Dressing Carole Lombard, her clothing designers and my book.

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

Dressing Carole Lombard for my book Two Lovers is one of the enjoyable tasks I had as an author. Carole was a stunningly beautiful movie star in the 1930’s and one of the most photographed women in Hollywood, having posed for photographers over 42,000 times by 1938.

 

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Travis Banton with Carole Lombard

 

 

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Gown by Travis Banton

 

Travis Banton was the head costume designer at Paramount Pictures, the studio where Carole was under contract during the 1930’s. Carole paid him as well to create street clothes for her, mostly pencil skirts with matching tailored jackets. She had to look polished on and off the set.

A young emerging star, Carole was twenty-five years old  in 1933, and had been gradually working her way up the entertainment ladder and that required looking glamorous. Travis Banton liked her and had a very friendly working relationship with Carole. He once was having such a good time chatting with her during a fitting that he arrived almost an hour late to a dinner party that he was supposed to be hosting.

 

Italian designer Elsa Schiaperelli  had arrived in California in the 1920’s. The daring designer was a noted rival of Coco Chanel

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Elsa Schiaparelli

and her surrealistic elements transformed Hollywood style, with her cloche hats, broad double breasted jackets and artistic notes of whimsy. Paramount took note and copied her style.

 

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Carole wearing Juliet cap. Drawing by Charles Sheldon.

Irene Maud Lentz was a twice nominated costume designer who freelanced at several studios in Hollywood, working at one point for Paramount in the 1930’s

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Irene Maud Lentz

and early 1940’s. She designed clothes for Carole for the films Mr and Mrs Smith and To Be Or Not To Be. Irene was known to have originated the dressmaker suit and her clothing  was popular at Bullocks. The actor Gary Cooper was reported to have been Irene’s lover and many believe she committed suicide when he died.

Carole wore on a date with her own lover, Russ  Columbo, one of Irene’s designs.

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Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo

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Russ Columbo, Happy Birthday from Your Angel, Carole Lombard

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

“Carole Lombard  and Russ Columbo were the gayest of gay and continued to dance the rumba long after everyone had gone home…” Silver Screen Magazine reported on the charming couple’s partying in 1934.

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Looking back at their romance, I can write they were truly two people who were destined to meet and fall in love. And oh how they enjoyed each other’s company and that of others!

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Russ had once hosted at the height of his radio and theater career in the early 1930’s  a party at the famed  Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York city, hosting over 200 reporters to celebrate his success at the local Paramount Brooklyn Theater. His musical variety shows were sold-out, five shows a day. He set a record that would not be broken for a quarter of a  century at the theater.

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The gifted singer and songwriter Russ  Columbo grew-up in show business, and performed as a child  as a violin prodigy. He was born into a large Italian American family  on January 14, 1908, in Camden, New Jersey  and had taken the radio airwaves by storm as “The Valentino of The Radio,” making all the young girls’ hearts flutter with his velvety voice and handsome profile.

And then one fateful night at the Cocoanut Grove his eyes met Carole’s, and they started an unforgettable romance. She told reporters, “His love for me was the kind that seldom comes to any woman.” In another interview she said, “I have married, divorced, and loved again.” This was in 1934. She showed her love both in action and words, and sometimes by the gifts she gave Russ, which were noted in newspapers and by the inventory of his estate.

What kind of gifts would you give a male Hollywood star on his birthday? We know that Carole Lombard gave Russ an Alaskan malamute puppy.

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And Carole, according to Russ’s last will and testament, gave him a silver platinum cigarette case with his initials set in small diamonds. I imagined it looked something like this (see below).

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The silver cigarette case Carole gave Russ probably looked something like this, but with Russ’s initials on top set in small diamonds.

 

 

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Russ Columbo wearing the ring Carole gave him. It was featured with the magazine article where  Carole stated she had “loved” Russ.

53bdffd362c600ea5d2c72ef0cc9788fListed among the other items Carole was known to gift Russ was a Cartier watch inscribed from her to him  and a ring, which he faithfully wore on his wedding finger, with an inset solitaire diamond.

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1933 Cartier watch.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Russ!

Love, your Angel,

Carole Lombard

 

 

 

 

Two Lovers: the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo. Their Friends. Part Two.

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. .

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Carole Lombard and Russ, notice what finger the ring is on?

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 Sally Blane, sister of Loretta Young, had met Russ four years before, during a break, when he was performing at The Cocoanut Grove. Sally, Russ, and his friend, Lansing Brown, the photographer,

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Lansing Brown

were close friends, and the threesome  were often seen about Hollywood at different parties and at Russ’s performances.

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Sally Blane

 

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Dixie Lee with her husband Bing Crosby and their newborn, Gary

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 and Bing Crosby had been friends and had worked together with  the Gus Arnheim Orchestra before then, and Russ “had always hated the idea” of being rivals with Bing Crosby. They soon would bury the hatchet.

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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