That's Carole Lombard taking a break from shooting her 1934 comedy "The Gay Bride"; it looks as if she's poring over the script. Looking over her right shoulder is the film's director, Jack Conway. Peering over her left, co-star Chester Morris.
This was taken on the MGM lot, and it would be the only film Lombard would make at Metro. She may be smiling, but the finished product produced the opposite reaction, as Carole would call "The Gay Bride" her worst film. (As I've stated many times before, as long as prints of "Fools For Scandal" exist -- and I'm not advocating their elimination -- "The Gay Bride" won't be the worst film in her catalog. In fact, it also rates ahead of "High Voltage," "The Racketeer" and a few of her early Paramount offerings.)
But from 1936 on. Lombard was no stranger to the MGM studio, thanks to her relationship with its top male star, Clark Gable. As Carole was one of the film community's most popular people, she was always welcome.
We bring this up because of a book called "M-G-M: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot," which we discussed here last July (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/320911.html).
Okay, the title isn't technically correct, as Metro was actually located in Culver City, several miles from the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. But for roughly a quarter-century, MGM was generally considered the gold standard of studios for its huge stable of stars and impeccable production values.
Those days are long gone. Yes, MGM is a corporate entity today, but that's about it. The lot the lion called home lo those many years on Washington Boulevard now belongs to Sony, the outgrowth of scrappy Columbia, a studio age underdog. Much of the acreage MGM used during its reign has been converted into apartments, condominiums and homes.
However, you can finally get a feel for the legendary lot because the book -- which was initially scheduled to be released last fall -- was issued this week. It includes interviews with Betty Garrett, an MGM musical star who we lost last weekend at age 91, and Richard Anderson, as well as an introduction by Debbie Reynolds, who likely spent some time working at stage 6, shown below, when it was topped with the MGM logo, not Columbia's.
The book is available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/MGM-Hollywoods-Greatest-Steven-Bingen/dp/1595800557), where all six reviewers to date gave it five stars out of five. If you'll be in southern California March 13, the three authors -- Steven Bingen, Stephen X. Sylvester and Michael Troyan -- will have a book signing at 4 p.m. at the Egyptian Theater, followed by a classic MGM twin bill of "The Band Wagon" (1953) and "That's Entertainment" (1974). For more on the book, visit http://www.mgmbacklot.info/.
To close, here's a clip of Carole from "The Gay Bride," where she has some fine comedic interaction with the always-reliable Nat Pendleton and Zasu Pitts, before her showgirl character sits around and looks pretty on stage during the singing of the insipid "Mississippi Honeymoon."