Happy 108th Birthday, Carole Lombard!

Carole Lombard, the Great Dame of American cinema, was born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 108 years ago today. Here are 10 CL Did-You-Knows:

  • Lombard’s parents divorced when she was young, and it was during a Southern California vacation that her mother decided to relocate there with her three children (Carole had two older brothers).
  • Lombard was discovered at age 12 while playing baseball in the street by director Allan Dwan, who cast her in his picture A Perfect Crime (1921) as a tomboy. It was the only picture in which she would be listed in the credits as Jane Peters.
  • At age 18, Lombard was in an auto accident that scarred the left side of her face. Plastic surgery repaired the damage sufficiently for her career to continue after her recovery.
  • Lombard appeared in more than 35 silent pictures, many of them comedy shorts made by the Mack Sennett Company, where she honed the comedy skills that would serve her so well later in her career. She made 42 talkies before her life tragically came to an end at age 33.
  • Her name appeared in movie credits as Carol Lombard until an E was mistakenly added to her first name in the credits for Safety in Numbers (1930). The studio decided that would be the spelling of her name going forward, and she went along. She had her named legally changed to Carole Lombard in 1936.
  • Lombard was nicknamed the Profane Angel for her lovely appearance and, er, colorful vocabulary (it’s said she swore like a sailor).
  • Lombard’s first marriage, to actor William Powell, was short-lived—they were married just 26 months—but they remained devoted friends for the rest of her life.
  • She and second husband Clark Gable first met while serving as extras on the set of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925). They were extras on three films together and made one feature—No Man of Her Own (1932)—together, but wouldn’t become romantically involved until 1936.
  • For all her success in screwball and romantic comedies, Lombard turned down the female lead roles in three classic of those genres: It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and His Girl Friday.
  • Lombard and her mother were on a war bonds tour when the TWA plane they were traveling on crashed 33 miles southwest of Las Vegas in the Spring Mountains. The flight’s three crew members and all 19 passengers were killed. She was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first woman killed in the line of duty during World War II.

Happy birthday, Carole Lombard, wherever you may be!

Carole Lombard

Happy 113th Birthday, Claudette Colbert!

The lovely Claudette Colbert was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin 113 years agao today in Saint-Mandé, France, an eastern suburb of Paris. We saw her perform on Broadway 31 years ago opposite Rex Harrison in a drawing room comedy called Aren’t We All? and it remains among our greatest regrets that we didn’t play Stage-Door Johnny after the show to tell her how we admired her. Here are 10 CC Did-You-Knows:

  • Her father owned a bakery on what is now Avenue Général de Gaulle, but the family moved to New York City in 1906.
  • Colbert attended Washington Irving High School in New York City, graduating in 1923.
  • As a child, Colbert dreamed of being a Broadway actress, and to that end, after her formal education was completed, she enrolled for dramatic training at the Art Students League of New York and paid for her studies by working in a dress shop.
  • She debuted on Broadway in 1923 in a play called The Wild Wescotts, and it was during that show’s run that she changed her name.
  • She turned to films as a practical choice when the Great Depression proved to be a difficult time for live theatre. Her first movie was a 1927 Frank Capra-directed silent picture called For the Love of Mike (alas, the film is now considered lost). It was so poorly under-budgeted that Capra had to hitchhike back to Hollywood from New York City. After making the picture, Colbert vowed, “I shall never make another film.”
  • Colbert considered her left side to be her best and was rarely photographed from any other angle.
  • Colbert was so convinced that she wouldn’t win the Oscar for It Happened One Night (1934) that she skipped the ceremony. She was quickly transported over from a train station when the announcement was made that she had won.
  • Colbert turned down the role of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940).
  • Colbert was one of five French actresses (though she later became a naturalized U.S. citizen) to win an Academy Award and one of just 12 French actresses to earn an Oscar nomination.
  • Her nickname was Lily.

Happy birthday, Claudette Colbert, wherever you may be!

Claudette Colbert