He is the only man whose intelligence I’ve ever respected, says Carole Lombard, who, for the first time, tells the inside story of her courtship and marriage and why she believes she’s the happiest bride in Hollywood
By: Gladys Hall
If you think that Carole Lombard Powell must be an unusual kind of bride, you are about to discover your error. And if you suppose that William Powell must be a different kind of bridegroom, you’re as poor a guesser as a football expert. The only way they are unusual is that they are usually bride-and-groom-ish fora pair of Hollywood newlyweds.
Carole used to be known as rather “hard” and scornful and given to stories NOT for children. Bill was rated everywhere as suave, sophisticated, and polished. But they’re through playing those roles. Love has ripped away their superficial surface and they are human, after all. They are a young couple getting the biggest thrill of their lives. They are decidedly Like That. They are languid and longing when apart, and unable to talk about much but one another. They hold hands when together. They stay at home evenings.
There has been quite a bit in print anent the Lombard-Powell romance and marriage — the why and wherefore of it. There is also much that has not been printed. Now that she has had a few weeks in which to think things over, Carole has things to say that she has never said before.
That first meeting of theirs on a studio set — it assumes a proportion now that it didn’t have then or even immediately after. She had been a fan of his. (She has neglected to state this before.) She had always through he had a certain something she had never met in any man before. She was a very busy girl without much time to analyze herself, but when she did have time she knew that the Powell personality made her rather — well, restless.
In that moment of their introduction, she declares, they actually and physically felt something click. She fell in love with him for his intelligence, as nearly as she can label it now, looking back over her left shoulder. You see, she had never met an intelligent actor before. She had encountered the wisecracking, smart, with-a-patter type, yes. Intelligence is of different stuff. Bill fell in love with Carole the instant he saw her. He can’t say why — even now. He just waves his hands and says, “Oh, everything…” There is nothing about Carole he would change. Not one thing.
Within ten minutes of the first meeting, Bill was saying, “I think marriage is the only ideal state, don’t you?”
And he didn’t expect that Carole would see through the naiveté he so pitifully tries to make sound slike a casual comment. But she did. She remembers that she did — now. A shrewd and perceptive person, this fair-haired, gray-eyed Lombard lass.
Carole didn’t think that marriage was the ideal state for her. She had never been married, but she has those gray eyes, widely set and comprehensive. And she has used them — ever since, when a child of sixteen, she entered a studio and began her evasions of married men. It doesn’t make very pleasant hearing — Carole telling about the men. One man, now a star, tried to — well, it took an electrician on the set to call off the dog. It was this sort of thing that developed in Carole a form of protective coloration. She had to pretend to be hard. She had to tell funny stories to ward off amorous advances. She had to be scornful to those who would prey upon softness. Bill was the first man to penetrate her disguise.
She was afraid at first that she and Bill wouldn’t get along. They were too different. She was afraid he would be the jealous type. He sorta acted that way. But he persisted and she surrendered, dear…
They wanted to be married quietly, with just the families. Carole thinks Hollywood weddings are in your eye, with cameras parked among the prayer books and things. And, too, Paramount to whom she was, and is, under contract was acting a bit cantankerous about the marriage — like a disapproving parent. They didn’t want to give the girl a honeymoon. They didn’t want this ascending and potential star to marry at all. Carole said, “No honeymoon, no work.” She honeymooned.
The wedding started out to be private. It also started out to be rather comic. When the ring part of the ceremony arrived, for instance, Bill couldn’t locate the proper finger for the ring. (No one has ever heard this particular bit of bathos before, so you may consider yourselves in on the nuptials). After he tried a couple of thumbs and forefingers, Carole burst right out laughing. She laughed out loud at the very altar. She couldn’t help it. She thrust the legal digit in his face and said, between gasps, This finger, dear!”
As you know, Carole didn’t wear the bridal white. She wore a blue afternoon gown and Bill’s wedding gift — a perfect platter of a pin, composed of two star sapphires surrounded by diamonds. It would protect her from a machine gun in a front-line trench in any old war! The sapphires, by the way, are the color of Carole’s eyes. Maybe you didn’t think that didn’t occur to Bill!
