How do we know this picture may have been released before that fateful evening of Jan. 16, 1942? We obviously can't te;; from the picture itse;f, likely taken by Robert Coburn (and a striking image it is, too, one I've never come across before). No, one senses it from the caption on the back of this linen-backed portrait:
""Carole Lombard returns to the screen after a year's absence during which she has played the role of Mrs. Clark Gable in real life, in Ernst Lubitsch's hilarious melodrama, To Be or Not to Be.""
No posthumous sense about it at all. Of course, by the time it reached its intended recipient, Lombard may have already been lost to history.
This 8" x 10" photo is currently being auctioned at eBay, specifically at http://cgi.ebay.com/Carole-Lombard-ORIGINAL-1942-publicity-portrait_W0QQitemZ270398928451QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3ef5083643&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=66%3A2%7C65%3A1%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1318%7C301%3A1%7C293%3A2%7C294%3A50.
The minimum bid is 9.99 -- no bids have been placed as of this writing -- and bidding closes at 4:28 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday.
The portrait -- and the caption -- [rpvode a glimpse of what might have been had fate not intervened.