Carole Lombard: Twentieth Century Star – Michelle Morgan

The world is waking up to the legend that is Carole Lombard again. Her fierce independence and insistence on living her life on her own terms in 1930s Hollywood marks her out as an intriguing proto feminist.

And given her close links to William Powell it gave me even more reason to seek out a biography of her, and luckily I found this brand new one. It seems like there hasn’t been a major biography of Lombard since the 1970s which is a major omission when you think what she achieved professionally, but also personally – Carole truly touched the lives of practically everyone she came into contact with.

I’m not going to go on about her relationship with Bill Powell here as I’ve already written reams about it in my entry for the Carole Lombard Blogathon (14 January!), however one aspect of Michelle Morgan’s book that I really appreciated was that Morgan discusses Lombard’s relationships dispassionately and without judgement. There’s a tendency to view Clark Gable as a complete shit because of his unfaithfulness but Michelle Morgan merely records this as a possibility rather than incontrovertible fact and doesn’t bore us to death moralising about it – ultimately we weren’t there in that relationship or amongst that group of friends so who are we to judge?

I suppose the only thing I would have liked to have seen more of is perhaps situating Carole’s personal and professional life within a discussion around the political context of the era, and what it meant for women and Hollywood – for example Carole’s support for FDR and the New Deal, why she supported the war so wholeheartedly, why she wouldn’t be happy being Bill Powell’s perfect housewife, her mother’s feminist leanings and such like.

However it certainly doesn’t detract from a cracking read – Morgan captures the fast paced energy of the 1930s in her writing and the wit and personality of our favourite fizzy blonde. I monstered the entire book in about a week and I’m just really glad that Michelle Morgan’s done Carole Lombard justice.


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