Want to see some rare Carole Lombard photos? Happy to oblige. Here are some I uncovered in vintage scrapbooks.

If you follow the site on Facebook, you may have seen some of these already, but who wouldn’t want a second look at the divine Miss Lombard? And sorry about the watermarks, but don’t blame me, blame the people who steal photos that cost me money from my website and don’t give me any credit!

How about this amazing color shot?

carole lombard color

 

Having some fun on the set of her film “Vigil in the Night.”

carole lombard vigil in the night

Hey, she even got a goofy look out of Charles Laughton while filming “They Knew What They Wanted.” Doesn’t she look modern in this photo? You could plop her down in 2016 and she wouldn’t look at all out of place!

carole lombard charles laughton

Calling her “Pappy.” The location was Napa Valley for filming of “They Knew What They Wanted.”

carole lombard clark gable

Having a blast playing backgammon with Cary Grant and Kay Francis on the set of “In Name Only.”

carole lombard kay francis cary grant

One of those in the series of Carole dumping roses on Robert Montgomery, publicity for “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

carole lombard robert montgomery

Carole and Robert kiss up to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” director Alfred Hitchcock.

robert montgomery alfred hitchcock carole lombard

There are a lot of great publicity photos for Carole’s 1937 film “True Confession.” Here’s a great one:

carole lombard una merkel fred macmurray

 

Carole and her husband Clark Gable (maybe you’ve heard of him?) enjoying some oysters at the Brown Derby.

clark gable carole lombard brown derby

And finally, the fashionable pair caught out and about:

clark gable carole lombard

More to come!

 

30th Academy Awards

On March 26, 1958, Clark Gable put on a tux (complete with tails, no less) and headed to the RKO Pantages Theater for the 30th Annual Academy Awards. He attended as a presenter with his Teacher’s Pet co-star, Doris Day.  This marked one of the handful of times that Clark attended the awards and is especially significant because it is one of just a few occasions that he appeared on television. Clark and Doris presented the two awards for Best Screenplay, Adapted and Written for the Screen.

clark gable doris day

Clark and Doris appear at 4:40, after Bob Hope does some stand-up (lot of Russian and I’m-never-nominated jokes). Notice they play the theme from Teacher’s Pet when they walk out. Clark looks very nervous; he was notoriously scared of crowds and public speaking. And what is with his haircut?

The big winner that year was Bridge on the River Kwai, walking away with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing in addition the screenplay Oscar. Sayonara was also a big winner, winning four Oscars.

Other presenters that evening included John Wayne, June Allyson, Vincent Price, Bette Davis, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Ronald Reagan, Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Cyd Charisse, Lana Turner and Sophia Loren–wow!

Some of my all-time favorite pictures are from the rehearsal a few days prior:

clark gable cary grant dob hope david niven

Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bob Hope and David Niven

clark gable cary grant bob hope david niven

Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bob Hope and David Niven

 

Taking a smoke break

Taking a smoke break

clark gable burt lancaster

“Run Silent Run Deep” co-stars Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster

clark gable doris day

Clark Gable and Doris Day

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Shirley Jones, Van Johnson, Mae West, Rock Hudson, Marge and Gower Champion, Janet Leigh, Rhonda Fleming, Bob Hope, and Shirley MacLaine.

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Host Bob Hope

 

jimmy stewart

Jimmy Stewart

Debbie Reynolds rehearses her big number, "Tammy."

Debbie Reynolds rehearses her big number, “Tammy.”

shirley maclaine

Shirley MacLaine

mae west rock hudson

Mae West and Rock Hudson rehearse their number, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

kirk douglas burt lancaster

Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and choreographer Jack Cole rehearse the number “It’s Great Not To Be Nominated.”

PS…you can watch Kirk and Burt’s hilarious performance here. 

carole lombard
Of course an interest in Clark Gable and his films often comes hand in hand with an interest in Carole Lombard and then her films.  I am asked sometimes to recommend Carole Lombard books and films. As far as books go, the definitive Carole Lombard biography has yet to be written. “Gable and Lombard” by Warren Harris is good on both of them (just avoid the horrible film of the same name). “Screwball” by Larry Swindell isn’t horrible but is not very appealing to Gable fans as Swindell does not bother to hide his personal dislike of Clark, for whatever reason. Also there is  a lot missing, probably because it was written over three decades ago and so much more has been uncovered. “The Hoosier Tornado” is boring and lacking interesting details.
 
