On January 16th, 1942, the lovely Carole Lombard was taken far too soon in a tragic plane crash just outside of Las Vegas. The news shook an America that was ankle-deep in World War II. Lombard was on her way home to husband Clark Gable after touring the Midwest to sell war bonds when her plane crashed into a mountain near an airport refueling station.
Lombard was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 8th, 1908. Her family relocated to the west coast after her parents divorced. Her Hollywood career began at just 12 years old, when she was spotted by a film director while playing baseball outdoors. She started out in silent films, making a successful transition to talkies in 1929. In 1931, she starred in Man of the World with William Powell, a star with whom she had a brief first marriage. Even if her relationship didn’t last, her career took off as she starred in several screwball comedies of the 1930’s, earning her a reputation as the first great screen comedienne. She maintained a relationship with superstar Clark Gable, and the two wed in 1939.
According to Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen, Gable had been carrying on with his young co-star Lana Turner. Lombarde, who was supporting a war bond rally in her native Indiana, was eager to return home to reconnect with her philandering husband. In her haste, she refused a safe train ticket in favor of a seat on a commercial airplane. The book describes her insistence, stating that she refused to budge when asked to give up her seat to military travelers during a fuel stop in Albuquerque. The rest is tragic history. Gable was beside himself, and the whole country mourned the loss of the patriotic actress.
“I love everything I do. I’m immensely interested in and enthusiastic in everything I do, everything. No matter what it is I’m doing, no matter how trivial, it isn’t trivial to me. I give it all I got and love it. I love living. I love life. Eating, sleeping, waking up again, skeet-shooting, sitting around an old barn doing nothing, my work, taking a bath, talking my ears off, the little things, the big things, the simplest things, the most complicated things—I get a kick out of everything I do while I’m doing it.”
Lombard was a really wonderful woman. Read her full interview here.