While doing research for an earlier post on pre-Code film, I was searching for images from the 1932 movie "If I Had A Million," particularly those featuring Wynne Gibson. Unfortunately, the only pictures of Ms. Gibson I could find at the time were from tobacco cards of the early thirties, such as this one below:
Gibson, who worked with Lombard in the 1931 film "Man Of The World," was a Paramount contract player whose specialty was playing hard-boiled types. (By the forties, she had left acting to become an agent.)
In "If I Had A Million," sort of an all-star film featuring eight separate episodes from studio directors ranging from Ernst Lubitsch to Norman Z. McLeod, she portrays a streetwalker who receives a million-dollar check (the theme that ties all the episodes together) from a dying millionaire (Richard Bennett, a renowned stage actor in his day who by then was better known as the father of Constance and Joan Bennett). With her newfound wealth, she uses it to spend a comfy night's sleep in a posh hotel suite...alone. We even see Gibson's character, Violet, tossing that unnecessary second pillow away as she sits on the bed, removing her dress and stockings.
Nearly nine months after I first wrote this entry, a publicity still of Wynne from "If I Had A Million" was tracked down. Here she is, in all her silk-stockinged glory:
And for TV programmers of the fifties and sixties, therein lied the problem.
"If I Had A Million," whose segments featured the likes of W.C. Fields, George Raft and Gary Cooper, was frequently shown on television during the medium's adolescence -- usually with the racy Gibson episode, a vintage pre-Code scene, removed. But at least once, it wasn't, and I know, because I saw that scene one evening in 1964 at age nine before my mother, a bit surprised to see such things on TV, hurriedly changed the channel to protect her pre-puberty son. I noticed it (and obviously didn't forget it, probably because it was so unlike anything I'd ever seen on TV!), but at the time I frankly was more interested in W.C. Fields and his antics, which is why I was watching the movie in the first place:
That's Fields with Alison Skipworth, who would work with Carole a few years later in "The Princess Comes Across."
I've recently wondered: could Lombard have played the streetwalker in that segment? (With Gibson around, Paramount didn't need to; in order to portray a prostitute, Carole had to go to Columbia to shoot "Virtue.") But as it turns out, Lombard apparently was involved in "If I Had A Million," and footage of such work could be out there...a tantalizing find, if retrieved.
According to IMDb's trivia for the film:
"Three sequences intended for the movie were not in the final print: 'The Pheeneys' with Cary Grant and Miriam Hopkins, 'The Man Who Drops Dead' by Oliver H.P. Garrett, directed by Thornton Freeland and Clive Brook, and 'The Randall Marshalls' with Sylvia Sidney, Carole Lombard and Fredric March, and directed by Lothar Mendes. It is not known if the first two segments were filmed and dropped or simply not filmed. The last sequence was partially filmed, but dropped because March would not participate in retakes without salary."
Unfortunately, that's all we know about the segment. Was it comedy or drama? Your guess is as good as mine. (One presumes with three actors involved, it might have been some sort of love triangle.) This would have been Lombard's first acting experience with March; they later worked together in "The Eagle And The Hawk" and co-starred in "Nothing Sacred." And Lombard never made a film with Sidney, a popular star of the thirties who never quite reached the first rank. (My mother recalls seeing her on a train out of New York during the forties.)
Sidney, born Sophia Kosow in New York in 1910, may be better known to younger audiences for her work with director Tim Burton in "Beetlejuice" and "Mars Attacks!" She died in 1999.
Keep your fingers crossed for that Lombard segment to be found; it may be incomplete, but it would be a fascinating artifact.