I would think many Lombard fans would be aware that the above photo is a publicity still for her 1936 Universal film "Love Before Breakfast"...and indeed it is, as the top half of a snipe on the back proclaims:
"Alluring Carole Lombard is the star of 'Love Before Breakfast,' Faith Baldwin's Universal story which will soon be the attraction at R.K.O. Hillstreet and Hollywood Pantages Theatres."
It's the bottom half of the snipe that catches us off guard and leaves us folks in 2009 scratching our heads and thinking, "What?"
"THE 1936 GABT DESLYS * * Bearing a striking resemblance to the late Gaby Deslys, CAROLE LOMBARD brings a fire and allure reminiscent of the famous French charmer to her role and love scenes in the Universal comedy-drama, 'Love Before Breakfast' in which she is forced to choose between Preston Foster and Cesar Romero."
So who the heck was Gaby Deslys? Thanks to the Internet, we can find out.
Deslys (her stage name is an abbreviation of "Gabrielle of the Lilies") was reportedly born in Marseille in 1881, although this wasn't confirmed until about a decade after her death. She became an actress, singer and dancer, gaining fame in London and Paris dance halls.
Deslys had many wealthy admirers; she loved pearls, and once said she owned her weight in them. She became popular in both Europe and the U.S., and stories about her verge on the incredible:
* In mid-1909, King Manuel of Portugal met her and soon gave her a pearl necklace valued at $70,000 -- and more gifts followed. A revolution occurred in Portugal in the fall of 1910, caused in part by the king's reckless spending.
* When Deslys danced at Yale University in November 1911 shortly after its football game against Princeton, students rushed the stage and removed seats from the theater in protest over the event's high price. The cost of tickets? $2.
In 1913, Deslys appeared on the Broadway stage with Al Jolson in "The Honeymoon Express." Two years later, she appeared on film in "Her Triumph," shot in Paris but released stateside through Paramount Pictures:
Deslys made five films during her lifetime; I'm not certain whether any of them have survived.
Unfortunately, like Lombard, Deslys didn't live very long, She contracted influenza in December 1919, relatively late in the 1918-19 outbreak, and suffered a severe throat infection. She refused to let doctors scar her neck, and that vanity may have proved fatal; she died in February 1920, leaving her villa and possessions to the poor of Marseille. (Her swan-shaped bed was purchased by Universal and used in the 1925 "The Phantom Of The Opera" and a quarter-century later as Norma Desmond's bed in "Sunset Boulevard.")
Oh, and that Lombard photo, the one that triggered this whole discussion? It's an oversized portrait, 10 1/2 by 13 1/2 inches, in pretty good shape. As of this writing, three bids have been placed, topped at $17.45. Bidding closes at just after 9:30 (Eastern) Saturday.
Interested? Go to http://cgi.ebay.com/CAROLE-LOMBARD-1936-Vint-OVERZISED-Portrait-GLAMOROUS_W0QQitemZ300327795924QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item45ecee7cd4&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=65%3A1%7C66%3A2%7C39%3A1%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50.