From her late teens onward, Carole Lombard carefully cultivated publicity, fully cognizant of its importance to her profession. It played a major role in building her persona, enabling her to win the affection of millions. Moreover, Lombard had an innate sense of creating precisely the right kind of publicity, something that positively reflected how people throughout the industry felt about her. She could be funny, wacky, often absurd...but such emotions were always genuinely grounded in her personality.
You see it above, where Carole, Fred MacMurray, actress Cecil Cunningham and director Mitchell Leisen flank syndicated columnist Louella Parsons while appearing on her radio program. They were with Parsons to promote their latest movie...
...and that film, and how Carole aided the publicity campaign behind it, is the theme of today's entry.
Not long ago, an eight-page feature section of the Dayton Daily News from Feb. 7, 1937 popped up on eBay, and it included this page of note:
Very nice, but you really can't make out much of what it says. Up to now, that's as far as I would be able to get.
But thanks to the Newspaper Archive, I have options. Figuring it was some sort of syndicated piece, I used the archive's search engine to check "Carole Lombard" for Feb. 7, 1937, and there it was, somewhat more than 1,000 miles from Dayton...in the Laredo (Texas) Times:
That's what the entire story looked like, laid out a bit differently than its Dayton counterpart (even with a different drawing), but it's essentially the same story, including headlines, subhead and pictures (though Dayton's have color added). Moreover, the archive enables one to enlarge the copy, so I did, and here they are (double-click to see them at full size):
There's a lot to learn about Lombard here. That $300,000 angle? Paramount was prepared to pay her $600K for four films per year, but Carole, wanting some time to herself, said she'd agree to only $300K for two. Paramount was cool to that idea; eventually they agreed to a sort of compromise -- the two pix for 300 grand, plus $150,000 for a third film of her choosing at Paramount or elsewhere. $450,000 is a lot of dough for most mortals in 2012; some 75 years ago, it dwarfed the money any athlete of that time was getting.
However, Lombard was such a force of nature that hardly anyone begrudged her colossal salary. As writer Jeannette Meehan notes: "Her love of a laugh; her spark and her fire and her undisciplined effervescence, together with that determined will of hers, are just a few of the more explosive ingredients that make her the most vital and independent personality on the screen. She gives 'spontaneous combustion' a new meaning. There's no one to compare with her in Hollywood." (Meehan even furnishes a scene where Edith Head visits the set to consult with Carole over some fashions.)
Fortunately, Meehan also quotes Lombard, who has some intriguing things to say about stardom: "I have a natural pride in achievement, but what is there in being a movie star, after all? It's such a transitory business -- certainly nothing for a person to lose his head over.
"There are a few people here in Hollywood who will never be happy because being a star has become an obsession with them. Something in their emotional makeup demands the adulation, the attention and the rah-rah that goes with being a star. I like it, but I know that I can be happy without it."
Such insight won Carole fans in Dayton, Laredo and just about anywhere this syndicated piece wound up. Then she added this glimpse of a Lombard the world would sadly never get to see:
"When I do step out of pictures, I shall never be idle. I will take up designing or interior decorating. I have a fair flair for writing and I like to travel. Oh, I'll be busy, all right, after I leave the movies."
The Dayton section has all sorts of other interesting things as well. For example, there's a story on Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, the Canadian obstetrician who brought the Dionne quintuplets into the world. There are also stories on stamp collections, women's hats (opposite the Lombard page)...
...marble mined in Dayton, an item on former king Edward VIII and a large section on dogs.
Bidding begins at $8 (no bids have been made as of this writing), with bidding closing at 10:17 p.m. (Eastern) next Thursday. For this vintage piece of Lombardiana, go to http://www.ebay.com/itm/1937-DAYTON-DAILY-NEWS-Carol-Lombard-Dr-Dafoe-Adds-Color-Photos-Great-shape-/110804340825?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19cc741059.