vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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Open a highway, close a marriage

Did you know that Carole Lombard was a resident of three states during her lifetime? She was born in Indiana, of course, then moved to California with her mother and brothers in 1914, where she lived and/or worked for the rest of her life. So what's the third? The answer is Nevada, and that little seven-letter word on the Tammy Wynette album above explains why.

In those days, in order to get a divorce in Nevada, at least one of the parties had to have been a Nevada resident -- and one qualified for residency by staying in the state for at least six weeks. So in early July 1933, Lombard -- who had agreed to a divorce from William Powell -- left California and headed to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe where, beginning on July 6, she stayed at a house next to the Cal-Neva Lodge.

A few interesting things happened during her stay to establish a Nevada domicile. For one thing, the family she was staying with had a son, at the time barely half Carole's age, named Robert Stack. As Stack explained in his 1980 autobiography, "Carole knew my mother, and came to stay at our house at Lake Tahoe while getting her divorce from her then-husband William Powell. Of course, I instantly fell in love with this beautiful blonde movie star." They became good friends, and Stack taught her how to skeet shoot.

That's fairly well-known, But while in Nevada, Carole also took part in a public ceremony, cutting a ribbon to open a stretch of the "Rim of the Lake" highway (Nevada Highway 28).

I apologize for the poor quality of the photo; I lightened it as best I could. At left, representing Nevada, is Hatherly Bliss, 6; representing California, at right, is Barbara M. Bates, 8.

Carole had some guests during her stay -- her mother, as you might expect, and Hearst Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons:

Finally, the day came, Aug. 18, when Carole was officially a Nevada resident, so it was off to get the divorce from Powell. Many of these celebrity divorces took place in Reno, but Lombard's attorney, George B. Thatcher, suggested Carole get her divorce in the state capital of Carson City, which then had less than 2,000 residents, to minimize media scrutiny.

Well, in the words of Debbie Harry, my man, your plan backfired. It just so happened the Carson CIty courthouse that day was filled -- on a hearing to reopen some state banks that had been shut down since the previous Nov. 1, the nadir of the Depression. Lawyers, bank officials and accountants filled the courthouse, and Lombard said, “It’s like the first night of a stag party.”

When the noon recess was held for the bank hearing, District Judge Clark J. Guild held divorce proceedings, which lasted all of six minutes.

“Dressed in a smart grey traveling suit and with a blue beret partially covering her wavy blond hair, Miss Lombard answered the questions put to her by Thatcher calmly and showed no signs of agitation,” according to the Carson City Daily Appeal.

“It wasn’t Hollywood’s fault,” she said with a smile after the divorce was granted. “Just one of those things that happen.”

The owner of that "smart grey traveling suit" didn't stay in Nevada very long, despite the obligatory promise to maintain her residency. Instead, less than two hours after the verdict, she flew from Reno to Los Angeles with aviator “Colonel” Roscoe Turner. He's seen with Carole and the wife of Zeppo Marx:

Much of this is derived from an article at the Nevada State Library and Archives (http://nevadaculture.org/nsla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=812&Itemid=95).

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