One of the top comedic actresses of her day, Carole Lombard excelled in screwball comedies with her classic beauty and sophistication belied by an offbeat on-screen presence.
Born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 6, 1908, Lombard grew up in Los Angeles and began her film acting career at the age of 12. When she was 16, she signed her first acting contract, but it wasn’t until her appearance in The Arizona Kid (1930) that she was signed by a major studio (Paramount Pictures) and her career began in earnest.
Paramount first cast her primarily in dramatic roles, but in 1934 her performance in Twentieth Century proved her worth in screwball comedies. Her comedic ability in movies such as My Man Godfrey sealed her reputation, although she began to again seek roles in dramatic films in the late 30s.
Unsuccessful in those parts, she returned to screwball comedy with films such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and To Be or Not To Be. The latter was her final film performance.
Lombard was married twice, first to William Powell, whom she divorced after two years. The two remained on good terms for the rest of her life. In 1939, she married Clark Gable, and they reportedly lived a happy, private life on their ranch outside of Los Angeles.
She died on January 16, 1942, in a plane crash while returning from a War Bond tour. Her mother and 15 serviceman were also on board.
Carole Lombard’s legacy as one of the definitive screwball comedy actresses remains strong today. Beautiful, bright and incredibly funny, she set a standard against which few could compete.