All of us have roads not taken, directions we decided not to follow. The same is certainly true for actors, and a site I've just discovered, "Crawley's Casting Calls" (http://crawleyscastingcalls.com), leads us on the roles actors -- for one reason or another -- didn't play.
Tony Crawley, who has written several film books, has compiled a list of film and TV roles not played by more than 4,000 actors...and yes, Carole Lombard is one of them. He lists 25 movies Lombard didn't take part in for one reason or another, everything from "The Gold Rush" to the movie she had planned to do at the time of her death, "They All Kissed The Bride."
And while 25 is a pretty good number considering her relatively brief life, it pales in comparison to some other actors. According to Crawley, Marlon Brando was part of 128 projects he ultimately never made, followed by 110 for Jack Nicholson and 102 for Cary Grant. Tops among actresses is Bette Davis, with 57; Elizabeth Taylor, 53; and Julie Christie, 52.
The Lombard list contains several projects you normally don't associate with her, such as:
* "A Bill Of Divorcement" (1932). While Katharine Hepburn's screen test for her film debut supposedly didn't thrill either producer David O. Selznick or director George Cukor (ironic, since Hepburn would wind up making 10 films with him), Carole's test was apparently even worse.
* "Peter Ibbetson" (1935). Had Sidney Franklin directed this film, Lombard would have played Gary Cooper's lover...but Henry Hathaway went behind the camera instead and selected Ann Harding for the part.
* "Exclusive" (1937). Carole would have played a newspaper reporter, with Fred MacMurray a scribe for a rival daily. She turned it down (whether she was dissatisfied with the script or didn't want to team up once more with MacMurray is uncertain), and Frances Farmer got the part.
* "You And Me" (1938). This film, written by Norman Krasna, was to have co-starred Carole and George Raft -- and he was to have directed as well, which neither Raft nor Lombard wanted. The film was ultimately directed by Fritz Lang at the behest of Sylvia Sidney, who at the time was the mistress of Paramount mogul B.P. Schulberg.
* "Bringing Up Baby" (1938). Reportedly Howard Hawks wanted Carole, whom he'd worked with in "Twentieth Century," to play flighty heiress Susan Vance, but things couldn't be worked out so he settled for Hepburn instead. (Imagine an alternate movie universe where Lombard is in "Bringing Up Baby" and Kate has Carole's part in "In Name Only," made in 1939.)
Some of these stories may be hearsay, and there are a few errors that undermine the reader's confidence (Crawley writes that Lombard's fatal plane crash took off from Texas, and that she was 34 at the time of her death). One story in particular lends itself to controversy; it deals with the film "The Greeks Had A Word For Them" (1932).
That's Madge Evans, Joan Blondell and Ina Claire as the three gold-diggers in this Samuel Goldwyn adaptation of the Broadway comedy "The Greeks Had A Word For It" (the title was altered because the original was on the Hays Office list of banned titles). According to Crawley, Carole was initially envisioned in the part Blondell wound up with:
"Producer Samuel Goldwyn gave the role to Ina Claire, but shopped around for a dizzier blonde. Warned off Jean Harlow, he borrowed Paramount's Profane Angel -- too sick to continue after two weeks. Enter: Blondell. 'Nobody believed she was sick,' says Claire, sick, herself, at being relegated to a smaller role. 'I think she knew it was a lousy movie and just wanted out.' Other rumours insisted Carole was away aborting a baby by William Powell, Harlow's final lover."
A "lousy movie"? While hardly a classic, "The Greeks Had A Word For Them" is generally considered a decent pre-Code comedy. (When the film was aired on TV, its title was further bowdlerized into "The Three Broadway Girls.") But what's especially intriguing from a Lombard perspective are the intimations that she had an abortion...something no biographer of her has alleged.
It's known that several years later, Powell impregnated Harlow, who had an abortion; of course, they were not married. (It's also been claimed that Harlow's mother forced Jean to abort, and that Powell was unaware of the pregnancy.) And at about that time, Lombard declined marrying screenwriter Robert Riskin because she wanted children and he didn't.
"The Greeks Had A Word For Them" was released in February 1932, less than eight months after Powell and Lombard had married. This leads to all sorts of conjecture, especially since it's known that studios in that era often used the cover of "illness" to allow -- or coerce -- their actresses to have abortions.
That Lombard and Powell remained close following their 1933 divorce leads one to believe that either an abortion never happened or she may have become pregnant prior to their marriage. (It also might have explained her inability to become pregnant during her marriage to Clark Gable; a poorly-performed abortion left Jane Russell unable to have children, to her lifelong regret.)
The list of Lombard films she didn't appear in can be found at http://crawleyscastingcalls.com/index.php?option=com_actors&Itemid=56&id=1840&lettre=L. (A similar list for Miriam Hopkins has 14 movies, four of which Carole ultimately starred in.) Take the comments with a grain of salt, but conjecture is always fascinating.