The early part of March 1933 was a tense time for Hollywood, as we noted last month (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/578625.html). Studios were facing bankruptcy, salaries were planning to be cut by as much as 50 percent and a bank holiday called by new president Franklin D. Roosevelt left some in the industry without ready access to cash. And Carole Lombard was facing tension of her own, making "Supernatural" (shown in a publicity still with Alan Dinehart), a horror film she felt ill-suited for.
At about 5:55 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, March 10, even more tension hit -- this time from Mother Nature. An earthquake, centered not far from Long Beach, did considerable damage to that city and also affected Los Angeles, its larger neighbor to the north.
Some 80 years after the quake, surviving Long Beach residents have distinct memories of what happened, thankful it occurred a few hours after school had let out (http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_22756365/80-years-later-children-1933-long-beach-earthquake).
How did it affect the movie industry? Nothing major, though there were some jittery moments. The June 1933 issue of Motion Picture ran a story on what film personnel were doing at the time the temblor hit. We ran several other articles from that issue last month, but saved this piece to coincide with the quake's anniversary.
This description, and another that ran in Time magazine, possibly renders apocryphal one of the greatest of Lombard anecdotes, furnished by Sidney Salkow in Danny Peary's book "Close-Ups." We know Carole wasn't happy making "Supernatural," and took out much of her frustration on director Victor Halperin. After the quake hit, Salkow wrote, Lombard walked up to Halperin, pointed at him, and said, "Victor -- that was only a warning!"
It's interesting to note a similar anecdote came out of an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel...after the temblor, the telephone rang and a voice loudly said, "This is God! That was a small sample of what will happen if the cuts go through!" Screenwriter Norman Krasna, who would later write several films for Carole, was the culprit.
According to the Motion Picture story, at the time of the quake, Clark Gable was in the Ambassador Hotel, planning to buy a pipe. But the site "Dear Mr. Gable" has a slightly different tale of Clark's experiences during the quake (http://dearmrgable.com/?p=5325), as part of a fan magazine report on the incident in its May 1933 issue. It states, "Clark Gable was in the publicity office. When the lights went out Clark made for the door. His foot went into a wastebasket and he went flying into the street, wastebasket and all."
That story also accurately notes that "Broadway stage folk who had recently arrived stood with white faces and open mouths, terrifiedly wishing themselves back in New York." This was something many of the emigres from the east had never experienced.
And note that according to writer Dorothy Donnell, "Carole Lombard doesn't believe in pants for women," but Miss Lombard begs to differ:
To close, an appropriate song -- Carole King (who was named in honor of Lombard in 1942), with my favorite record of hers, "I Feel The Earth Move," from the 1971 mega-hit album "Tapestry." (The following winter, I was at a high school basketball game where a dance troupe performed to this song...but the gym's public address system was so distorted it sounded as if it was being sung by Rod Stewart.)