“Carole Lombard tells: ‘How I Live by a Man’s Code'” (Photoplay, September 1937)

Here is a woman who lives by the theory that she has equal rights with the male – but she also (wise girl) reserves all her feminine prerogatives.

By: Hart Seymore

She’s as delectably feminine as Eve, but watch out! That’s no apple in her hand; it’s a blackjack!

Because that apparently soft and defenseless girl curled up in the pillows is completely deceiving, and if you think, most lordly Male, can deal with her in the time honored manner of the dominant sex, then you don’t know Carole Lombard.

Having found herself plumped down into a world where men are supposed to be masters of all creation, Carole has simply adapted herself to her surroundings. She lives her life on the logical premise that she has equal rights with the male of the species, but she has (wise girl) preserves all her feminine prerogatives.

She organizes her affairs, lives by a code designed to fit a man’s world, and handles her business affairs with devastating serenity; ye she never forgets that a woman’s first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick.

She competes in sports and plays tennis better than most men, but she doesn’t let her nose get shiny doing it.

All of which makes “Missy” Lombard the perfect example of the modern Career Girl.

So you girls who live alone and still don’t like it, take a leaf out from the private notebook of that ultra feminine success-in-life, Carole Lombard. What one woman has done, others can do.

Of course you need a few of the more essential elements, such as a pair of eyes that can open wide in bland innocence or give off sparks that can shock and numb; a figure that looks so luscious in an evening gown that it wouldn’t seem possible that it could look even better in riding dungarees — yet it does; plus a mind that is as intuitive and fanciful as any woman’s, and still forthright, outspoken, and sometimes painfully honest.

That’s all you need. That’s all that Carole has that some girls haven’t. But it’s plenty.

“What’s your secret — how do you get along so well in a man’s world?” I asked her.

“Because I don’t believe it is a man’s world,” Carole replied promptly, and so, with a leap and a bound, we were right in the midst of the story.

“A woman has just as much right in the world as a man, and can get along in it just as well if she puts her mind to it,” Carole announced firmly.

“Take business — that’s supposed to be a man’s province yet I can name you the most outstanding success in the business life of the movie sand that person is a woman: Mary Pickford. You can’t match her. She’s supreme in every department.”

“As a matter of fact, women have an advantage in business. Men are so secure in their belief that they are supreme in business that they are often caught napping by alert women. Man thinks he’s dealing with an inferior brain when it comes to woman, and that makes him a sucker. Furthermore, women have a highly developed sense of intuition that’s just as valuable as hardheaded logic.”

Carole has scored neatly, I’ll admit. But she leaves out another excellent example of success in business; herself. She, too, has met with men in the marts of trade and emerged victorious. It’s all in the record so don’t take my word for it. She has recently negotiated a new contract that many a big star would give his eye teeth to own, plus the right to do an outside film at another studio. She has already negotiated for that extra film.

If you look at this from the inside, you’ll really understand what Carole’s accomplished. When a star makes a picture away from her studio, the responsibility is entirely on her shoulders. She has to talk business with dozens of producers scrambling to sign her up to their advantage, not hers. She must read dozens of scripts, for if she chooses a poor story it’s going to be just too bad for little Missy. That means, in this particular case, that Carole must have every wit sharpened to be on guard against a bad contract or an even worse script.

True, she has counsel, as all good business men should. She has a capable agent, plus the advice of a most capable associate — who happens to be another woman, her secretary, Madalynne Field. What Missy can’t think of, Fieldsie can. For a pair of completely feminine women, they are formidable combination in the dog-eat-dog of the picture business. And does she fritter away the fruits of victory in cars, furs, or big homes? She does not. Carole always has lived in small, unpretentious homes, which she decorates herself in exquisite taste.

Carole is one girl who knows where she’s going and just how she’s going to get there.

If you want the signposts she follows, here they are.

  1. Play Fair
    “You’ll find that men usually play fair,”Carole said. It’s all very well to say that you want to back out of a bargain because you’ve changed your mind. That’s supposed to be a woman’s privilege. But men don’t play the game that way. A man who says he’ll do a thing and then reneges, is soon put back where he belongs, out in the cold. If I say I’ll do something, I make it stick.”

  2. Don’t Brag
    “Men can brag,” Carole points out, ” but that’s where a woman can’t do what men do, and still be feminine. No man will endure listening to a girl boast about how smart she is.”

  3. Obey the Boss
    “A career girl who competes with men has to learn that rule – or lose. If she won’t accept discipline, or bow to the rules of the institution and take orders , she can’t succeed. I know that the picture director knows best. I remember when I was making My Man Godfrey with William Powell. Gregory La Cava was directing. One day he was ill, but he insisted that work go on while he rested.”

