Edwin Bower Hesser, one of the most famed photographers of his time, used Carole Lombard as a subject several times in the late 1920s. For Carole, roughly at the end of her teens when these photos were taken, it was a symbol that she was moving up in the world, as Hesser had done portraits for some of Broadway and Hollywood's most prominent stars during the twenties.
The Ira & Larry Goldberg auction house has sold a number of vintage Hesser photographs of Lombard in recent years, such as the one above. The estimated value of the picture was $500 to $600; it was sold for $1,035.
Here are a few other sepia-toned Lombard works from Hesser sold by Goldberg in recent years, with both the estimated value and what they actually went for:
This attractive shot, taken on a dark background to accentuate Carole's fair hair and complexion, was valued at $500 to $750, but it only sold for $299, probably because of the small missing part of the lower right-hand corner.
In contrast, this similar photo had the same estimated value, but it realized for a whopping $1,208.
Hesser gained fame for his artistic nudes (including a legendary shoot with Jean Harlow in Los Angeles' Griffith Park, not long after she had turned 18), but the photo on the left, and several similar bare-shouldered shots, are probably the closest he came to a Lombard nude. This was auctioned in tandem with the photo on the right, draping Carole in a satin gown, similar to a pic we've run before:
The duo of portraits would be a bonanza for Goldberg, selling for $1,610 where they had been valued at $700 to $900.
This portrait, emphasizing her eyes, hand and sculptured nails, also did well. It had been valued at $600 to $800, and it realized $1,380.
Another bare-shouldered shot, this was originally part of a group of three:
Despite the "bite" in the lower left-hand corner, the trio -- which had been valued at a mere $600 to $800 -- instead realized a stunning $3,105. Chalk another one up to the seductive power of Lombard (in triplicate!).
After Hesser's death in 1962, many of his papers and photographs were given to UCLA's special collections library, which has categorized its holdings. While many stars of the time are listed under "Hollywood personalities" -- Constance Bennett, Joan Blondell, Claudette Colbert, Anita Page, Loretta Young -- photographs of Lombard are among the more conspicuous absences.