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Carole Lombard (1908-1942)

 

  1. Georgia Hale, The Gold Rush, 1925.     Discovered as Jane Peters by Allan Dwan in a neighbour's yard for A Perfect Crime, 1921, she next tested for Chaplin.He chose Lita Grey (his second wife) and then re-shot it with Hale. Peters' next test led to a Fox contract and a new name.She really arrived in Twentieth Century,1934,first screwball comedy of her cousin... director Howard Hawks. (Just as Norma Shearer was once his sister-in-law andGroucho Marx a futurebrother-in-law).
  2. Kay Johnson, Dynamite,1929.     After she made 18 films in 1928, director Cecil B DeMille unceremoniously dumped Carole in mid-shoot of his first talkie; so, obviously, she is still seen in some shots, according to her friend and assistant Mitchell Leisan.  He later directed her. Twice. As she spent much of the 30s taking over Miriam Hopkins' refusals.
  3. Jean Harlow,Hell's Angels, 1930.     Tycoon Howard Hughes urgently tested possibilities- Carole, included - to replace Greta Nissen, whose thick Norwegian accent jangled the new-fangled sound. Then he ran into Harlow’s breasts... Hughes' star, Ben Lyon, who found Harlow among the dress extras on another stage, just as in 1946 Lyon found Norma Jean Baker and re-named her: Marilyn Monroe. Hughes was not impressed with Harlow. "How is she in the bomb department?" He found out by becoming her lover and emphasising her bombs in the film… and Jane Russell’s in The Outlaw, 1943.
  4. Maureen O’Sullivan, Okay America, 1931.     Change of secretary for testy New York columnist Larry Wayne - or Walter Winchell to those in the know. Boyd would have fared no better than the weak Ayres in the role. We never saw the real Winchell horror story until 1956 when Burt Lancaster staggered us all in the the stunning Sweet Smell of Success.
  5. Joan Blondell, The Greeks Had A Word For Them, 1932.     Producer Samuel  Goldwyn gave the role to Ina Claire, but shopped around for a dizzier blonde.  Warned off Jean Harlow, he borrowed Paramount's Profane Angel - too sick to continue after two weeks. Enter: Blondell. "Nobody believed she was sick," says Claire, sick, herself, at being relegated to a smaller role.  "I think she knew it was a lousy movie and just wanted out." Other rumours insisted Carole was away aborting a baby by William  Powell, Harlow's final lover.
  6. Genevieve Tobin, One Hour With You, 1932.      Co-director Ernst Lubitsch managed to  overcome Maurice Chevalier's insistance on Kay Francis and Carole as leading ladies by getting him to settle for Tobin and Jeannette MacDonald.
  7. Katharine Hepburn, A Bill of Divorcement, 1932.     Carole's test was  even worse than Kate's -  which had producer David O Selznick  yelling: "Godammit, that's the worst fucking scarecrow I've ever seen.  Cast her in The Witch  of Endor. " Director George Cukor was no happier.  "She  seemed to bark through  her nose, very nasal... mannish and mannered." Critics loved her "flamed like opal, half-demon, half-Madonna...  half-Botticelli page, half bob-haired bandit. " Kate and Cukor made a further nine  films together over 47 years.
  8. Ann Dvorak, The Way To Love, 1933.     Starting her Paramount battles, Carole  - aka The Hoosier Tornado - refused to be Maurice Chevalier's sidekick...
  9. Mary  Brian,  Hard  To Handle,  1933.    ... or James Cagney's when Warners welcomed him back from a second strike for better money with a film ironically called Bad Boy. Mary Brian was Peter Pan's original Wendy, 1924.
  10. Gertrude Michael, The Notorious Sophie Lang, 1933.    Lombard simply, totally refused to be notorious. So she lost the 1936 sequel Sophie Lang Goes West, as well.
  11. Dorothy Wieck, Miss Fane’s Baby Is Stolen, 1933.     Second and last Hollywood movie for Wieck, the Swiss-born, Sweden-raised German. And it was stolen by Alice Brady as the rescuer of the titlular movie star’s kidnapped baby son. Wieck returned to Berlin, opening her own drama academy and winning another 40 screen roles until retiring in 1975.

  12. Helen Mack, Kiss and Make Up, 1934.     As far as the title went, Carole wouldn't...  So Helen became beauty doctor Cary Grant's secretary.
  13. Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night, 1934.     Carole was more keen on  the film than the other five stars rejecting it.  Or, she was, until hearing that Clark Gable felt she would be an easy conquest now that she'd split with William Powell. She was not easy but  succumbed and  Ma, as he called her, became the third Mrs Gable on March 29, 1939.
  14. Loretta Young, Shanghai, 1934.       Saint Loretta was an oddly demure  choice to succeed  the feisty Lombard -  called away for a Universal gig.
  15. Ann Harding, Peter Ibbetson, 1935.    Chosen by director Sidney Franklin as Gary Cooper's lover - but Henry Hathaway made the final film.
  16. Irene Dunne, Theodora Goes Wild, 1935.     Columbia wanted Marion Davies and Clark Gable rekindling their Cain and Mable chemistry. But Marion was finished - retired. OK, Lombard! She had first worked with Gable in No Man of Her Own, 1931, and remained indifferent to him. Until they became lovers and wed in 1939. Enter: Dunne and Melvyn Douglas. Well, he had a ’tash…
  17. Mary Ellis, Fatal Lady, 1935.  It  was still Brazen when offered  to Lombard.  Like who else? Apparently she didn’t see the connection. New Yorker Ellis was happier - better! - on stage and in opera. Hidden away in the background was Rudolph Valentino’s brother, Albero, in the last of his four movies.
  18. Marlene Dietrich, The Garden of Allah, 1936.     Garbo was also mentioned in dispatches.
  19. Jean Arthur, Mr Deeds Goes To Town,1936.     Switched allegiences from Longfellow Deeds to My Man Godfrey. Director Frank Capra started shooting minus a female lead... who never saw the classic until 1972.
  20. Madeleine  Carroll, The  Case  Against  Mrs Ames, 1936.     Madeleine-George  Brent stood in for Lombard-Gary Cooper.  They simply refused and were punished - loaned out to Universal and Columbia for what proved huge hits,  My Man Godfrey and Mr Deed Goes To Town. By 1937, Carole was the highest paid star: $465,000.
  21. Joan Bennett, Vogues of 1938, 1936.   Lombard, they used to say, was scared of nuttin’! Well, she ran scared of colour and passed the Technicolor film to Joan Bennett, future wife of her producer Walter Wanger.  

