22
Nov 04

The biography channel on satellite is no way to learn of Carole Lombard’s death

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The biography channel on satellite is no way to learn of Carole Lombard’s death. I appreciate that I am probably running behind the rest of the world a touch in acknowledging the death of Lombard, but it had never occurred to me before that her career had ended due to death rather than falling from the publics favour. Shocking lack of foresight really, considering the little I know of Lombard’s films (Nothing Sacred and To Be Or Not To Be primarily) suggested that she could do very little wrong. If her career had gone tits up, maybe I would have seen a minor Lombard picture. Her with Humphrey Bogart in an ill fitting noir, or her and Cary Grant needlessly being serious. Instead these never happen because twenty years before Buddy Holly tried the same stunt, she died in a plane crash.

Do I suddenly think of her differently? Oddly yes. All of a sudden, rather than the best film comedienne of her age I start to think of her as the “tragic Carole Lombard”. Nothing Sacred?’ black humour of a woman dying of a terminal disease courted by the press suddenly seems magnificently poignant (it isn’t – it is just very funny). I recently saw Nothing Sacred as a kind of sap towards my dissertation: Hazel Flagg the stage version was probably the first movie-to-stage musicalization in 1954 (directed on stage by Preston Sturges no less). And Nothing Sacred, as its title suggests, is a scabrous romp with Lombard first courting celebrity and then in a bind when she discovers she is not going to die after all. As media satires go it has been equalled but never surpassed, and most of this is down to Lombard who can change her on screen emotion on a dime: from victim to calculating in seconds. Lombard’s performances, along with Kate Hepburn’s, defined an independent woman in the thirties and it is to her credit that I have never even considered her to be Clark Gable’s wife (something I did know).

So now I have to forget her dying in a plane crash, get rid of the tragic Carole Lombard because I want the funny one back. If she had lived, she would probably be dead now anyway (think about it) so why should the manner of her death affect who I think she is? And yet it does. So I didn’t tell you she died right? For all I know, she is still out there. Acting. Making people laugh.

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