Monday, December 10, 2012

"Queen of Screwball Comedy": Carole Lombard.

Fun Facts:

At the christening of the California Shipbuilding Corporation's Liberty Ship "S.S. Carole Lombard", Irene Dunne (right) was sponsor and Mrs. Walter Lang, Carole's closest friend (left) was Matron of Honor.

Clark Gable stood on the launching platform during the ceremony which took place one day short of two years from the tragic death of Carole Lombard in a plane accident while returning from a War Bond tour.

After her death, a Liberty ship was named after her.

A 1926 car accident badly cut her face and she was was worried that use of anesthetic during the operation would leave worse scars, so she went under reconstructive surgery without an anesthetic.

Linked romantically to crooner Russ Columbo until his accidental death late in 1934. (January 14, 1908 – September 2, 1934). Russ Columbo, was an American singer, violinist and actor, most famous for his songs: "You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love", his compositions "Prisoner of Love" and "Too Beautiful For Words".

Lombard was listed in the credits of Safety in Numbers (1930), her first Paramount release, as Carole (instead of Carol as in her previous billings). They decided that this would now be the official spelling and she went along with it. She legally changed her name to Carole Lombard in 1936. Only in her first film, A Perfect Crime (1921) did she use her real name, Jane Peters.

Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Trust, on the left hand side, next to Clark Gable.

Second cousin of director Howard Hawks, Kenneth Hawks and William B. Hawks.

Cousin-in-law of Mary Astor, Athole Shearer, Bessie Love, Dee Hartford and Eden Hartford.

A natural tomboy who joined in her brothers roughhousing.

She was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first woman killed in the line of duty in WWII. Roosevelt greatly admired her work for the war effort, and ironically she was returning from an engagement selling War Bonds when her plane crashed.

Her film To Be or Not to Be (1942) was in post-production when she died in a plane crash, and the producers decided to leave out a part that had her character ironically saying, "What can happen in a plane?"

Was called the "Queen of Screwball Comedy".

The Jack Benny radio show that followed her death was cancelled because Benny, a good friend and admirer, was grief-stricken. The time was filled with music instead.

Lucille Ball said she finally decided to go ahead with "I Love Lucy" (1951) when Carole, who had been a close friend, came to her in a dream and recommended she take a chance on the risky idea of entering television.

Considered by many to be the prototype for the icy blondes in Alfred Hitchcock's films.

The plane crash that killed her took place less than a month before the Oscars. Despite her mother's premonition of the disaster, she refused to take a train to Los Angeles. She was in a hurry to get to her husband after hearing of an alleged affair between her husband Clark Gable and Lana Turner who were filming, Somewhere I'll Find You (1942).

Interred next to Clark Gable at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood, California.

The decision to take the plane which eventually killed Carole and her mother was decided literally by the flip of a coin, with Carole winning the toss. The plane they took was a military convoy which made many stops in order to pick up troops. After the first stop, an officer requested Carole, her mother and publicist to get off the plane to make room for more troops. Carole reportedly argued with him, stating the fact she had raised more than half a million dollars in war bonds and had the right to stay on. The officer finally conceded, and shortly after, the plane crashed.

Part of her honeymoon with Clark Gable was at the Willows Inn in Palm Springs was built in 1924, with eight rooms featuring luxurious private baths, hand-made tiles, stone fireplaces, hardwood floors, private garden patios and mountain and garden vistas. The Inn continues to operate to this day and anyone can stay in the same room, called "The Library Suite" today. The room remains largely unaltered since the Gables stayed there more than 60 years ago.

Carole Lombard had a little dachshund named Commissioner that ignored Clark Gable completely. After her death in 1942, the dog would not leave Gable's side.

Carole read and loved the book "Gone With the Wind". Excited, she sent a copy of the book to Gable, with a note attached reading "Let's do it!". Gable wrongly assumed she was making a sexual advance to him, and called Carole to organize a date. When he found out Carole wanted to make a film of the book with him as Rhett Butler and herself as Scarlett, he refused, and kept the copy of the book she had given him thereafter in his toilet.

Attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. Was elected "May Queen" in 1924. Quit soon thereafter to pursue acting full time.

