Carole Lombard was stunning. Dazzling. Bombshell? Most assuredly.
According to some, she was the highest paid actress in the late 1930’s. But the film I keep coming back to, the one I want to see again is My Man Godfrey (1936) with William Powell. I was mesmerized. I fell in love for the hour and one half that she was on the screen. It wasn’t for her platinum blonde hair. It was for her eyes and her smile, and most notably, she made me laugh.
The film opens at the city dump where Godfrey lives, during the dregs of The Depression–
Godfrey: Do you think you can follow an intelligent conversation for just a moment?
Irene: I’ll try
Irene: Gee I don’t mean to change the subject, but can you tell me why you live in a place like this when there are so many nicer places to live?
Godfrey: You really want to know?
Irene: Oh I’m very curious.
Godfrey: It’s because my real estate agent felt that the altitude would be good for my asthma.
Irene: Oh, my uncle has asthma.
Godfrey: Now there’s a coincidence.
In time Irene wakes to a whole world apart from her and her pampered, spoiled household, where she is the youngest sister.
Here is my favourite scene from the same film, that rings with truth, intimacy, and affection. I can’t help but think that it wasn’t just fine acting in this film, but also the fact that Carole Lombard and William Powell had been married between ’31 and ’33 and really knew one another. Even though their real life marriage didn’t take, there was clearly an energy between them that rang true on the screen.
Charming and lovely. And irritating. And oh, so charming.
Carole was not destined for a long life, sadly. A real patriot during World War II, she traveled the U.S. selling war bonds. A statistic I heard but cannot confirm was that she sold $2 million in bonds in one day. In the middle of just such a trip in January, 1942, she was traveling with her mother and 20 others after a re-fueling stop, on her way to get back to see Clark Gable, her husband. The plane crashed into a cliff near the top of Potosi Mountain in Nevada, killing all 22 on board. Carole Lombard was 33 years old.
According to Luci Arnaz, regarding her mother, Lucille Ball, my favourite funny lady and friend of Carole Lombard’s, Lucy had dreams after Carole’s death where Carole would appear to her and encourage her in her career, particularly in ’51 when deciding whether to pursue television. Of course what followed was a tremendous success.
Let’s take one more peek at her, in Bolero (1934), with George Raft