As for films, here’s the top five Carole Lombard films I recommend, my personal opinion of course. And I’ve counted out No Man of Her Own, as most Gable fans would have seen that already!
 

In no particular order:

 frederic march carole lombard nothing sacred

Nothing Sacred (1937) Your one chance to see Carole in Technicolor and boy is she beautiful. Carole is Hazel Flagg, a small town girl who has received a death sentence from her local doctor, who says she’s riddled with radium poisoning. He recants his diagnosis, but not before a big city newspaperman (Frederic March) arrives to take her away from her small town life and give her a “last big hoorah” before her untimely demise, documenting all in the newspaper of course. This one is hilarious and a true classic.

 carole lombard william powell my man godfrey

My Man Godfrey (1936) Carole’s lone Academy Award-nominated performance, this one is a screwball standard. Carole is Irene Bullock, a spoiled and rather twitterbrianed socialite who takes in Godfrey, a homeless man (her first husband, William Powell), and makes him her family butler. It is a rather typical zany 1930’s plot, but with a great and hilarious script “Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!” . Carole’s full comedy chops are on display here. And despite being divorced for three years, Carole and Bill still have wonderful chemistry. A fantastic supporting cast with Alice Brady. Eugene Pallette, Mischa Auer and Gail Patrick.

 cary grant carole lombard

In Name Only (1939) Carole is single mom Julie, who falls In love with Alec (Cary Grant), who unbeknownst to her is still married to vindictive Maida (Kay Francis), whom he is not in love with. Maida does her best to thwart Julie and Alec’s romance. I like this film for many reasons: I adore Cary and him paired with Carole is just luscious; their chemistry is fantastic. You get to see Carole as a mother to a little girl and it is adorable and sweet. This film was in production the same time as Gone with the Wind and Carole went into the role soon after becoming Mrs. Gable. The story line of bitter wife refusing to divorce her husband so he can marry the woman he loves surely hit home for Carole. This one and Made For Each Other (1939) are pretty much equal on my list of fave Carole dramas.

carole lombard fred macmurray

Hands Across the Table (1935) I think this one is a favorite of many Carole fans. She is wonderfully paired with Fred MacMurray and as always their chemistry is wonderful. She is Regi, a manicurist who is looking for a rich man to marry so she can be saved from her day-to-day drudgery. Enter Ted, who comes from a prominent wealthy family. But…he’s broke. After he moves in for a few days, sparks ignite between the two despite the lack of funds. It’s a light and airy comedy; just what you’d want for a 1930’s romantic comedy.

carole527

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) Any film buff should see this, as it is your only opportunity to see Alfred Hitchcock direct a comedy. Not to mention it’s a delightful comedy with Carole and Robert Montgomery as sparring partners. They are the Smiths, a married couple who thrives on fighting and making up. But when he finds out that their marriage was never legal and doesn’t tell Ann, she refuses to remarry him, kicks him out and starts dating his business parter (Gene Raymond) just to spite him. It’s adorable, it’s sweet and I don’t know what it is about this film but Carole is just absolutely stunning in every frame.

 

Honorable Mentions:  To Be or Not To Be (1942)Made For Each Other (1939), True Confession (1937) and Twentieth Century (1934).

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

This week, featured is another article from the archive, Gone with the Wind Indeed!, Photoplay magazine, March 1937. This article is all about the pressing issue of casting the great civil war epic:

Time was when you could call a man a rat in Hollywood and get yourself a stiff poke in the nose. But now what you get is–”Rhett? Rhett Butler? Well–I don’t know about that ‘profile like an old coin’ stuff, but I’ve been told I am rather masterful and–” Yes and there was a day when you could call a woman scarlet in this town and find yourself looking into the business end of a male relative’s shotgun. But now it’s–”Scarlett? Scarlett O’Hara? Oh, do you really think so? Well, I wish you’d say that around Mr. Selznick. Of course, my eyes aren’t exactly green, but unless they use Technicolor–”

Ever since that very small but very un-Reconstructed Rebel, Mistress Peggy Mitchell, of the Atlanta Mitchells, wrote a book called “Gone with the Wind”, which went like a seventy-mile gale over the country and whipped up a grade-A tornado, a civil war, the like of which Jeff Davis never dreamed, has been raging uncontrolled way out in Hollywood.

Houses are divided, brother against brother, husband against wife, butler versus pantry maid.

