March 2nd, 2013

carole lombard 06
  • vp19

Telegraphing while in a 'Circle'

carole lombard 101738a

Barely two months after that mid-October 1938 picture of Carole Lombard, aboard a scooter, was taken on the Selznick International lot, she was preparing for her next professional project. And with Christmas on the horizon, she chose to send best wishes to someone overseeing that project:

carole lombard 122338a western union telegram

We know Lombard both sent and received Western Union telegrams (, so who was this Tony Stanford, who Carole labeled as "Tony dear," and herself as "secretary to the Circle club"? Devotees of what we now call "old time radio" should know his name, but many don't.

Stanford worked for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, at a time when agencies wielded far more clout over radio program content than the networks that carried such shows. Among the series he helped produce or direct were Rudy Vallee's show and the "Lux Radio Theater." Famed director Cecil B. De Mille was credited as the latter's director, but in truth that was merely a front; he was simply the show's host, rarely appearing at rehearsals or story conferences. Stanford was among those who actually presided over the program, helping to make it the most popular radio drama on the air and cementing Hollywood to the broadcasting industry. (Lombard appeared twice on "Lux" during 1938, although I'm not certain Stanford directed or produced either broadcast.)

In late 1938, Stanford was involved with a series that would soon appear on the air, in a prime Sunday night slot for NBC just before the Jack Benny program. Called "The Circle" and sponsored by Kellogg's Corn Flakes, it would feature an array of celebrities talking for an hour or so (though the "talk" was tightly scripted and anything but spontaneous). Lombard was among those selected for the group, along with Cary Grant, Groucho and Chico Marx, Ronald Colman and Lawrence Tibbett. The series was slated to start in January 1939:

carole lombard the circle 00a

On the surface, it seemed like a winner; instead, it became one of the biggest flops in broadcasting up to that time. Lombard left the cast after four weeks, and it didn't survive too much longer ( One hopes Stanford and Lombard remained on good terms, despite the show's failure.

The actual telegram is being auctioned at eBay. It measures 8" x 6 1/2" and is in rather brittle condition (but then again, it's nearly 75 years old). One bid, for $4.88, has already been made on it as of this writing, and bids on this close at 2:06 p.m. (Eastern) next Saturday. If you'd like to place a bid, or simply learn more, go to
  • Current Mood
    amused amused