In an industry for which a skew of actors and actress remain infamous for their untimely deaths, Lombard may be the rare exception. Rather than being remembered as the rebel, bombshell, sex goddess, or tragedy of unfortunate events, Lombard’s legacy comes from her compassionate character. A character who brought laughter in a period of Depression, morale in times of war, and who consistently delivers unity to the generations watching her films across the globe today.
Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters on October 6, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Oscar nominated actress was the daughter of Frederick C. Peters and Elizabeth Knight. Lombard grew up the youngest of three children in a two-story home at 704 Rockhill Street in Fort Wayne. In 1914, her parents separated and Carole moved with her mother and siblings, Frederick and Stuart, to Los Angeles where she would attend Virgil Mary Middle School and Fairfax High School. In 1924, Carole was crowned “May Queen,” and though she quit school to pursue acting, Carole was still able to graduate from Fairfax in 1927.
Carole made her first film at the age of twelve after having been “discovered” by director Alan Dwan while playing baseball out in the streets. He cast her as Monte Blue’s little sister in 1921’s A Perfect Crime. In 1925 she signed a contract with Fox and became “Carole Lombard.” Over the next few years Carole made several low-budget westerns with Buck Jones and comedy shorts when she signed a contract with Mack Sennett in 1927.
By 1929 Hollywood was beginning to take notice of the up and coming Lombard who was now leading lady in a string of successes starting with High Voltage that year. In 1930, she began working for Paramount Pictures where she would go on to make a majority of her most memorable comedies. It was her performance in 1934’s Twentieth Century that really established her as a bon-a-fide star, earning her praise from fans and film critics alike. One critic wrote “Lombard is like no other Lombard you’ve seen before. When you see her, you’ll forget the rather stilted Lombard of old. You’ll see a star blaze out of this scene, high spots Carole never dreamed of hitting.” Upon completion of filming Twentieth Century her co-star, John Barrymore, presented her an autographed portrait in scripted with “To the finest actress I have worked with, bar none.”