“Hollywood’s Goofy Gal Goes Glamorous” (Screen Book, February 1939)

By: Eugene Schrott

“Carole Lombard’s going straight!”

From Hollywood comes the news that the blue-eyed, blonde girl who airily banged her way up the ladder of success will soon emerge as a new, different personality.

For the time being, there will be no more gay, exciting antics or high-handed horseplay. No more will she take the kicks and punches that made audiences howl with glee. No more will she be flung into watery puddles or pushed down slippery staircases.

Carole Lombard proved that she could take it. No other star has been kicked and knocked around as much as Carole. But hard knocks mean little to her. She is accustomed to them. Except for the fresh bruises and new aches and pains, Carole didn’t mind the rough and tumble treatment that was so generously meted out to her. She has been beaten up ever since she made her debut in films and considers herself an authority in the knock-down, drag-out technique.

It didn’t matter to her that her hair was always stringy and the simple little Schiaparelli models covered with dirt and grime. She didn’t object to the rough and tumble deals she was receiving at the hands of handsome male actors. Looking, for the most part, like something the cat wouldn’t drag in, she was happy just as long as her fans were getting what they wanted.

But now everything is to be different. A new, glamorous Carole is emerging from the cocoon of comedy, a Carole who is vitally different. Instead of making people laugh, she will portray the more serious side of life with the same sincerity she has revealed in handling frivolous romance.

The rumor of “box-office poison” hasn’t touched her, so it’s not fear of losing her appeal that is prompting her to go “straight.” The public is still interested in Carole Lombard as a laugh-provoker. Her producers entertain no fears that she will become typed, because there is more to her than the ability to get laughs out of the audiences. Beneath the gay exterior there is the serious note so closely related to the art of making people laugh.

Carole has not disliked her work. “I got an awful big kick out of playing those silly, rough and tumble roles,” she says. “I had as much fun as the audiences who sat in the theaters and watched the finished version.”

Judging from the sacks of mail that have followed the appearance of every new picture of hers, there’s no indication that the public is tired of her comedies.

“My audience almost always expected this light, amusing slapstick whenever I was scheduled to make a new picture. They looked forward to seeing me take it on the chin time and again – even if it was my chin that got sore and my feelings that were always injured. But when I start thinking of all the socking about I got, I feel like taking my revenge on all those good-looking brutes who mauled me into something I, myself, could hardly recognize.”

“I’m glad of the opportunity I’ve had to make people laugh. In these days when you hear so much talk of trouble, it’s gratifying to see people break into an occasional smile or chuckle. It eases your heart to be able to make them laugh. It makes you feel that, after all, this silly, nonsensical stuff does serve some useful purpose in life.”

“But no more fist-fights in hotel rooms, no more kicking, punching, wrestling matches. I’m going straight. I’m taking a vacation from mirth – a holiday from humor. I’m going to profit by the big opportunity that has come along and try to make a success of it. Most people claim it is much more difficult to make people laugh than to make them cry. But now that I’m convinced I can make them laugh, I’m going to start the job of training for the deeper, more sober type of characterization.”

Success came to Carole the hard way. Hers is a story of hard, grueling work, of endless disappointment. She knows what it means to foot it from studio to studio only to be met with one refusal after another. Sometimes there was a day’s work to break up the hopeless routine. But with study and determination, she finally managed to work her way up from the ranks. The long haul not only made her a better actress but it toughened her to meet the hard knocks that were in store for her.

Her career began as a whipping boy in the comedy ranks for an assortment of Mack Sennett roughneck comedians. From that she rose to small parts, and then followed feature roles and stardom.

Of anguish as the sadder poets describe it, Carole Lombard is ignorant. Hers is suffering on a less heroic scale – ligaments torn from their moorings, maltreated shins and a battered derriere. In short, she is one actress who really means it when she cries, “Oh, the pain of it all!”

“If all my physical liabilities at the end of one of my pictures were laid end to end,” says Carole, “they would probably leave an arnica-stained trail from New York to Hollywood. I have finally arrived at the post-graduate stage in man-mauling and I’m thoroughly familiar with every cinch and strangle-hold, thanks to my preparatory course in hardknocks.”

“In Love Before Breakfast, there was the scene where I went to bat with Preston Foster and wound up with a beautiful black eye. Remember My Man Godfrey? There was nothing exactly ladylike about that unforgettable tussle in the shower with William Powell, during which I was doused with gallons and gallons of water.”

“But the prize for violence went to We’re Not Dressing. In one scene I scampered too fast for Bing Crosby and in order to catch up with me he used football tactics. A neat flying tackle brought me down. I landed with a thud and six strained vertebrae.”

“In Twentieth Century I was kicked by John Barrymore. In Virtue I was knocked cold by that brute, Pat O’Brien. Who says the life of an actress is a bed of roses! I can show a few fancy scars and bruises to back up my contention that life for me has been just one hard knock after another.”

“I’m a peace-loving girl, but I’m going to stage a one-woman revolution that will shake the rafters of every studio in Hollywood. Whenever a script calls for the star to take a beating, directors immediately think of me. Whenever a girl has to be tossed about, man-handled or ducked in a pond of cold water, all minds turn in one direction. Mine.”

“But don’t get me wrong,” smiles Carole. “I’m not complaining.” And then, in a whisper loud enough for everyone to hear, she says, “I get more fun out of it all than anyone else. Only I wish they would reverse the procedure one of these days and let me do the dishing out, now that I’ve convinced them that I’m one gal who can take it standing up.”

In Made for Each Other, which she has been making for Selznick, there is no madcap clowning, no midnight rides in the milk wagon or love making in packing cases. It is a straight, serious film in which she portrays the part of a down-to-earth person without whims and caprices. Carole will have the opportunity to put her talents for serious acting into full play.

Just how the public will receive Carole in this kind of role is a matter of conjecture. If she makes as great a success as the Hollywood experts predict, there will be a long vacation for the gay, nonsensical stuff. But she is not primarily interested in changing her type. She only wants to prove to herself and her followers that she is not a one-part actress. She wants to make her audiences weep, now that she has succeeded in keeping them in convulsive laughter for so many years.