  22. Joan Fontaine, A Damsel In Distress, 1937.     Ginger had flown and Fred needed a new partner to twirl... Carole, Ruby Keelerand Londonmusical queen Jessie Matthews were all invited to be Lady Alyce Marshmorton. They were not free.Fontaine was... and later joked that the Fred Astaire musical “set my career back four years.” She just couldn’t dance! That didn’t stop her working for director George Stevens again in Something To Live For, 1952, and tryingfor the female lead of his Giant in 1955.
  23. Frances Farmer, Exclusive, 1937.     Refused the distaff side of a pair of journalists on rival papers: finally, Frances and Fred MacMurray.
  24. Katharine Hepburn, Bringing Up Baby, 1937.    Director Howard Hawks only thought of Lombard but... No matter, Lombard replaced Hepburn the following year for In Name Only, also opposite Cary Grant.   
  25. Jean Harlow, Saratoga, 1937.       Plan A: RKO-Pathe bought the Anita Loos script for Constance Bennett in 1929.  MGM was in three minds about a Plan B: Carole Lombard (Paramount refused  to loan her), Joan Crawford or Harlow v Cark Gable.  Shooting was all but over  when Harlow collapsed on-set and later died from suspected  uremic poisoning. Metro completed the movie with her double, Mary Dees (voiced by Paula Winslowe), after  bad taste thoughts of a re-shooot with Jean Arthur or Virginia Bruce…. the way Crawford lapt into They All Kissed The  Bride, in 1942 after  Lombard’s air crash death.
  26. Dorothy Lamour, Spawn of the North, 1938.      Carole was set to star in 1936 - with Cary Grant and his lover, Randolph Scott,  until their gay "marriage"   was in danger of becoming too public. Two years on, when Carole was ill, George Raft and Henry Fonda were rivals in  a salmon fishing conflict.  Lamour was in the middle. As usual.   
  27. Joan Bennett, Vogues of 1938, 1937.      Producer Walter Wanger kept waiting for Technicolor to improve… His film was of 1934 when he signed Frances Langford. Then, of 1937, when Bennett (the 1940-1965 Mrs Wanger) replaced Carole Lombard (scared of colour!) and the film wound up as of 1938 due to a delayed release.
  28. Sylvia Sidney, You and Me, 1938.     Carole and George Raft refused Norman Krasna's script if he insisted on debut-directing. Raft was suspended and given the project anew with Sidney and this time she refused Richard Wallace and asked for the maker of her Fury and You Only Live Twice - the out-of-favour Fritz Lang. And got him. Well, she was the mistress of the Paramount boss, BP Schulberg (father of Budd).
  29. Norma Shearer, Idiot's Delight, 1939.     Gable wanted her, of course. Just too busy - even turning down an Orson Welles offer for The Smiler With The Knife.
  30. Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday, 1939.     Bad decision. After musing on Cary Grant, director Howard Hawks turned The Front Page reporter Hildy Johnson into a woman. Not difficult changing Hildebrand to Hildegarde. Dunne, still Columbia chief Harry Cohn's first choice for anything, joined Lombard, Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert, Ginger Rogers in... completely missing the point. Columbia 's crude czar Cohn voted for Roz after seeing her as Craig's Wife. And Grant played Hildy’s editor Walter Burns.
  31. Joan Fontaine, Rebecca, 1939.  

  32. Barbara  Stanwyck, Ball of Fire, 1941.     Alas, Lombard was unimpressed with Sugarpuss O’Shea - or Snow White rebooted.  (Seven old professors were based on the dwarfs). A fatal decision as she was not, obviously, at the Radio City premiere on January 16,  1942... but leaving Texas for Hollywood after her war bond selling tour. Her plane crashed into Table Rock Mountain, near Las Vegas. No survivors.  Lombard was 34.  "She is and always will  be a star," said President Roosevelt's cable to the distraught Gable.
  33. Claudette Colbert, Palm Beach Story, 1942.     The reason she was free to go on the tour... Preston Sturgess, a rare Hollywood auteur, wanted her but her Paramount contract stipulated$150,000-plus andsherefused anything less.
  34. Joan Crawford,They All Kissed TheBride, 1942.     After Carole's shock death,  Crawford (who was still screwing Gable when she could across 20 years) shoulder-padded the role and donated her salary to the Red Cross that had found Lombard's body.
  35. Billie Burke, The Cheaters, 1944.      After Lombard’s death, Paramount sold her vehicle to Republic, where Lombard and John Barrymore became Burke and Joseph Schildkraut.

 





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