Carole Lombard only lived in Indiana for six years, but the Fort Wayne native always proudly considered herself a Hoosier -- so much so, of course, that what turned out to be her final public appearance came at a war bond rally in Indianapolis.
While Lombard is among the top rank of stars hailing from Indiana, she has plenty of company. People from the Hoosier state have had plenty of impact on the entertainment industry, and there are several ways to learn more about them.
Check out this Web site, "Hoosiers In Hollywood" (http://www.whenmoviesweremovies.com/Hoosiers.html). It has a thorough list of Indiana native sons and daughters who made it big in films -- not just actors and actresses, but directors, producers, screenwriters, musicians and composers. There's a look at the silent era, and a section dealing with films shot in Indiana, including Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck's 1950 film "To Please A Lady," the Frank Sinatra film "Some Came Running," "Hoosiers" (of course!) and "A League Of Their Own." The site even covers non-natives who spent some time in Indiana, such as Beulah Bondi and Irene Dunne.
The site is fascinating -- for example, did you know that famed stage actor Richard Bennett, father of Constance, Joan and Barbara Bennett, was a Hoosier? And while you may have known director Howard Hawks was an Indiana native, did you know directors Sidney Pollack and Robert Wise also have that distinction? Or that Indiana was the birthplace of three screen Tarzans, including the first, Elmo Lincoln?
If you'd prefer your Hollywood Hoosier information in a less virtual form, try this book:
No less a film authority than Leonard Maltin called "Hoosiers In Hollywood" "the heaviest book I've encountered in quite a while: not ideologically, but literally." It's an oversized volume of nearly 600 pages on thick paper stock, so make sure your coffee table has very sturdy legs.
Its author, David L. Smith, is professor emeritus of communications at Ball State University (yep, David Letterman's alma mater); one of Smith's Ball State colleagues, Wes Gehring, wrote "Carole Lombard: The Hoosier Tornado" a few years back. It took Smith some 15 years to collect all the information and illustrations for this book.
Smith spent many years working on TV in Indianapolis, including hosting a long-running thematic film series, "When Movies Were Movies." (He has a Web site, http://www.whenmoviesweremovies.com/, focusing on the Golden Age of films.) Last year, the Indiana History Center did an exhibit on "Hoosiers in Hollywood," including an extensive Carole Lombard display.
The book looks to be fun reading, even if you've never spent a minute on the banks of the Wabash. It would probably be a perfect complement to some music by Indiana natives Cole Porter or Hoagy Carmichael, as you indulge in some stardust memories.