This entry is part of the Loretta Young Blogathon, as today is the 103rd anniversary of Young's birth.
Other than sheer luminosity, Carole Lombard and Loretta Young really didn't have much in common. (OK, there was Clark Gable, but that's another story for another time.) They never worked at the same studio together, Lombard's strength was in comedy while Young's was in drama, although both were effective when switching genres, and I've never seen a photo of them together. (Could a camera have handled so much etherealness?)
But they did cross paths, so to speak, in late 1931, leading to one of Carole's few career missteps and Loretta's early triumphs -- not to mention her only collaboration with a fellow screen legend.
It's the fall of 1931, and Lombard, recovering from a bout of the flu that forced her to withdraw from the Samuel Goldwyn production "The Greeks Had a Word for Them," is loaned out from her home studio of Paramount to Warners to co-star in a film with James Cagney, "Taxi!" Paramount represented European chic (Lubitsch, Paris, etc.), while Warners epitomized the urban proletariat. Cagney, a New Yorker to the core, was coming off a success in "Public Enemy," but his talent wasn't completely obvious just yet.
So Lombard, on the advice of both husband William Powell -- who'd just jumped from Paramount to Warners earlier in the year -- and agent Myron Selznick, balked at the loan. Fine, Warners officials said, we'll stay in-house and go with Loretta Young as Cagney's leading lady.
Don't let this publicity still fool you; Cagney played the New York cabbie (there's even a brief bit where he speaks Yiddish, a dialect he learned on the streets of the Yorkville section of Manhattan), while Young played a restauranteur's daughter. (Loretta driving a cab in the early '30s might be an interesting story today, but that was a job few, if any, women held back then.) James and Loretta are in love -- in fact, we even see them on a date at a movie theater...showing Warners product, of course:
It's a fun, fast film, typical Warners product for the era, directed by Roy Del Ruth (husband of Winnie Lightner, an early Warners talkie star). It drew good reviews and was a box-office success, and Lombard soon realized she'd made a mistake (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/65901.html).
Perhaps word got out around the industry about her blunder, because she received an offer to do another cabbie movie...not from Paramount, but from Harry Cohn's Columbia studio. Carole didn't work with Cagney this time, but with the next best thing -- fellow New York Irishman Pat O'Brien. This film also had a one-word title: "Virtue."
Here, Lombard was a streetwalker -- among the toughest characters she ever played -- trying to reform by falling in love with and marrying O'Brien, who's unaware of her past. Things nearly fall apart before the requisite happy ending.
There is one more Lombard-Loretta link. Carole was guest editor of the April 1936 issue of Screen Book (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/672326.html), and Young sent her an autographed photo wishing her well: