Carole Lombard (October 6, 1908 – January 16, 1942), born Jane Alice Peters, was an American film actress. She was particularly noted for her energetic, often off-beat roles in the screwball comedies of the 1930s. She was the highest-paid star in Hollywood in the late 1930s.
Lombard was born into a wealthy family in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but was raised in Los Angeles by her single mother. At 12, she was recruited by the film director Allan Dwan and made her screen debut in A Perfect Crime (1921). Eager to become an actress, she signed a contract with the Fox Film Corporation at age 16, but mainly played bit parts. She was dropped by Fox after a car accident left a scar on her face. Lombard appeared in 15 short comedies for Mack Sennett between 1927 and 1929, and then began appearing in feature films such as High Voltage and The Racketeer. After a successful appearance in The Arizona Kid (1930), she was signed to a contract with Paramount Pictures.
Paramount quickly began casting Lombard as a leading lady, primarily in drama films. Her fame increased when she married William Powell in 1931, but the pair divorced two years later. A turning point in Lombard's career came in 1934, when she starred in Howard Hawks' pioneering screwball comedy Twentieth Century. The actress found her niche in this genre, and continued to appear in films such as Hands Across the Table (1935) - forming a popular partnership with Fred MacMurray, My Man Godfrey (1936), for which she was Oscar nominated, and Nothing Sacred (1937).
During this period, Lombard married "the King of Hollywood" Clark Gable, and the pair was treated in the media as a celebrity supercouple. Keen to win an Oscar, at the end of the decade, Lombard began to move towards more serious roles. Unsuccessful in this aim, she returned to comedy in Alfred Hitchcock's Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) and Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942) – her final film role.
Lombard's career was cut short when she died at the age of 33 in an aircraft crash on Mount Potosi, Nevada, while returning from a War Bond tour.
Today, she is remembered as one of the definitive actresses of the screwball comedy genre and American comedy, and ranks among the American Film Institute's greatest female stars of classic Hollywood cinema.
When the U.S. entered World War II at the end of 1941, Lombard traveled to her home state of Indiana for a war bond rally with her mother, Bess Peters, and Clark Gable's press agent, Otto Winkler. Lombard was able to raise over $2 million in defense bonds in a single evening. Her party had initially been scheduled to return to Los Angeles by train, but Lombard was anxious to reach home more quickly and wanted to fly by a scheduled airline. Her mother and Winkler were both afraid of flying and insisted they follow their original travel plans. Lombard suggested they flip a coin; they agreed and Lombard won the toss.
In the early morning hours of January 16, 1942, Lombard, her mother, and Winkler boarded a Transcontinental and Western Air Douglas DST aircraft to return to California. After refueling in Las Vegas, TWA Flight 3 took off at 7:07 pm and around 13 minutes later, crashed into "Double Up Peak" near the 8,300-foot (2,500 m) level of Potosi Mountain, 32 statute miles (51 km) southwest of Las Vegas. All 22 aboard, Lombard and her mother included, plus 15 army servicemen, were killed instantly.
Gable was flown to Las Vegas after learning of the tragedy to claim the bodies of his wife, mother-in-law, and Winkler, who aside from being his press agent, had been a close friend. Lombard's funeral was held on January 21 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. She was interred in the Sanctuary of Trust beside her mother under the name of Carole Lombard Gable. Despite remarrying twice following her death, Gable chose to be interred beside Lombard when he died in 1960.
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