February 9th, 2020

carole lombard 07
  • vp19

The driver who changed Lombard's life

One of the most pivotal events of Carole Lombard's life is one we still know relatively little about...and we're referring to the automobile accident in the mid-twenties that may have led to the end of her brief period at Fox.

Both items are from the Los Angeles Times of October 1927 (the 13th and 15th, respectively). But we have no precise date when it happened (apparently 1926) or where it occurred (one account says Santa Monica Boulevard). The accident and its scars forced the teen actress to re-evaluate her career, and focus on much more than her inherent beauty.

However, we do know the driver that fateful night...one Harry Brand Cooper.

Nearly two years younger than Lombard (born Oct. 3, 1910), Cooper -- like so many who squired the young Carole -- was extremely well off. Cooper was great-nephew of Leslie C. Brand, among the founders of the neighboring city of Glendale. His father, John T. Cooper, was chairman of Security First National Bank in Los Angeles, and Harry was the middle of three children.

Cooper was a hard-partying sort, and although the settled suit effectively ended his relationship with Carole, he wasn't through with actresses. Far from it.

Claire Dodd, born in 1911, never became a top-tier star but had a steady career, playing Della Street in several Warners Perry Mason movies. She married Cooper in May 1941, and is shown with him later that year.

By now, Cooper was an aviation official, and we learn more about this in a Times story from Dec. 7, 1941:

Why they soft-pedaled their relationship is a mystery to me.

During the '40s, Cooper's company specialized in seaplanes as well as ground transportation needs:

But some 55 years after the Lombard accident, Harry still had problems driving. See this Times photo from 1981, eight years after Dodd's death:

Cooper, now of Beverly Hills, was extricated from his Ferrari after it tumbled down an embankment in Sherman Oaks.

The scion lived until January 1999.
  • Current Mood
    curious curious