The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.
“Personally, I resent being tagged ‘glamour girl.’ It’s such an absurd, extravagant label. It implies so much that I’m not.”
Carole Lombard may seem an odd choice for our first femme fatale because of her heavy involvement in screwball comedies, a far-cry indeed from the musty darkness of the film noir cinema. Yet, her image has become iconic, and the fiery magnetism of her photos exude the femme fatale vitality. She was born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 6th 1908. She made her film debut in Los Angeles at the age of 12, and rose to become the highest paid star in Hollywood by the late 1930’s (earning nearly $500,000 dollars per year). She is considered the “Queen of the Screwball Comedies” that were so popular during the Great Depression era.
“Platinum blonde, with a heart-shaped face, delicate, impish features and a figure made to be swathed in silver lamé.”
She conducted a notorious affair with Clark Gable (while they were both still married), which eventually led to their own wedding in March of 1939. She died tragically in a plane crash on January 16th 1942. Said biographer Dina-Marie Kulzer in Carole Lombard: Lovable Madcap:
“When the US entered World War II at the end of 1941, Lombard traveled to her home state of Indiana for a war bond rally with her mother, Bess Peters, and Clark Gable’s press agent, Otto Winkler. After raising over $2 million in defense bonds, Lombard addressed her fans, saying: “Before I say goodbye to you all, come on and join me in a big cheer! V for Victory!” Lombard, anxious to return home to husband Clark Gable, wanted to take a plane instead of a train. Her mother and Winkler were both afraid of flying. They begged her to take the train. Lombard said they would flip a coin, heads the train, tails the plane. The coin came up tails.”
Some of her closest friends included: Alfred Hitchcock, Marion Davies, William Haines, Jean Harlow, Fred MacMurray, Cary Grant, Jack Benny, Jorge Negrete, William Powell, and Lucille Ball.
Her death at age 33 cut short a wonderful career and robbed the world of a beautiful femme fatale.