She was often doubled by her old school friend, Dixie Pantages. Dixie had an even more unusual background than Carole herself did: she was born in extreme poverty, but when her mother died, she was adopted by the wealthy Pantages family so that their own daughter, a childhood playmate of Dixie's, could have a sister. When that happened, her name changed legally from Dixie Nelson to Dixie Pantages as a result of the adoption becoming legal.

Twice turned down opportunities to play a newspaperwoman, in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and His Girl Friday (1940).

She never had a dressing room when shooting a movie. Instead, she preferred to socialize with the cast and crew members during her breaks.

After her death, the Van Nuys News ran an unusual front page tribute: "Down deep in their hearts, those who had chatted with her over the back fence or across a garden row knew that Carole Lombard wanted more than anything else to be a model housewife and a good neighbor. And she was just that. She was a loveable person, just as much at home in blue denims and ginghams as she was in furs and jewels.".

She was good friends with Gloria Swanson.

Gable and Lombard first met in late 1924 while working as extras on the set of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925). They would make three films together as extras, Ben-Hur, The Johnstown Flood (1926) and The Plastic Age (1925) and star together in No Man of Her Own (1932), but not become romantically attached until 1936.

Turned down the part of Ellie Andrews in It Happened One Night (1934). Claudette Colbert was then given the role and won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

Profiled in book "Funny Ladies" by Stephen Silverman. (1999).

When touring Hearst's Castle, San Simeon, they show you a second floor bedroom where they say Carole Lombard and Clark Gable spent their wedding night. It's a room with a beautiful view and a huge water storage tank rests hidden above it. The water was gravity fed from an adjoining hill to provided water to the Castle.

In 1938, Carole Lombard spent one day as Honorary Mayor of Culver City. Her first official duty was to declare the day a holiday, and tell all the studio employees they could go home!

Carole Lombard’s first screen kiss was Buck Jones in Durand of the Badlands (1925). Buck was a motion picture star of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, best known for his work starring in western movies.

She made a screentest for Charlie Chaplin’s Goldrush movie.

Her favorite color was white.

She hated the color pink.

Her legendary outbursts of profanity were actually fashioned after silent movie star, Mae Murray(pictured above).  Please click here to learn more about, Mae Murray.

Carole Lombard’s favorite flower was the lily.

Of all her films, Lombard considered “Nothing Sacred” to have been her personal favorite. A screwball comedy film. It was directed by William A. Wellman and produced by David O. Selznick, from a screenplay credited to Ben Hecht, based on a story by James H. Street. Cast: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Walter Connolly, Charles Winninger, Margaret Hamilton, Hattie McDaniel, Frank Fay and Max Rosenbloom. The music score was by Oscar Levant, with additional music by Alfred Newman and Max Steiner and a swing number by Raymond Scott's Quintette.

New York newspaper reporter Wally Cook tries to pass off a African-American as an African nobleman hosting a charity event. But things backfires for Cook, who is demoted to writing obituaries. He begs his boss Oliver Stone for another chance. Wally is sent to the (fictional) town of Warsaw, Vermont, to interview Hazel Flagg, a woman supposedly dying of radium poisoning.

Cook finally locates Hazel, who is crying because her doctor has told her that she is not dying. Unaware of this, he invites her to New York, where she receives a ticker tape parade and the key to the city. She and Wally fall in love. When it is discovered that Hazel is not dying, the city officials decide that it would be better to avoid embarrassment by saying she committed suicide. Hazel and Wally get married and set sail on their honeymoon.


  1. Wonderful photos and tribute to one of the greatest screen talents ever!



  2. Dawn, I absolutely LOVED this post! What a lovely way to return to your blog and I'm liking the new layout of the site too. Lombard's name sounds very familiar, I'm not too good with names when I watch older movies but it was very interesting reading that she was the prototype for Alfred Hitchcock films. She must have had some serious chops to be labeled "Queen of the Screwball Comedy" now I must look at a rundown of the movies she has been in and add them to my list. Which would you recommend?


  3. Mighty B, Thank you very much. In no particular order(from the ones I have seen):

    Swing High, Swing Low (1937)
    Nothing Sacred (1937)
    True Confession (1937)
    Fools for Scandal (1938)
    Made for Each Other (1939)
    In Name Only (1939)
    Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
    To Be or Not to Be (1942)

  4. You know, I think I love her entire wardrobe, especially the pink princess dress you've posted here. Not only that, what a terrific talent.


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