January 15, 1942 -- what would be the final full day of Carole Lombard's life -- filled her with pride, as the Indiana native returned to her home state to hold the nation's first war bond rally. But she wasn't the only Hollywood Hoosier there that day.
See that man to the right of her? That's Will H. Hays, the former postmaster general in the Harding administration who had headed west two decades before to become the first "czar" of the motion picture industry, at a time when a myriad of scandals were giving movies an uncertain future. While Hays had some power, his prime purpose in Hollywood was to assure midwesterners and other conservative folk that filmdom wasn't Sodom-by-the=sea. And that he did.
Before his death in 1954, Hays finished writing his memoirs, and Doubleday issued them the following year.
The book, long out of print, has been retrieved from obscurity by the Media History Digital Library and posted online...and it turns out Hays wrote several pages about that fateful event in Indianapolis. So, unseen by most for nearly six decades, here's what Hays recalls:
Most of Hays' descriptions are accurate and vivid...but one part doesn't ring true. I have never heard about Lombard needing retakes on "To Be Or Not To Be," as the Ernst Lubitsch film was in post-production that week and was slated to hold its first preview that weekend. And part of me is skeptical that Elizabeth Peters, who had never flown and had come east by train, would have told Hays they were flying back.
Aside from that, Hays paints a nice portrait of the emotions of that day, less than a month and a half after the attack on Pearl Harbor had jolted a nation into war...and Lombard, eager to serve her country, contributed to the cause, but sadly would not live to see victory.