Just starting out in the movie business in 1925 but a newly-signed Fox player, teenage starlet Carole Lombard was experiencing all sorts of firsts for her -- unaware that only months hence, an automobile accident would lead to the studio canceling her contract, sending her career in a considerably different direction.
One of those firsts was getting her name for the initial time in New York's famed bible of the entertainment industry, Variety. We've discovered this through the Media History Digital Library, which has added several volumes of the publication to its online collection.
In the first few months of 1925, the 16-year-old Lombard was the female lead in the Edmund Lowe vehicle "Marriage In Transit," so you'd think that may have marked her Variety debut...but no, that's not the case, evidence that in the mid-twenties, a stage-based publication such as Variety still was hit-and-miss where motion picture coverage was concerned. Instead, it was for her next picture -- a Buck Jones western, of all things.
"Hearts And Spurs," directed by later MGM stalwart W.S. Van Dyke, was reviewed in the July 15, 1925 issue after having been screened at Loew's New York five days before:
It really didn't have much to say about her:
"The heroine, Carol Lombard, a newcomer, is attractive-looking, particularly in the fashionable eastern clothes she is permitted to wear, but for expressiveness she might just as well have been labeled 'For decorative purposes only.'"
Ouch. (And note that unlike other publications of the period, notably the Los Angeles Times, she here is referred to as "Carol.") I've never seen any later comments from Carole about "Hearts And Spurs" -- I have no idea whether she actually saw this review -- but she didn't think much of her performance in "Marriage In Transit," and I doubt her acting made any significant improvement. Alas, we'll likely never be able to cast our own judgment, since both films (indeed her entire Fox silent output) are feared lost.
The review notes the plot included a "stage-coach hold-up," meaning it likely was a period western, not a contemporary one -- which means this lobby card picture, which features an automobile, probably isn't part of the story:
And this glass slide may be as close as we can get to see Lombard in those "fashionable eastern clothes":
"Hearts And Spurs" was the only time Lombard appeared in Variety for all of 1925, and she didn't rate mention in the first two months of 1926, so the paper had no word on the aforementioned auto accident, which likely occurred early in '26 (although if it wasn't noted in Los Angeles newspapers, why would a crash involving a comparatively minor player be covered in a New York publication?). If future volumes of Variety are installed online, perhaps we can learn more about Lombard's career from an eastern point of view.