Carole Lombard gets to play director of Alfred Hitchcock's customary cameo in this famed scene from 1941's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," the only romantic comedy the master of suspense ever helmed. Now, a document from that film has been made public, and it's a notable illustration of Lombard the businesswoman -- as well as yet another indication she was an actress ahead of her time.
It's a copy of the contract Carole signed with RKO to make the movie in September 1940:
And yes, Lombard signs it in her traditional green fountain pen ink, although the nearly 75 years that have elapsed since her signing have given it a somewhat forest-green hue (and it is a carbon copy):
Reading the contract enables one to appreciate Lombard's shrewd financial sense. Note, for example, that she not only received $150,000 for making "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," but 5 percent of the subsequent gross from its distribution:
Hardly any actor in Hollywood was doing this at the start of the 1940s; Lombard could, since she had a relatively loose contract with RKO, a far cry from the seven-year deal she'd had with neighboring Paramount several years earlier. About a decade later, James Stewart gained industry plaudits for receiving a percentage of the gross in his westerns, but by then the Supreme Court had struck down the ties between studios and theater ownership and the ironclad studio system was rapidly weakening. That wasn't true in Lombard's time, and her groundbreaking role in this perhaps was blunted by her premature passing.
But Carole wasn't merely getting from the studio -- she was giving to them as well. She was de facto producer of her final few films, putting up money and assisting in coordinating the projects (first for RKO, then for United Artists in the case of "To Be Or Not To Be"). Over the years, many actors have produced their own film vehicles (including two heirs to Lombard's funny/sexy style, Goldie Hawn and Anna Faris). It's been conjectured that had Lombard lived several more decades, she would have become a producer, not only of her own films but others as well. It was one of the many things she loved about the movie business. And in that vein, she probably made many a phone call to help "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" become a reality.
That original carbon copy (the seller says this was given to Lombard for her files) is up for auction at eBay, and as you might guess, bidding on this rarity won't come cheaply. The opening price is $2,500, and the auction is set to end at 3:45 p.m. (Eastern) Friday. This is for the super-avid (or super-wealthy) Carole collector; if you qualify in either category, visit http://www.ebay.com/itm/ORIGINAL-CONTRACT-1940-MR-MRS-SMITH-SIGNED-BY-CAROLE-LOMBARD-/321826550320?hash=item4aee5b7230.
Another 1934 pose at La Casa Carole at 7953 Hollywood Boulevard for our latest Lombard LiveJournal header -- it's Paramount p1202-713, this one showing her in a black dress.