For one thing, it was taken by the legendary George Hurrell. For another, Lombard autographed the picture for...a different photographer.
The inscription reads:
The mad man Parrish
So, just who was "the mad man Parrish"? Well. here's what Fred Parrish looked like:
He may not have been a Hurrell in the pantheon of portrait photographers, but he nonetheless had a pretty substantial career. A Wisconsin native, he studied at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where one of his subjects was a classmate named Fredric March. Parrish later served as a machine gunner during World War I. He was a newsreel cameraman for much of the 1920s, as was his wife, Darlene, and they spent three years in Africa on a photographic expedition sponsored by Harvard University.
In 1931, the Parrishes returned stateside, and Fred was hired as a still photographer by RKO, taking early publicity shots of Lucille Ball and Katharine Hepburn. He followed David O. Selznick to his newly-formed studio, and there's a good chance he took some of these stills of Lombard for "Nothing Sacred" (which will air on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. at 6:30 a.m. Eastern Sunday):
Parrish did yeoman work for Selznick's "Gone With The Wind," taking more than 950 stills of that epic, many of them behind-the-scenes shots. He later worked at Republic Pictures, and died in July 1980.
The Lombard portrait is 11" x 14", with the signature in her customary green ink. The item is in good condition and comes unframed. Two bids have already been made as of this writing, topping at $304; bidding concludes at 12:38 a.m. (Eastern) Sunday, so if you want it, make your bid quickly. To learn more, go to http://cgi.ebay.com/AUTHENTIC-SIGNED-CAROLE-LOMBARD-PORTRAIT-HURRELL-/140454284908?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20b3ba4e6c. (And please pardon the seller for referring to Hurrell's first name as "James.")
We mentioned that Parrish worked for Republic in the 1940s. That famed studio, which found a niche with westerns and action pictures, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year (as does 20th Century-Fox), and the milestone will be celebrated today at the old Republic lot, now the CBS Studio Center in Studio City. (While Lombard never worked for Republic, she spent time on the lot in the late 1920s doing two-reelers for Mack Sennett, who had opened the facility in 1927.)
The celebration -- organized by the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Studio City Neighborhood Council and the Museum of the San Fernando Valley, is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Scheduled guests include (in alphabetical order) Theodore Bikel, Adrian Booth, Michael Chapin, Ben Cooper, Robert Easton, Coleen Gray, Eilene Janssen, Anne Jeffreys, Dick Jones, Jane Kean, Joan Leslie, Marjorie Lord, Jimmy Lydon, Hugh O'Brian, Peggy Stewart and Jane Withers.
Events include screenings of Republic films, serials and trailers, live performances of swing and western music, entertainment by gun spinners, rope twirlers, trick horses, cowboy poets and a diverse collection of memorabilia. In addition, a speakers forum with prominent industry experts and Republic celebrities will discuss a range of topics from creating sci-fi special effects to tales of working at Republic Pictures. (Wonder if there will be any Vera Hruba Ralston anecdotes?)
To learn more about this event -- something any movie buff who's in southern California today should attend -- visit http://www.republicpictures75th.com/home.html.