That's part of a crowd of some 35,000 attending Easter sunrise services at the Hollywood Bowl in 1937, with music provided by the Los Angeles WPA Orchestra. Today, of course, is Easter, the holiest of days in all Christendom. If you, like me, are part of the Christian faith, no matter which denomination you belong to, celebrate this joyous day.
This is the most appropriate of days to examine a part of Carole Lombard's life that is often overlooked...religion. She occasionally posed for portraits reflecting reverence:
Those are Paramount photos P1202-36 and P1202-310, respectively. On the surface, such portrayals might appear to be at odds with Lombard's fun-loving, at times bawdy image, but that wasn't necessarily the case.
When Elizabeth Peters and her three children moved from Indiana to Los Angeles in 1914, the area was full of new approaches to religion. One of them was the Bahai, whose tenets minimized dogma (it was a faith, not a religion) and stressed the equality of men and women -- which Elizabeth, and her daughter Jane Alice (the eventual Carole), found appealing. The family had attended church in Fort Wayne, but Lombard biographer Larry Swindell writes Elizabeth was somewhat skeptical of organized religion.
Lombard, and religion, was the topic of a remarkable entry more than five years ago at the blog "Adorable Trivialities"; you can find it at http://adorabletrivialities.blogspot.com/2005/01/carole-lombard-and-art-of-living.html. The writer, a lady from Washington state named Justine, says of Lombard:
I am endlessly fascinated by Carole Lombard -- the actress to a certain extent, the woman to a great extent. To me, she is one of the few persons I've ever read of who truly got the purpose of this earthly life. As far as I know, she was not a Christian by name, but you'd have to look far and wide to find someone more Christian by nature. It is almost as though God created a person so infused with His spirit, that public testimony of faith would have been almost redundant. (I'm probably verging on heresy here, but God's grace is bigger than my heresy, and I'm trying prayerfully to express my observations.) She lived with a joy and immediacy that stuns me and humbles me.
There are many in Christianity who deem belief as the prime part of their faith; others emphasize actions. Lombard was definitely among the latter, as this excerpt from an interview given to Adela Rogers St. Johns shortly before Carole’s death makes clear:
"I don't seem to get solemn about it, and some people might not understand. That's why I never talk about it. I think it's all here -- in the mountains and the desert. I don't think God is a softie, either. In the end, it's better if people are forced back into -- well -- into being right, before they're too far gone. I think your temple is your everyday living."
Through her generosity to others and looking out for those she worked with who couldn’t defend themselves, Lombard’s everyday living exhibited a true Christian charity. She was hardly a saint, something she herself would certainly have admitted, but the way she lived her life – and the zest in which she lived it – must have pleased her Creator.