It still blows the mind of many film fans that Carole Lombard was a lead in an Alfred Hitchcock movie -- "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," made in the fall of 1940 and released in early 1941. Heck, it remains a title relatively few associate with the master of suspense.
But Lombard, who always appreciated good filmmaking of any genre, and Hitchcock were good friends. In fact, Hitch occupied Carole's Bel-Air house once she married Clark Gable and moved to the former Raoul Walsh ranch in Encino.
Little wonder then that Carole is among those spotlighted in a book issued in May about the director's array of leading ladies:
Its author, Scotland's Caroline Young, has penned several books on film history, including the 2012 "Classic Hollywood Style."
While Lombard certainly had one trait associated with Hitch heroines (blonde hair), her background as a comic actress -- and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" was a romantic comedy, alien turf for the director -- it was Carole's personality, anything but icy, that probably endeared her to him. Hitch certainly could be complicated, as Tippi Hedren of "The Birds" and "Marnie" fame would likely tell you, but Lombard's self-confidence -- which enabled her to turn otherwise coarse moguls such as Columbia's Harry Cohn into her champions -- probably prevented him from engaging in the mind games he liked to play with other actresses.
Young wrote this of Tallulah Bankhead, who appeared in his 1944 film "Lifeboat":
"Tallulah liked to drink, was witty, and had the mouth of a sailor -- just the kind of woman Hitchcock enjoyed spending time with."
No wonder Hitch and Carole got along so well! Here's how the chapter on Lombard begins:
I haven't yet read the book, but from extracts I've seen online, it appears intelligently made, and that Young has done her research. You can read an extract at https://clothesonfilm.com/costuming-hitchcock-an-extract-from-hitchcocks-heroines-by-caroline-young/. An interview with Young about the book is at https://hitchcockmaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/book-interview-hitchcocks-heroines/, while you can see this review at https://silverscenesblog.blogspot.com/2018/05/book-review-hitchcocks-heroines-by.html.
Yesterday I sent Young an email about the book and how Lombard figures in it; attached was https://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/373703.html, a 2011 entry on "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" I wrote for a Hitchcock blogathon. She replied of Carole's directing Hitch's customary cameo, "Hitchcock's certainly saw Carole's potential as a director [I'm not sure she did], and thought she had real talent for it." (Lombard was the film's de facto producer, and probably had more interest in that end of the industry.)
She also noted Lombard "was in control of the way she looked on screen, choosing her favorite director, Irene, for the costumes." However, Carole probably wasn't in control of the cinematography -- no matter, as Hitch photographs her lovingly, perhaps more so than in any other movie she made:
Had Lombard lived past 1942, it's extremely likely she and Hitchcock would have collaborated again, probably in some sort of thriller genre Hitch was more comfortable with.
More samples from the book:
A hardcover edition of the book, published by Simon & Schuster, is available for $20.85 from amazon.com. Visit https://www.amazon.com/Hitchcocks-Heroines-Caroline-Young/dp/1683830814 to learn more.