By Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo).
“Carole was crazy about him,” Bing Crosby said during a televised interview on the Joe Franklin Show, and he wasn’t referring to Clark Gable. He was talking about the greatest love in Carole Lombard’s life, Russ Columbo, with whom Bing had been both friend and rival during the early 1930’s.
Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo were both twenty-five years old and very much in love in 1933. Their studios, however, weren’t happy. They wanted the couple to be seen as single. And if Carole was to be in love, Paramount wanted it to be with George Raft, her co-star in Bolero, not the handsome crooner. A lot of money and publicity had been invested to make that impression.
Sally Blane, sister of Loretta Young, had met Russ Columbo four years before, during a break when he was performing at The Cocoanut Grove. She, Columbo, and the photographer Lansing Brown,
were close friends. The threesome were often seen about Hollywood at different parties and at Columbo’s performances. How did they react to Carole Lombard becoming Russ Columbo’s girlfriend? Were they happy about Lombard becoming the “most important person in the world” to the talented singer?
In September of 1933, the publicity department was working overtime putting out the rumor that Russ Columbo was afraid to meet Bing Crosby on the set of We’re Not Dressing, where his girlfriend Carole Lombard was performing on Catalina Island.
Russ Columbo and Bing Crosby had once been friends and had worked together with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra. The congenial Columbo “had always hated the idea” of being rivals with Bing Crosby. Carole Lombard played a part in their reconciliation. You can read about all of them in Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo.