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Cinematic Sundays: 'Safety In Numbers'



It's my birthday today, but Carole Lombard's helping me give you the present -- "Safety In Numbers," the latest installment in our series "Cinematic Sundays."



Today, we settle into Paramount mode, where we should be for the next eight Sundays or so. This was Carole's first film at the legendary Melrose Avenue studio...



...which would be her home base for seven years. Perhaps that was a goal of hers early in 1930, a few weeks following her dismissal from Pathe, when she signed as a supporting player in this Buddy Rogers vehicle. The two had worked before, when Carole had an uncredited bit part as a "flirty blonde shopgirl" in the 1927 Mary Pickford film "My Best Girl":



Louella Parsons broke the story in her syndicated Hollywood column, which ran in the Jan. 13 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:



Parsons notes Pathe had suddenly dropped Lombard "for no good reason," and also mentions her resemblance to Constance Bennett, who Pathe had signed earlier in 1929. Was Louella hinting at a reason for Carole's dismissal?

Sharon Lynn was initially announced for the film, but instead took work at Fox.

Parsons had more news on the project in a later column, here shown in the Feb. 4 Camden (N.J.) Courier-Post:



On the 7th, the Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner reported four young women had been hired for the film, with a fifth soon to follow:



I'm not sure of the source of this item, but note it lists Lombard as "Carole," unlike the first-name spelling she had at Pathe. Perhaps she had preferred it that way all along (that was her name while at Fox half a decade earlier) -- and would take it for good before the year was out.

The fifth actress chosen was Geneva Mitchell, although she plays a telephone operator who becomes involved with Rogers' character and isn't one of the glamour gals he squires.

By late May, the movie was in release, and neither Pittsburgh paper was particularly enthused with it in reviews on the 23rd. The caustic film columnist of the Press, Karl Krug, who panned Lombard's previous film, "The Arizona Kid," called this movie "shallow" -- though he credited Carole and Josephine Dunn with providing most of its few comedic moments:



Over at the Post-Gazette, Harold W. Cohen, who had given thumbs up to "The Arizona Kid," wasn't quite as charitable with this one, calling the story "childish":



The Press ran this photo on the 25th:



"Safety In Numbers" received plenty of press attention on the 31st, with reviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times (actually a reprint from the previous day)...



...the Brooklyn Eagle...



...and the New York Daily News:



"Carol Lombard proves an ace comedienne." One wonders whether she, or Paramount, took such a comment to heart, given some of the material the studio would saddle her with in subsequent years. (Good audience reaction, plus a glowing recommendation from director Victor Schertzinger, led Paramount to offer Lombard a long-term contract.)

Some of the ads for the film. First, the Wareham Theatre in Manhattan...Manhattan, Kansas, that is. The town is home to Kansas State University, and this ran in the Morning Chronicle on June 8:



This from the Oil City (Pa.) Derrick on June 10:



And the June 13 St. Louis Post-Dispatch ("Love...Laffs...Lingerie"!):



The Austin American-Statesman gave away tickets "to girls" by hiding phone numbers inside their classified ads, such as here on June 3:



Another classified ticket giveaway, this open to all, took place in another state capital and college town -- Madison, Wisc. -- although the Wisconsin State Journal instead ran names of the film's actresses, as it did on June 15 (spot Lombard?):



By mid-June, Lombard was on her way east to New York, where she would make her only appearance at Paramount's fabled East Coast studios. More on that next week.
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