Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Lombard, Carole (1908 Fort Wayne, IN-1942 Table Rock Mountain, NV)
from Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930, An

Carole Lombard was one of the best comedic talents of the 1930s and held the unofficial title of “screwball comedy queen". She was also known for always being one of the boys in spite of her beauty and was almost universally loved by her co-workers. Her talent was most apparent when she was deftly handling the satirical comedy popular during the late 1930s, but her career was cut short by a plane crash during World War II.

Lombard's parents were divorced when she was young, and her mother moved the family to Los Angeles. She was discovered while playing baseball with the boys in her neighborhood and appeared in A Perfect Crime (1921) when she was only twelve. She returned to school and “normal” life until she was fifteen, when she joined a traveling theater group. After touring with the theater group, she appeared in Gold Heels in 1924 but did not again appear in a film until the following year in Marriage in Transit.

She signed a five-year contract with Fox that same year, but in 1926 she was involved in car accident that left her face scarred. Fox dropped her contract and, after plastic surgery, Lombard moved to Mack Sennett's studio. She worked for various studios for the next few years before getting a seven-year contract with Paramount in 1930.

She appeared in a succession of films in the early 1930s until she was cast opposite John Barrymore in Twentieth Century (1934), a role that made her a star. But disputes with Paramount over roles resulted in her being cast in mediocre, if not truly bad, films. Finally, in 1936, she was cast in one of the best comedies of the 1930s—My Man Godfrey, opposite her former husband William Powell, as the charmingly air-headed Irene Bullock. The following year she was cast in another great comedy, Nothing Sacred, which took a satirical look at the ethics of the press.

With the outbreak of World War II, Lombard accepted the position as honorary national chairman of the war bond drive and became one of many film stars who traveled the country selling bonds. Early in 1942, after selling over $2 million worth of bonds in Indianapolis, the plane carrying Lombard and her entourage crashed outside of Las Vegas. Her death not only devastated her husband, Clark Gable, but also the filmgoing public. President Roosevelt praised her in a cable to Gable: “She brought great joy to all who knew her … she is and always will be a star. We shall never … cease to be grateful to her".

Film Credits
1921 A Perfect Crime
1924 Gold Heels
1925 Dick Turpin; Marriage in Transit; Gold and the Girl; Hearts and Spurs; Durand of the Badlands
1926 The Road to Glory
1927 Smith's Pony; Gold Digger of Weepah; My Best Girl; The Girl from Everywhere; The Fighting Eagle
1928 The Beach Club; Run, Girl, Run; Smith's Army Life; The Best Man; The Swim Princess; The Bicycle Flirt; Smith's Restaurant; The Divine Sinner; The Girl from Nowhere; His Unlucky Night; Power; The Campus Vamp; Motorboat Mamas; Me, Gangster; Show Folks; Hubby' Weekend Trip; The Campus Cavemen; NedMcCobb's Daughter
1929 Matchmaking Mamas; Don't Get Jealous; High Voltage; Big News; The Racketeer; Dynamite
1930 The Arizona Kid; Safety in Numbers; Fast and Loose
1931 It Pays to Advertise; Man of the World; Ladies ‘Man; Up Pops the Devil; I Take This Woman
1932 No One Man; Sinners in the Sun; Virtue; No More Orchids; No Man of Her Own
1933 From Hell to Heaven; The Eagle and the Hawk; Supernatural; Brief Moment; White Woman
1934 Bolero; We're Not Dressing; Twentieth Century; Now and Forever; Lady by Choice; The Gay Bride
1935 Rumba; Hands Across the Table; The Fashion Side of Hollywood
1936 Love Before Breakfast; The Princess Comes Across; My Man Godfrey
1937 Swing High, Swing Low; Nothing Sacred; True Confessions
1938 Fools for Scandal
1939 Made for Each Other; In Name Only
1940 Vigil in the Night; They Knew What They Wanted
1941 Mr. and Mrs. Smith
1942 To Be or Not to Be
© 2005 by Denise Lowe

Related Articles

Full text Article Lombard, Carole (1908 - 1942)
The Penguin Biographical Dictionary of Women

The wacky heroine of numerous film comedies of the 1930s, Carole Lombard was briefly married to the actor Clark Gable before her...

Full text Article Lombard, Carole (Jane Alice Peters) (1908-42)
Chambers Film Factfinder

American, born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Spotted by director Allan Dwan, she was cast in A Perfect Crime (1921), and worked in comedy shorts and...

See more from Credo