vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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The letter that launched a legend

In 1912, Jane Alice Peters turned four years old and resided in Fort Wayne, Ind. That same year, Myrna Williams turned seven in Helena, Mont.

Neither could have known a lengthy letter sent that year would impact their lives...or that of a one-year-old in Kansas City named Harlean Carpenter:

That year, in that city, a man sent a long letter to his "Aunt Lizzie," requesting funds his parents refused to send him. The aunt agreed, and with it unknowingly changed film history.

The sender turned 20 that July. His name? William Powell. Two decades later, he was a film star in Hollywood, and Jane now was known as Carole Lombard...and as the wife of Mr. Powell.

The two other women mentioned above also resurfaced in southern California under new names, and would interact with Powell later that decade. Myrna Williams became Myrna Loy, and succeeded Kay Francis as Powell's primary co-star -- first as Nick and Nora Charles (characters they'd reprise five more times)...

...and as other characters, more often as not in smart romantic comedies.

As for Harlean Carpenter -- now known as Jean Harlow -- after Powell and Lombard divorced (but remained close friends), she became Bill's romantic interest and made several films with him, including the screwball classic "Libeled Lady":

Alas, fate wasn't with the couple. Less than a year after "Libeled Lady" was released, Harlow fell ill and died in June 1937 at age 26.

But getting back to that letter...here's the lowdown on it, an integral part of Powell lore:

Powell obviously treasured this handwritten letter, one that changed his life -- and we also thank his aunt for retaining it. For a lengthy letter 106 years old, it's in remarkable condition.

Even better, it's available. Bonhams auction house is putting it up for bids on Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. (Eastern). Its estimated value is $2,000 to $3,000.

Powell is my all-time favorite actor, and if I win Powerball's multi-million-dollar jackpot tomorrow night, I plan to bid. But if I don't, and you have the $$$$, go for it. Find out more at https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/24838/lot/243/?fbclid=IwAR2GLL-lShpo7rYXiTf9wnoiT6qbIkneKsp2end3Wv_zgQNGD8oyw9sZCzA#/.

Just seeing a still of him makes me think of that urbane voice of his; Roger Ebert once said Powell is to diction what Astaire is to dance. Some men may wish to be Cary Grant, and he's terrific, but personally, I'd prefer to be Powell. And I know I'm not the only one.


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