With a huge reproduction of the banner above hanging atop the stage in the ballroom, the party at Carole Lombard headquarters continued well into the night. Finally, the guest of honor arrived.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the master of ceremonies said, "welcome the winner of the 2013 Favorite Classic Movie Actress Tourney -- Carole Lombard!"
The audience cheered as Carole stepped up to the stage. "Well," she said nervously, "I really don't know what to say..."
"But I do!" someone from the crowd interjected, climbing to the stage. "Carole, welcome to the club!"
"Ginger Rogers!" Carole said, beaming.
"For those of you who don't know, Ginger won the title last year, beating me in the '30s final."
Ginger nodded. "And oh, Irene Dunne -- who won it the year before I did -- couldn't make it here, but she told me to offer you her warmest wishes and best regards."
"That's great," Lombard said. "And Ginger, give me a call at home tomorrow. I think I'd like to play a few sets of tennis with you."
"Gladly." With that, Rogers left the stage. But someone from the staff then walked over to Lombard and told her quietly, "Bette Davis is on the line to offer her congratulations, and says you can put it over the P.A. system if you want."
Carole nodded, walked to the podium and was handed a phone. "Ladies and gentlemen, I've just been informed that Bette Davis is on the phone."
"Carole, I want to offer you my most sincere congratulations on winning the final," Davis said in her unmistakable voice. "You ran a wonderful, positive campaign and you really got your people out in force."
Lombard smiled. "We knew we'd have to run a strong campaign to defeat you, Bette. You're a magnificent actress with all sorts of fans -- heck, no one ever wrote a song about my eyes! And I'm still stunned by the margin of victory." (Carole captured the final by a surprisingly easy 65-28 margin.) "And 'positive' has been a hallmark of our campaign from day one -- we never denigrate any of our opponents."
"I don't know if I'd have the guts to do likewise against some potential rivals," Bette replied.
"No names please," Lombard hurriedly answered, drawing some laughs from the audience. "But I do wish you the best in future tourneys."
"Again, congratulations to a splendid lady beloved by everyone in the industry," Davis said. "Talk to you soon." She hung up.
Carole smiled, looking out over the audience. "All of you have done so much to help me get to the title, but I do have to put in a good word for my campaign manager. Come on up." With that, he did, and Lombard immediately hugged him, adding a passionate kiss. He immediately began to collapse.
"Watch out -- his knee is buckling!" someone yelled from the audience, and Carole quickly pulled him up before he fell to the floor.
"Are you all right?" she asked him.
"I -- I think so," he replied. "I was just overcome, I guess. I only hope Gable won't hear about this."
"Nah, he won't mind," she told him. "Anyway, look at all the witnesses you have to back up your story. But forget that for now -- I want to commend you on your campaign. I've always thought the banners you produced were among our best assets, and they paid off."
"When I began doing them, I discovered how fun they were," he said, "and this year, I came up with some of my best yet." He sighed. "And yet, while I'm thrilled that you won, part of me is depressed."
"No more worlds to conquer, like Alexander the Great. Now that you've won the title, you're retired from future tourney competition."
Carole shrugged her shoulders. "So? C'mon, you can hire out your work for other actresses you admire. I know how much you like Myrna Loy and Barbara Stanwyck..."
He nodded. "But it can never be the same."
"Listen, thanks to you, I ended up with this."
"And it's something I'll cherish forever." Lombard stood and held the trophy high.
"Now I know how my good friend Alice Marble feels," she quipped, to the crowd's laughter and applause.