Carole Lombard had all sorts of God-given gifts that led her to stardom -- beauty, intelligence, sex appeal and comedic sense to name but a few. But one talent she possessed that often gets overlooked was her voice.
It helped Carole secure a career during perhaps the most volatile period in Hollywood history, when many an actor couldn't make the grade as the industry hurriedly made the transition from silent to sound film. Lombard had already "passed the audition" at Pathe when she posed with the parrot above in a gag photo that ran in the Dec. 16, 1928 Los Angeles Times.
A syndicated column in the July 25, 1930 St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times shows how well she adjusted to the new talkie style.
You may recognize the byline; Robert E. Sherwood was a member of the legendary Algonquin Round Table (as was Dorothy Parker, whom we discussed in an entry last week). He was a playwright who won multiple Pulitzer Prizes -- his works included "The Petrified Forest," "Idiot's Delight" and "Abe Lincoln In Illinois," all later adapted into movies -- but in the 1920s, he was among the earliest notable film critics, and his columns were syndicated.
This piece dealt with why actors from Great Britain found success in Hollywood, but the same largely wasn't true for actresses, with the possible exception of Dorothy Mackaill (above) -- and with her Follies background, she tended to play modern American roles on-screen, with little if any trace of a British accent.
An English film official suggested UK actresses study several of their American counterparts for inspiration, citing Ann Harding, Constance Bennett, Helen Twelvetrees, Dorothy Burgess...and Lombard.
What did this studio magnate say of Carole? This, according to Sherwood:
"Carol Lombard is also a vamp [like Burgess], but of a different kind. Here you have suppressed virtue as a keynote of her style. Study Carol Lombard's part in 'Love's Conquest' carefully, particularly towards the end where the suppressed virtue impulse is finally released with a wealth of finesse and subtlety."
This passage probably puzzled many American readers, even the then-relatively few avid Lombard fans. "When did she make a film called 'Love's Conquest'?" The previous year -- that was the UK title for "The Racketeer":
Well-intentioned advice, Sherwood said, but how does one translate that into cinematic training? Nevertheless, it shows how Lombard had adjusted to the techniques of sound acting. (Pun intentional.)