This day of the year is invariably my most difficult "Carole & Co." entry to write -- the anniversary of the date Carole Lombard, her mother Elizabeth Peters, MGM publicist/chaperone Otto Winkler and the rest of TWA Flight 3, most of them Army pilots, died when their plane hit a Nevada mountain, returning from a successful war bond rally in Indianapolis.
This marks the fifth such writing I've had to do on the topic, and not only is it depressing -- after doing years of Lombard research, I feel as if I know her, even though I was born more than 13 1/2 years after she left us -- but it also presents a quandary: How do you approach it and keep it at least somewhat different than past Jan. 16 entries?
This year, at least, the calendar helps. Today marks the 70th anniversary of that fatal air crash, and changing the lead digit from "6" to "7" just serves to remind us of the inexorable passing of time.
Think about it. The only surviving co-star of a Lombard film is Shirley Temple, shown with Carole in 1934's "Now And Forever"; she's now in her eighties. There may be a few other former juvenile actors still with us who had bit parts in her movies, but not many. Some young adult performers of Carole's time -- people who may not have worked with her, but at least knew her firsthand -- are now in their nineties. Five years from now, many of them will be gone; by 2022, virtually all will be. When they go, the oral history regarding this famed actress will disappear with them, and we'll be left to examine newspaper and magazine clippings, wondering what is truth and what is hyperbole.
As fate would have it, tragic milestone dates occur later this year for two other beloved icons of classic Hollywood. June will mark the 75th anniversary of Jean Harlow's premature passing, just one year after her centenary was celebrated; in August, it will be 50 years since Marilyn Monroe's mysterious death. Three legends, all of whom combined lived less than a century. Depressing memorials for the classic movie fan.
Time moves us further and further from Lombard's life; chances are that, at most, only a handful of people who read this entry will have been alive while Carole walked the earth, and most of them would have been infants or toddlers at the time of her death. That, to me, adds to the value of "Carole & Co.," that through this site, we can explore Lombard's life and times, get a sense of what she was like as a person as well as a taste of the world she lived in. And it's a duty I hope to continue for years to come, just as she felt a duty to sell war bonds and aid servicemen such as those she met in Salt Lake City during a train stopover 70 years ago Friday.
This week's header at the LiveJournal site shows Carole and her mother at the Indianapolis war bond rally of Jan. 15, 1942, alongside Indiana governor Henry F. Schricker and motion picture industry executive Will B. Hays, an Indiana native.