When we last left Carole Lombard, it was Jan. 11, 1935. She had just arrived at Pennsylvania Station in New York City after her 14-hour flight from Los Angeles turned into a three-day-and-14-hour plane/train journey (https://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/677637.html). What did she do while in town, where she ostensibly planned to spend some time before taking an ocean liner for her first trip to Europe?
Today, we'll find out, as we continue to examine Lombard in January '35 through the eyes of New York newspapers -- mostly the Daily News, but also a few other papers in the Empire State. And let's meet our guide for much of this leg of the journey...
What?, many of you are thinking. Are we also going to meet the Beatles? Alan King? Stiller and Meara?
We're of course referring to Ed Sullivan, whose "Toast Of The Town" variety show (later named "The Ed Sullivan Show") was a Sunday night TV staple from 1948 to 1971, introducing thousands of acts, from comedians to musicians. (Many rock stars gained valuable national exposure on his show, dating back to Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.) But decades before, Sullivan was a respected entertainment columnist for the Daily News. Broadway was his primary beat, but he did his share of Hollywood coverage too, as this Constance Bennett cover of the April 1935 Silver Screen makes evident:
Ed's at left in this pic with Spencer Tracy, Louis B. Mayer, Myrna Loy and Clark Gable, presumably during filming of "Test Pilot":
Now that you know Sullivan's ties to Hollywood, let's begin with Sullivan's column from Jan. 14, where we discovered Lombard did, well, something:
"Mayfaired"? What's that? And who's Will Stewart?
The Urban Dictionary described "mayfaired" as "something that is cramped in a small space." As for Will Stewart, well, I'm stumped -- other than to say I envy him.
Here's Sullivan's column from Jan. 16:
And the Lombard tidbit...
CAROL SINGER: "Miss Fields, my secretary, asks me how I'm able to be so cheerful upon being waked up in the morning. Most people hate being waked, hate getting up, and draw forth gloomy frowns at an early studio call. How then, Fieldsie wanted to know, could I sing in the morning." -- Carole Lombard in Hollywood.
This both describes Carole's energetic attitude and self-deprecatingly pokes at her singing ability. But wait a minute -- Sullivan's column on the 18th puts the whole thing into doubt, as well as providing his new perspective on Lombard:
"Carole Lombard, ringsiding with Will Stewart and A.C. Blumenthal at the Libby Holman premiere...Startled me with the crispness of her speech, the edge of her humor...'Why do I surprise you?' she asked, and when she heard that my impression always had been that she was beautiful but dumb, it tickled her sense of humor...But I take it back...She is a poised, intelligent person, and the paragraph included here the other day in 'Hollywood Who's Hooey,' apparently authored by her, wasn't written by her...'Damn those ghost-writers,' she said..."
The intelligence of attractive blonde comedic actresses is regularly underestimated. (Just ask Goldie Hawn or Anna Faris.) Also, there's that Will Stewart again, alongside A.C. Blumenthal, a Manhattan real estate developer and theatrical promoter.
Remember, Carole was planning to see Europe after leaving New York. We got a bit of her itinerary from the end of a piece in the Jan. 21 Poughkeepsie Eagle-News:
No wonder she was excited about going. But by the time that was reported, her plans had changed. Sullivan's column on the 21st included this:
"Carole Lombard flies to Miami on Thursday."
What happened? Sullivan believed he had an answer on the 22nd:
She had be back on the Coast by Feb. 4 for the film with Gary Cooper (presumably "Thirteen Hours By Air," the project mentioned yesterday). But the Brooklyn Eagle clarified things on the 24th:
So no Coop and "Thirteen Hours By Air," but Bing and "Sailor Beware!" (Carole would make neither film, nor would she ever visit Europe.) Before Lombard went south -- still with Blumenthal and Stewart as her squires, according to Sullivan -- she planned more fun in NYC, as seen in this blurb from the News on the 23rd:
Carole, a judge at Roseland Ballroom's Arabian Nights Ball? That must have been fun.
Backtracking to the 22nd, Lombard's name also appeared in the News that day in Sidney Skolsky's column -- perhaps the first time Carole and a future friend (and someone she influenced) were linked in print:
Discussing the chorus girls in "Roberta," Skolsky opens with
"For your score card, so you will know the beauty parade when it passes by you on the screen, here is the official line-up on the gals. The tall blonde who resembles Carole Lombard is Lucille Ball, Mack Gray's -- the killer -- girl friend..."
Yep, Carole and Lucy, long before the latter's red hair, Desi Arnaz and you know the rest. Gray and Lombard were good friends through George Raft. (Skolsky deemed himself an expert on feminine pulchritude; in the '50s, he described statuesque Facebook friend Julie Newmar as "a great construction job," which she was, and still is.)
Before Lombard left, she hosted Sullivan at the Waldorf-Astoria on Lexington Avenue, and Ed used it as part of his column on the 29th:
Weeks earlier, Sullivan perceived Lombard as "beautiful but dumb." Now, he was under her spell.
Carole (shown at the Biltmore Country Club in Miami) and Fieldsie spent a bit of time in south Florida, where boxing fan Lombard got to rumba with heavyweight champion Max Baer. (He had starred with Myrna Loy in "The Prizefighter And The Lady.") It ran in the Jan. 27 Rochester Democrat & Chronicle:
Then it was off to Havana, where Lombard -- quite an eligible catch -- was greeted by a mysterious man, as the News reported Jan. 27:
The next day, Sullivan disclosed his identity -- well, sort of:
He was a friend of Carole's mother, Elizabeth Peters, and had ties to the New York Central railroad.
Finally, Lombard had been in Havana for several days when the Binghamton Press ran this on the 31st. Given how often "Paramount" is mentioned in the story, I'm guessing it to be a studio news release:
Until we find some 1935 Havana newspapers (and I can have them translated into English), that's all we have for now on Lombard's trip to Cuba.