Carole Lombard

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Carole Lombard1940

Carole Lombard (born October 6, 1908 as Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne , Indiana ; died January 16, 1942 in Potosi Mountain , Nevada ) was an American actress . She was best known for her roles in screwball comedies in the 1930s . When she died in a plane crash, she was one of Hollywood's biggest and highest-paid stars. The American Film Institute named Lombard one of America's 25 Greatest Female Film Legends.

life and career

Carole Lombard was born into a wealthy family, the youngest of three children of Frederick Christian Peters (1875-1935) and Elizabeth Jayne (Knight) Peters (1876-1942). When she was eight years old, her parents separated. She moved to the Los Angeles area with her siblings and mother. While still attending high school, Lombard, who also proved to be a talented athlete during her school days, was discovered by film director Allan Dwan . Dwan gave her a role in his 1921 film A Perfect Crime . Initially used mainly in smaller roles, she signed a studio contract with Fox Film Corporation in 1924 at the age of 16 , where Lombard quickly rose to Leading Lady . After a car accident left a scar at Lombard, her expiring contract with Fox was not renewed. She therefore switched to the Pathé Exchange studio, where she appeared in 15 short films between September 1927 and March 1929 alone and was also able to demonstrate her comedic talent.

The transition from silent film to sound film did not cause her any problems. In 1930 she starred opposite Warner Baxter in The Arizona Kid and was signed to Paramount Pictures that same year . There she was first cast opposite Charles Rogers in the comedy Safety in Numbers . In the years that followed, Lombard embodied a wide variety of roles, from society ladies to prostitutes and college students to adulteresses, without breaking through into the ranks of top stars. William Powell was her partner in Man of the World and Ladies' Man , among others , and the two married in June 1931. Powell and Lombard remained on friendly terms with each other even after their divorce in 1933. Lombard met her second husband in 1932 when she starred opposite Clark Gable in No Man of Her Own . Her performance alongside George Raft in Bolero in 1934 placed Lombard's dancing skills in the foreground. She broke into the ranks of Hollywood's leading stars at Columbia Pictures in Napoleon on Broadway , the film adaptation of a Broadway hit, in which she starred opposite John Barrymore as a rising Hollywood star. Carole Lombard went on to become a star in numerous screwball comedies , including 1935 's Mitchell Leisen's Love in a Flash and William K. Howard's A Princess for America the following year. In both films, she starred alongside Fred MacMurray , with whom she would make four films.

In her comedies, Lombard specialized in portraying neurotic, unconventional and high-spirited women, such as the spoiled daughter of a wealthy family in Gregory La Cava's comedy My Husband Godfrey , where she was cast opposite William Powell. At the 1937 Academy Awards , Lombard received her only Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for My Husband Godfrey . After her studio contract with Paramount expired, Lombard, following the example of Irene Dunne and Janet Gaynor , decided not to enter into long-term contractual ties with a single studio and was subsequently able to secure financially lucrative deals, thanks to which she had an annual income of over US$465,000 in 1937. Dollar became the country's highest-paid female actress. She has asked for and received fees of up to $150,000 per film, including her performance in the 1937 comedy To Themselves, produced by David O. Selznick , starring Lombard opposite Fredric March and directed by William A. Wellman as allegedly terminally ill woman whose fate is exploited by newspapers as a media sensation. The film was shot in the then new 3-color Technicolor . However, Lombard increasingly wanted to be perceived as a dramatic actress and tried to switch to more demanding roles from 1939 onwards. She took on the lead role of a widow in In Name Only in 1939, alongside Cary Grant and her good friend Kay Francis . Other films of this period with Lombard in more serious roles included her appearance opposite James Stewart in John Cromwell's drama The Perfect Couple , also distributed in 1939, and her role as a nurse in Vigil in the Night in 1940.

In 1939 she married Clark Gable, whom she had known since their film No Man of Her Own . The marriage ended in 1942 with Lombard's death. The actress had a long-standing friendship with the director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma . In 1941, during the filming of Mr. and Mrs. Smith , following Hitchcock's sarcastic comment that actors were like cattle, she paraded three cows with the name tags of the three main actors onto the set. The marital comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith marked Lombard's return to the screwball genre. Her last film, To Be or Not to Be, directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Jack Benny , was a satire on Nazism and World War II. It was distributed posthumously and initially received mixed reviews, but is now considered one of Lubitsch's best films. Shortly before her death, she was scheduled for One Kiss Too Many. The role was later filled by Joan Crawford .


Tomb of Carole Lombard

The actress died on January 16, 1942 at the age of 33 in the Transcontinental and Western Air Flight 3 crash . She was on a tour that also promoted war bonds, raising more than $2 million in total. The plane, nearly seven miles off course, crashed into a mountainside 25 meters below the summit of Potosi Mountain, one of Nevada's highest peaks, in the evening. The plane crashed into a ravine, broke up and burst into flames. All 22 people on board were killed, including Lombard, her mother and her press agent. Pilot error was given as the cause of the accident in the investigation report. The plane crash, but especially Lombard's death, caused a stir. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt said on her death:

"She brought great joy to all who knew her and to millions who only knew her as a great artist. She selflessly gave time and talent to serve her government in peace and war. She loved her country. She is and always will be a star, one we should never forget and always be grateful for.”

The actress, who converted to the Bahai faith in 1938 and had no children, was buried with her mother at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale . Clark Gable was devastated by the death of his wife and although he later married twice, he was buried next to Lombard at his request in 1960.

Filmography (selection)


Carole Lombard's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

At the turn of the millennium, the American Film Institute ranked her the 23rd greatest female American film star of all time. Shortly after her death, the Liberty freighter SS Carole Lombard was named after her, and there is the Carole Lombard Memorial Bridge in her native town of Fort Wayne.

In 2021, Lombard's comedic work should be honored together with that of Rosalind Russell and Mae West in a retrospective at the Berlinale . Due to the restrictions caused by the corona pandemic , this part was postponed to 2022.


web links

Commons : Carole Lombard  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Tales of Vegas Past: The death of Carole Lombard at the Las Vegas Mercury (via Web Archive)
  2. The Bahá'í World 1940–1944 p.635. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette
  3. Retrospective "No Angels - Mae West, Rosalind Russell & Carole Lombard". In: 15 October 2021, retrieved 24 November 2020 .
  4. Retrospective, Berlinale Classics & Homage. Retrieved January 16, 2022 .