On October 6, 1908, an average American couple by the names of Frederick and Elizabeth became parents to a baby girl. They already had two sons. They named their family’s new addition Jane Alice Peters, but she would later become known as Carole Lombard, the queen of screwball comedy.
Elizabeth divorced Frederick when her daughter’s age was still in the single digits. She moved her three children to Los Angeles, where young Jane was inevitably bit by the acting bug.
At the ripe age of 12, Jane (who by then was still using her given name) made her acting debut in A Perfect Crime, having been discovered by director Allan Dwan. Befriending Miriam Cooper, the vivacious young talent continued to find work now and then in Hollywood under her new stage name, Carol Lombard (which became Carole Lombard when she was contracted by Paramount in the early ’30s). Fox finally signed her to her first contract in the mid-1920s, offering her $75 per week.
Though she got her start in silents, Carole followed Hollywood’s transition into sound films and it was here that she excelled. By the end of the 1920s her performances were garnering rave reviews from both critics and audiences, and a steady stream of roles in early talkies began to propel her to stardom. Her career really began to gain steam as the 1930s neared their middle-point. She went on to work with such legends as John Barrymore, Ernst Lubitsch, Fredric March and Alfred Hitchcock over the next decade, but her career was tragically cut short when she was killed in a plane crash in 1942.
Despite the relatively short length of her career (in comparison to old Hollywood stars who worked for five decades or more), Carole Lombard remains known as a truly “classic” actress and a legend, winning over new generations of movie-lovers with her charm and comedic talent.
I was originally planning on listing my five favorite Lombard films in this post, as I often do in TMP’s tributes, but I found it impossible to narrow the list down to five! So here’s a list of ten, with no explanation but plenty of pictures (listed alphabetically by year):
No Man of Her Own (1932)
Twentieth Century (1934)
We’re Not Dressing (1934)
Love Before Breakfast (1936)
My Man Godfrey (1936)
Nothing Sacred (1937)
True Confession (1937)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
A note from Lindsey: Today is also my sister’s 24th birthday! Quite strangely, she and Carole Lombard not only share a birthday, but are also hand twins, which has me convinced that she is Carole Lombard reincarnated. (She also shares Carole’s outrageous sense of humor.) HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRINEY!
ACK!! Just realized that I haven’t seen nearly enough Carole Lombard films. I’d better get on that!
The Carole Lombard Glamour Collection dvd is a really good starting point. It has six of her films including a couple of my favorites :)
While I love her comedies my favorite of her films is In Name Only which is a tearjerker of a drama. I never understood why it’s so obscure, not even getting a DVD release until recently, since beside Carole the film stars Kay Francis in a wonderfully venal performance and Cary Grant! If Cary Grant doesn’t guarantee a video release, excepting Marilyn Monroe, who does?
Another favorite is Hands Across the Table. I remember the first time I watched it being surprised at how dishy Fred MacMurray was when he was young since at that point I only knew him as Steve Douglas in My Three Sons.
It was really a struggle for me to narrow down my favorites — the only film of hers I haven’t liked was Man of the World, and I want to give that one a re-evaluation since I watched it under the influence of flu meds haha. She made so many truly wonderful films.
As a Cary Grant fan, I’m also puzzled by the fact that it took so long for In Name Only to get a proper release. Maybe because it’s a drama. Those of us who love the man know he worked across many genres but I think the general public still largely associates him with his comedies. Maybe they just didn’t think it would sell. Sad, though, because it’s such a good one! I’m glad it’s finally out on DVD now.