Carole Lombard was best know as a screwball comedy actress. Born as Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana. After her parent's divorce, her mother took the family to settle in LA. She was signed to a one-picture contract in 1912 when she was just 12-years-old.
She would not be seen again on screen for 4 years. After leave school at the age of 15, she joined a theater troupe and played in several stage shows. In 1925 she was signed to Fox Films and had her first role in Hearts and Spurs.
In 1931 she was teamed up with William Powell for Man of the World and they hit it off and soon married. The marriage however, did not work out and they divorced in 1933.
Lombard was put opposite to Clark Gable in the 1932 picture No Man of Her Own for the first time. The two would marry seven years later in 1939.
She started to show off her comedic talents and proved to the world what a great actress she really was. She received her only Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1936.
Not only was she the highest paid actress of her time by starring in movies such as Twentieth Century, My Man Godfrey and Hitchcock's Mr. & Mrs. Smith, she was also an outspoken New Deal Democrat and a support of FDR, as well as the ongoing war effort.
Life with Clark Gable
When Clark Gable and Carole Lombard met, the 31-year-old Gable was married to Houston socialite, Maria Langham. Lombard, who was just 24 at the time, was in an unhappy married of her own with actor William Powell.
At the time the heartthrob actor and the high-paid actress didn't allow any romantic connections to occur and were strictly professional through their work.
"[We] did all kinds of hot love scenes...and I never got any kind of tremble out of him at all," Lombard would later tell director Garson Kanin.
4 years after making No Man of Her Own the two reconnected at an event. It was rumored that the two flirted throughout the night, shared a close dance and even a ride home together at the end of the evening. They spent plenty time together that night in spite of divorced Lombard having brought Cesar Romero as her date, and Gable was technically still married, even though they were separated.
After that night the couple was reportedly inseparable having only gone a stretch of six days without seeing each other until her untimely death.
They kept their relationship a secret until 1938 when Gable's divorced was finalized. In early 1939 the pair eloped while he was on break from filming Gone With The Wind.
Leading Up To The Crash
After completing a major fundraising effort, she raised over $2 million on her War Bond Tour. War bonds allowed every day Americans to invest in the war effort, providing funding to the government, all while allowing people to cash their bonds for their full value a decade later.
She was travelling with her mother, Elizabeth Peters, and the press agent Otto Winkler, who worked with her husband, Clark Gable, for a three-day event to sell bonds.
Lombard shouldn't have been on the plane in the first place. She had been advised to take the train home because of problematic weather and wartime tension, but she insisted on flying.
"At the end of January 15, 1942, she decided she had done her duty – and now it was time to take care of Carole Lombard by getting home to her carousing husband by the fastest means possible. That meant air travel, something expressly forbidden because of the fear of accidents in wintry weather or sabotage by Hitler’s spies. To which the response was predictable: Kiss my ass,” according to author Robert Matzen.
Getting on that plane was a decision made by fate.
“The day before, Lombard’s trip on the ill-fated Flight 3 hinged on the flip of a coin. Her press agent wished to make the journey to Los Angeles by train, but Lombard held out for the plane trip, wanting to get home sooner. They finally tossed a coin and Lombard won.”
Instead of making it home to California, they met an untimely death on the side of a mountain.
The tragic plane crash 35 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Nevada on Mount Potosi. Accessing the crash site is extremely dangerous because it is located on an icy Nevada mountain so devasting that it nearly destroyed almost all of the aircraft and its contents.
A Transcontinental Western Flight Airlines (TWA) Douglas DC-3 slammed into a mountain about 35 miles from Vegas taking the lives of Lombard, her mother, press agent and passengers including 15 U.S. servicemen.
“Searchers on horseback toiled over steep, snow-packed trails of the Potosi Range, seeking the spot were Flight 3, with her 22 persons aboard, crashed. The search party forged its way up the 8,700-foot peak with little hope of finding anything more than charred bodies and twisted wreckage. At the foot of the mountain, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard’s husband, waited in the faint hope that some of those on the plane may have survived,” Doug Scroggins, who spent years documenting the crash site, said.
The love between Lombard and Gable was a fairy tale romance, and losing her had him in tears.
Owners of the Goodsprings Saloon recalled Gable coming in after he left the mountain and "put his face in his hands and cried like a baby.”
Nobody ever figured out what happened.
Was It Sabotage?
Rumors floated around for decades after the crash wondering if the actresses death could have been a result of sabotage.
“The crash shocked a nation still stunned by the Pearl Harbor attack the month prior. Because it involved members of the military and a notable actress on a war-bonds drive, many, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, were suspicious of sabotage. An intensive investigation ensued," reported the Last Vegas Sun in 2002.
It was also suspected that German spies could have sabotaged the plane which resulted in their deaths.
The investigation, however wasn't able to provide any evidence.
Conspiracy theories swirled about how an accident like this could occur.
The day of the crash, the radio beam was apparently functioning, and skilled pilots were at the controls. It was perfect flying weather, but there is a suspicion the plan was flying 6.7 miles off its proper course.
They did discover that the flight crew had made an error with their compass course and indicated a course heading of 218°, which would have them fly directly into the mountain.