Carole Lombard

Film on Friday

The Big Parade of Comedy.jpg

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MGM, is one of the biggest film studios to have ever been.  Established in 1924, they have been behind some of the most famous movies ever produced, including all-time favorites such as Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz.  Back in the days when film studios ruled the lives of their actors, MGM controlled some of the biggest names in Hollywood, from Clark Gable to Spencer Tracy to Judy Garland and many in between. They made dramas, war films, biblical epics, and of course comedies. Their comedies were among some of the funniest out there, thanks to the great skills of their actors.  And, in 1964, they created The Big Parade of Comedy using snippets and sketches from some of their most popular comedies that reached as far back as the days of the silent film and up to 1948. 

The Big Parade of Comedy included performances by Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, the Marx Brothers, Jean Harlow, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Lucille Ball, Red Skelton – should we go on?  Okay!  Joan Crawford, Abbott and Costello, Jimmy Durante, Buster Keaton, the Three Stooges, Marion Davies, Carole Lombard, Zasu Pitts – and many, many more.  Granted, all the film did was splice together high moments of dozens of films and archival footage but, if you aren’t looking for an actual story and just want good laughs from the golden age of cinema, you’ve found the right movie for you!

Carole Lombard

QUESTION:  Who was Carole Lombard's first husband?
A). Clark Gable
B). William Powell
C). Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
D). Fred Astaire
ANSWER BELOW

The last two blogs here at the American Treasure Tour were dedicated to one of America's most popular actors of the 1930's and '40's, Fred Astaire. Astaire danced on stage for decades before becoming a silver screen star. Today, we explore the life of another actor honored in our Music Room - Carole Lombard. Lombard was nine years younger than Astaire, born in 1909, but her start in film was much earlier than his. She was born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana to wealthy parents whose break-up when she was six found her moving with her mother and brothers to Los Angeles. She was twelve years old and playing baseball with her friends when she caught the eye of director Allan Dawn. He cast the young ingenue in his 1921 film A Perfect Crime, beginning her career in front of the camera. Studios considered the name "Jane" dull, so she became Carole. 

Lombard had bit parts in numerous silent films during the Twenties, but it was her work in Mack Sennett comedies (beloved at the Treasure Tour for his creation of the short Barney Oldfield's Race to Save a Life, which plays on our photoplayer) that set her up for fame. Lombard was a natural at screwball comedy, and she became hugely popular in that genre. Notably, it was a western, 1930's The Arizona Kid, that became her breakthrough role. The film was a hit and she moved on to higher profile rolls in bigger films, notably Howard Hawks' 1934 classic comedy Twentieth Century opposite John Barrymore. By the end of the decade she was the highest paid star in Hollywood. It can only be imagined how far her career would go from there because, within a few years, she was dead. The year was 1942, and she was touring the United States in the effort to sell War Bonds, when the plane in which she traveled crashed in Nevada. She had been in well over fifty films prior to her death at age thirty-three, and continues to be remembered by fans of cinema to this day.

ANSWER:  B). William Powell.  The marriage lasted two years.