With amused despair, Carole Lombard makes a loud outcry against whispering campaigns
By: Edward Churchill
All was quiet and tranquil when I arrived at Paramount Studios, where she is making True Confession, to find out what Carole Lombard had on her mind. But all was not kindness and light for long as I agreed Carole with:
“I didn’t think I’d find you here this morning.”
Carole’s eyes widened and her eyebrows lifted an inch or so.
“Heard you were running amuck last night on the Venice pier. Lots of fun — lots of excitement.”
“And where did you hear that?” she asked, with a calmness that frightened me.
“I really — don’t know,” I faltered. “I–I just picked it up on my morning rounds. Somebody said –“
“Get me Fieldsie!” she ordered, waving her arm as if it were a red flag.
Fieldsie was produced. This stopped Carole’s pacing.
Carole eyed me coldly.
“Repeat what you just told me.”
“Where was I, Fieldsie?”
“At home in bed.”
Carole turned to me.
I wasn’t quite sure. But I nodded and wished I’d gone fishing instead. When Carole burns it’s a four-alarm event. In comparison, the Chicago fire just smoldered.
“Where did it start and who started it?” she demanded. “Where do rumors come from? How could I be in bed and at the Venice pier at the same time?”
“So we’re playing riddles?” I mumbled.
“It has me stopped,” Carole continued, unmindful of my interjection. “I tell you, I’m afraid to do anything and afraid that if I don’t do anything somebody’ll say I did.”
“Consider my case,” I moaned. “Constantly, I’m taken for Shirley Temple.”
Carole turned to her amanuensis, fixer, lady-in-waiting, et cetera.
“You tell him, Fieldsie.”
“You tell it better, Carole.”
“Very well. Fieldsie and I were sitting at home playing cards. One of the big social shindigs was on. We had the radio turned on to a station that was broadcasting the doings. Very colorful. Very beautiful. Until the announcer said, ‘And, folks, there’s Carole Lombard.’ Well, Fieldsie and I forgot the score. That baby described what clothes I wore, who I was with, what a swell time I was having. It was really something. Sometimes I surprise myself at the way I get around.”
Carole’s quite healthy, but there are times she doesn’t believe it herself.
“Six times in six months,” she complained, “the rumor goes out that I’m dying with pneumonia. People must think that I’m a walking, all-year round resort for germs. They can’t resist me and I can’t resist them. I was making a picture last winter and asked Mitchell Leisen, the director to give me a day off. Some fun! The word started bouncing around that I had a cold, the next think it was pneumonia. And this is the worst of it –“
“Mother was actually seriously ill. She worries when anything is wrong with me. The rumor grew and grew until I was supposed to be gasping my last. In some way she heard the wild story, and she became so upset her recovery was set back several days. It just goes to show you the damage that idle gossip can cause.”
Carole burns because every time anyone gets away with a gag she is blamed for it. True, she has a reputation for pulling a few harmless ones on Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Mitchell Leisen and a few others.
But now it’s getting pretty tough. Just as nearly any ungrammatical joke is attributed to Sam Goldwyn so many gags she never heard of are credited to Carole.
“A gag can be mean, it can be unfunny, it can be thoughtless,” Carole said. “It’s not very nice to find myself blamed for all the gags in Hollywood, and some that don’t happen at all. Who thinks up the gags that don’t happen and who puts my name on them> What do the fans think? I have a reputation for giving crazy parties because I staged one or two a few years ago. I pull a few gags and I’m the queen of practical jokers. Judging from some of my fan mail I must be a first class nit-wit by the time the phoney stories reach good old Pawtuxet.”
Carole reveals that she is so afraid of the false stories which never get into print but which have such a huge and damaging circulation that she has gotten rid of her star sapphires.
“I used to love them,” she said, “but I’ve heard so many untrue stories that I’ve sold them all. Why? Because heavens only knows what might happen if the tales keep circulating. My collection was small, very modest. But word of mouth advertising had them growing like weeds in a California subdivision. Both in numbers and size. The last reports I heard — the ones which fritened me into getting rid of them — sounded as if I’d cornered the star sapphire market. You can’t enjoy things and be afraid of the consequences of having them at the same time.”
Rumors concerning herself and Clark Gable have worried Carole to such an extent that she won’t mention his name within a mile of anyone who might be apt to gossip. She and Hollywood admit that she and Gable see each other. Jack Benny, on his last broadcast of the current season, made that clear when he said he thought Carole was wonderful but that he was afraid of Clark Gable. He was kidding about the whole thing, of course, but there may be some who took him seriously and have fabricated rumors about a triangle involving Benny, Gable, and Carole. That might sound farfetched but it isn’t.
Carole, through me, makes a serious plea to all her fans to believe nothing which doesn’t come through definite and legitimate news channels. “I think that should go for rumors concerning everyone in the industry, or out of it,” Carole said seriously.
“The best way to spike a rumor is to ask the one who passes it along, ‘Do you know that to be a fact? How can you be sure? Who told you?’ Usually the rumor spreader will back down with the admission that he or she heard it from so-and-so, who knows so-and-so, who heard so-and-so say.”
Carole let me in on a new angle as far as she is concerned — something which is not rumor, but fact. You hereby have it on good authority that she is going to take things easy from now on. In spite of rumors of parties galore and gags and other things, she’s had plenty of work to do and has done it. The last ten years have been a constant struggle for improvement, and she claims that she’s forgotten how to have fun.
“I’m going to have a little now,” she asserted. “I take a lot of pride in making my home a real home. I like to fool around in it, but knick-knacks for it. I’m going in for more riding and more tennis. I own a ranch in the San Fernando Valley. I’ve never owned a house of my own and I’m thinking of building there. I’d like a farmhouse type of place with a couple of horses. Besides, I’ve got to do something with my personal menagerie. My rented place is getting too small for several dogs, a burro, cats, a rooster, and a couple of hens.”
Carole’s face brightened as she considered this prospect. Then, all of a sudden, her face clouded. She sighed heavily.
“Nope,” she said, “it might not work out — the word might get around that I was giving up my career and going in for the simple life. The gossips might have me all washed up. Poor Carole! No jobs, no future. So she has to build a ranch and retire to it.”
The thought got her down for a moment.
“Maybe I ought to take a trip around the world instead?” she said doubtfully. “On second thought, no. Can’t you see the stories? Carole Flees From It All –”
She weighed the matter.
“Maybe I might take a few weeks off.”
“Try that,” said Fieldsie, “and the report’ll go out you’re having your face lifted.”
“Then how about a weekend in the mountains?”
“Nix,” said this writer. “They’ll have you eloping to Yuma with Freddie Bartholomew.”
“Fieldsie,” she said weakly, “will you please call the newspapers and tell them that I wasn’t romping on the Venice pier last night?”
“What’s the use,” asked Fieldsie, wearily, “I’ll only have to do it again next week.”