Today would have been screen legend Carole Lombard's 107th birthday. The former Jane Alice Peters was only 33 when she died in a plane crash in 1942, but her legacy as an actress has placed on the American Film Institute's list of the 25 greatest female screen legends. She made her screen debut at age twelve and was signed to Fox Film Corporation at age 16. Fox dropped her in 1926 after a car accident left a scar on her face. She rebounded in a series of Mack Sennett comedies before gaining roles in feature films for Pathe. After her appearance in The Arizona Kid, she signed with Paramount Pictures which cast her as a leading lady, first in dramas and then in the comedies for which she became justly famous -- films like Twentieth Century, My Man Godfrey, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and To Be or Not To Be.
Here's an early film from the time before her first name received an "e" at the end. Reporter Steve Banks (played by Robert Armstrong) is in big trouble. He's been drinking too much and is now accused of murder. Lombard plays his wife, Margaret, a reporter for another paper. Steve must outwit the leader of the local narcotics gang. Can he save himself from the electric chair, catch the murderer, and stop drinking to save his marriage? You have to ask?
Lombard's role, despite second billing, is fairly minor but she gives it her all. Look closely and you'll see Lew Ayers(as a copyboy) and Gabby Hayes (sans beard and billed as George Hayes, as Hoffman the reporter). The film is also brightened by Helen (Cupid) Ainsworth's comic portrayal and by Tom Kennedy as a cop.
Directed by Gregory La Cava (who would go on the direct Lombard in My Man Godfrey) and adapted by Walter DeLeon (Ruggles of Red Gap, Union Pacific, The Time of Their Lives) and Jack Jungmeyer (The Tender Years, Street Corner, Manhattan Heartbeat) from the play For Two Cents by George S. Brooks, Big News shows Carole Lombard at the end of her career at Pathe and on the cusp of stardom.
And, Happy Birthday, Carole, wherever you are.