    “You know what to do,” he told us. “Just pretend I’m there and go ahead.”

    “Well, it didn’t work. Bill and I were used to taking orders because it’s part of the discipline of the studio. It was a simple scene, we knew what to do, bur the director wasn’t there and we felt lost. Somebody has to be the boss in every big enterprise, and if the boss is absent the business soon comes to a halt.”

  4. Take Criticism
    “Men have learned to take criticism, that is, the successful men. The ones who flare up and go home are the kind who never get the last installment paid on the radio. Here again the movies have taught me. I have learned to take criticism and stand up to it like a man Yet a woman will simply burn if you hint that hat she’s got doesn’t look quite perfect , or that she might, just might, have led from the queen, jack, ten instead of tossing in and eight spot.”

    “I went to a showing of the first rough cut of Swing High, Swing Low in a small college town. In the tragic scenes where I screwed up my face to cry ( I can’t help it if I look that way when I cry), the audience laughed. When I really turned it on and emoted, they howled! It was heartbreaking. I felt like crawling under the seats and losing myself among the gum and other useless things. But I had to take it. If you’re playing according to masculine rules, which is required of any girl with a career, you’ve got to accept criticism and profit by it. Otherwise how could you become a singer, decorator, painter or private secretary? I learned something from that experience, too. I’m best if I top the tears with a laugh. A star who is too big for criticism sooner or later loses out. That goes for working women, too.”

  5. Love Is Private
    “When it comes to your personal life, such as love and romance, girls should take a tip from men and keep their affairs to themselves. Any man worth his salt regards his private life as his own. To kiss a girl and run and tell would mark him as a cad. Why doesn’t that apply to girls also?”

    6. Work — And Like it!
    “All women should have something worthwhile to do,”says Carole, “and cultivate efficiency at it, whether it’s housekeeping or raising chickens. Working women are interesting women, and they’re easier to live with. Idle women who can think of nothing to do with their times are dangerous to themselves and to others. The only ‘catty’ women I’ve known were idlers, with nothing to do but gossip and make trouble.”

7. Pay Your Share
“Nobody likes a man who is always fumbling when it’s time to pay the check,” Carole points out. “I think the woman who assumes that the man can afford to pay for everything is making a mistake. More and more the custom of the Dutch treat is coming in vogue, particularly among working men and women. You don’t have to surrender your femininity if you pay your share of the bills.”

8. The Cardinal Virtue
“– Is a sense of humor,” sys Carole. “Do you laugh in the right places? Then, you’ll get along, in fair weather or foul. Humor is nothing less than a sense of fitness for things. Something that’s out of proportion, like an inflated ego, should strike you funny, in particularly if it’s your own inflated ego. Otherwise you are pathetic and quite hopeless.”

9. Be Consistent
“By that,” remarks Carole, “I mean you should take a hint from men. They are terribly consistent, as a rule. You can tell what they’ll do in any given circumstance. If a girl puts her best foot forward at the office, she shouldn’t change steps when she gets home. A career girl must be neatly turned out, even-tempered and willing to take orders at work and there’s no reason why she must check those virtues with her hat and coat when she leaves her place of business.”

“I manage to add enough inconsistency to my behavior at the studio so that I’m the same there as at home; inclines to blow off steam at odd moments or be very demure and sweet-tempered – just to keep ’em guessing. I don’t quite know which way I am. That’s being consistently inconsistent, anyway.”

“Men are about the same at home as they are at work. Don’t say it’s because they lack imagination to be otherwise — just take the hint. Men are creatures of habit and comfort, and they are puzzled and disturbed by changed. That’s why so many of them marry their stenographers; it’s in hope of finding the same efficiency at home as at the office. They are supreme optimists.”

” If you go into the business world to meet male competition, then you’ve got to play the game more or less according to their rules. By doing that, I’ve found that any intelligent girl can get along very well. About the only important difference I’ve noticed is in the problem of travel; men can travel alone easier than women. However, old habits of transportation are changing and the comfort of women is more and more the concern of air, railroad, and bus travel.”

10. Be Feminine
“All of this,” Carole declares, “does not keep you from preserving your femininity. You can still be insane about a certain brand of perfume, and weep when you get a run in your favorite pair of stockings. You can still have fits when the store send out the very shade or red drapes you did not order, and which swear horribly at the red in the davenport. But when you go down to complain, be a man about it.”

“All of which sums up to this: Play fair and be reasonable. When a woman can do that, she’ll make some man the best manager he ever found, or wind up running a whole department store. And being a woman, thank heaven you still have that choice!”