In 1930, Carole Lombard was just coming into her own. After a successful silent stint as one of Mack Sennett’s bathing beauties, she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures. That same year, she also met handsome actor William Powell on the set of ‘Man of the World’ (1931). Powell was 16 years older and recently divorced. The couple married in a private ceremony on June 26, 1931 at Lombard’s mother’s house before honeymooning in Honolulu. The marriage, didn’t last, but the friendship thrived. Lombard and Powell divorced in 1933. Despite their differences, however, the two remained loyal friends until her death nine years later.Shortly after the divorce, Lombard was in the audience one night listening as crooner Russ Columbo sang. The two made eye contact and the next day Colombo sent roses to the actress’ Beverly Hills home. A romantic at heart, the 25-year-old Columbo fell hard and Lombard was equally smitten. In Columbo, it seems, she had found an equal. He supported her career and celebrated her successes while she did all she could to help the radio star break into films. Lombard even began taking instructions to convert to Catholicism—the faith Columbo actively practiced. On the cusp of a successful film career and in the middle of a momentous love story, the singer was accidentally killed by a bullet that unexpectedly discharged from an antique gun.
At the news of Columbo’s death, Lombard was inconsolable. She attended his funeral at Hollywood’s Blessed Sacrament Cathedral along with her mother. Her brother, Stuart, was a pall bearer. It took some time, but she managed to pull her life together and go on to make her mark in Hollywood—both on-screen and off. The sting of losing Columbo, however, still surfaced every now and then. Four years after his death, Lombard was interviewed for an article in Life Magazine. When she was asked about Clark Gable, the interviewer referred to him as the love of her life. According to Lombard’s brother, Stuart, she quickly corrected the reporter: “Russ Columbo was the love of my life. And that is very definitely off the record.” Of course, that was before she became Mrs. Gable. I wonder what she would say today.