“Why, Judge,” a woman told the court the other day, “this bum says the only man to play Rhett Butler is Warren William. How can I go on living with a cretin like that?”

“Yeah,” countered the defendant, “and, Your Honor, she embarrassed me before my friends plugging for Ronald Coleman. Ronald Coleman–imagine! My business dropped off.” “Divorce granted,” murmured the court, “although personally I’ve always thought Gary Cooper would be a natural for the part.”

Who will win? Well–here are the favorites, complete with clockings, handicaps, and pole positions. You pay your money and you take your choice:

Ladies first, which means Rhett Butler–

Clark Gable is the odds on favorite. He probably will play the part. If he doesn’t there may be a Revolution. The nationwide choice, by a wide margin, he runs neck-and-neck with Warner Baxter in the South, which, incidentally, will have plenty to say about the casting of this picture. Gable is also the big Hollywood favorite, although if you can’t see him you can’t see him at all. It’s that way. Letters have poured in threatening boycotts and reprisals (honest) if he’s cast as Rhett. The same if he isn’t.

Clark is the right age, the perfect build, the effective sex quotient. On a very touchy point–whether or not he can put on a Southern accent and wear it becomingly–he is doubtful. He would give a year of his life to play Rhett–why not? It would be the biggest money gland his career could conceivably manage.

But–Gable is among the most jealously hoarded of MGM stars. And Selznick International, not MGM, copped this prize story of the century. MGM turned it down! Selznick International means John Hay Whitney and David Oliver Selznick. But again–David Oliver Selznick is married to Louis B. Mayer’s daughter. Would Gable be available? What do you think?

Frederic March is the only actor so far officially tested for Rhett. Was the early choice, but seems to have faded in the back stretch. Would be available, eager and willing to play Rhett on a moment’s notice. Runs about third in the terrific straw balloting which increases every day. Is regarded by millions as a great actor–many others do not agree. Played the other great sensational best seller title part, “Anthony Adverse.” Consensus of opinion is that Frederic would be an adequate Rhett, but that’s all. Lacks the sinister sex considered absolutely essential to a great performance.

Warner Baxter has surprising support from Atlanta and the deep South. Is the best “sympathy” actor in the race. His recent sock hit in “To Mary–With love” is considered an apt build-up. Warner has the strong support of all who picture Rhett Butler as a man who suffered and suffered. Is keeping his fingers crossed day and night because if he landed it would be “In Old Arizona” all over again for him. His contract, of course, is with Twentieth Century Fox, which makes him eligible. Darryl Zanuck who is a borrower of stars in the talent market wouldn’t dare bite the hand that feeds him and keep him locked in the closet. Warner, too, is about the right age, a little on the oldish side. His weakness, too, is no powerful sex appeal.

Ronald Colman popped into the running through an erroneous press dispatch. But once in has remained a strong contender. Chief advantage is his spot as long term contract star with Selznick International, his decided romantic charm, suavity, age and sympathetic personality. Chief disadvantage is ever-lovin’ Britishness, hard for the folks down South to swallow when the story is almost a sectional issue.

Those are the favorites. But Cary Grant, Basil Rathbone, Edward Arnold haven’t given up yet.

Now gents–it’s your turn.

For Scarlett O’Hara–

Tallulah Bankhead–shared the same bum steer announcement that brought Ronald Coleman in. Was tested by Selznick twice, once in Hollywood while on the stage in “Reflected Glory.” It was a simple color test but it gave the newshawks ideas. Tested again in New York by Director George Cukor. Is a professional choice, being considered the best actress of all candidates. Would satisfy Dixie, hailing originally from Alabama. Her pappy represents the state as Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington. Talu could probably recapture a sugar-lipped drawl, all right, buy the years and an aura of sophistication are against her. The part would be like long delayed manna from Heaven for her, bestowing the great screen break her rooters have long wailed has been denied a great artiste. Only a lukewarm choice in the popular response. But vigorously opposed by an opinionated minority.

Miriam Hopkins is the red hot choice of Atlanta and the South. Leads other actresses by a nice margin in the letter deluge. One reason, she hails from Bainbridge, Georgia, right close to home. Is a good subject for color, if it is used, except she’ll have to wear a wig. Played Becky Sharp, the character generally compared to Scarlett O’Hara, but that might work against her.

