Real name: Jane Alice Peters
Birthdate: October 6, 1908
Partner: Clark Gable
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Her parents were Frederick C. Peters and Elizabeth Knight. Lombard's paternal grandfather, John Claus Peters, was the son of German immigrants, Claus Peters and Caroline Catherine Eberlin. One distant branch of Lombard's mother's family originated in England; her ancestors John and Martha Cheney emigrated to North America in 1634.
In October 1930, she met William Powell. They married on June 26, 1931. Lombard commented to fan magazines that she did not believe their sixteen-year age difference would present a problem, but friends felt they were ill-suited, as Lombard had an extroverted personality while Powell was more reserved. They divorced in 1933, but remained friends and worked together without acrimony, notably in My Man Godfrey. She was linked romantically to crooner Russ Columbo until his accidental death late in 1934.
Off-screen, she was much loved for her unpretentious personality and well known for her earthy sense of humor. She loved playing pranks during filming, and once joked about husband Gable (widely acknowledged the "King of Hollywood"), "If his pee-pee was one inch shorter, they'd be calling him the Queen of Hollywood."
Just before boarding the plane, Carole had addressed her fans, saying: "Before I say goodbye to you all, come on and join me in a big cheer! V for Victory!" President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who admired her patriotism, declared her the first woman killed in the line of duty during the war and posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Shortly after her death at the age of thirty-three, Gable (who was inconsolable and devastated by his loss) joined the United States Army Air Forces, serving as a gunner on a bomber on combat missions over Europe. The Liberty ship SS Lombard was named for her and Gable attended its launch on January 15, 1944.
Her final film, To Be or Not to Be, directed by Ernst Lubitsch and co-starring Jack Benny, a satire about Nazism and World War II, was in post-production at the time of her death. The film's producers decided to cut the part of the film in which her character asks "What can happen in a plane?" as they felt it was in poor taste, given the circumstances of Lombard's death. A similar editing instance happened when the 1940 Warner Brother cartoon A Wild Hare was reissued. Lombard's name was originally mentioned in a game of "Guess Who" between Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, but all reissue prints have the name dubbed over with Barbara Stanwyck's.
On January 18, 1942, Jack Benny did not perform his usual program, both out of respect for Lombard and grief at her death. Instead, he devoted his program to an all-music format.
Lombard is interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. The name on her crypt marker is "Carole Lombard Gable". Although Gable remarried, he was interred next to her when he died in 1960. Her mother, Elizabeth Peters, who also perished in the plane crash that killed her daughter, was interred on the other side of her.
In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Lombard 23rd on its list of the 50 greatest American female screen legends. She received one Academy Award for Best Actress nomination, for My Man Godfrey. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6930 Hollywood Blvd.
Her Fort Wayne childhood home has been designated an historic landmark. The city named the nearby bridge over the St. Mary's River the "Carole Lombard Memorial Bridge."