Why Carole Lombard Still Matters
This past week I had some hell of a cold, so to pass the time I watched six old films starring one of my favorite actresses from the golden age of Hollywood Carole Lombard. Why and what about her makes me love her so. Is it her beauty, her style, her laugh, her talent of course its all of the above and maybe something that I can’t even put my finger on. From the first time I laid eyes on her at a screening of “Nothing Sacred” at the old Museum Of Modern Art back in the 60’s it was love at first sight. Seeing her films back then was not easy, (not that its so easy these days either) so I had to be content with chopped versions of My Man Godfrey and To Be Or Not to be on television She had an interesting life, ups and downs. A short marriage to William Powell that most Art Deco of actors, and then the very publicized marriage to Clark Gable that was also short lived because of her tragic death at 33 in a plane crash on her way back from a war bond drive. Her mother was also killed. It’s hard for us to fathom how devastated the country was when news was received of her death. It was top of front page of the New York Times, when celebrity deaths were hardly given that kind of notice. Many of her films are just plain fluff and nonsense, the kind of films that the ordinary young female stars of today turn out at a rate of about one a month. But unlike these nothings she brought great style and dedication to them, the same style and skill that she would also bring to her classic films. She had been around a long time making films in the 1920’s where she worked with Mack Sennett, and you can see this experience in her no holds barred attitude to physical comedy that she demonstrated in many of her movies. If she had to fall on her rump, then she would take that fall herself. Her big breakthrough was in the classic and some say first screwball comedy “Twentieth Century” with John Barrymore, and its with this great frenzy of a film that she became what we call today a superstar. Her laugh. I like it when an actress has a great laugh and Lombard definitely had a great one robust and strong. Other actresses with great laughs are few and far between, Debra Winger, Patricia Arquette and Catherine Keener come to mind. Julia Roberts is noted for her laugh, but I find it forced and annoying, like everything else about her. Lombard’s style. No one wore clothes better than Lombard, the silky gowns and outfits designed for her by Travis Banton and Edith Head made her one of the best dressed stars during the 1930’s. Her Beauty. Yes one of the screen’s great beauties, her lovely complexion with the faint scar on her cheek from a bad car accident. She took a chance and had what was at the time cutting edge plastic surgery which worked and saved her face. The camera and the studio photographers loved her. Her co-stars. A who’s who of screen greats and near greats, Stewart, Jack Benny, Gable, Grant, Barrymore, Fred McMurray in several films, Bing Crosby, William Powell, Fredric March, the list goes on. Her last film To Be Or Not To Be was released shortly after her death, and there is a sadness in her performance. Maybe it had to do with her shaky marriage to Gable who was rumored to be having affairs with other actresses or I just might be reading into it, a feeling after the fact.