Carole Lombard got here to Hollywood from the Midwest on the age of 7 and was making Westerns at Fox by age 9.

The legendary star of such classics as “My Man Godfrey” and “Twentieth Century” would rise to turn out to be a excessive-paid performer within the center of the Depression. Lombard was identified for her tomboy fashion, for throwing nice events, for her marriages to megastars William Powell and Clark Gable. She was additionally destined to be Hollywood’s first casualty of World War II. She was solely 33 and on the peak of her profession.

“Carole Lombard gave her life in the service of America,” Will Hays, president of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, advised Variety in January 1942 because the shock of Lombard’s demise in a airplane crash outdoors Las Vegas unfold by way of the business.

Daily Variety editor Arthur Ungar penned a web page-one tribute to Lombard that led the Jan. 19, 1942, version.

“Carole Lombard died in the line of duty. She was the first casualty of show business in this world war. She was in active service on a mission in defense of the United States —  selling Defense Bonds — when death suddenly overtook her in the skies,” Ungar wrote.

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At a time when the nation was polarized about whether or not to enter the battle, Lombard had been an outspoken supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was no shock that she was among the many first in what Variety then known as “the film colony” to boost her hand to assist the struggle effort. U.S. Treasury officers put the film star to work promoting struggle bonds to finance the big navy and industrial response to Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

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Variety report on Carole Lombard’s struggle bond drive

On Jan. 15, Lombard and Hays kicked off the nation’s first bond drive for WWII at a rally in Indianapolis. The setting was private for Lombard, as a local of Fort Wayne, Ind. The Treasury Department’s aim was to promote $500,000 value of struggle bonds and stamps; Lombard’s energetic pitch to Hoosiers on the metropolis’s Cadle Tabernacle wound up bringing in additional than $2 million.

After the occasion, Hays (of Hays Code fame) despatched a wire to Gable, who was not solely Lombard’s husband but in addition chair of the Hollywood committee in cost of assigning wartime help jobs to his fellow film stars.

“Great day here today. Carole was perfect. Really, she was magnificent and they sold in this one day $2,017,513 worth of bonds, with a quota of only $500,000. Every one deeply grateful I feel I must send you this expression of my personal appreciation,’ ” Hays wrote, based on Variety’s protection.

Accompanying Lombard on the trek to Indianapolis was her mom, Elizabeth Peters, and Otto Winkler, a longtime MGM publicity government who had for years dealt with Gable’s PR wants — an enormous job for the star (identified within the biz as “the King”) of “Gone With the Wind,” “It Happened One Night” and “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Winkler had been finest man at Gable and Lombard’s 1939 marriage ceremony.

Lombard, Peters, Winkler and others acquired on a business TWA flight at round four a.m. on Jan. 16 that stopped in Albuquerque. At that time, 4 passengers acquired off to make room for 15 Army Air Corp. aviators and enlisted males. From there, the flight stopped once more in Las Vegas. Not lengthy after it took off once more for Burbank airport the airplane hit the excessive peak of Nevada’s Mt. Potosi, about 50 miles southwest of Las Vegas.

Carole Lombard death WWII

The wreckage was strewn for miles. The mountainous crash website was exhausting to achieve within the coronary heart of winter. The violent affect made our bodies of the 22 victims tough to determine. Gable, who had reportedly been ready for his spouse at Burbank airport, chartered a airplane and headed to the scene as quickly as he discovered of the tragedy.

As the unhappy information sunk in, tributes from her business colleages had been shared broadly by way of the pages of weekly Variety and Daily Variety. Lombard was revered by crew members and studio staffers far and vast because the consummate professional, the previous Mack Sennett bathing magnificence who labored her approach up from two-reelers as a baby to high billing by dint of expertise and dogged willpower. Hers is one of the tales that cemented an everlasting Hollywood cliche. “Her life typified the popular conception of Hollywood — small town girl from Fort Wayne achieving riches and fame,” Variety noticed in its obituary for Lombard.

Born Jane Alice Peters on Oct. 6, 1908 (Variety initially cited her delivery 12 months as 1909 and her age as 32 on the time of the crash), Lombard relocated from Fort Wayne to Hollywood together with her mom and brother when movement photos had been of their infancy. By the time she was a youngster, she was showing in oaters with fashionable star Buck Jones. She briefly attended Fairfax High School, however her star started to rise when she was solid in “bathing beauty” shorts produced by Mack Sennett. Lombard’s first reference in Variety got here with a casting discover within the Nov. 23, 1927, version for Sennett’s “two-reel comedy burlesque on ‘Carmen.’ ”

Lombard moved on to contracts with Pathe and a seven-12 months hitch at Paramount Pictures, the place she developed her popularity for comedy and met her first husband, William Powell. She was married to the longer term star of “The Thin Man” collection from 1931-33. As her profession blossomed, Lombard labored tirelessly, making motion pictures for MGM, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, RKO, Warner Bros. and Selznick International Pictures. Variety’s obituary for Lombard famous that she was a real youngster of photos who by no means as soon as appeared professionally on stage. She earned her solely Oscar nomination for her work within the 1936 romantic comedy traditional “My Man Godfrey,” through which she co-starred with Powell after their break up.

