In a recent entry, I commented how unfortunate it was that Michelle Pfeiffer, arguably the one actress of the past few decades whose sheer cinematic luminosity compares to Carole Lombard's, never got the chance to portray her in a movie. I imagined a late eighties' version of "Gable And Lombard," with a script that actually did the film legends justice.
Well, apparently in 1992 Pfeiffer might have had an opportunity to play Lombard in a film -- but this project wouldn't have focused on her romance with Gable, but rather an earlier, ill-fated affair: her romance with Russ Columbo. And who would have played the doomed Italian-American heartthrob? None other than an equally hot star of the time, Tom Cruise:
Obviously, it never came off, but I don't know how seriously the project was considered, or how close it actually came to happening. Top-flight actors receive all sorts of film proposals, and only a minute percentage of them come to fruition. (And we don't know whether this was initiated by Pfeiffer's camp, Cruise's or someone else.)
Was a script written? One would think so, but it's not a certainty. If there was one, we would hope the writer had learned from the debacle of "Gable And Lombard" and came up with far more accurate portrayals of these legends.
We don't know what caused the project's downfall. Perhaps one of the stars lost interest in the project (would Cruise have tried to sing, or would he have been dubbed?), or whether they found it difficult to find either an interested studio or sufficient financial backing.
This would have been Pfeiffer's second go-round as a '30s movie star, albeit her first as an actual actress. In 1987, Pfeiffer appeared on the PBS program "Tales From The Hollywood Hills" in an adaptation of John O'Hara's story "Natica Jackson," playing the fictional actress of that name who falls in love with a chemist (Brian Kerwin) after their cars are involved in an accident; he turns out to be married, and her life is wracked with scandal. Michelle looks splendid in '30s attire. The good news is that it can be found on DVD under the title "Power, Passion And Murder."
Here's a screenshot of Pfeiffer and Kerwin from the production:
So there's a good chance Pfeiffer could have made a wonderful Lombard.
What about Cruise? These days, many find him a rather loathsome figure, given some of his actions in recent years (e.g., couch jumping). But when he stops playing "movie star" in favor of being Tom Cruise, actor, he can still be pretty effective. And in '92, he was at the peak of his commercial viability, just as Pfeiffer was at hers. He likely could have handled playing Columbo.
As things turned out, 1992 was a pretty good year for both Cruise and Pfeiffer. He made "A Few Good Men" with Jack Nicholson, while Pfeiffer made two films contrasting of note. In "Batman Returns," she made a splendid, sensual Catwoman -- as good a portrayal of the feline villainess on the big screen as Julie Newmar's was on the small screen in the sixties. The other film showed the personal, subtle side of Pfeiffer -- "Love Field," where she plays a young Texas woman profoundly affected by the Kennedy assassination. It nevertheless would have been interesting if Tom and Michelle could have also found a way to play Russ and Carole.