Classic Hollywood star Carole Lombard dazzled audiences with her beauty and made them laugh with her impeccable timing. But more than that, she was a patriot, an independent woman, and a loving wife. That was why her shocking death at the age of 33 left the world devastated. Yet her whirlwind career might not have been cut tragically short had she not won a fatal coin toss.
A tragic end to a bright star
Carole Lombard died on January 16, 1942, in a plane crash on the outskirts of Las Vegas. She had been helping with the war effort at the time, and the news of her death left Hollywood in a state of shock.
“Carole Lombard gave her life in the service of America,” Will Hays, president of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, told Variety at the time. Variety described her as "the first casualty of show business in this world war."
She was quick to join the war effort
The U.S. entered the war at the end of 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Before this time, though, