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carole lombard 07

Horseathon: The equine side of Carole Lombard

Posted by vp19 on 2012.05.27 at 03:01
Current mood: creativecreative

For the Horseathon teaming classic Hollywood + horses sponsored by the blog "My Love For Old Hollywood" (http://myloveofoldhollywood.blogspot.com), Carole Lombard seemed a natural fit -- not so much because she rode them in movies (she made only a handful of westerns, none after 1930), but because she loved them in real life. This entry will give insight into the lady the snipe above called "an ardent horsewoman."

Lombard owned quite a few horses during her sadly abbreviated life, but perhaps her favorite was Pico, a Palomino gelding. Here's another Carole-Pico pic, one that was autographed (by the human, obviously, not the horse):

There aren't very many movies in which Carole's character rode a horse, and none featuring still pictures. However, several Lombard films featured horsey settings. Part of the 1931 "I Take This Woman" took place on a ranch, with Carole wearing a stylish equestrian outfit while embraced by Gary Cooper:

Another 1931 Paramount movie, "Man Of The World," had a scene set at a Parisian racetrack:

A few months after making this film, Lombard married William Powell, and it turned out to be a case of life imitating art, as both enjoyed going to the track. (In the 1920s and early 1930s, Hollywood had a special reason for going -- the closest track was at Agua Caliente in Mexico, where one could purchase a drink legally. On June 27, 1933, California voters approved pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, and before year's end, Prohibition was also repealed.) Here are two shots of Bill and Carole playing the ponies south of the border, first by themselves, then alongside actor Ernest Truex and his wife:

The man who became Lombard's second husband, Clark Gable, also squired her to the track, but by then it could be done not far from Hollywood. Here are two shots of Clark and Carole at Santa Anita in Arcadia:

One trip to the track led a shrewd photograph to take a veritable gallery of Gable and Lombard's reactions (some of them are priceless), and it ran in the April 1940 Screen Guide:

Incidentally, that day Clark's wagers made him $26.80 richer, compared to Carole's losses of $10.

Where Gable and Lombard differed from Powell and Lombard is that their equine interest extended far beyond placing down bets at the $2 window. Clark briefly owned thoroughbreds, but none did much at the track. However, he and Carole owned several horses at their Encino ranch, focusing on thoroughbreds for riding and trotting:

The couple even attended horse shows, such as this one held in Northridge in June 1938:

Here are a few more horse-related images of Clark and Carole:

Might horses have held the marriage had Lombard lived? We'll never know. But the couple certainly loved those graceful, long-limbed creatures.


Page Inciardi
Page Inciardi at 2012-05-27 16:34 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for participating in the Horsathon with a nice look back at Carole's love for horses. Whenever I think of a star feeling comfortable around them, spending time away from the studio on a ranch etc, Carole and Clark always come to mind first.

These are wonderful old photos. I love the one of Carole and Clark together in a barn with their horse. The added info you've added was really interesting as well.
OH, I've added the correct link in my participant list as well.
(Anonymous) at 2012-05-27 17:24 (UTC) (Link)

Great post

I must say that Pico is every bit as lovely as his owner.

- Caftan Woman
Marsha Collock at 2012-05-27 17:47 (UTC) (Link)
Carole looked so natural with her horses - you can tell she loved them. Too bad she didn't get a chance to show more in films, but she sure looked great in real life. And boy, she looked gorgeous in that horse show photo. Great job, Vince!
(Anonymous) at 2012-05-28 12:03 (UTC) (Link)
Really loved your photo essay! Those are some great shots. Carole seems like such a wonderful combo of sophisticated lady (when circumstances called for it) and the sort of down-to-earth, easy-going type that might mow the hay in her PJs.

I never knew Carole had made any westerns...will have to keep an eye out for those. Thanks for the informative post!

vp19 at 2012-05-28 12:35 (UTC) (Link)

Lombard and westerns

In 1925, while a teenage starlet at Fox, Carole made a few quickie westerns, including one with Buck Jones. Unfortunately, all the films she made before her automobile accident in early 1926 are lost.

In 1930, while in-between contracts at studios, Lombard returned to Fox for a supporting role in "The Arizona Kid," a followup of sorts to the hugely successful "In Old Arizona" the year before, with Warner Baxter starring as the title character.

Why didn't Carole make more westerns? Well, for much of the '30s she was at Paramount, which did relatively few at the time; in fact, for most major studios at the time, westerns was mere fodder for double features or something to be left to the likes of Republic and others. It really wasn't until John Ford's "Stagecoach" at the end of the decade that westerns broke out of the oater programmer ghetto and became legitimate big-budget fare.

I've never heard westerns mentioned among any Lombard "what-ifs," but given the right role -- one where she had something legitimate to do instead of being mere eye candy or support for the hero -- she might well have appeared in a western or two had she lived. I doubt she would have been as drawn to the genre as, say, Barbara Stanwyck (the very idea of a gal from Brooklyn becoming beloved in oaters is a weird concept to grasp!), but with the right vehicle, it might have worked for Lombard.
(Anonymous) at 2012-05-28 13:38 (UTC) (Link)
What beautiful pictures that you shared with us. I bet Carole looked amazing riding her Palomino.

Ivan G Shreve Jr
Ivan G Shreve Jr at 2012-05-30 21:00 (UTC) (Link)
one that was autographed (by the human, obviously, not the horse)

Oh, come on, Vincent. Everybody knows Pico's secretary autographed all those photos.

Thanks as always for sharing the stuff from your collection...it is positively staggering at times!
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