Bette Davis is the number one Hollywood selection. Just missed cinching the part by a matter of minutes. On her way to England, Bette was told by Warner’s New York story board they were buying a great story for her, “Gone with the Wind.” But by the time they wired Hollywood for an okay, the hammer had dropped. The day His Majesty’s courts decided that Bette was a “naughty girl” and “must go back to jail” her low spirits were lifted by a columnist’s clipping calling her the ideal Miss O’Hara. Answers to Scarlett now around the Warner lot. Bette is the only Yankee girl to score below that well-known line. Ranks third in the Cotton Belt. Is considered to be just the right age to handle the assignment and blessed with the right amount of–er–nastiness. No complaints from the home folks on her southern accent in “Cabin in the Cotton” or as Alabama Follansbee in “The Solid South” (stage).

But–Bette is in the doghouse chained and collared, and one of the main issues of her legal whipping was her loan out demand. Warners can–probably would keep her in the cooler. Selznick, in fact, is supposed to have said, “Bette Davis? Great–but could we get her?”

Margaret Sullavan holds the second spot in returns from down yonder. Is a Virginia girl, and knows what to do when a lady meets a gentleman down South. Handed brilliantly the lead in “So Red the Rose”, another Civil War picture. Fractious and fiery enough to make Scarlett a vivid character. Tagged next to Bette Davis in Hollywood.

And the Field–Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert and Jean Harlow.

Now as if puzzling about all this were not enough to set a body weaving baskets in the clink, Messrs. Selznick and Company announce that they want for Scarlett and Rhett not Hollywood stars at all. No–instead they have arranged to canvass all the finishing schools of Dixie, and ogle Junior Leaguers at the very lovely teas and discover and “unknown” Scarlett. A similar search, minus the tea, is hoped to dig up an indigenous Rhett.

Thus, they say, everything will not only be peaches and cream for professional Southerners, but what is much more important, two brand new stars will be born. Why take other studio’s stars and build them? Isn’t this going to be the greatest picture of all time?

Well–as to the first idea–it’s great if it works, is the opinion of the Hollywood wise ones. But it won’t work, they say. Whom are you going to find in the sticks to handle parts like those? Whom could you dare gamble on?

And that “greatest picture of all time” stuff. It smacks strongly, I grant you, of the old mahoskus. It’s press agent oil of the most ready viscosity and has flowed freely around every epic from “The Great Train Robbery” to Shirley Temple’s latest cutrick. But this time the answer that snaps right back out of your own skeptic brain is, “Why not?”

These gentlemen–Whitney and Selznick–have, and they know what they have, the greatest screen story of our day. If you don’t think so, here’s the cold cash proof: The day after they laid $50,000 on the line for the picture rights, another studio offered them $100,000. The next offer was boosted to $250,000. The last bid, not long ago, was $1,500,000 and an interest in the picture besides! Tie that.

They said “No” and they are still saying the same. Mr. Whitney and Mr. Selznick are not ribbon clerks. They shot $2,200,000 on “The Garden of Allah.” They will pinch no pennies on “Gone with the Wind”. If color will help it (and it probably will) they’ll shoot and extra million. Sidney Howard is writing the script. George Cukor will direct. Walter Plunkett is designing costumes. These men are all top flight.

So you can reasonably be sure of this–when you finally see “Gone with the Wind” you’ll see a picture dressed in the best trappings of modern production, primed with meticulous preparation, artistic thoroughness and as many millions as it can comfortably stand.

But as for who will be Scarlett and who will be Rhett–well, the riot squads are doing a nice business, thank you. And good citizens of Hollywood scowl across Cahuenga Pass at North Hollywood muttering. “Dam’ Yanks!” While out in Beverly Hills the South Side of the Tracks is threatening to secede if somebody will only fire on the Brown Derby.

It looks as if we’ll fight it out on this line if it takes all summer. Everybody’s welcome, and usually it doesn’t require a second invitation. Just casually mention the subject. You’ll see. Matter of the fact, the only person I can think of offhand who doesn’t seem to be at all upset about the matter is the lady who wrote the book.

Early in the fray, Margaret Mitchell allowed it would be nice if a Southern girl could play Scarlett. But the reaction was so violent that it must have surprised her. At any rate she announced the other day it was her one desire to remain only as the humble author, and to a close friend she confided:

“I don’t care what they do to ‘Gone with the Wind’ in Hollywood. Just so they don’t make General Lee win the war for a happy ending!”

These choices really crack me up. JEAN HARLOW?? CARY GRANT?? EDWARD ARNOLD?? CLAUDETTE COLBERT?? Really atrocious.