During the ceremony, jittery enough for Bill as it was, the Press began to ooze in through the doors and windows and floors, as the Press will,. And instantly began to telephone descriptions of the bride and groom to their various sheets before the minister had come to the “I pronounce you man and wife!” In fact, Carole admits now that she isn’t quite certain he ever did get to that point, what with her uncontrollable mirth and the assiduities of the Press. She hopes for the best.
Among the Press were some omnipresent photographers. One, a weary, harassed looking lad was especially insistent that they pose for him. They didn’t want to, and said so. The lad finally broke down all over the place and confessed that he had just come from Santa Monica, where he had photographed another bride and groom, believing them to be Carole and Bill. If that isn’t a laugh I never heard one. Here’s a youth who wouldn’t know Garbo if he stumbled across her taking a sun bath.
After the excitement, the laughs and the surprise party of the Barthelmesses, Brooks, Torrences, et al, they were off to Honolulu. Carole was impressed with the people there. They were so kind, she says. She thinks the trouble with most of us is that we never take the time to be kind to people. Even when we have the time, we take it for other purposes. I have a hunch that life has been a little difficult with Carole so far as kindness goes. There is nothing soft and blahish about the beauty of Carole. She is no Pollyanna.
When the Bill Powells came back, they found that Mother Peters (Carole was born Carol Jane Peters) had rented a house for them in Beverly Hills. And that they were all moved in, including the colored man who had served Bill so expertly and for so long. They love it. They’re as happy as two youngsters.
Carole is finding out that she is domestically inclined — more so than she ever dreamed she would be. She’s glad that Bill persuaded her they should have a house, instead of an apartment. She loves to order meals, to count the laundry, to market, to arrange flowers, most of all to see their friends enjoying themselves in their home. And she is a swell cook, if she does say so, which she does. And Bill is “pathetic.” He hasn’t had a house of his own for so long that he can’t get over it. He goes about patting chairs and lamps and things and saying, “Now, this is a cute piece, don’t you think?”
As a husband of “many” months, Carole says, he is NOT suave, sophisticated, and polished. He is no Philo Vance except — except when it comes to detecting the things she wants, the things that will make her comfortable and happy, the little tendernesses and considerations precious to all her feminine hearts. In all such matters, his wife says, he would put Philo Vance, Sherlock Holmes and all of Scotland Yard to shame and confusion. He has second sight where she is concerned. With each week of married life this conjugal clairvoyance deepens and intensifies, rather than abates. He is so thoughtful and unselfish that Carole is “divinely happy. I didn’t know there could be such happiness as I am having now. I’ll never forget it, not one instant of it, so long as I live on this earth.” Mind you, this is the wife’s story, not the sweetheart’s.
Bill writes her little notes almost every day of their lives. Tender little notes. Humorous little notes. On her bridal bouquet, for instance, she found this little billet: “Dear Miss Lombard, will you kindly see that these reach the future Mrs. Powell and that she wears them?”
She says, this old, old, married woman, “I think he is the handsomest man in the world.” And Bill isn’t jealous. Not one bit. In fact, they kid about things like that. Bill says, “So-and-so kinda on the make for you today, eh, mama?” And Carole retorts in kind.
“The whole explanation of our marriage and our happiness,” says Carole, “is that we understand one another. We took time to do it — eight months of going together, every available moment. And where there is understanding, there is no possibility of misunderstanding. How can there be? I can’t see the sense in these so-called modern marriage pacts, talking things over, planning what one will do in this or that emergency, making charts of emotions. After all, emotional matters cannot be charted. If there is perfect understanding between two people, what is there to plan about? Bill and I do, and intend to do, what we feel like doing, where and with whom. But — we both know what the other feels like doing, and why. That’s all there is to it.”
Carole loves her young stepson (William Powell Jr.) and says, happily, that Bill is mad about him. She hopes, some day, to have children of her own. After two or three years more of work, she’ll be perfectly content to stop being Carole Lombard in order to be Mrs. William Powell and the mother of Bill’s children. She wants two, a boy and a girl.
This is the Bride’s story — and I believe she’ll stick to it.