Both are on virtually everyone's list of iconic blondes, right up there with Marilyn Monroe. Like Monroe, they left us much too soon. Both were beloved in the film community, were contemporaries and became friends. But a photo of both Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow has proven tantalizingly hard to find.
It's hardly a classic image, to be sure, and it's placed in the context of a story set in a non-cinematic medium (which may be why it's been under our noses so long). Moreover, it was altered for the effect of said story. Still, it's a start. Thanks to the Media History Digital Library (and Harlow maven Darrell Rooney, who uncovered it), Carole and Jean in the same photo have finally been tracked down.
It ran in the July 1935 issue of, believe it or not, Radio Mirror. It's part of an article about a feud between two broadcasters better known for their work as newspaper columnists -- Walter Winchell, representing Broadway, and Jimmie Fidler, based in Hollywood. Here's the image as it ran over two pages of the magazine (it's an extreme horizontal pic):
As previously noted, neither Harlow nor Lombard are at their most alluring (Carole's focused on Russ Columbo -- this was taken sometime in 1934, when Fidler and Columbo hosted "Hollywood On The Air" -- and Jean's got those sunglasses on), and the editors superimposed drawings of Hatfield-McCoy mountaineers on each side of the photo, thus lessening its modern-day value. One wishes to go back to '35 to knock some sense into those editors...or even better, to arrange some other joint photos of Jean and Carole.
Because the pages don't line up, Rooney says he initially wasn't aware of what he had, at first thinking they were separate photos -- but the presence of Columbo's shoulder makes it obvious both sides are from the same picture. Here are two more versions of the shot -- first, focusing on the photo over the two-page spread, then a cropped version without the hillbillies' shotguns:
Seeing this photo brings into question other stories about the Lombard-Harlow relationship, such as, just when did it start? In a November 1935 Photoplay piece, "Hollywood's Scrambled Love," writer Dorothy Manners says they had never met until after an incident at the Clover Club:
But note Manners says Lombard was with Robert Riskin, who didn't return to her life until after Columbo's death in September 1934, before the picture was taken. So that more or less puts the lie to Manners' contention...now one wonders if Jean and Carole first had met as candidates for parts in "The Greeks Had A Word For Them" in 1931? (As it turned out, neither one would appear in the movie.)
Let's return to the Winchell-Fidler feud. (Over the years, each had public disputes with others, Winchell notably with Ben Bernie and fellow columnist Ed Sullivan, Fidler with Errol Flynn and Constance Bennett.) The Radio Mirror story provides some fascinating background not only on their relationship, but on the making of the photo above:
So what happened to the Winchell-Fidler feud? This turf battle between Broadway and Hollywood probably fizzled out, as each had other fish to fry.
Lombard had good relationships with both, serving as frequent subject matter for Fidler and twice writing guest columns while Winchell was vacationing (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/377843.html, http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/377939.html). If Carole had felt slighted by Winchell not mentioning her name on his program the night following the Fidler broadcast, that had long since been forgotten. (Lombard's grudges were few.)
As for the photo? According to the Radio Mirror story, Fidler obtained the negatives of the publicity pictures, taken following the Columbo program; what he did with them is anyone's guess. Fidler died in 1988, but had three daughters; perhaps the original photo, or others taken that evening, is in the family's possession. If so, they are sitting on a memorabilia goldmine.