carol") was covered in newspapers for the first nine months of 1929, thanks to a new resource we had acquired called the Newspaper Archive. We're going to finish out '29, using both the Archive and two industry trade sources of the time -- Film Daily, which we've used in the past, and a new publication to the Media History Digital Library, the Motion Picture News. Both were largely designed for theater owners, distributors and others in the business.

The primary goal of this expedition was to discover a precise time when Lombard and fellow Pathe actress Diane Ellis were let go by the studio, likely at the insistence of Pathe's new acquisition, Constance Bennett, who reportedly didn't want any blonde competition at the old Ince studio on Washington Boulevard in Culver City. (Some years later, Lombard would return to the site when it was home for Selznick International Pictures.) No such luck, however; as was the case when Lombard was let go from Cecil B. De Mille's "Dynamite" at the start of the year, news of a negative nature was swept under the rug.



Nevertheless, there are some interesting items here, virtually all of which concern Carol's three talking features for Pathe; all three were making the rounds in the fall of '29. We'll begin with her latest release, "The Racketeer":



That still, showing Lombard at a casino, ran in the Nov. 16, 1929 Huntingdon (Pa.) Daily News. (Note actress and future syndicated columnist Hedda Hopper in back of Carol's left shoulder, with co-star Robert Armstrong in back of her right shoulder.) Here's something from the ad campaign, running in the Cumberland (Md.) Evening Times on Dec. 23, next to a brief on Armstrong as pugilist:



Film Daily wouldn't review the film until January 1930, but Motion Picture News gave its thoughts on Nov. 2:



(Note the Marion Davies film now known as "Not So Dumb" was still tagged as "Dulcy," the name of the popular stage play from which it was adapted.)

Armstrong and Lombard's earlier joint venture, "Big News," could still be found in some picture houses as the leaves turned, then fell, in the waning months of '29. On Oct. 2, an ad for the film ran on the bottom of the front page of the Lowell (Mass.) Evening Sun:



Fifteen days later in Mason City, Iowa, this curious ad ran in the Globe-Gazette:



This "Lucky Star" that "Big News" bumped certainly wasn't bereft of star power; its leads were Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, who had been audience favorites for several years. Apparently this part-talkie from Fox (directed by Frank Borzage) was one of their lesser collaborations; it's difficult to gauge the film now because the soundtrack has been lost.

Pathe ran this two-page spread in the Oct. 19, 1929 Motion Picture News, including segments of four favorable reviews:



Upstate, the Syracuse Herald wasn't quite as impressed on Oct. 13, calling it "just another newspaper picture -- no better, and no worse than the others that have marched before it":



And here's what Film Daily thought about "Big News" on July 28; it rated it "among best newspaper stories filmed since sound arrived":



As fate would have it, the review for "Lucky Star" was nearby, and judging from that review, perhaps the Mason City theater manager was right. And speaking of fate, on the opposite page of that July 28 issue was the Film Daily review of Lombard's first all-talkie, "High Voltage":



Hey, if you're going to have old hoke, use it to good advantage. But was what New York trade papers called "hoke" considered such in Oelwein, Iowa? This is the ad townspeople there saw in the Oct. 24 Daily Register:



At the same time "Big News" was playing at RKO Keith's in downtown Syracuse, "High Voltage" topped the bill further down South Salina Street at the neighborhood Riviera, which had opened that year (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/288148.html).

So three Lombard films from Pathe were crossing the country in the autumn of 1929 -- but it's possible two more could have been on the horizon. On July 23, Film Daily ran this ad from the studio promoting its 1929-30 product:



What's interesting is on the right-hand page, where Lombard is announced for two projects I've never heard her associated with -- one co-starring Armstrong, the other Bill Boyd of "High Voltage":



"Officer O'Brien" was indeed made and released in February 1930, with Dorothy Sebastian as the female lead (and directed by Tay Garnett), but "Parachute" -- which Garnett had been slated to direct -- was apparently scuttled. ("The Painted Desert" was indeed made, one of Clark Gable's early movies, and I wonder if "Saratoga," shown as a Constance Bennett vehicle but obviously never made by her, is the same property that would be Jean Harlow's ill-fated final film.)

This week's header shows Carole with Gary Cooper in the rarely-viewed (and nearly lost) 1931 Paramount film "I Take This Woman."
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