Nearly two months ago, we were wondering where a subway scene in the Lombard movie "Hands Across The Table" was filmed (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/?skip=60#5609) -- and we still haven't found a definite answer. We're riding the rails with Lombard once more, but rather than look to the Los Angeles of the past (specifically, the old Subway Terminal Building downtown, where the scene may have been shot), we're going to look at the L.A. of today, and a place where thousands of travelers get a glimpse of Carole every day.
We're referring to the Union Station terminus of the Red Line, the subway that serves Los Angeles from North Hollywood through to downtown, including stops at Universal City and a few on Hollywood Boulevard. The system is already acclaimed for a variety of artwork in many of the stations, and the Union Station stop is no exception. At the bottom of the escalator at the station's east entrance is a mural called "Traveler," depicting riders from different eras in L.A. history. And guess who one of those travelers is? That's right, our very own Carole.
Here's the mural, which has graced the station since its opening in 1993, in its entirety:
Terry Schoonhoven, who created the mural, said of it, "I had been interested in doing a mural about time travel since I arrived in Los Angeles -- probably because it seemed so difficult to perceive the history of the city. For me the mural is a time machine, the only kind I know how to build."
It makes sense to include a movie star in the mural, given the importance of motion pictures to Los Angeles economics, culture and myth. But why did he select Lombard? Schoonhoven died in 2001, so we can't ask him, but we can show the photo still he adapted for the mural:
Note the differences. In the mural, Carole is sitting on a suitcase, which does not exist in the photo. And in the picture, Lombard is holding a cigarette, which has been eliminated in the mural (makes sense, since smoking is prohibited throughout the Metro system). Instead, she's holding what looks to be a pocketbook.
Union Station, long a major hub of Los Angeles since its opening in 1939 (see above), has undergone a revival in recent decades. For years, it was basically only used for Amtrak, but now it also hosts Metro's Red Line subway and Gold Line light rail as well as Metrolink trains from the suburbs; they initially were only morning and evening commuter runs from outlying communities, but now many of the lines also have midday, evening and weekend service.
Union Station, the last great major metropolitan train station to be built in the U.S., has a splendid California feel to it. Near Olvera Street just north of downtown, it's worth a visit by any tourist.
The station has a special place in Lombard lore, too. On Monday, Jan. 12, 1942, Carole, her mother Bess Peters and MGM publicist Otto Winkler took a train (ironically called the City of Los Angeles) from the station to Chicago, where Carole would receive training from federal authorities before her war bond rally in Indianapolis. As they traveled through the halls of the station to reach their train -- halls that thousands use today to board long hauls and short hops -- they couldn't have known that none of them would ever see Los Angeles again.