Carole Lombard, To Be or Not to Be (1942)
I have a confession to make – I have always watched movies based upon who is in them. For example, if one of my favorite actresses or actors is in a film, I will pop the popcorn, pour the raspberry tea, round up my cats and head for the den. I will plop in my favorite chair and escape with said favorite or favorites.
The great news is I have a lot of favorites, so I eat a lot of popcorn. However, there have (over the years) been a lot of wonderful gems I’ve come across simply because they were on when I needed a movie to watch – whether a favorite stars in it or not!
This was the case, recently with In Name Only. Don’t get me wrong, I have VERY MUCH liked Cary Grant and Carole Lombard for some time, now- they simply hadn’t reached the same “absolute favorite” rarefied air of, say Lucille Ball, Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Maureen O’Hara, Buster Keaton, James Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Clark Gable, Marion Daviess… the stars I make time in my schedule for – even if it’s a movie I’ve seen a million and thirteen times…. looking at you, Sabrina and The Quiet Man.
Funny thing is, though, I often “meet” new favorites who ascend to the rarefied air this very way. Cary Grant and Carole Lombard just landed themselves smack in the middle of the aforementioned favorites and I’m now on a mission to see their complete filmographies.
In Name Only is a movie that had never been on my radar – as in, AT ALL. When I saw that it was on TCM recently, I actually had to look to see who starred in it! See? Completely OFF my radar. I’ve recently become a big fan of Cary Grant and needed to see Carole Lombard in something else (I’d only seen her in three), so… you guessed it.. popcorn was popped while the raspberry tea was being poured.
It didn’t take long for this fun and engaging movie to pull me in. Carole Lombard, even without the wonderful assistance from Cary Grant and a solid cast, has a way of luring you in. There’s a certain vulnerability about her that makes you want to enter into her world and help her fight her fights and clear the path to happiness for her.
Cary Grant is Alec Walker who is in a horrible marriage to gold digger, nasty Maida (played sublimely by Kay Francis). Alec meets and falls for beautiful widow (and mother) Julie Eden, played perfectly by Carole Lombard. Even though the nasty wife certainly doesn’t love him, she refuses to give him a divorce. Far too much money involved for that!
The movie then takes you on a roller coaster ride as you hope Maida gets her comeuppance as much as you hope Alec and Julie get their happy ever after.
I am not about to give anything away, but I do want to say this is a roller coaster ride of emotion… and one I enjoyed completely.
Find In Name Only on Amazon – it’s truly a hidden gem.
I love reading about old Hollywood actors and actresses. Okay… let’s be honest – I’m completely obsessed with it. Carole Lombard (like Fred Astaire and James Stewart, to name a few) is one of those people who… the more you read about her, the more you like her. She apparently had a huge personality and a wicked sense of humor. She was friends with Lucille Ball, so that shouldn’t surprise us.
Below are a few Fast Facts about the stunning actress, followed by trivia and classic Carole Lombard quotes.
Birth: Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters on October 6, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. One of her nicknames was actually “The Hoosier Tornado.” After her parents divorced, Carole moved, with her mother, to the Los Angeles area in 1916. Her first film was A Perfect Crime in 1921 when she was only 12 years old. It would be four more years before she appeared in another film.
In 1926 Carole was seriously injured in an automobile accident. The left side of her face was scarred as a result of the accident. To LITERALLY add insult to injury, once she had recovered, Fox canceled her contract.
In spite of the accident (and Fox’s rejection), Carole Lombard went on to achieve legendary success as a leading lady. Gifted with a beautiful voice, she was able to transition from silents to “talkies” – something many stars were unable to do.
In 1931, she was teamed with William Powell in Man of the World. She and the talented actor fell hard for one another and married. Unfortunately, like many things in Hollywood, it didn’t last and they divorced in 1933.
In No Man of Her Own (1932), Carole’s co-star was none other than the wonderful Clark Gable. They hit it off and were married seven years later in 1939. By this time, she was with Paramount Pictures and was one of its biggest stars.
Her last film was in 1942. She played Maria Tura opposite Jack Benny in To Be or Not to Be. Tragically, the beautiful actress was killed before the movie’s release. The film wrapped in 1941 just as the US entered World War II. Carole went home to Indiana for a war bond rally. On January 16, 1942, Carole, her mother, and 20 other others were flying home California when the plane went down outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
There were no survivors. Carole Lombard was only 33 years old. THIRTY-THREE.
