Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poll Results: Carole Lombard

It’s Carole! In the 110 votes cast (a Hollywood Dreamland record), the majority of you voted Carole Lombard as the quintessential 1930s actress. The 1930s is hands down the best decade for women that there has ever been! So plentiful were the choices that I had to omit the likes of Irene Dunne and Claudette Colbert. But I doubt they were serious contenders. Here’s how the voting went:

Carole Lombard 29 (26%)
Bette Davis 18 (16%)
Jean Harlow 16 (14%)
Myrna Loy 14 (12%)
Ginger Rogers 14 (12%)
Katharine Hepburn 7 (6%)
Greta Garbo 6 (5%)
Joan Crawford 6 (5%)

I’m sure that there are many Carole Lombard fans out there, even if she did have a great
campaign manager…But I have no problem with her taking the crown in this poll, because after all, Carole’s career pretty much spanned the 1930s and she is probably associated with this decade more than any other actress. I think the voting tally accurately reflects the popularity as well as the memories of classic movie fans.

I think that Carole could do comedy *and* drama better than anyone, which isn’t to say the others couldn’t do both well, but Lombard was just perfect in both styles and had more opportunities to do them. I like how she can mix drama and comedy at once, as she does in that great scene of her break down in My Man Godfrey, with her sighing and mock hopelessness. I have a more opinionated view of Carole's abilities in an upcoming post, just bear with me while I write it!

Bette Davis almost never did comedy, though she was funny as hell. I think as long as Davis’ career was, that she really missed out by not doing more comedy roles, because she was that good.

Jean Harlow didn’t find her way until she started being funny, but her career and life was cut even shorter than Lombard’s. Had she not died in 1937, I truly believe that Jean Harlow would’ve emerged as the greatest star of her time.

Myrna Loy did much better than expected in this poll, but maybe she was just too buttoned-down to come out the winner here.

Ginger Rogers' being shackled to Fred Astaire probably hurt her chances, and while she wanted to do more dramatic roles (winning an Oscar for Kitty Foyle), I think she hurt her long-term career by running away from comedy and musicals, which turned out to be her strengths.

Katharine Hepburn. Where were the Kate fans again? They seem to be legion over at the IMDB boards, but were nowhere to be found here. My corner of the internet is entirely too tiny…

Greta Garbo. Maybe she’s under the radar outside of her small, dedicated following, but she was quite popular in the 1930s and a media figure despite her penchant for reclusiveness…

Joan Crawford is a polarizing figure due to her “Mommy Dearest” reputation. Boy, did Christina’s book deconstruct the Crawford legend or what? It couldn’t have been her fearsome eyebrows, as they wouldn’t take over her face until the 1940s. She still managed to get some votes towards the end, though. And yes, I do like her…

As for our champ, Miss Lombard, click the first picture in this post--to quote Ralphie's dad: it's indescribably beautiful!

Your Champeen, Ladies and Gentlemen...


  1. Yay, Carole was my choice! She just is stupendously amazingly cool (she actually inspired that phrase).

    She's so natural. In a crazy screwball comedy, you believe that that is her natural personality. But, in an understated emotional performance you completely believe her too!

    Great poll!

  2. Wow-- 110 votes! I'm not sure who I would've voted for...probably Carole, because her career was so concentrated in the 30s, you know? I think that may have been what hurt some of the others...they had such long careers, so we don't really think of them as "30s actresses." Great poll.

  3. hooray for carole! and i think that you are right about ginger. kitty foyle just doesn't have the same spark for me as stage door or viviacious lady. she was a decent dramatic actress but an inspired comedienne.

  4. Lombard was a great winner! I voted for Harlow. I think Katharine Hepburn didn't make it so good on this poll because people probably think of her as Tracy Lord (1940) or other great performances in the 1950's and 1960's. People are confused which decade she belongs to!
    Yeah, and what was the deal with Crawford's eyebrows in latter years?

  5. As Carole's "campaign manager," I'm pleased by the result (though I don't know how many of the Lombard votes can be directly attributed to "Carole & Co."). As you said, there's just something about her that evokes the 1930s more than any other actress.

    You shouldn't have been surprised by Loy's strong showing; she's a splendid actress, arguably the best to never receive an Academy Award nomination. Her dry style -- perhaps the comic polar opposite of Lombard's -- beautifully complemented William Powell. As time goes by, both Loy and Lombard become increasingly timeless.

    I agree with your comment about Bette Davis, and wonder how her career might have fared had she been at a studio other than Warners, whose post-Code comedy output was spotty, to say the least. (It's hard to commend a studio who took Lombard at the apex of her career and created for her "Fools For Scandal," a comedy so lackluster that it forced her into dramas for two years.) Put Davis at Paramount or RKO and her '30s career would have been just as potent, but more comedic.

    As for Crawford, she did a few comedies in the '30s, but she couldn't carry a comedy by herself -- she simply lacked the subtlety. Joan was fine in dramatic roles, but didn't have the deftness to work on Lombard or Loy's turf.


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