By the mid-1930s Lombard was incomes $465,000 a 12 months from “pictures and radio,” and she or he wasn’t shy about spending it.

“At that time, 1935, she was widely publicized as ‘the best dressed woman in Hollywood,’ and an inventor of novel parties, such as the renting of concessions on the amusement pier at Venice for a social function!,” Variety famous in Lombard’s obituary.

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Carole Lombard’s closing movie was Ernst Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be.”
United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstoc

Lombard was hailed for her loyalty to crew members over time, and for her lack of pretension.

“Many a star felt the sting of her salty rebukes, but to rank and file she was a great guy— an appellation reserved for very few in the picture business. The humble in the studios feel her loss far more genuinely and keenly than the marquee tribe,” Variety wrote.

After her marriage to Gable, Lombard developed a popularity for turning down plum roles as a way to coordinate her work schedule along with his. When not on the job, the 2 had been reported to spend most of their time away from Hollywood’s social scene out on the 20-acre ranch in Encino that Gable and Lombard purchased just a few months after eloping in Kingman, Ariz. on March 29, 1939. Part of Lombard’s legend on this interval was that she took up capturing and looking as a way to get pleasure from holidays together with her outdoorsy husband.

On Jan. 12, 1942, Lombard, Peters, Winkler and others set off from Los Angeles by practice for Indianapolis. Lombard had been anticipated to additionally return dwelling by practice however she opted to fly on the final minute, reportedly over the objections of her mom and Winkler. Later, studies surfaced that she was attempting to get dwelling quicker to move off a blossoming affair between Gable and a younger Lana Turner.

“She died for her country,” the Treasury Department mentioned of Lombard in an announcement. President Roosevelt additionally paid his respects to 1 of his most enthusiastic Hollywood supporters.

“Mrs. Roosevelt and I are deeply distressed. Carole was our friend and guest in happier days. She brought great joy to all who knew her and to the millions who knew her only as a great artist. She gave unselfishly of her time and talent to serve her government in peace and in war. She loved her country. She is and always will be a star, one we shall never forget or cease to be grateful to,” Roosevelt mentioned.

Daily Variety’s Ungar echoed Roosevelt’s sentiments in his tribute to Lombard.

“She was just a down­ to ­earth human, and always wanted folks to know it. She never took advantage of employer or employee. She gave her all in loyalty and ability to the picture business — setting an example that many others in the industry can and should follow. She was a regular fellow. The industry will always idolize her memory, and the greatest monument that can be erected in her honor is for all of us in show business to follow through. Be soldiers of our country. Buy, and get others to buy unstintingly Defense Bonds. That’s what the film industry’s top star was doing when war claimed its first casualty from show business.”

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Carole Lombard in 1931 (George Hurrell)
George Hurrell/Columbia/Kobal/Sh

Lombard’s demise compelled United Artists to make hasty adjustments to her final film, Ernst Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be,” an anti-Nazi satire that includes Lombard and Jack Benny because the leaders of a Polish theater troupe. The film was “in the cutting room” with producer Alexander Korda on the time of the airplane crash. Benny was so distraught by the loss of his co-star that he bowed out of his common Sunday night time NBC radio program that week. Variety later reported that two strains of Lombard’s dialogue associated to “a woman in an airplane” had been modified earlier than “To Be or Not to Be” was launched in March 1942, to nice acclaim and large field workplace.

Lombard’s funeral was held on Jan. 21, 1942, when she and her mom had been interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale. Spencer Tracy, Zeppo Marx, Myrna Loy, Fred MacMurray, William Powell, Louis B. Mayer, Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst had been among the many few dozen company. Variety reported that Gable was “white-faced and stricken” through the temporary ceremony. (Gable would in the end be laid to relaxation at subsequent to Lombard regardless that he had two extra marriages previous to his demise in 1960.) A day later, Walter Pidgeon delivered the eulogy on the funeral for Winkler, a loyal MGM soldier who died “in the line of duty on assignment.”

As the U.S. adjusted to combating one other international battle, the loss of one of Hollywood’s brightest lights grew to become a potent instance of the leisure business’s contributions to the epic battle in opposition to fascism.

“Our sorrow is deep. Yet, through it, we feel a pride in the memory of Miss Lombard and of Mr. Winkler. Both were soldiers in the service of their country. Our memorial to them will be the untiring efforts of all of us to carry on the great work they were doing so ably,” mentioned Fred W. Beetson, chairman of the Hollywood Victory Committee for Stage, Screen and Radio, in January 1942.

One 12 months to the day after her demise, Lombard’s legacy was invoked when Indiana led the nation “in a vigorous 15-day war bond drive” that ended Jan. 15 with a $three.5 million haul. Indiana Gov. Henry Schricker attended a tribute dinner to Lombard held in Indianapolis to mark the 12 months since her passing. At the occasion, Variety reported that a “transcription” recording of Lombard’s voice was performed, giving her one final probability to induce the group to “carry on, buy more bonds, more bonds and more bonds until this war is won.”