Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo were called by the magazine gossip wags in 1934, “the most charming” couple in Hollywood. They each had an entourage of friends, family, and Hollywood notables who surrounded them.
Carole watched “The Valentino of The Radio”, Russ Columbo sing at the Cocoanut Grove in August of 1933. She was recently divorced from her first husband, the suave actor, William Powell (The Thin Man).
Carole had met Russ before at several parties, including one at the home of Wesley Ruggles, who had directed her and Clark Gable in No Man of Her Own. She and Russ had also partied together at a celebration hosted by William (Bill) Powell, two months before she married Powell. Russ played the piano and sang Christmas Carols with Bill and actor Edmond Lowe(seen below), with whom Carole had been in the movie Marriage by Transit ( 1932).
Years later, Carole and Russ met again when he sang at The Cocoanut Grove. They say eyes are the windows to the soul, and theirs met. They fell deeply in love, beginning an unforgettable romance.
Russ was singing with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra and wearing his signature white tuxedo with a black tie. He had just debuted in his first major supporting movie role in Broadway Thru A Keyhole with actress Constance Cummings. The music he had composed was timeless. He had a huge fan base and his voice was heard from coast to coast in the USA. The singer Perry Como would years later make the love song Russ wrote, The Prisoner of Love, a number #1 hit on the music charts in 1946.
Constance Cummings and Russ Columbo
Carole’s closest friend was Madalynne Fields (aka: Fieldsie). They had met during her early career in Sennett’s comedies in the 1920’s. Fieldsie helped Carole advance her career and was her friend, as well as her personal secretary.
George Raft was the ex-gangster/ actor whom Carole dated publicly while under pressure from Paramount to promote the movie Bolero. Mack Gray was George’s bodyguard and friend. Mack was dating Lucille Ball.
Lucille Ball, George Raft, actress Virginia Pine, Joanie (Virginia’s daughter), Mack Gray (bodyguard).
“Who is Walter Lang?” I was asked by a reader. He was a director and a member of Carole’s close knit entourage, attending all her parties and sometimes helping out. He would later play a role in helping Clark Gable and Carole Lombard’s romance, which was under wraps as Carole told the press, “Clark’s married. We’re just friends.” The press indicated Lang and Lombard weren’t compatible, thus ensuring that Gable could later stroll onto the scene as “the one” after he and his oil heiress wife, Rhea Langham (Gable’s second wife), finally divorced. Fieldsie and Walter married in 1937 and had one son, Richard. Fieldsie, with her encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood, then began to help her husband’s career and raise their child.
That’s all for now folks! I’ll be back with Part Two and introduce you to some of Russ’s entourage which included the lovely actress Sally Blane.
Carole directed by Walter Lang in Love Before Breakfast in 1936.
By Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo)
To read more of my blog for free click here: Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo by Beverly Adam