Carole Lombard's first Photoplay cover, for the June 1934 issue, illustrated by Earl Christy, has as its lone accompaniment (aside from the ubiquitous National Recovery Administration eagle) the memorable phrase "Blondes Plus Curves Mean War," leading one to believe Carole was one of the "combatants." Not so, alas.
"It's a war of sex appeal," the magazine says, "of styles of making love and tricks of personality -- a war of lovely women!" I read the article on microfilm some years ago -- this volume of Photoplay isn't available online yet -- and recall the "warriors" were all European, with Marlene Dietrich beating out Greta Garbo and Anna Sten (yes, Anna Sten).
There is something to be said for the power of blonde, something in those golden tresses that makes those actresses in them seem larger than life. And on Mondays and Wednesdays next month, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is honoring 18 ladies with those lovely light locks in something it calls the "Battle Of The Blondes."
The title conjures up one of those "battle royales" from pro wrestling (just who among them will bring a folding chair into the ring?), but thankfully it's a salute, not a competition. Each gets two films of hers shown, and yes, Lombard is among the honorees.
Carole's night is Nov. 16, and ironically one of the movies scheduled features her hair in a reddish-blond tint. But that's okay, because it happens to be the restored version of her 1937 classic "Nothing Sacred," shown in its full, glorious Technicolor:
TCM host Robert Osborne, who isn't returning to the air until Dec. 1 but is still writing for the channel while on vacation, notes that "Nothing Sacred" is "a film which until now has only been available to us in a grainy, seriously flawed print." This new print is likely the one Kino Video will be using for its new home video (DVD and Blu-ray) version of the film set for sale in December (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/450907.html).
"Nothing Sacred" will air at 8 p.m. (Eastern), followed by "To Be Or Not To Be" (where Carole is genuinely blonde), at 9:30. Two Mae West pre-Codes, "She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel," will follow.
Above are nine of the 18 blondes honored. Here's the complete lineup, beginning next Wednesday:
* Nov. 2 -- Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield
* Nov. 7 -- Veronica Lake and Lana Turner
* Nov. 9 -- Judy Holliday and Jean Harlow
* Nov. 14 -- Marlene Dietrich and Ursula Andress
* Nov. 16 -- Carole Lombard and Mae West
* Nov. 21 -- Janet Leigh and Brigitte Bardot
* Nov. 23 -- Betty Grable and Doris Day
* Nov. 28 -- Julie Christie and Diana Dors
* Nov. 30 -- Grace Kelly and Kim Novak
An interesting mix, featuring some blondes who never had sustained American success (Dors) or had relatively few starring vehicles (Andress). And because most of Grable's peak years were at Twentieth Century-Fox, TCM rarely shows her films. The two it is showing here, both TCM premieres, are "Down Argentine Way" (1940) and "Sweet Rosie O'Grady" (1943), and in both Betty shows the unpretentious likability that made her such a favorite in the forties.
As Osborne writes, "Interestingly, the tough part of planning this salute to movie blondes wasn't figuring out which ladies to feature but facing the fact that so many of the great blonde bombshells of the movies weren't really blondes at all." He cites Lana Turner as an example, a real-life brunette who didn't fully turn blonde until the early '40s. Ah, to the power of peroxide.
Here's the promo TCM is running for the "battle":
Is it true blondes have more fun, as the 1960s commercial asked? It certainly seemed that way on screen.
We'll close with a fascinating artifact which has nothing to do with blondes. TCM showed the Hollywood tale "Inside Daisy Clover" Friday morning, and while it wasn't much of a film -- it had absolutely no feel for the look of the 1930s, the period in which the movie was set -- it contained one splendid song, "You're Gonna Hear From Me." Frank Sinatra recorded what is arguably the definitive version for one of his Reprise albums, and in the movie Jackie Ward dubbed most of Natalie Wood's singing aside from four early lines, but Wood's vocals have been put on a 2 CD-set of Andre Previn's movie music and someone has been able to match most of Natalie's singing with what she did on screen (her vocals and Jackie's are each identified). This editing endeavor took a lot of work, but it was worth it. (Also note the fleeting image of Lombard as a "star" during the fictional studio's promotional film for Daisy Clover; it's there at about the 5:32 mark.)