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A summer playing 'Fast And Loose' in New York



"Fast And Loose" was not only an opportunity for Carole Lombard, still learning her craft at Paramount, to work alongside established actors like the great Frank Morgan, but to experience extended time in a city she had probably never before visited. We're referring to New York -- this would be the only film Carole would make at Paramount's famed Astoria studios -- in the summer of 1930.




Note that Fifth Avenue in those days had two-way traffic; some years later, it was limited to southbound travel.

Lombard hit New York in late June after spending a few days visiting her birthplace of Fort Wayne for the first time since she, her brothers and mother had left for California in 1914. She arrived at a time when the iconic Chrysler Building at East 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, which had opened in late May, was the world's tallest skyscraper, an honor it would hold for less than one year.

Its successor, the Empire State Building at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, was in the midst of construction after displacing the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (which would be reincarnated on the East Side later in the decade). Here's the Empire State gradually rising between June 23 and Sept. 8, 1930:




From reports in the industry trade Film Daily, it appears Lombard spent roughly two months in New York working on the movie, originally titled "The Best People." She arrived in town on June 24:



The July 13 issue noted that many Hollywood personnel were coming east for film projects, Lombard among them:



Apparently there may have been some delay in production, since the Aug. 3 issue indicated work had just begun:



Note that "Laughter," which also had Morgan in the cast, had just finished. Could that have been a reason for the delay? Whatever, it likely enabled Carole to spend some time with old Pathe friend Diane Ellis, who had a supporting role in the film. Perhaps they went to the beach, as they "did" in this Pathe publicity still:

carole lombard diane ellis 00d

Ellis soon married, took a global trip as a honeymoon, caught a disease in India and died that December.

Lombard apparently finished by early September, because her work is referred to in the past tense as part of a Sept. 9 blurb saying she had signed as a Paramount featured player:



We have no idea where Lombard stayed while filming (one presumes it was a Manhattan hotel), or what she did in her spare time. (Anyone want to check New York newspapers on microfilm from that summer to see if she was mentioned?) One guesses she checked out the city, even riding a real subway, unlike that tunnel for the streetcars in Los Angeles. Perhaps one of the cars she rode in looked like this:



This is at the New York Transit Museum (http://www.mta.info/mta/museum), housed in an actual subway station in downtown Brooklyn that's no longer used. If you're a mass transit buff, you will love the place.



There's a good chance that Carole -- an avid baseball fan whose schedule in Fort Wayne didn't enable her to see the Philadelphia Phillies and Fort Wayne native Chuck Klein play an exhibition game that June -- rode the subway to see her first major-league game. Subways used the two-sided sign to remind people of ballgames that day; it could be flipped, since the New York Giants and New York Yankees were never at home at the same time. (The photo below, from the late 1940s, shows the ballparks on each side of the Harlem River.)



New York's three baseball teams all were well above .500 that year, but had little to show for it. The Yankees, who had ceded American League supremacy to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1929, finished at 86-68, 16 games back of the A's in third place. (The Washington Senators, in the midst of a 10-year stretch where they won three pennants and one World Series, placed second at 94-60.)

The excitement was over in the National League, where the Brooklyn Dodgers, aiming for their first pennant in a decade, led for most of the summer before tailing off and finishing fourth at 86-68. The crosstown Giants, who were on the periphery of the race all season, placed third at 87-67, five games behind St. Louis, which won 22 of its last 26 games. (The Cardinals would fall to the A's in the World Series.)

If Carole liked offense, she must have enjoyed the 1930 baseball season. The Yanks and Cards each scored more than 1,000 runs, the last-place Phils gave up 1,199, and the NL as a whole batted .301. (Who needed a designated hitter?)



Lombard, shown in a still from the film with Henry Wadsworth, returned west and may have seen this review in Film Daily on Nov. 30:



Carole never made another film in New York, but visited the city at least one more time, in early 1935:



After marrying Clark Gable, they planned to visit New York (Clark was a regular visitor, and in fact had appeared on "Lux Radio Theater" there before it moved to the west coast in 1936), but things never quite worked out.

This week's header shows Lombard inviting viewers to (check out her unusual) bed at her Hollywood Boulevard home.
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