You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.

 

clark gable carole lombard

Since Clark and Carole were married 74 years ago this month, here’s one from November 1936:

London, of all places, has the cutest new betting game. They’re betting, over there, on whether or not certain film couples will marry! ! !

They’ve even got a set of standard odds, like this: even bet that Bob Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck will wed; 90 to 1 against George Brent taking the leap with Garbo; 5 to 1 that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard will; 10 to 1 that Bill Powell and Jean Harlow won’t; 5 to 3 that Ann Sothern becomes Mrs. Roger Pryor; 7 to 4 against the Jackie Coogan-Betty Grable merger; 20 to 1 against Tom Brown and Eleanore Whitney; 6 to 1 against Ginger Rogers saying her I-do’s with Jimmy Stewart; 4 to 3 that Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald do it; 9 to 4 against Cary Grant and Mary Brian; 15 to 1 that George Raft finally does wed Virginia Pine despite hell, high water and Mrs. George Raft; and, finally, 100 to 1 that Ariel and Caliban never become Mr.-and-Mrs.

___

Let’s do a check to see what bets won:

Bob Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck did wed, but not until 1939.

George Brent never married Greta Garbo (I found that one quite random!)

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were, of course, married in 1939.

Bill Powell and Jean Harlow never wed, as she died less than a year later.

Ann Sothern and Roger Pryor were married by the time this blurb went to press.

Jackie Coogan and Betty Grable were married in 1937.

Tom Brown and Eleanore Whitney were never married.

Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Stewart were never married (Imagine though!)

Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald were married in 1937.

Cary Grant and Mary Brian were never married.

…and I don’t know who Caliban and Ariel are!

Oh and out of all the couples above who actually were married (besides Clark and Carole, who we all know how that ended, sadly), Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond were the only ones who didn’t divorce.

 

My review of this book is rather timely, it being Father’s Day weekend and all!

Jennifer Grant,  the only child of screen legend Cary Grant, after years of pressure, finally wrote a book about her father. In my opinion, this book is just what you would want it to be. She doesn’t pretend to be an expert on his films or on his acting, admitting there are film scholars far more qualified to do that than she. She says how the man in Arsenic and Old Lace or Bringing Up Baby almost seems like another person to her. Instead, this book is a random collection of her memories.

We hear about his insistence on her curfew as a teenager, his advice of “not to marry the man you break the bed with,” his hatred of housepets until a cat named Sausage won him over, his secret candy drawer, their afternoons of wandering malls and rootbeer floats and days at Dodger games. Jennifer isn’t trying to paint the perfect picture of her father here, she is painting the picture of the dad she knew–faults and all, here he is. And it’s refreshing. She is very candid and casual in her writing style, often interspersing memories of Cary with what that memory means to her now when she thinks of it. In case you’re curious, she pretty much dispels the gay rumors but says her father tended to be over-friendly almost to the point of flirty and she doesn’t blame people for thinking he could be gay. And she is definitely NOT a fan of this Diet Coke commerical using Cary’s image, calling the product “chemical poison” and saying how her father hated soft drinks.Jennifer Grant Cary Grant

I know what you are probably saying–um, what does this have to do with Clark Gable? Well, plenty. No, Clark isn’t mentioned at all in this book–why would he be? Him and Cary were hardly more than acquaintances. This book of Jennifer’s certainly made me a bit sad about what Clark missed. Jennifer was born to Cary’s fourth wife, actress Dyan Cannon, who was over 30 years younger than him. (He had five wives–just like Clark!) Cary was 62 when his only child was born–Clark, had he lived, would have been 60 when his son was born. Jennifer tells of how her father tape recorded her almost daily and saved every note she gave him, every drawing, every school project. He lovingly wrote the details of each item on the back, saving for her an incredible vault of her childhood. Jennifer states she believes the reason for this immense vault was twofold: first, that her father’s childhood pictures and personal items were destroyed in World War I so he desperately wanted her to have artifacts from her childhood and second, that her father knew he wouldn’t be with her long and wanted to preserve their memories together. And he was right, as Jennifer was just 20 when her father died in 1985. It of course made me think of how Clark would have probably been the same: wanting to preserve every moment and document it all, knowing time was short. He had even planned to take a year off after the baby was born to spend with him. Sadly, Clark’s time was too short and he never met his son.

