Perhaps no actress in film history ever wielded more power, or influence, over the industry than did Mary Pickford. She made hundreds of movies, was an incredibly shrewd businesswoman, starred in all sorts of genres and roles (far more than the bucolic "little girl with the curls" parts she's known for today) and was a consummate film artist.
So what's Carole Lombard's connection to all this, you ask? Simple. She appeared in one of Pickford's films...specifically, Mary's final silent, "My Best Girl," issued in the fall of 1927.
Surprised? You have every reason to be. None of the several books on Lombard -- "Screwball," "The Films Of Carole Lombard," "Carole Lombard: The Hoosier Tornado" -- list it in their filmographies. And that's understandable, because her part is both small and uncredited. Apparently, Carole rarely, if ever, brought it up, because this didn't become public knowledge until a few years ago, when she was listed among the cast in the Internet Movie Database's page for the film.
Here's the plot of this contemporary comedy, according to IMDb: "Joe Merrill (Buddy Rogers), son of the millionaire owner of a chain of 5 and 10 cent stores, poses as Joe Grant, and takes a job in the stockroom of one of his father's stores, to prove that he can be a success without his father's influence. There he meets stockroom girl Maggie Johnson (Mary Pickford), and they fall in love. This causes problems, because Mrs. Merrill (Evelyn Hall) had planned for her son to marry Millicent Rogers (Avonne Taylor), a high society girl."
IMDb lists Lombard's role as "flirty blonde salesgirl," and we see her early in the film, accompanying Joe Merrill outside the store. (Thanks to the Lombard fan site profaneangel.com for producing these stills.) She and Pickford apparently are in no scenes together.
This wouldn't be Lombard's final on-screen encounter with Buddy Rogers, Pickford's future husband; three years later, she appeared with him in "Safety In Numbers" at Paramount. (She didn't win his affection there, either.)
Many consider "My Best Girl," a scene from which is shown above, Pickford's best adult role, as she shows the comedic spunk that epitomized rival stars of the era such as Clara Bow or Colleen Moore. In fact, some have argued Pickford should have won the Academy Award for this film, not for her first talkie two years later, "Coquette." It is now available on DVD:
"My Best Girl" was a solid hit, and in fact was the first film to play the United Artists theater on South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, later the headquarters for evangelist Gene Scott:
One wonders whether Lombard, by then a bit into her tenure with Mack Sennett's troupe, was invited to the premiere.