Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe...one where Carole Lombard never becomes a star at all; it certainly could have happened. (And this isn't meant to denigrate Carole's considerable talent -- she herself would have been the first to acknowledge there were plenty of talented people around the film industry who, for one reason or another, never got the break they deserved.)
Perhaps Allan Dwan doesn't see a 12-year-old Jane Alice Peters playing ball with the boys in her neighborhood, and thus she doesn't get her first exposure to being in the movies rather than merely watching them. Maybe she does get into films, but the automobile accident that forced her to re-evaluate herself never happens; relying too much on beauty rather than skill or knowledge of the motion picture process, she falls by the wayside by the end of the 1920s.
One thing seems pretty certain, however: Even if she hadn't become a filmland notable, instead drifting into obscurity, she would have remained a resident of Los Angeles. And you can't say that about too many other stars of the classic era, many of whom might never have set foot in town had it not been for the movies.
Jane Alice Peters came to Los Angeles with her mother and two older brothers in late 1914, emigres from Indiana. (It is said that the family initially settled in San Francisco, but its often cool climate gave little Jane a cold, so they headed southward.) They didn't come to crash the movies, though in ensuing years, many would do just that; L.A. was booming for many reasons, not just the film industry, and plenty of people wanted to be a part of it.
All three of the Peters children -- brothers Stuart and Frederic are shown with Jane on the beach -- fell under the spell of Los Angeles, and all of them remained to work there as adults. One Lombard biographer reported that no less than Florenz Ziegfeld wanted Carole to appear in what would be his final edition of the Follies in 1931, but she wasn't interested in moving to New York. By then, of course, her film career was firmly set, but even if it hadn't, it's difficult to imagine her bidding adieu to a city she loved...and resided in, or around, for more than four-fifths of her life.
The photo above is an aerial view of downtown L.A. in 1929. The new City Hall stands out in the distance, but Union Station was a decade away from being built and Chavez Ravine housed an array of Mexican-Americans, as a baseball stadium wouldn't be there for another third of a century. And a few years before Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, city authorities finally gave the green light to additional downtown skyscrapers.
At "Carole & Co.", we've extensively written about Los Angeles -- even when the entry was only tangentially about Lombard -- because the city helped shape both herself and the industry she worked in. Understanding Los Angeles helps to understand Lombard.
The film industry would have a major role in the transformation of Los Angeles from a second-tier city in its own state to the economic colossus of the western U.S., a city whose influence extends south to Latin America and across the Pacific into Asia. However, how have the movies looked at Los Angeles, beyond being its workplace?
That's the topic of a fascinating documentary, "Los Angeles Plays Itself" -- and if you're in southern California this weekend, you'll have two chances to see it, at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Sunday at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. The film's director, Thom Andersen, will speak about the film after Sunday's showing. Learn more at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2010/09/coming-soon-los-angeles-plays-itself.html.
Like "Hollywood," the famed Kevin Brownlow series on silent film, "Los Angeles Plays Itself" will likely never have a DVD release because the rights issues are too vast, too expensive. But this film is jam-packed with all sorts of thought-provoking examples of how Hollywood (the industry, not the neighborhood) has looked back on the city it calls home.
Here's the trailer for the film when it was released theatrically a few years back:
The good news is that, like "Hollywood," you can see "Los Angeles Plays Itself" via YouTube. It's divided into 12 segments, each close to 15 minutes long, so don't plan to watch the entire film in one sitting unless you have three hours to spare. But you'll see sights from the steps Laurel and Hardy climbed in their famous short "The Music Box" to now-vanished Bunker Hill to the Pan-Pacific Auditorium (also a memory) and much, much more.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SNc41zyLJ0
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8knsMz8V5E
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNEqMVDDt0k
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx1UJdUbd3I
Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgjT9dfjbnE
Part 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HOWRH9cSkw
Part 7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjiF2TkCmzI
Part 8: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv1uz23nbhg
Part 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdSPH5Khh4g
Part 10: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcvvLzxLjIM
Part 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UMFdvgqz40
Part 12: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wszUJVlwTpg
Yes, this is the city...Los Angeles, California. Get to know it.