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Creator / Carole Lombard

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"She was so alive, modern, frank, and natural that she stands out like a beacon on a lightship in this odd place called Hollywood."

Carole Lombard (born Jane Alice Peters; October 6, 1908 – January 16, 1942) was an American actor during The Golden Age of Hollywood, renowned for her ditzy Screwball Comedy heroines and her playful personality. Think of her as the Reese Witherspoon of her time.

Lombard began her film career in low-budget silent 20th Century Fox films playing blonde ingénues and the like. Discovered by Mack Sennett (famous for his two-reel comedies during the Silent Era), she became one of his Bathing Beauties, and honed in her skills as a comedienne during this time.

With the emergence of sound, Lombard transitioned easily, and she signed a contract with Paramount in 1930. There she met William Powell, who she married the following year. They divorced in 1933, but continued to be good friends afterwards. Lombard was also good friends with actor William Haines, and after Haines was fired by MGM for refusing to hide his homosexuality, she helped him transition to a successful interior design career by hiring him to decorate her home and having that promoted in film and decorating magazines.

During the early 1930s, Lombard mostly appeared in mediocre film, playing variants on the brainless blonde. All that changed, however, with her breakout hit, Twentieth Century. Alongside the respected actor John Barrymore, she held her own, and the film not only solidified her star power, but cemented the Screwball Comedy genre, leading Life magazine to subsequently dub her Hollywood's "Screwball Comedy Queen."

Other classics followed: Hands Across the Table (1935, featuring a young Fred MacMurray), My Man Godfrey (1936, co-starring William Powell), Nothing Sacred (1937, co-starring Fredric March) — the latter being her favorite film. Her daft sense of humor made her a favorite among colleagues and friends alike; she was the glamorous leading lady who loved swearing like a sailor — they called her "the Profane Angel" — who also loved hunting, playing sports, and hanging out with everyone, from the glamorous stars to the crew.

Notoriously, Lombard was also known for her mischievous antics throughout her life and here are just some outrageous examples: on her first and only movie with Clark Gable (No Man of Her Own), she gave him a ham with his picture on the front, thinking him a stuffed shirt; she gave director William A. Wellman a straitjacket as a gift while shooting Nothing Sacred; Alfred Hitchcock was known for his infamous remark about actors being cattle, so while filming Mr. & Mrs. Smith with him she brought three calves onto the set, calling them "Carole", "Bob", and "Gene" (Robert Montgomery and Gene Raymond being her co-stars) and hanging a sign on their pen reading "Mr. Hitchcock's Cattle"; always the attention-lover, she went to a party for a friend who had been released from a sanitarium, arrived in an ambulance, and shocked the guests as she was lifted into the room on a stretcher. Clark Gable, who was also a guest, thought the joke in poor taste.

Late in 1936, though, Lombard and Gable became completely smitten and were soon inseparable. They became Hollywood’s most glamorous couple and got Happily Married on March 29th, 1939.

In the late '30s and early '40s, Lombard tried her hand at dramas, but they failed with the public and critics. Due to these box offices duds, she returned to comedies; her two last were, respectively, the aforementioned Mr. & Mrs. Smith (which also happened to be Hitchcock's only pure comedy) and Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be.

America's entrance into World War II sparked Lombard's patriotism, and she traveled the country to promote war bonds for the effort. After selling more than $2 million in bonds at one Indianapolis rally, Carole, along with her mother Bessie and Gable's friend and publicist Otto Winkler, boarded a flight to Calfornia on January 16, 1942. After stopping to refuel in Las Vegas, their DC-3 plane lost course and crashed into a nearby mountain, with none of the passengers surviving. Lombard was only 33 years old.

The country mourned what it considered its first celebrity casualty of the war, Gable was never the same again without her, and the silver screen lost its most revered comedic star.

Carole's influence would continue to be felt beyond the grave, when her best friend Lucille Ball would claim that Carole had appeared to her in a dream and convinced her to "give it a whirl" — it being the then-new and untested medium of television. The result was I Love Lucy, which came to define the television sitcom even more profoundly than Carole's own work had defined the Screwball Comedy genre.

Carole Lombard films on TV Tropes:

Tropes associated with Carole Lombard's works:

  • Cloudcuckoolander: Her best-remembered characters are often wrapped up in their own worlds.
  • Gaussian Girl: Invoked. After Lombard experienced a horrific car accident in 1926 (the windshield shattered and the glass landed on both her and her friend in the passenger seat), she had to have emergency surgery (without anesthetic!), which left her with a few scars; a noticeable one was on her left cheek but manipulated lighting hid it most of the time and made her look softer on camera.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Many of Lombard's protagonist characters are innocent and kind-hearted, with Irene in My Man Godfrey being perhaps the most notable example.
  • Stage Names: She took the name "Carol Lombard" when she signed with Fox. After Paramount mistakenly billed her as "Carole" for one of her early pictures with them, she decided she liked it better that way and kept it.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • She was cast to play the lead in a film called They All Kissed the Bride, but was killed shortly before filming began. Her part was recast with Joan Crawford, who donated her salary from the film to the American Red Cross.
    • Alfred Hitchcock wanted to cast her in more of his films in serious roles, feeling that she was a capable dramatic actor. However, she died shortly after their only film together, which ironically enough was yet another screwball comedy (Mr. & Mrs. Smith).