This early Paramount still of Carole Lombard was taken in New York during the summer of 1930, while she was in town filming "Fast and Loose" at its Astoria, Queens studio. At about that time, a friend of hers also was filming there, like Lombard playing a key supporting role, this in the Nancy Carroll vehicle "Laughter."
Before 1930 ended, this friend would be gone. Her name: Diane Ellis.
She's at left in this Pathe oceanside picture taken with Lombard in 1929. That year, they appeared in the studio's feature, "High Voltage":
We decry the tragedy of Lombard's death at age 33, or Jean Harlow's passing at age 26. Yesterday was the 106th anniversary of Ellis' birth, and she died five days before what would have been her 21st birthday...a loss that hit Carole hard. (A later cohort of hers, Dorothy Dell, never made it out of her teens.) The premature loss of people she liked and cared about was one reason Lombard developed such a fatalistic streak.
Ellis had her own special beauty, as this still makes evident:
When thia image was posted to the Facebook site The Silent Film Group, it drew reactions such as "She looks extremely modern" and "...she looks like she could be Anita Page's sister." (Page, about half a year younger than Ellis, was a noted star at MGM at this time. In contrast to Ellis, she lived to age 98.)
Ellis had been a secretary in something called the "film research bureau" before going into acting, and appeared in several late silents, such as "Chain Lightning" (1927), "Happiness Ahead" (1928) and "The Leatherneck" (1929). Like Lombard, she apparently fell prey to Constance Bennett's alleged (though never confirmed) demand that Pathe divest itself of competing young blondes before she would sign with the studio. Both Carole and Diane wound up at Paramount at the start of 1930.
Ellis, shown being consoled by Carroll in "Laughter," won praise for her role as Nancy's stepdaughter. Soon after filming was done, Ellis married a man in Paris, and they celebrated with a global honeymoon. While in India, she caught a disease and died there on Dec. 15, 1930.
I don't know enough about Ellis' traits as an actress to ponder the specifics of a "what might have been." She didn't have Carole's comedy training, so she might have ventured into a different direction, perhaps as an all-purpose leading lady (as Paramount tried doing with Lombard) or serving as a second lead, "other woman" or the heroine's best friend (she might have competed with Una Merkel for such roles). Instead, she became a "we'll never know" a la Robert Williams, the male lead who showed such promise in "Platinum Blonde" only to die soon after its late 1931 release.