The New Mr. and Mrs. (Screenland, October 1931)

“Oh you wed, wed you?” people asked. Well, they certainly wed!

By Gary Gray

Hollywood’s prized package bachelor, the catch of the season, and a lot of other seasons, the man whose name headed the guest lists of more cinema colony hostesses than any other – and who avoided social crowding with an earnestness of effort that amounted to a phobia – has gone the way of all masculine flesh.

Bill Powell is on a Hawaiian honeymoon, the culmination of one of the most rapid, torrid and unexpected romances in the memory of the studios.

The girl whose net brought in the haul is – was – Carole Lombard, née Jane Peters. She is the envy of every single girl in town. Her cap, of all the rest, was set at the most jaunty angle.

Let’s see how she conducted her campaign.

Hollywood got its first intimation that the Powell-Lombard fires of love were burning when the former Sennett girl, blonde, blue-eyed and outspoken, returned to the Pacific coast after having appeared in an eastern-made picture – a concoction of the poor little rich girl falling in love with the family chauffeur who made her realize that the truest hearts beat, not under ermine coats, but under denim jackets.

Carole played in that picture and played her part well. So well that the production company saw her as a potential star and sent her to its studios in Hollywood. There, at that time, William Powell was under contract, pursuing his suave, indifferent, lifted eyebrow way through a series of silk-hatted Philo Vance-ish pictures of which, to use his own phrase, he was “getting d*** good and tired!”

He yearned for a change. Note that fact particularly. William Powell wanted relief from the humdrum business of making several thousand dollars every week by playing a bored and polished gentleman.

He got his change. His next picture was to be “Ladies’ Man.” That, certainly enough, offered no variety. But the casting office did. Powell drew Carole Lombard for his chief feminine interest, and that she immediately became.

“Ladies Man” went into production shortly before Christmas week. On Christmas morning, a Cadillac coupé was driven up in front of the Lombard home. From that time on Hollywood held out no hope for William Powell. He was altar-bound in spite of everything his friends could do.

Haste must be made here to correct a possible wrong impression. It would be unfair and much in error to intimate that calculation entered into their respective campaigns. The regard and love of each for the other was as spontaneous as love always is.

The spark that fired it, according to the purely personal opinion of this single observer, was that Carole Lombard had no greater interest in William Powell during their first we weeks of business contact than he did in her. They met on the set for their day’s work. That done, each went a separate way to matters concerned solely with the advancement of their professiona lcareers.

Powell has confided to intimate friends that his first interest in Carole Lombard was aroused by her almost complete indifference to him; that and to the fact that not once did she take him seriously. And Powell was not the man accustomed to having his screen work taken any other way.

It must have been a shock to Powell when she first called him “Junior,” her favorite pet name for him. It started as a gag. Now it has become a term of personal endearment. He loves it. He loved it even at the start. Imagine the jolt that must have given him – one of the biggest stars of the screen – to have a brand new leading woman suddenly call him “Junior!”

Nothing is more revealing of the temperament of the new Mrs. William Powell. She, to use the terminology of the studios, is a real trouper, a grand gal, a thorough-going scout, a great scout, a regular fellow. Her sense of humor is delightful. She’s as natural all times as a streak of the sun.

It took a girl like that to win William Powell. He admits it. He leaves it unsaid, but it is true nevertheless, that in her he met the first girl in several years who didn’t make a play for him from the outset. Most girls have a failing for wealthy, clever, unattached gentlemen, you know.

The Powell-Lombard marriage should prove to be ideally happy. Each has been married before. Each knows the pitfalls to avoid. Neither is a poseur, which among the Hollywood professionals is a somewhat extraordinary thing.

And then again the matter of money – wrecker of many homes – need never bother them. Miss Lombard has a comfortable income, inherited and earned. Powell, influenced most of his life by the fear of poverty, has a well-invested fortune. And both are earning plenty every week.

Powell’s fear of penury lays him wide open for Freudian analysis. Often he has said: “The one great horror of my life is the thought of an impoverished old age.”

Perhaps there’s another reason for his marriage. Perhaps but not quite likely.

Powell’s wedding day was typical of his temperament and of hers, his wife’s. Neither likes ostentation. Both despise sham and show. Those few who knew when and where the ceremony was to take place were pledged to secrecy – and they kept their secret. The few newspaper men who found out about it did so by the simple process of putting related facts together. They observed that the bride-to-be did not leave her home in Beverly Hills all day. Watching the house they also observed that a florist’s truck backed up to the door in the late afternoon. The omnipresent press, then, was the only uninvited element at the ceremony. A small roomful of friends and relatives stood by.

Moss Lombard’s wedding dress was a simple blue chiffon. A shoulder-piece of orchids was the only bit of bridal finery. Powell wore a business suit. Short and sweet was the keynote of the rite.

And so it was that Hollywood’s prize bachelor took the dive.