According to the story I’ve heard, she told the soldiers whose places she, her mother, and her manager were taking on that plane that she was pulling rank on them. One of them pointed out to her that she didn’t have a rank to pull, and she said that it might be true, but on the other hand, she’d sold literally millions of dollars in War Bonds, and that gave her a rank as far as she was concerned. So the three of them got on the plane, which crashed at Table Rock Mountain, Nevada, killing everyone aboard. It has long been speculated that her widower’s exceptional Air Force record was actually an attempt at suicide, throwing himself into danger so he could rejoin her.
Because she died young, Carole Lombard doesn’t get talked about as much as other actresses of the era and of her type. She could be a glamour girl, though she didn’t much care for it, but where she excelled was screwball comedy. Her portrayal of the dizzy Irene Bullock in My Man Godfrey is not just where I know her best but where I think most people know her best. She made 62 movies in her short life, going back to the silent era. In her first one, 1921’s A Perfect Crime,she was even credited under her birth name of Jane Peters.
Lombard was, let’s be real, earthy. She had a wicked sense of humour. She was unapologetically sexual and could apparently swear like a sailor. She believed that she was just as good as the men and deserved the same kind of treatment. In many ways, she fits more of what I think of as the Girl Next Door type than many actual girls next door,because she simply did what she wanted with little concern for people’s opinions about it. And if that made her seem “masculine”in some ways, well, that was other people’s problem.
It turns out people were so convinced that first husband William Powell was married to his frequent costar Myrna Loy that the three were traveling together to promote a movie and discovered that two rooms had been booked for them—a single for her and a double for Powell and Loy. So she promptly traded rooms—with him. She and Loy remained friends until Lombard’s death. Actually, so did she and Powell, even after their divorce. She acknowledged that they were just fundamentally different people who had no real business being married, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t remain close.
When she was seventeen, Lombard was in a car accident that scarred her cheek; there is speculation that she was released from her contract with Twentieth Century Fox because of it. She underwent what must have been astonishingly primitive cosmetic surgery to lessen the look of it, and for the rest of her career, she used lighting and makeup to minimize it. So far, so good. But the astounding thing is that there was a belief at the time that use of anesthetic would make the scar worse somehow. So the surgery was performed without it. It took a heck of a lot of nerve and determination to do that.
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