I couldn’t help but be saddened when Jennifer remarked how she displays Cary’s Oscar prominently on her mantle. And we all know what happened to Clark’s–not preserved by a beloved family member, but sold to the highest bidder.

Sigh.

All in all, Good Stuff is a charming, delightful little read if you want your heart warmed; not for those who are looking for dirt.

Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bob Hope and David Niven, 1958

From April 1935:

What would you do if you only had 24 hours to live?

carole lombard

Carole Lombard…wants to gather her friends around her for the last bow. Instead of just a few, she prefers a large gay cocktail gathering in her home.

“Because,” she said to me, “I think it would be great to go out with a ring of laughter and music in your ears, don’t you?”

cary grant

Cary Grant:

“By cable, telephones, wires and radios I would get in direct communication with the few people I have hurt during my life. With death hovering near, I could explain and ask their forgiveness, a thing that seems too difficult to do in the midst of life and loving. I would make my peace with them, and then I would go to some out of the way church and make peace with God.”

claudette colbert

Claudette Colbert:

“First, I hope I could arrange for those precious twenty-four hours to take place in New York City, and I’d like the day to be a Wednesday or a Saturday. I would want it this way so I could attend a matinee and another performance in the evening. You see, I would like to witness two whopping good plays on my last day on earth. And, somehow, I think I would like to find death in the same place where I first found life, in the theater.”

gary cooper

Gary Cooper:

“I’d charter a plane and fly up to the family’s ranch in Wyoming. The trip should take five hours, leaving nineteen for a swim and some fishing in the waterfall pool near the ranch house, a short ride into the mountains and one campfire meal. I can’t think of anything else more satisfying for my final day.”

bette davis

Bette Davis:

“I can forget every worry, fear and irritation in the High Sierras. I am sure I could even forget impending death there. I would want Ham, my husband with me, and, if possible, our two dogs. We have a special camping place in the northeastern corner of Kern County, California, that few people know about. I’d like to pitch camp there, catch one rainbow trout, cook it over an open fire, eat it, and then watch one of those impossibly beautiful mountain sunsets.”

clark gable

For Clark Gable there would be no heroics or dramatics. He would dispense with farewells, last talks with friends and loved ones, and would live his one short day as it were just another casual date on his calendar. “I’d like to go to work at the studio as usual, see familiar faces, do familiar things, eat familiar foods, that’s all.” And then after a full minute’s hesitation he added: “Oh, yes, just one more thing, I’d like to see a sunrise.”

Clark Gable

From a fan magazine, here are hand-signed holiday wishes from several stars of the golden era, including Olivia de Havilland, Claudette Colbert, Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman, Jeanette MacDonald, James Cagney, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant and more. No, Clark and Carole aren’t included, but I thought it a cute holiday gift nonetheless! Happy Holidays everyone!

Click to enlarge:

 I approached this tour rather apprehensively. Metro Goldwyn Mayer is, sadly, no more. The largest studio, the most prestigious studio, the studio that had “more stars than there are in the heavens”, Clark’s home studio for over 20 years,  is gone. By the 1970’s, its glory days were nothing but a memory. The MGM name is nothing but really a name anymore, not a place. The former studio is now Sony Pictures and Sony owns Columbia and is much more proud of that than of MGM history.
Sony Pictures

I won’t get into the long, sad story of MGM’s decline here but I highly recommend this book that came out last year, MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot. I made a point of buying it and reading it before my trip and I am so glad I did. It shows you, building by building, what the lot used to look like and how lavish and extensive the studio’s 185 acre backlot was. A must read for any classic movie fan.

Knowing the history as I did, I didn’t expect much for this tour. I was warned beforehand that Sony now is most proud of its television efforts, such as Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, rather than history. If any history will be touched upon, it will be Columbia, not MGM.

This was mostly true. But MGM did sneak in here and there.

Here are the original MGM entrance gates, no longer used, but still standing as a monument to what used to be.

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures MGM gate

Any star who appeared in any MGM film crossed this threshold, driving down this familiar path. I couldn’t help but think as I looked at it about that lonely day for Clark when he drove off the lot for the final time, after 20 years of employment, and nobody said good-bye to him. He must have had a lump in his throat as he crossed under this and onto Washington Blvd.

Another shot of the gate, and you can see a poster of It Happened One Night nearby. Funny, after over 20 years of service to MGM, none of Clark’s MGM pictures is displayed or mentioned throughout the lot—only It Happened One Night, his lone Columbia feature.

