Before entering today's special entry about Carole Lombard, some of you probably wonder where I've been the past few days. Nothing's wrong with my health, although at times I feel a bit frayed. I've moved this week to Charlottesville, Va., a lovely small city best known as home to the University of Virginia (whose original grounds were designed by its founder, Thomas Jefferson; his famed Monticello is nearby). It's a job-related move, and I also had to dig right in to work, handling some difficult assignments until everyone is transferred here. Until I'm firmly settled in and can set up everything in my new abode, "Carole & Co." largely will be on the backburner.
That said, there was no way I was going to ignore today, the 104th anniversary of Lombard's birth. She's meant so much to classic film fans, for whom she's synonymous with comedic excellence, ethereal beauty, intelligence and charm. Carole remains the standard by which all comic actresses are measured, and while many of them have posted towering triumphs of their own, they all still look up to her.
Even had fate not stepped in on the night of Jan. 16, 1942, chances are today we still would be talking of Lombard in the past tense. It's a longshot for any human being to reach the century mark (though as it turned out, more than a few people Carole knew or worked with managed the feat); reaching 104 would be infinitely more difficult.
It's hard to conjecture what Lombard might have accomplished in the 70 years since the air accident. We don't know how she would have reacted to the changes in the world, or in the industry she worked in -- although she loved filmmaking so much that even had she decided to limit her acting, she probably would have produced movies. Might Carole have attempted film noir, and would it have fit her? Could she have thrived in the less feminist strain of '40s comedy (at the time of her death, she was planning to star in a typical "boss lady" film of the era, "They All Kissed The Bride")? Might she have looked into the new medium of television, which would vault her RKO pal Lucille Ball from a second-tier film star into a legend?
Those questions will never be answered, but despite her too-soon exit from the scene, Lombard left behind a significant legacy, one that continues to resonate decades later. And from personal recollections of her contemporaries -- most of whom have left us as well -- and news reports of the time, the picture painted of Carole is that of a woman whose timelessness continues to win new fans.
Thank you, Carole Lombard.
For more on Carole, including more than three dozen photos examining her style, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/05/carole-lombard-photos_n_1936132.html#slide=1590783.