Tags: mary pickford

carole lombard 06
  • vp19

Buy Clara, get Clark (and Carole*) free!

* asterisk to be explained

If you're a fan of the sixties, you no doubt recognize the above scene. It's from the 1967 classic "The Graduate," where Mr. McGuire (Walter Brooke) has one simple word of advice to recent college graduate Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman): "Plastics."

So what's this have to do with Carole Lombard? It's admittedly an indirect reference. Recently, we noted that a 1999 Kino International DVD release of Clara Bow's 1925 film "The Plastic Age" has, as a bonus, "Run, Girl, Run," the 1928 short subject Carole made for Mack Sennett. Here's a still from the film of Bow, on the verge of becoming big box-office (the "It girl" moniker was still two years in the future):

"The Plastic Age" really has nothing to do with plastics in the Mr. McGuire sense; it's one of the many campus-set films made during the mid-twenties, when everyone wanted to wear a raccoon coat and go "collegiate." As such, it's nothing special -- one contemporary review called it "mildly entertaining." In fact, the main character of the movie isn't Bow, but the relatively lackluster Donald Keith. (Gilbert Roland, making his big-screen debut, portrays Keith's main adversary.) It's also been known that one of the extras in "The Plastic Age" is none other than a young Clark Gable, at left below:

Gable's uncredited presence in "The Plastic Age" has been known for some time. But if some reports are right, another uncredited cast member was...the teenage Carol Lombard! (Now do you get the asterisk?)

Lombard is listed as an uncredited cast member by the Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0016226/fullcredits#cast); so is Janet Gaynor, for that matter. No Lombard biographer has heretofore mentioned her presence in the film, and no stills or screen captures showing her in it have circulated.

Sure, this would be a surprise -- but remember, it wasn't learned until relatively recently that Lombard had a small part in the Mary Pickford comedy "My Best Girl" (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/33953.html). So there is precedent. This would also have historical importance as possibly the earliest available appearance of Lombard on film; it's not certain whether any footage made prior to her 1926 automobile accident survives.

If these reports are indeed true, could Gable and Lombard have appeared in the same scene? Unlikely; since both were extras, they may never have been involved in the production on the same day. Even if they were, chances are they didn't notice each other. "The Plastic Age" was released in mid-December 1925, so Lombard was either 16 or 17 during filming. One wonders, once Clark and Carole were romantically entwined and subsequently married, if they ever were aware they had made such a "joint" appearance.

Whatever, it's tantalizing to consider that "No Man Of Her Own" may not have been the only film Clark Gable and Carole Lombard made together. Of course, you have to add a huge asterisk to that.
carole lombard 05
  • vp19

Lombard and Pickford, together. Well, sort of.

Perhaps no actress in film history ever wielded more power, or influence, over the industry than did Mary Pickford. She made hundreds of movies, was an incredibly shrewd businesswoman, starred in all sorts of genres and roles (far more than the bucolic "little girl with the curls" parts she's known for today) and was a consummate film artist.

So what's Carole Lombard's connection to all this, you ask? Simple. She appeared in one of Pickford's films...specifically, Mary's final silent, "My Best Girl," issued in the fall of 1927.

Surprised? You have every reason to be. None of the several books on Lombard -- "Screwball," "The Films Of Carole Lombard," "Carole Lombard: The Hoosier Tornado" -- list it in their filmographies. And that's understandable, because her part is both small and uncredited. Apparently, Carole rarely, if ever, brought it up, because this didn't become public knowledge until a few years ago, when she was listed among the cast in the Internet Movie Database's page for the film.

Here's the plot of this contemporary comedy, according to IMDb: "Joe Merrill (Buddy Rogers), son of the millionaire owner of a chain of 5 and 10 cent stores, poses as Joe Grant, and takes a job in the stockroom of one of his father's stores, to prove that he can be a success without his father's influence. There he meets stockroom girl Maggie Johnson (Mary Pickford), and they fall in love. This causes problems, because Mrs. Merrill (Evelyn Hall) had planned for her son to marry Millicent Rogers (Avonne Taylor), a high society girl."

IMDb lists Lombard's role as "flirty blonde salesgirl," and we see her early in the film, accompanying Joe Merrill outside the store. (Thanks to the Lombard fan site profaneangel.com for producing these stills.) She and Pickford apparently are in no scenes together.

This wouldn't be Lombard's final on-screen encounter with Buddy Rogers, Pickford's future husband; three years later, she appeared with him in "Safety In Numbers" at Paramount. (She didn't win his affection there, either.)

Many consider "My Best Girl," a scene from which is shown above, Pickford's best adult role, as she shows the comedic spunk that epitomized rival stars of the era such as Clara Bow or Colleen Moore. In fact, some have argued Pickford should have won the Academy Award for this film, not for her first talkie two years later, "Coquette." It is now available on DVD:

"My Best Girl" was a solid hit, and in fact was the first film to play the United Artists theater on South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, later the headquarters for evangelist Gene Scott:

One wonders whether Lombard, by then a bit into her tenure with Mack Sennett's troupe, was invited to the premiere.