Searching for the Screwball Spirit of Carole Lombard

I can still remember the first time I ever set eyes on Carole Lombard. Inevitably it was in a screwball comedy, Twentieth Century. I’d just watched Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday for the first time, and was delving deeper into the world of screwball comedies and the Hawksian woman. Carole was a revelation, a great beauty with no qualms about playing the clown. Sadly, she never made it to her 34th birthday, dying in a plane crash on the 16th of January 1942.In the early 1990s, it was rumoured that Michelle Pfeiffer was going to star in a biopic of the original queen of screwball comedy. Even though the project never came to fruition, I still think Michelle was one of the few actresses who could have captured some of Carole’s incomparable radiance and charisma.Every generation has The Blonde, or the dumb blonde, and Pfeiffer was The Blonde of that era. Michelle was authentic. Meg Ryan on the other hand could play ditzy and impulsive, but she didn’t play dumb. What’s interesting is, whether you preferred Meg or Michelle,  these blondes were funny.Ryan has confessed to loving screwball comedies and often played characters with the sensibility of a Lombard leading lady. In some ways, Carole and Meg are kindred spirits, great comedic actresses whose dramatic roles didn’t always go down well with a public that wanted to see them being funny instead.I won’t concern myself with whether Meg or Michelle should have played the blonde goofball extraordinaire. There’s no need to. The moment has gone. Either could have done it. It’s probably better they didn’t. Carole Lombard was one of a kind. A ball of boundless energy, natural sparkle and a rare comedic grace.


Filed under Retrospective

17 responses to “Searching for the Screwball Spirit of Carole Lombard

  1. I really need to watch some of these screwball comedies.
    Lovely post Paul.

  2. Yaseen Fawzi

    Here’s a question:
    How familiar are you with Jill Clayburgh’s work? I bring her up partially because she played Carole Lombard in a 1976 film called Gable and Lombard, in which she co-starred alongside James Brolin.

    • Hi Yaseen, I’m not very familiar with Jill, although I know the name and recognise her face. I would like to see Gable and Lombard, it sounds quite interesting.

      • Yaseen Fawzi

        OK, I’ll bite:
        The second reason (and actually the real reason) why I mentioned Jill Clayburgh is because I considered her as my first and only choice to play Selina’s mother in that unfilmed Catwoman script.

        I would love a special post regarding your thoughts on the script and your own cast and crew choices, but take all the time you need to process your thoughts and have them written down.

  3. Great post 🙂 As to who would have been the quintessential choice to play Carole Lombard between Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan would be a hard one due mainly because of two roles. One major reason to choose Pfeiffer is because of her Diana character in Into the Night and Meg Ryan because of her Maggie character in Addicted to Love. But yeah, too bad it never came into fruition. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

  4. Love this post. I didn’t know anything about Carole Lombard. I will enjoy learning about her.

    • Thanks Sue. Carole was tough, but not hard. She was a woman who knew how to take care of herself – and really had to. She’s one of the great what-might-have-beens in Hollywood history.

  5. I recently reviewed Gable and Lombard, which was a “biopic” of her and Gable. It really was a waste of both Jill Clayburgh and James Brolin’s talent. It would be nice if this actress had a more accurate biopic with one of your leading ladies… now to find a charismatic actor for Gable..

  6. Thanks for finding my blog, which enabled me to find yours! Bravo for id’ing and homaging…two exceptional women. I was also a Lombard fan. I wish screwball comedy translated better in 2020…I keep looking for new and old gems, fast talking, farcical, funny…Recently rewatched Working Girl and Prizzis Honor…look forward to reading your posts!

    • Welcome and thanks for the follow. I’ll try and pop over to your site soon and have a look through your back posts. Like you I keep searching for screwball. There are lots of older gems I’m still to discover, and I might have to watch Working Girl again one day soon. I saw that in the cinema back in 88 or was it 89? I do remember being quite smitten with Melanie Griffith back then.

  7. “Carole and Meg are kindred spirits” Agreed. 🙂

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