vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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Getting Close to Carole

Other than that both are actresses, you wouldn't link Glenn Close with Carole Lombard. Close was born in March 1947, more than five years after Lombard's death. But, believe it or not, there is a connection -- they both played the same person...in a matter of speaking.

In 1983, movie audiences could see a brief glimpse of Lombard and other Hollywood notables at San Simeon, as movie magic enabled them to cavort with Woody Allen as fictional "chameleon" Leonard Zelig in the clever pseudo-documentary "Zelig." Two years later, Lombard returned to multiplexes in a fantasy/comedy called "Maxie," which used footage from the 1928 Mack Sennett short "The Campus Vamp."

The premise is this: Jan (Close), a secretary for the diocese of San Francisco, and her husband Nick (Mandy Patinkin), a librarian, move into their new apartment. The batty landlady Trudie Lavin (Ruth Gordon) tells them about a friend of hers who used to live there in the '20s: a brash young party girl named Maxie Malone, who died in a car crash the morning before her big audition for a Hollywood studio. The trouble is, Maxie, or rather her ghost, hasn't left the house. It turns out that Trudie has a videocassette of Maxie from her flapper days, and when it's played on Jan and Nick's VCR, Maxie somehow magically infiltrates Jan's body -- and the only way she's going to leave is if she gets that audition.

A sequence from "The Campus Vamp" is used to represent the young Maxie in the videocassette. Here are some stills of Lombard, er, Maxie Malone, employing her charms and Charleston skills:

The comedy derives from the 180-degree difference between the staid Jan and the free spirit Maxie, and the change that can come over Close's character at home, at work...even while making love. The film was also Ruth Gordon's last; she died not long after it was made. (Gordon's husband, Garson Kanin, directed Lombard in "They Knew What They Wanted" and gave a vivid presentation of her in his memoir "Hollywood.")

"Maxie" evidently hoped to draw the same kind of audience that had made the Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin body-inhabiting comedy "All Of Me" a hit the year before. Instead, it drew middling reviews, and its business was similarly lackluster (perhaps retribution from Lombard for not being listed in the credits!). It was reportedly going to be issued on DVD earlier this year, but has been held up for some reason.

The good news for Lombard fans is that if you want to see Carole in these scenes, you don't have to wait for "Maxie." That's because "The Campus Vamp" and another Lombard short from Sennett, "Matchmaking Mamma," are included as extras in the Lumivision DVD of "Nothing Sacred," available for a few bucks.

"Vamp" lists Lombard (and her character) as "Carole," with the "e," adding yet another example of Lombard being named other than "Carol" prior to 1930, contrary to conventional wisdom about her. (Another interesting tidbit -- early in the dancing scene, you'll see a tall man dancing in the background. That's Robert Young, unbilled, in his first movie appearance. Young worked with Lombard on radio in 1940, in an adaptation of "The Awful Truth." Wonder if either brought up this earlier encounter, or even remembered it?)

After "Maxie," Close wssn't in a movie for nearly another two years, but the next film turned out to be one of her most memorable -- "Fatal Attraction." One wonders whose spirit she channeled for that one.
Tags: garson kanin, glenn close, mack sennett, matchmaking mamma, nothing sacred, robert young, ruth gordon, the campus vamp, woody allen

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