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carole lombard 07

Not a princess, but a queen

Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.27 at 01:50
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

That's Carole Lombard, playing a princess (or, should we say, playing a character passing herself off as one) in the 1936 Paramount comedy "The Princess Comes Across." Two years earlier, one of Hollywood's most notable moguls labeled her a queen -- in print.

And what's most interesting about this is that it came from a man who would never work professionally with Lombard.

He's Darryl F. Zanuck, shown in 1940 when he was head of one of the industry's top studios, Twentieth Century-Fox. But six years earlier, there was no "Fox" in that title, as Zanuck ran Twentieth Century Pictures, the upstart studio he had co-founded the year before after leaving Warners. (The merger with ailing Fox would come the following year.)

In January 1934, Zanuck wrote a newspaper article on "The Nine Queens Of Hollywood," and yes, Lombard was one of them:

This is from the Winnipeg Free Press of Jan. 13, 1934. One would think this was a syndicated piece, that Zanuck wasn't writing expressly for a daily in central Canada, but so far I can't find this in another newspaper.

You can see Carole in shorts, showing off her legs, at right, with Joan Crawford's disembodied head at her feet, both dwarfed by Jean Harlow at left.

It's interesting that Zanuck chose Lombard, who at the time was possibly better known for her legs than for her acting. "Twentieth Century" (the film, not the studio!) was a few months away, and may have just started production when this came to print.

So we know three of the other nine; who were the other six? (Hint: Myrna Loy, who would be named "queen of Hollywood" in a 1936 fan poll, was not one of them.)

Three of the queens aren't all that surprising for the time -- Constance Bennett, Norma Shearer and Loretta Young (the last of whom would work for Zanuck for many years at Twentieth Century-Fox):

But the other three might surprise you with their "royal" lineage, even though one of them had won an Academy Award.

That's Helen Hayes, who would trade in her Hollywood "queendom" for the comforts of being Broadway royalty. Zanuck's other two queens, far more obscure today, never quite became big stars -- Anna Sten, who Samuel Goldwyn vainly tried to make into another Greta Garbo, and Constance Cummings, a friend of Carole's best known today for being Harold Lloyd's leading lady in 1932's underrated "Movie Crazy":

I'd love to tell you more about this column, about what Zanuck had to say about Carole, the two Constances and others. Unfortunately, I can't enlarge this page to the point where the print would be legible. However, you can purchase this page through eBay for $17.50 through its "buy it now" option, or you can make an offer. (If unsold, the offer will end March 28.) Interested? Go to http://cgi.ebay.com/100236CQ-HOLLYWOOD-JEAN-HARLOW-CAROLE-LOMBARD-JAN-1934-/390292755434?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5adf42d3ea. (And if you do get it, forward me what it says.)

In honor of Zanuck, we'll close with him speaking and introducing a tour of the Twentieth Century-Fox studios (much of which is now gone, replaced by the Century City development), part of a film the company made for industry people attending a convention. It's listed as being from 1935, but references to "Cafe Metropole" and "On The Avenue" indicate it's actually from 1937. You'll even see Shirley Temple (speaking of royalty!) at the end.


cinemafan2 at 2011-02-28 00:17 (UTC) (Link)

Constance Cummings

I suspect Carole was familiar with Miss Cummings. Here is one of her best musical numbers from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biuEmB120nw&fmt=18
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