vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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Join the club? Maybe not, in Carole's case

Carole Lombard posed for this snapshot sometime in 1935, and was generally known for having a good rapport with fans. But that might not have been so in at least one category.

In immersing myself through publications and fan magazines of the era, I noted that many a star of the time had a fan club, and some had chapters that extended nationwide or even worldwide. But nowhere, nowhere, could I find any reference to a Carole Lombard fan club. (A check of the Newspaper Archive with the phrase "Carole Lombard fan club" between 1931 and 1941 provided nothing.)

Figuring Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive would know about any Lombard fan clubs during that time, I emailed her, and got this response:

Strangely enough, I have never encountered info on Carole's possible involvement with fan clubs devoted to her during her lifetime. I don't think it's for lack of interest in CL, of course, but in spite of the fact that Carole DID want to give the moviegoing public what they wanted, she didn't seem to feel the need to court favor with the fans in the way that Joan Crawford did. It's simply never surfaced within my awareness of her life's work. Perhaps they did exist, but had lousy press agents! Should've hooked up with Russell Birdwell, huh?

(Birdwell was the publicity whiz at Selznick International Pictures and a good friend of Lombard's.)

Photoplay had a regular feature in the mid-1930s called "The Fan Club Corner." Here's what ran in the July 1935 issue:

Note that in the first paragraph, it said "written permission must be secured from that star." I'm guessing that Lombard was a little reluctant to sponsor something official, although it's known she received more than her share of fan mail and gifts from the public.

This attitude may have been a reflection of the philosophy of her home studio. Here's a segment from a story by John Scott that ran in the April 5, 1936 San Antonio Express, headlined "Fan Clubs For Stars Usually Prove Racket," showing the contrasts between Warners and Paramount where fan clubs were concerned:

(Some Paramount players, such as Bing Crosby, did have fan clubs.)

In the March 5, 1937 Elyria (Ohio) Chronicle-Telegram, syndicated columnist Jimmie Fidler cited Jean Harlow's fan club as an example of one that was legit:

Of course, barely three months after that reached print, Harlow was gone, and the predicament facing her fan club was noted that Aug. 28 in the Hammond (Ind.) Times:

Did Harlow's fan clubs continue? Yes. But the following June it was reported that 24 of her clubs had been converted into clubs for...

...Marie Wilson, as reported by syndicated columnist Harrison Carroll:

Wilson, who had appeared with Lombard in "Fools For Scandal" earlier that year and was now winning raves for her work in "Boy Meets Girl," was a beautiful, funny woman, but it's certainly no knock on her to say that she's not the type you would link to Harlow. But later that summer, armed with her new fan club support, she met with New York columnist George Ross:

Wilson's enhanced fan clubs did little to vault her from character actress to star; it wouldn't be until the 1940s and her work on radio, notably "My Friend Irma," that she became a household name.

Fan clubs of all sorts got together for conventions, often in Chicago during the summer. Many were involved in charitable activities, sometimes encouraged by their sponsoring star.

Memorabilia from movie star fan clubs in the classic era are scarce, but here's one -- a photo of the Irene Dunne fan club:

If any of you have authoritative proof of a Lombard fan club formed during her lifetime, please get back to me -- I'd love to learn about it.

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