History has not recorded any specific reaction of hers, but from all I know about Carole Lombard, if anyone had ever described her as a "diva," she likely would have been upset. "Diva" connotes high-strung selfishness. and while Carole was high-spirited, selfish she was not. Over the years, she earned a reputation for reliability on the set, winning the admiration of film crews (and standing up on their behalf against bullying directors or studio executives). If she feuded with anyone in the film industry, she largely kept it to herself.
Not so the lady on the right, an accomplished, talented actress who took part in her share of cinematic achievements. During her career, she had a number of feuds, some with good reason. And like Lombard, she had her share of disputes with studios, often over things such as billing that Carole rarely cared about. Her name: Miriam Hopkins.
Lombard and Hopkins are the subjects in my entry at the Dueling Divas Blogathon hosted by the fine blog "Backlots" (http://backlots.wordpress.com). Its angle? As the blog's creator, Lara, states:
* Those who had a rivalry in real life, either over a particular film role or over a personality clash, i.e., Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
* Those who had a rivalry on the screen, i.e., Mildred and Veda from "Mildred Pierce"
* Any dual role (see what I did there? Duel? Dual? Be proud.) played by an actor or actress in a classic film, i.e., Hayley Mills in "The Parent Trap"
Save for posing as twins a la the Gish sisters in "Orphans Of The Storm" via trick photography for a few publicity stills, Lombard never played multiple roles. She had some "rivalries" on screen, most notably as Irene to Gail Patrick's Cornelia in "My Man Godfrey," and I suppose that could have been a subject, too. But instead, I decided to go with Lombard vs. Hopkins over the years.
Carole and Miriam were Paramount stablemates for several years; in fact, they signed with the studio at nearly the same time (Lombard's code number for stills was p1202, while Hopkins was assigned p1206), and Miriam's first feature for Paramount -- "Fast And Loose" -- had Carole in a supporting role. I saw the film many years ago, and while I'm sure Lombard and Hopkins appeared on screen together, I've never run across a still of both. In lieu of that, here they are separately, first Lombard with Charles Starrett, then Hopkins with Henry Wadsworth:
From here on in, they were rivals of a sort, albeit merely in competition for roles; I've read or heard virtually nothing about their off-screen relationship.
In 1931, Lombard desperately wanted to play the princess in the Ernst Lubitsch film starring Maurice Chevalier, "The Smiling Lieutenant," but the more experienced Hopkins won out and filmgoers saw her in her underwear:
Lombard got a consolation prize -- the female lead in "Man Of The World," in which Hopkins was to have co-starred with William Powell.
In early 1932, Hopkins gained fame opposite Fredric March in "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde," and starred in another Lubitsch gem, "Trouble In Paradise," which had a script Carole liked, but knowing her status on the lot, didn't bother applying for. Later that year, Miriam was to co-star with MGM loanout Clark Gable in "No Bed Of Her Own," as trade ads proudly proclaimed:
But Hopkins never co-starred with Gable; as part of the loanout agreement, Gable had to be top-billed, and Hopkins squawked, then left the production; Lombard took the female lead at about the same time the film's title was changed to "No Man Of Her Own." This time, viewers saw Carole in underwear:
In late 1933, Lombard and Hopkins each had the opportunity to go to Columbia for a programmer called "Night Bus" (which, after some rewrites and a bigger budget, later grew into the surprise hit "It Happened One Night"), but both rejected it. Carole's reason? She got the female lead in a dance film Miriam had backed out of -- "Bolero," with George Raft:
About this time, Hopkins left Paramount to freelance and had a number of hits, including "Becky Sharp" in 1935 (the first three-strip Technicolor feature) and "These Three," a bowdlerized adaptation of "The Children's Hour," the following year. But she and Lombard would intersect one more time.
In mid-1941, Hopkins was set to star in another Lubitsch production, but her planned co-star wasn't enthusiastic about working with her and Lubitsch was having difficulty securing finances for this independent production. Lombard, who had long wanted to appear in a Lubitsch film, contacted Hopkins, who agreed to withdraw. Carole's participation in the project enabled Lubitsch to get the financing he needed. The film? "To Be Or Not To Be," co-starring Jack Benny.
It would, of course, be the final time Lombard and Hopkins' career paths crossed.