Like virtually every Hollywood notable, Carole Lombard knew filmland's two syndicated columnist queens, Hedda Hopper (top, sharing the screen with her in the 1929 Pathe film "The Racketeer") and Louella Parsons (who visited Lombard at Lake Tahoe in summer 1933 while she was in the process of gaining Nevada residency in order to divorce William Powell).
Well, it just so happens that Carole made their columns on successive days in 1939, and both were tracked down for the TCM message board thread reviewing that epochal year day by day (http://forums.tcm.com/thread.jspa?threadID=157427&start=0&tstart=0). We'll start with Hopper, whose Sunday column from the Los Angeles Times tended to focus on one topic, rather than her daily potpourri:
It's interesting to see this column where Hopper interviews Dalton Trumbo, author of the controversial antiwar book "Johnny Got His Gun," knowing now how she felt about him later (though, to be fair, in February 1941, she praised his adaptation of "Kitty Foyle"). A staunch anti-communist, Hopper was enraged in 1960 when Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger hired Trumbo, one of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten, to write the screenplay for "Spartacus" and upon its release called it "one of the worst pictures I have ever seen."
Where does Lombard come into all this? We know that in October 1939, columnist Sidney Skolsky reported that Carole and Clark Gable wanted to send copies of Trumbo's book to senators (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/166692.html). Trumbo corroborated this in his interview with Hopper:
"Carole Lombard read the book and decided that she and Clark would buy enough copies to send to members of the Senate and the President with a personally autographed preface saying it was the best book ever written against war.
"Ninety-seven books were shipped to Mrs. Gable in care of the publisher's local representative -- but the books are still there because the studios felt it was unwise of Gable and Carole to put themselves on record as being against war -- that the subject was controversial and therefore out of keeping with the policy of any performer."
Why 97 books? In those days before Alaska and Hawaii gained statehood, there were 96 senators...and of course, the 97th copy would have gone to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
So we know the books were never sent; the next question is, did Lombard and/or Gable ever sign any of them before their plans to send them to Capitol Hill and the White House were scuttled? Since I've seen eBay and other auction sites for years without ever having heard of such autographed copies, I'm guessing no. (If that's the case, what did they do with them? Perhaps they were sent to friends, given to public libraries around the region and such.)
Asked by Hopper if "Johnny Got His Gun" would ever make it to the screen, Trumbo said no, though he noted William Holden sought to make a film version. As it turned out, it finally was adapted into a film in 1971, directed by Trumbo himself -- five years after Hopper had died.
The next day, Parsons' column ran in the Hearst chain and other newspapers:
Her column led off with this:
"The lull in publicity about 'Gone With The Wind' is just the calm before the ballyhoo storm breaks to launch the biggest picture of many years. Let me tell you all I've heard about the final plans: A special plane leaves Hollywood December 13 carrying Clark Gable (without Carole), Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, Olivia de Havilland, David and Irene Selznick and Myron Selznick. On a special train leaving the same day will be Ona Munsen (sic) and Laura Hope Crews. ..."
Was Parsons right? Here's the answer:
WGST and WAGA were Atlanta radio stations; WSM (best known as home base for the Grand Ole Opry) was and is a Nashville station. That's Carole, with Clark, at the "GWTW" premiere in Atlanta.
Then again, Parsons was never renowned for the accuracy of her scoops...or predictions.
This week's header shows Lombard sharing a tender moment with Fred MacMurray, and what passed for a portable radio in 1935, in a scene from "Hands Across The Table."