Happy 125th Birthday, William Powell!

The delightful William Powell was born 125 years ago today in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Of all the stars who shone during Hollywood’s Golden Age, it is Powell we would choose to model ourselves after. He came off as suave, sophisticated, elegant, witty, warm and decent. Happy birthday, Mr. Powell, wherever you may be!

Here are 10 things you should know about William Powell…

Happy 106th Birthday, Jean Harlow!

Jean Harlow, the original Blonde Bombshell, was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter 106 years ago today in Kansas City, Missouri. Here are 10 JH Did-You-Knows:

  • Harlow, the daughter of a dentist and his wife, left home at 16 to marry Charles McGrew, a businessman seven years her senior. The pair moved to Los Angeles, where Harlow was soon garnering assignments as an extra in pictures.
  • Her marriage to McGrew ended after just two years, allowing Harlow to focus on her career. She soon graduated from extra work to bit parts in features and shorts.
  • Harlow’s big break came in 1930 when she was cast in Howard Hughes‘ World War I epic, Hell’s Angels. The picture’s premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood was reported to have drawn a crowd of 50,000 people.
  • Hughes sold Harlow’s contract to MGM, where her star continued to ascend. Her work in Frank Capra‘s Platinum Blonde (1931) was very well received, and the following year she was paired with Clark Gable in John Ford‘s Red Dust, the second of six pictures she and Gable would appear in together during her short career.
  • Harlow is said to have turned down lead role in Freaks (1932) and King Kong (1933).
  • Harlow served as godmother to Millicent Siegel, the daughter of gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. She also dated mobster Abner “Longie” Zwillman, who advanced her career by loaning Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, $500,000.
  • In 1935, Harlow demanded more money from MGM, refusing to work until they assented, and while she was on strike, she wrote a novel, Today Is Tonight. It wasn’t published until 1965, early thirty years after her death.
  • Both Harlow and Marilyn Monroe starred opposite Gable in their final pictures—Harlow in Saratoga (1937) and Monroe in The Misfits (1961). Monroe idolized Harlow and refused the chance to play her in a biopic because she felt the script was not respectful to Harlow.
  • At the time of her death, Harlow was engaged to actor William Powell (and had been for two years). Had the pair married, Powell would have been Harlow’s fourth husband.
  • Though rumors long persisted that her mother, a Christian Scientist, refused medical care for her daughter, or that Harlow died of alcohol abuse, sunstroke, poisoning due to her platinum hair dye or any of a number of other causes, Harlow’s passing, at the young age of 26, came as a result of kidney failure.

Happy birthday, Jean Harlow, wherever you may be!

Jean Harlow

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