View from the gate:

Sony Pictures

One of the first things you see on the tour is the unmistakable Irving Thalberg building. Louis B. Mayer had this massive administration building built in 1938 in memory of Thalberg. It was top of the line in every way back then, with producers having their own wings and the entire building having–gasp–air conditioning! Today it looks very much the same except, I was a bit sad to note, over the door it says “Columbia Pictures.” Imagine Louis B. Mayer’s reaction to that if he knew!

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland on these very stairs, back when it said Metro Goldwyn Mayer:

Clark Gable Shirley Temple Mickey Rooney Judy Garland

Clark Gable Shirley Temple Mickey Rooney Judy Garland

We did go inside the lobby, where they house the Best Picture Oscars they have won. They were all, of course, for Columbia features. The only one of interest to me, naturally, was the one for It Happened One Night.

 Our tour guide mentioned that the Thalberg building has appeared in many TV shows and movies, standing in for schools, courthouses and various office buildings. Its beautifully manicured lawn has stood in for New York City’s Central Park numerous times.

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

We went inside the scoring stage, now named The Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage, which was amazing in size. We were awestruck thinking of the big names whose voices had once filled it: Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Lena Horne, Doris Day, Kathryn Grayson, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole…

Sony Pictures

Nearby is the screening room, where directors and producers would view daily rushes. In 1981 it was re-named The Cary Grant Theatre. (Cary Grant being another Columbia alum). Looking from the inside out:

Sony Pictures

One of the outside facades used for exterior shooting is known as the Frank Capra Building, Capra being a renowned Columbia director (and, of course, director of It Happened One Night.)

Frank Capra Sony Pictures

But there are some MGM names that received the honor of their name on a building as well.

Like here is The Robert Young Building, which now contains offices, used to house the studio’s camera equiptment.

Robert Young Building Sony Pictures

The Spencer Tracy building was once MGM’s on-site hospital.

Sony Pictures

The unique Joan Crawford building was once the famed MGM schoolhouse, where legends like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney were taught.

Joan Crawford building Sony Pictures

Not too far from there is the old sound department building which has been christened The Myrna Loy Building.

Myrna Loy building Sony Pictures

And just beyond that lies what was the makeup department back in the MGM days and now houses production offices. It’s name? The Clark Gable Building.

Clark Gable building Sony Pictures

Clark Gable building Sony Pictures 

Walking around the lot…

Stage 9. Interiors for Saratoga was filmed in this studio.

Sony Pictures

Stage 15 was home to interior shots of Strange Cargo. Stage 12 was used for Love on the Run.

Sony Pictures

Clark zipping around the soundstages while filming "Love on the Run" in 1935

Joan Blondell eating an ice cream cone on the side of the studio yogurt shop

Sony Pictures

One of the things I had really wanted to see was the original commissary. I don’t think I’ve read a bio on an MGM star yet who didn’t talk about the famed MGM commissary. I inquired to our tour guide when he was wrapping up the tour about the whereabouts of the commissary, which I knew was still standing. (Yes, I was that person on the tour who wanted to see an old commissary while everyone else was happily snapping photos of the set of Jeopardy.) He pointed to a very large, uninteresting concrete building. I said, “No…the original commissary.” He just said, “Oh, we passed it earlier…near the front.” I thought that was going to be all I got so I just said, “Ok. Thanks.” Well when we walked by it again on the way out he took us right in, since I asked!

Sony Pictures

It is now called the Rita Hayworth Dining Room (again, Rita was a Columbia-ite) and can be rented out for parties.

Rita Hayworth Dining Hall, former MGM commissary

At the time of our visit, it was being set up for a sweet sixteen birthday party for the low, low price of $125,000. Yikes.

Clark Gable chowing down in the commissary

Our guide stated that although the commissary remodeled and it has been downsized (the original commissary was 8,730 feet, could seat 225 and even had its own bakery in the basement), some of the original room separators and the booths still stood. And they still serve Mayer’s wife’s famous matzo ball soup. Which has gone slightly up in price from $0.10 to $13!

The commissary in the 1940's

Above the commissary used to be the famed Art Department, run by Cedric Gibbons.

I couldn’t help but be saddened by this tour, when I thought of the incredible number of Hollywood legends that had walked these grounds and the amazing films that were filmed right here, and so little of it is left.

