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Screwball comedy queen Carole Lombard was born 115 years ago today
Carole Lombard in Sinners in the Sun, 1932
Photo by Eugene Robert Richee
Actress Carole Lombard was born 115 years ago today.
Lombard is particularly noted for her roles in the screwball comedies of the 1930s.
She is listed as one of the American Film Institute's greatest stars of all time and was the highest-paid star in Hollywood in the late 1930s, earning around $500,000 per year. That was more than five times the salary of the U.S. President.
Lombard's career was cut short when she died at the age of 33 in a plane crash in 1942 while returning from a World War II Bond tour.
Graham Greene praised the "heartbreaking and nostalgic melodies" of her faster-than-thought delivery. “Platinum blonde, with a heart-shaped face, delicate, impish features and a figure made to be swathed in silver lamé, she wriggled expressively through such classics of hysteria as Twentieth Century and My Man Godfrey,” Greene wrote.
A key moment in Lombard's career came in 1934, when she starred in Howard Hawks' pioneering screwball comedy, Twentieth Century. The actress found her niche in this genre, and continued to appear in films like Hands Across the Table (1935...forming a popular partnership with Fred MacMurray), My Man Godfrey (1936) and Nothing Sacred (1937).
During this period, Lombard married Clark Gable, then "the King of Hollywood." The pair were treated in the media as a celebrity super couple of their day.
Keen to win an Oscar at the end of the decade, Lombard began to move towards more serious roles. Unsuccessful in this aim, she returned to comedy in Alfred Hitchcock's Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) and Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942) – her final film role.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard at home
When the U.S. entered World War II at the end of 1941, Carole Lombard traveled to her home state of Indiana for a war bond rally with her mother, Bess Peters, and Clark Gable's press agent, Otto Winkler.
Lombard was able to raise over $2 million in defense bonds in a single evening.
Her party had initially been scheduled to return to Los Angeles by train, but Lombard was anxious to reach home more quickly and wanted to fly by a scheduled airline. Her mother and Winkler were both afraid of flying and insisted they follow their original travel plans. Lombard suggested they flip a coin. Lombard won the toss.
In the early morning hours of January 16, 1942, Lombard, her mother and Winkler boarded a Transcontinental and Western Air Douglas DST aircraft to return to California.
After refueling in Las Vegas, TWA Flight 3 took off at 7:07 p.m. and approximately 13 minutes later, crashed into "Double Up Peak" near the 8,300-foot level of Potosi Mountain, 32 statute miles southwest of Las Vegas. All 22 aboard, Lombard and her mother included, plus 15 Army servicemen, were killed instantly.
Clark Gable was flown to Las Vegas after learning of the tragedy to claim the bodies of his wife, mother-in-law and Winkler, who aside from being his press agent, had been a close friend.
Lombard's funeral was held on January 21, 1942 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. She was buried beside her mother under the name of Carole Lombard Gable.
Despite remarrying twice following her death, Gable chose to be buried beside Lombard when he died in 1960.
On this day in 1927 — 96 years ago — The Jazz Singer debuted at a motion picture theater in New York City.
The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized sound, its release heralded the commercial ascendance of the "talkies" and the decline of the silent film era.
Directed by Alan Crosland and produced by Warner Bros. with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, the film, featuring six songs performed by Al Jolson, is based on a play of the same name by Samson Raphaelson, adapted from one of his short stories "The Day of Atonement".
The film depicts the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man who defies the traditions of his devout Jewish family. After singing popular tunes in a beer garden, he is punished by his father, a cantor, prompting Jakie to run away from home.
Some years later, now calling himself Jack Robin, he has become a talented jazz singer. He attempts to build a career as an entertainer but his professional ambitions ultimately come into conflict with the demands of his home and heritage.
Darryl F. Zanuck won the Special Academy Award for producing the film, and it was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Engineering Effects.
In 1996, The Jazz Singer was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" motion pictures. In 1998, the film was chosen in voting conducted by the American Film Institute as one of the best American films of all time, ranking at number ninety.
Britt Ekland, Swedish film, stage television actress and singer, is 81 years old today.
Ekland appeared in numerous films throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including critically acclaimed roles in William Friedkin's The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968) and the British crime film, Get Carter (1971), which established her as a movie sex symbol.
She also appeared as a Bond girl in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), and starred in the British cult horror film, The Wicker Man (1973).
Her high-profile social life and her 1964 marriage to actor Peter Sellers attracted considerable press attention, leading to her being one of the most photographed celebrities in the world during the 1970s.
Britt Ickland with Peter Sellers
Britt Ekland became an instant celebrity and sex symbol upon her marriage to Peter Sellers in 1964.
Soon after, Sellers suffered from a series of thirteen brutal heart attacks.
They would divorce in 1968, and the voracious Ekland went on to have relationships with George Hamilton, Warren Beatty and Rod Stewart, just to name a few.
Frank Beacham with two Chinese censors in 1981
More than two million Chinese government employees alone monitor China’s Twitter-clone, Weibo, the Beijing News has reported.
Not all of these people — rather amusingly called "internet opinion analysts" — are actively censoring web content. Instead they are trawling social media for troubling entries that are indexed and collated and then passed on to a presumably smaller group of actual decision-makers.
All of these people are apparently on the government's payroll.
In July, 1981, I went to China when it first opened to Americans. In those days, there was no internet, but still plenty of censorship. In fact, a guide told me a Chinese citizen could be put in prison for possession of a Playboy magazine. (I gave him one as a parting gift, being very careful in the handoff!)
China may be more modern today, but the reigns of censorship remain tight. The internet there is monitored closely — just as in United States and most other countries. Wherever you are in the world today, be aware.
La Brasserie de l'Isle St. Louis Restaurant, Paris, 1994
Photo by Peter Turnley