75th Anniversary of Carole Lombard’s Death

 

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Hollywood Magazine

 

by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo)

Tomorrow marks the 75th Anniversary of Carole Lombard’s unexpected death. Her death, as in life, was connected in the press to Russ Columbo’s.

“To account for her son’s prolonged absence, Mrs. Columbo was told he was in London, making movie pictures with Carole. In the course of her romance with Russ, Carole naturally had grown close to Mrs. Columbo. Thus, to keep the heartbreaking news from her, Carole wrote weekly letters full of gay chit-chat and news of their activities, which were supposedly postmarked London and read to the blind mother.” Hollywood Magazine.

 8829304249b63e3b4c319d7878989accBoth Russ and Carole died young. It is a sad twist of fate that they both had premonitions  that they would do so. Yesterday, January 14th, was Russ’s birthday.

When she sang the National Anthem on January 15th she must have thought of him. If Russ were alive how proud he would have been of her standing there singing her heart out, leading the audience. He had been the one, after all, who gave her voice lessons early on in their romance. And she in turn had encouraged him to consider a career singing  opera.

Carole knew she would die young. When she told her friend Alice Marble, the tennis-pro replied, “Did the fortune-tellers tell you that?”

“Yes, they did, but it’s more than that. It’s a feeling I have,” Carole said. Original source:  Courting Danger by Alice Marble.

Russ had had a premonition that he too would die young. When he did his family decided he would be placed in the vault opposite his brother Fiore’s, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. When Carole made her last will and testament, the first instruction she wrote down was her desire to be interred in a modest crypt at the same cemetery, dressed wearing her favorite white gown.

The flowers that were laid on her burial casket were identical to the ones she had laid on Russ’s and the large heart shaped wreath display she had sent to Russ’s funeral signed with his pet name for her, Angel.

Bing Crosby and Carole’s brother, Fred Peters,  were pallbearers at Russ’s funeral.

 

The last song Russ ever sang and recorded was Two Lovers by Allie Wrubel and Mort Dixon:27fab803b23bbdce0de3cd10eb669463

I see two lovers on the moonlit sand,
Standing face to face,
And as he takes her little trembling hand,
They slowly embrace.

I see two lovers in a world apart,
Heart to heart, what bliss!
And in my loneliness, I see them start
One heavenly kiss.
.

 

Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo’s friends. Part One.

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Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo

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.

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Carole Lombard and her first husband, William Powell

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).

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Wesley Ruggles and his wife Arline Judge. They were close friends with both Russ and Carole and attended their parties.

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).

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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.

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The Cocoanut Grove

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.

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Constance Cummings and Russ Columbo

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Russ Columbo, Madalynne Fields, Carole Lombard, and John Barrymore

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.

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Lucille Ball, George Raft, actress Virginia Pine, Joanie (Virginia’s daughter), Mack Gray (his bodyguard.

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.

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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