After her 1926 automobile accident badly cut her face, Carole elected for plastic surgery. At the time, doctors believed that use of anesthetic during the surgery would leave worse scars, so she endured the reconstructive surgery without an anesthetic. Unimaginable!
She was only 5’2″ (with shoes).
She was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first woman killed in the line of duty in World War II.
To Be or Not to Be was in post-production when she died in the plane crash. The producers decided to remove a line where her character asks, “What can happen in a plane?“.
Lucille Ball said she actually agreed to do I Love Lucy when Carole (who had been a close friend) came to her in a dream and recommended she take a chance on television.
Considered by a lot of fans to be the inspiration for the icy blondes in Alfred Hitchcock’s films. (I certainly think she was.)
Carole Lombard’s performance as Maria Tura in To Be or Not to Beis ranked #38 on Premiere magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
Turned down the role of Ellie Andrews in It Happened One Night. Claudette Colbert was then given the role and won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
During their honeymoon, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stayed at the Willows Inn in Palm Springs, California. Not only does the Inn still exist, guests can stay in the same room the legendary couple stayed in, called “The Library Suite.” The room remains largely unaltered since the Gables stayed slept there.
She and Gloria Swanson were close friends.
Both of her husbands (William Powell and Clark Gable) starred in Manhattan Melodrama (1934) with Myrna Loy.
Apparently her mother had had a bad feeling about taking a plane and wanted to take a train to Los Angeles instead. The decision to take the plane was literally decided by the flip of a coin – with Carole “winning” the toss.
Carole had a much-loved little dachshund named Commissioner that reportedly ignored Clark Gable completely. After her death in 1942, however, the dog would not leave his side.
One of my personal favorite stories about Carole Lombard comes from writer Garson Kanin. Apparently Carole never had a dressing room when shooting a movie. Instead, she preferred to socialize with the cast and crew members during her breaks. Words can’t describe how much I love this about her.
“(William Powell) is the only intelligent actor I’ve ever met.”(Explaining why she would not work with Orson Welles) “I can’t win working with Welles. If the picture’s a huge hit, he’ll get the credit and, if it’s a flop, I’ll be blamed.”
“Personally, I resent being tagged ‘glamour girl’. It’s such an absurd, extravagant label. It implies so much that I’m not.”
“A woman has just as much right in this world as a man and can get along in it just as well if she puts her mind to it.”
“I can’t imagine a duller fate than being the best-dressed woman in reality. When I want to do something, I don’t pause to contemplate whether I’m exquisitely gowned. I want to live, not pose!”
“When it comes to your personal life, such as love and romance, girls should take a tip from the men and keep their affairs to themselves. Any man worth his salt regards his private life as his own. To kiss a girl and run and tell would mark him as a cad. Why doesn’t that apply to girls also?”
There’s nothing quite like watching a movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Whether it’s a Musical, Western, Comedy, Romance, Film Noir, or Drama – if it’s on, I’m not too far away… with popcorn and raspberry tea in hand and a couple of cats nearby.
Below are a few Old Hollywood movie reviews I’ve done on the blog. There are, as you’d imagine, a lot more to come. – Joi (“Joy”)
We’re in the Money (Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell)
The Naked Spur (James Stewart, Janet Leigh)
The Prince and the Showgirl (Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier)
The White Sister (Helen Hayes, Clark Gable)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Newmar)
Rio Bravo (John Wayne, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan)
El Dorado (John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Michele Carey)
Rio Grande (John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara)
Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (What is it With Me and These Movies??)
The Stooge (Jerry Lewis’ favorite Lewis and Martin Movie… for good reason.)
Critic’s Choice (Hilarious movie starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball)
To Please a Lady (Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck team up in a fast track movie)
Grand Hotel (Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore)
Hearts Divided (Marion Davies, Dick Powell)
The Quiet Man (John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald)
Steps in Time (Fred Astaire)
Enchantment (Audrey Hepburn)
Find out just how much I (truly) Love Lucy in the Lucille Ball category. I’m warning you, I call it an obsession for a very good reason…
Another personal absolute favorite of mine is Barbara Stanwyck. Not only was she beautiful and outrageously talented, she was exceptionally bright and colorful. This growing collection of Barbara Stanwyck Quotes will give you an idea of just how colorful she was!
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