Our tour guide pointed out that the only remnants that bear the MGM name are three original manhole covers on the streets. They had an appraiser come in and he valued them at $64,000 apiece and soon there will be little plaques over them stating this.

Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Franchot Tone, Jean Harlow, Robert Taylor, Jimmy Stewart, Jeannette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, Hedy Lamarr,  Greer Garson, Lana Turner, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore,  Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra…and all that’s left is manhole covers.

Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and costars stroll on the MGM lot to the set of San Francisco in 1936

Hollywood Boulevard

The infamous Hollywood Boulevard is about what you would expect: a mix of the old and the new, with buildings like Grauman’s Chinese and the El Capitan Theater sharing sidewalk space with the Kodak Theater and an H&M. The streets filled with hundreds of fans, milling the street taking photos, and hundreds of vendors harrassing you at every turn to buy their stuff or take their tour.

An obvious place to start here is Grauman’s Chinese Theater. They do offer tours inside this historic theater, but we did not take one. Instead, we milled around outside and compared our hands to celebrities.

Grauman's Chinese Theater

Grauman's Chinese Theater

Here is Clark Gable, whom I must say had very big hands. His fingers went way past mine and his feet dwarfed mine (and I have big feet!)

Clark Gable Grauman's Chinese Theater

Clark leaving his mark

Clark Gable Grauman's Chinese Theater

Clark Gable Grauman's Chinese Theater

Clark Gable Grauman's Chinese Theater

Not only did he leave his prints on January 20, 1937, but Clark attended several premieres at Grauman’s, from Grand Hotel in 1932 to A Star is Born in 1954.

Clark and Carole Lombard attended the Greek War Relief Benefit here in 1941.I wish I could tell whose prints they are standing on!

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard

I took a few shots of some more prints (click to enlarge):

Myrna Loy and William Powell

William Powell Myrna Loy

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer

Loretta Young

Loretta Young

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow

Jimmy Stewart

Jimmy Stewart

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Across the street is the El Capitan Theater, which opened in 1926 and was a live theater for over a decade before becoming a movie theater, which it still is today. Clark performed there in the late 1920’s.

El Capitan Theater

El Capitan Theater

Also nearby is the Pig n Whistle, a famous restaurant dating back to 1927. Clark surely enjoyed a snack or two here, no?

Pig n Whistle

You can usually tell tourists on Hollywood Blvd because they are all walking with their heads down, exclaiming over the names beneath their feet. I was surprised at the variety of people that had stars. Everyone from the Muppets to little known 30’s stars like Madge Evans.  The majority of these we found just by walking with our heads down. Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow have primo spots, right across the street from Grauman’s.

Click to enlarge:


Where is Clark, you ask? Good question. The answer would be way down on Vine Street, just past the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.

Hollywood and Vine

Hollywood and Vine

Clark’s star is here in front of….a Trader Joe’s. Which I found rather depressing. But I guess better that than a seedy tattoo parlor like many of the other ones were. And at least there were no prostitutes standing on it or homeless people sleeping on it….

Clark Gable Hollywood Walk of Fame

The one day when it was raining and we were soaked to the bone, we spent a while roaming the Hollywood Museum, which is housed in the original Art Deco Max Factor building. The building in itself was a sight to behold. Every star you could name used to grace these rooms for beauty treatments; even Clark’s second wife Ria visited weekly. There were so many things; it was a challenge to take it all in.

The lobby:

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Rows and rows of pictures…

Hollywood Museum

This picture of Clark and Carole lunching at the Paramount commissary had a peculiar caption:

Hollywood Museum Clark Gable Carole Lombard

Hollywood Museum

“Woman of Her Soon”? Did someone read them the title over the telephone and they misunderstood? That’s No Man of Her Own, folks…

The “Blondes” Room–where Carole would have gone. They had rooms for “Brunettes” “Brownettes” and “Redheads” too.

Hollywood Museum

The most intriguing part of the museum for me was the Jean Harlow exhibit:

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

Hollywood Museum Jean Harlow exhibit

There wasn’t much Clark in the museum; a few pictures here and there and an autograph or two. They also had an entire floor devoted to Lucille Ball.

Historic Hollywood High School (okay, it’s actually on nearby Sunset Blvd…) featuring a huge mural as a tribute to its previous students.

Hollywood High School

Hollywood High School

Carole Lombard attended here, but did not graduate, dropping out to pursue her dramatic dreams. Alumni include Judy Garland, Fay Wray, Lana Turner and many more.