A Star Is Born
Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters on October 6, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Oscar nominated actress was the daughter of Frederick C. Peters and Elizabeth Knight. Lombard grew up the youngest of three children in a two-story home at 704 Rockhill Street in Fort Wayne. In 1914, her parents separated and Carole moved with her mother and siblings, Frederick and Stuart, to Los Angeles where she would attend Virgil Mary Middle School and Fairfax High School. In 1924, Carole was crowned “May Queen,” and though she quit school to pursue acting, Carole was still able to graduate from Fairfax in 1927.

Carole made her first film at the age of twelve after having been “discovered” by director Alan Dwan while playing baseball out in the streets. He cast her as Monte Blue’s little sister in 1921’s A Perfect Crime. In 1925 she signed a contract with Fox and became “Carole Lombard.” Over the next few years Carole made several low-budget westerns with Buck Jones and comedy shorts when she signed a contract with Mack Sennett in 1927.

By 1929 Hollywood was beginning to take notice of the up and coming Lombard who was now leading lady in a string of successes starting with High Voltage that year. In 1930, she began working for Paramount Pictures where she would go on to make a majority of her most memorable comedies. It was her performance in 1934’s Twentieth Century that really established her as a bon-a-fide star, earning her praise from fans and film critics alike. One critic wrote “Lombard is like no other Lombard you’ve seen before. When you see her, you’ll forget the rather stilted Lombard of old. You’ll see a star blaze out of this scene, high spots Carole never dreamed of hitting.” Upon completion of filming Twentieth Century her co-star, John Barrymore, presented her an autographed portrait in scripted with “To the finest actress I have worked with, bar none.”

Powell and Pa

In 1930 Lombard met William Powell and the two quickly became infactuated with one another. Sixteen (16) years her senior, William Powell and Carole Lombard wed on June 26, 1931. Though their marriage would end in divorce two years later, the two remained friends. Infact, it was on the recommendation of William Powell that Lombard was cast in the film My Man Godfrey for which she would later receive an Oscar nomination for.

Beginning in the 1930’s, Lombard began having an affair with Clark Gable, who was still married to his second wife at the time, Ria. On March 7, 1939 Gable was granted a divorce and he and Lombard married soon after on March 29, 1939. The two set up house on a ranch in the San Fernando Valley where they would live a happy life together as Ma and Pa, as the two would affectionately call one another. To this day, every one who knew Gable has declared that Lombard was the love of his life.

In 1941 the U.S. entered World War II and Carole returned to her home state Indiana for a war bond rally. She would end up selling over two million dollars worth of war bonds. On Friday, January 16, 1942 at 4:00 in the morning, Carole and her mother boarded a Trans World Airlines DC-3 airplane to return to California. Before boarding, Lombard greeted her fans and said “Before I say goodbye to you all, come on and join me in a big cheer! V for Victory!”

What Happens In Vegas Stuns The World

After refueling in Las Vegas, the plane took off in the night and twenty-three minutes later crashed into a mountain side thirty mile southwest of Las Vegas. All twenty-three passengers aboard were killed. Carole was only thirty-three years old.

Gable joined the search for her body and on the 18th of January, he brought back Carole and her mother to be buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetary in California. At the time, the Army was offering to give Carole a military funeral and the Hollywood Victory Committee wanted to build a monument in her honor, but Gable refused both and all requests of the sort. Instead he followed the directions laid forth in his wife funeral instructions which stated:

I request that no person other than my immediate family and the persons who shall prepare my remains for interment be permitted to view my remains after death has been pronounced. I further request a private funeral and that I be clothed in white and placed in a modestly priced crypt in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

Gable was devasted by her death and shortly after he joined the United States Army Airforce where he served as a gunner to a bomber on combat missons across Europe. He later commented that not only had he lost his wife, but he had lost his best friend.

In an industry for which a skew of actors and actress remain infamous for their untimely deaths, Lombard may be the rare exception. Rather than being remembered as the rebel, bombshell, sex goddess, or tragedy of unfortunate events, Lombard’s legacy comes from her compassionate character. A character who brought laughter in a period of Depression, morale in times of war, and who consistently delivers unity to the generations watching her films across the globe today.

–By: Carla V. at CaroleLombard.org

 

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