Gone Too Soon: Behind the Scenes with Carole Lombard

Gone Too Soon: Behind the Scenes with Carole Lombard

Sandra Pandora | 
Pandora Writer | 
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Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard, born on October 6, 1908, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was a prominent American actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Discovered by film director Allan Dwan at the age of 12, she made her debut in "A Perfect Crime" in 1921. Recognizing her potential, Dwan persuaded Lombard's mother to allow her to pursue acting, marking the beginning of a career that would soon flourish. At 15, she signed on with Fox Films. Her first role was in "Hearts and Spurs" in 1925.

Lombard's work continued through the late 1920s with a series of successful silent films. Her transition to talkies was seamless, showcasing her versatility and adaptability as an actress. It was her comedic timing and lively personality that truly set her apart.

Lombard's breakthrough role came in 1934 with the comedy "Twentieth Century." She had other star performances in films like "My Man Godfrey" in 1936 and "Swing High, Swing Low" in 1937. She excelled in both comedic and dramatic roles, earning her critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base.

Carole Lombard

Off-screen, Lombard's love life was as glamorous as her on-screen roles. In "Ladies' Man" Carole worked with William Powell. In 1931, they married. Their marriage ended in divorce, but they remained friends.

It was her union with the "King of Hollywood" himself, Clark Gable, that became the talk of Tinseltown. The couple's chemistry was palpable both on and off the screen, and they became one of Hollywood's power couples. She worked with Gable on the film “No Man of Her Own” in 1932, but they had first met in 1924 where they both played extras on the film “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.”

Before Gable, she was in a short relationship with Russ Columbo, an actor and singer. He composed a song for her titled “To Beautiful for Words.” Sadly, Russ was killed in an unusual accident at a friend’s house when a gun discharged and hit Russ above the left eye. He was only 26 years old. His death left Carole heartbroken.

Carole Lombard

In 1933, Lombard was in five films, including "Supernatural," where a black widow returns to life in the body of a young woman to get revenge on a former lover, a fake spiritualist who betrayed her.

Carole Lombard's legacy is perhaps most prominently tied to the genre of screwball comedy. She brought to life some of the most iconic characters in the genre. "My Man Godfrey" and "To Be or Not to Be" remain timeless classics, showcasing Lombard's ability to navigate the fine line between humor and heart.

Despite her professional success and personal happiness, tragedy struck Carole Lombard on January 16, 1942. At the height of her career, she embarked on a war bond tour to support the Allied forces during World War II. Tragically, the plane carrying Lombard back from the tour crashed in the mountains of Nevada, claiming her life at the young age of 33.

Lombard's untimely death sent shockwaves through Hollywood and left an irreplaceable void. Lombard's contributions to comedy and her spirited approach to life continue to inspire generations of actors and fans alike. In 1939, she received an Academy Award nomination for her role in "My Man Godfrey," cementing her place among the greats of Hollywood's Golden era.

Lombard's life may have been tragically short, but her legacy is everlasting. Through her films and the memories of those who knew her, Carole Lombard's spirit continues to illuminate the silver screen.


Did you know?

Carole was born Jane Alice Peters but adopted the stage name Carole Lombard at the suggestion of a director.

Carole Lombard

She was the youngest of three children. She had two older brothers.

During her junior high and high school years, Lombard took acting and dancing lessons. She also continued auditioning for various movie roles.

In 1926, when she was 18, a car accident caused severe cuts to her face. Skillful application of advanced plastic surgery techniques (that took 4 hours) and makeup effectively concealed the scars.

Her first talkie was in "High Voltage" in 1929.

Carole Lombard

She was one of the few actresses of her time to be genuinely interested in sports and was often seen at various sporting events. She also was an avid tennis player and played baseball in her teens.

In addition to her success in film, Lombard had a successful career in radio. She starred in the radio program "The Screen Guild Theater" and made several guest appearances on other shows.

Carole was a fashion icon and named Hollywood’s Queen of Style.

Lucille Ball revealed that she had decided to proceed with "I Love Lucy" in 1951 when Carole, her friend, appeared in a dream, encouraging her to embrace the daring venture of working in television.

Before her marriage to Clark Gable, Lombard was married to actor William Powell from 1931 to 1933. Despite their divorce, they remained friends, and Powell even attended Lombard's wedding to Clark Gable in 1939.

Carole Lombard

During World War II, Lombard was one of the first Hollywood stars to actively support the war effort. She raised money for the war by selling war bonds and participated in various events to boost morale among the troops.

A journey was organized for her with three stops in Salt Lake City, Chicago, and Indianapolis. Accompanied by her mother and Clark Gable's press agent, as well as their close friend Otto Winkler, Carol embarked on the tour. Clark had to remain in Los Angeles for the production of his latest movie and was unable to go.

Carole's passionate appeal and sincere words led to the sale of over two million dollars in war bonds, surpassing four times the quota assigned by the treasury.

Despite her mother's premonition about taking a plane, Lombard declined the option to travel to Los Angeles by train. She made the fateful decision to fly by the flip of a coin – a coin toss that Carole won.

Carole Lombard

While aboard TWA Flight 3, traveling from McCarran Field, Las Vegas, Nevada, to Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California, a tragic incident occurred. The crash transpired approximately 33 miles southwest of Las Vegas at 7:20 pm. The aircraft collided with an almost vertical rock cliff near the summit of Potosi Mountain in the Spring Mountain Range. All three crew members and 19 passengers on board lost their lives.

Carole Lombard

In the aftermath of her tragic death, her film "To Be or Not to Be" in 1942 was undergoing post-production. The producers made the decision to omit a scene where her character ironically utters the line, "What can happen in a plane?"

Lombard's death had a profound impact on her husband, Clark Gable. He lost his wife, his mother-in-law, and his best friend, who were all on the plane that day. He was devastated by the loss and reportedly never fully recovered. Gable joined the military after her death, feeling a sense of duty to contribute to the war effort.

On February 8, 1960, she was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6930 Hollywood Blvd.

Carole Lombard

President Franklin Roosevelt nominated Carole as the first woman to be killed in the line of duty.

Carole Lombard was known for her generosity and philanthropy. She was actively involved in supporting charitable causes and was known to be compassionate toward those in need.

She was laid to rest in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Trust, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Carole was posthumously honored with three national distinctions, notably the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1944, a Liberty Ship was named the USS Lombard in her memory, and in 1946, the U.S. Treasury presented her with the Silver Medal.

Carol once said to a friend, "There's got to be something after this, after this life, where you can use all that you've learned here or nothing makes any sense."

“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!” – Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard
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