Carole Lombard's Norma Nurmi character wound up losing this sprint in the 1928 Mack Sennett short "Run, Girl, Run" due to her vanity, but Lombard -- a school track star earlier in the decade -- vowed to be a winner in '28, her first full calendar year back as an actress since the automobile accident that sidelined her early in 1926. And we can chronicle her journey through the pages of the Los Angeles Times.
Of course, it helps to know which Lombard you're looking for. "Carole Lombard" -- the name she had used as a Fox starlet and for Sennett -- somehow is non-existent in the Times in '28. But "Carol Lombard" (seen above showing off her no-longer-teenage figure aboard future director Mitchell Leisen's yacht) comes up in the paper multiple times throughout the year...beginning on New Year's Day, in fact:
Her name is buried within the huge cinema society story "These Charming Parties!" but it's there, at a party given by Sennett, himself apparently not much of a social lion. (Among the guests was his one-time boss, D.W. Griffith.) According to the Times chronicler,
"A buffet supper interrupted the dancing, and a group of us gathered about the huge fireplace, including Dorothy Devore, Richard Rowland, Al Christie, Johnny Burke, Arthur Kane, Rob Wagner, Carol Lombard, Efe Asher, Mr. and Mrs. John Waldron, Vernon Rickard, Walter Wanger, Sam Katz, and half a dozen others."
We don't know what else Lombard did that night, but she presumably had a good time.
In March, she attended a pre-wedding function for a Mary Lohman at Carmen Pantages' residence, as we learned in the March 18 paper:
The Pantages house was at 590 North Vermont Avenue, and since I regularly ride the Vermont Avenue bus, I thought I'd do a then-and-now comparison. Here's what it looked like then...
...and the site today, just north of the 101, home to graduate study for West Coast University, an institution specializing in healthcare education:
In the spring of '28, Carole took time out to work at Pathe (which had a distribution agreement with Sennett) in a supporting role for "Power." Its producer, Ralph Block (among the first New York newspaper emigres to Hollywood), discussed the state of the industry in the July 1 Times, saying the '28 equivalent of "everyone's a critic":
A blurb in the Aug. 8 issue showed Carole's ascending status in the business:
And on Sept. 2, rotogravure readers got a look at the leggy "Show Folks" Lombard:
We learned from a story in the Sept. 13 Times that the day before, Lombard and a few others on the Pathe roster tried out the studio's new talking equipment, though the lead item was that Paramount was readying its first talkie, "Interference," which would provide a major, positive boost to the career of future Lombard husband William Powell:
Carole would appear with a parrot in a gag picture about the voice-test process on Dec. 16 (perhaps a rooster, Pathe's mascot, was unavailable):
The Oct. 28 Times has a long feature on "Ned McCobb's Daughter," where it says Lombard provides "excellent support" for lead Irene Rich. We'll unfortunately have to take their word for it, since the film is lost.
That Lombard swimsuit pic seen above is part of a Nov. 18 society story, with several interesting glimpses of an increasingly assertive young woman. Carole was among the earliest guests at a party at the apartment of Mitchell Leisen, and we note she tangoed with Argentinian-American actor Barry Norton (1905-1956), a renowned ballroom dancer.
We also learn this:
"Carol Lombard had been yachting the Sunday before, along with a party on Mitch Leisen's yacht, and she said she had become dreadfully sunburned, as she loved living in her bathing suit most of the day, and hopping from the deck into the water to swim. She had also learned the surf-board, and enjoyed it tremendously once she conquered it and stopped tumbling headlong into the waves.
"She has an exquisite form, and keeps it that way by exercise and diet."
Carole Lombard, surfer girl...once again, a woman ahead of her time. In an alternate universe, we can picture her as Gidget's mom, telling her daughter there's nothing new under the sun.
What was new for Lombard? A career break, one any actress would envy. She was about to follow a similar path to one of her idols, Gloria Swanson, a Sennett alumna who graduated to stardom via Cecil B. DeMille. That's what Times readers learned on Dec. 4:
December 1928 was a very heady month in Lombard's life, and on Dec. 23, the Times reported she and Pathe stablemate Jeanette Loff would celebrate the holiday season at Big Bear Lake:
Life appeared pretty good for Carole Lombard as she entered 1929; the sky seemed the limit. But the ensuing year would have its ups and downs, the first provided by DeMille.