LombardChristened Jane Alice Peters, on October 6, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana she was the tomboy sister of two older brothers, and the daughter of Frederick Peters (1875-1935) and Elizabeth Knight (1977-1942). When she was six, the family moved to Los Angeles where she was spotted on the street, 'kicking hell out of the other kids" by director Allan Dwan who put the 12 year old in the movie, Perfect Crime in 1921. A movie distinguished only for being Lombard's first. Thereafter she want back to junior high school.
n 1930, Lombard signed a seven year contract with Paramount. Though practically all her great movies were made elsewhere, it was this studio that provided her a steady livelihood through over twenty movies. Her fourth Paramount outing teamed her with William Powell, whom she married in the summer of 1931. This marriage did not last long as she was 22, he 39. They proved highly incompatible from the start, and quickly began leading separate lives. They divorced within two years but remained friends, and sometimes even lovers.
For Lombard, security at Paramount meant fun after hours. The legendary parties began, and Carole enjoyed dressing up and being out to all hours and throw lavish parties. At the height of Carole's parties in the late 1930s a Lombard guest list became a more reliable barometer of who was up and who down than any production cast list. She boosted the reputation and therefore career of her friend William Haines, who was launching his Interior Decorating business. His designs were seen by all the rich celebrities who were attending Lombard's parties, and featured in magazines that showed the popular comedienne at home.
The hostess, with her taste for pranks and hoaxes, inclined to theme parties and many a star cavorted in ill-advised garb at the Lombard residence.
Carole's lovers at this lime included writer Robert Riskin, who had penned her melodramatic vehicle Virtue in 1932, and the band- Singer and former child prodigy, Russ Columbo, who at 26, was accidentally killed by a shotgun.
Meanwhile, the work at Paramount continued throught 1937, but there were successes with other studios, none more so than at Columbia where Howard Hawks cast her opposite John Barrymore in his first screwball comedy, Twentieth Century in 1934.
That comedy was her forte most agreed, though not Paramount, until 1935 when Ernst Lubitsch was appointed production manager and promptly assigned Lombard to the excellent comedy- drama Hands Across the Table in 1935.
Lombard's flippancy wasn't entirely expunged by Gable. Even the fact that they both desperately wanted children was treated lightly in public. "He's sure as hell working on it,"she told David Niven but, tough they were "forever trying", Lombard could not conceive.More significant than any of these films for Carole Lombard herself, however, was the little remembered No Man of Her Own. For the male lead, Paramount traded Big Crosby for Clark Gable. At the time, Lombard paid little heed to her co-star: "I was on my ear about a different number," she said later. But in 1936 when the pair renewed acquaintance, the flame was lit.
Marriage had to wait three years because Mrs. Ria Gable would not divorce "The King". In the meantime, Lombard and Gable became Hollywood's most celebrated duo.
Tragedy"To the outside world," reported Photoplay magazine "Clark and Carole might as well be married." The love affair changed Lombard continued Photoplay, "Clark doesn't like night spots or parties, social chit chat or the frothy pretensions of society. Carole, quite frankly, used to eat it up. She knew everybody, went everywhere. But look what happened! Carole has practically abandoned all her Hollywood social contacts."
In 1942 much of the Hollywood community were buzzing that Gable was having an affair with his co-star in Somewhere I'll find You, with Lana Turner, while Lombard was on a war bond selling tour in the mid-West. Lombard wanted to hurry home to make her presence with her husband. On her return flight January 16, 1942 the plane that both she and her mother were passengers on crashed into a mountain near Las Vegas. her death shocked the world and almost destroyed Gable.
Said President Roosevelt, "She brought great joy to all who knew her and to millions who knew her only as a great artist... She is and always will be a star, one we shall never forget nor cease to be grateful to." To Be or Not to Be is arguably her finest work, released in 1942 just one month after her death.
|Carole Lombard and her Mother|