Hedda Hopper is best remembered these days as a Hollywood columnist for the Los Angeles Times and arch-rival of the Hearst papers' Louella Parsons. Unlike Parsons, however, Hopper had actually worked in the industry she covered, spending some years as an actress before turning to journalism. Above is how Hopper appeared in 1929, the same year she had a supporting role in the Carole Lombard film "The Racketeer." In fact, here they are in that film (Hopper would also have a small part years later in Lombard's "Nothing Sacred"):
Throughout November, the Times Los Angeles history blog "The Daily Mirror" is running an assortment of Hopper columns, giving us an idea of what her stuff was like at what may well have been the apex of the studio era. Her initial column for the Times came on Nov. 1, 1938 (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2009/11/a-kinder-simpler-time-dept-your-movie-columnist.html).
The column we're going to examine, from Nov. 2, 1939, has an item on Lombard -- but its main focus is on the passing of someone Carole worked with and Hedda called a friend. We are referring to Alice Brady, who portrayed the mother of Lombard's character in "My Man Godfrey" (for which she gained an Oscar nomination in the new category of best supporting actress). She's shown below from the Photoplay issue of March 1934:
Nov. 2, 1939 would have been Alice Brady's 47th birthday, but five days earlier, she had succumbed to cancer. Her movie career spanned a quarter-century and included nearly 80 films, including her finale, "Young Mr. Lincoln." Among her other notable films waere "In Old Chicago," "The Gay Divorcee" and the original "When Ladies Meet."
Hopper had known Brady for many years, so it must have pained her to write about her passing. But she tried to put a positive tone on the news. "It's so seldom that relief, instead of grief, comes to you when a great friend passes away," she wrote. "But interwoven with sadness is joy that at last Alice Brady has found surcease from pain."
Hopper added, "For years we've known she was suffering from an incurable disease, but for her sake we carried on the illusion that she wasn't even ill. She hasn't been without pain for years." (Consequently, one guesses she was already in the early stages of cancer while "Godfrey" was being filmed.)
Brady was able to make it to Springfield, Ill. for the premiere of "Young Mr. Lincoln," and when she returned she told Hopper how indignant she was that the great black operatic singer Marian Anderson had not been allowed to stay at the same hotel she did.
Later in the column, Hopper has a tidbit about Lombard and husband Clark Gable:
"Even in their work, these two seem to co-ordinate. While Clark Gable was neck down in the Pico swamps, for 'Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep,' Carole was in a pouring rain and burning bus with flames fed by the propeller of an airplane for 'Vigil In The Night.'
"She was soaked to the skin the entire day, pulling, lifting and lugging bodies. She said, 'Funny thing last night I had a backache, and couldn't understand why, till I started doing the same thing over this morning. And then a light dawned.'"
"They told me at the studio last Saturday when they worked all night, she didn't. But at 10:30 a Brown Derby truck arrived with hot toddies, food and coffee, and two waiters to serve. They stood by all night. And Carole never misses doing that."
Yet another reason so many workers in the business vied to be assigned to a Lombard film.
(P.S. I'm guessing "Not Too Narrow, Not Too Deep" was an early working title for "Boom Town.")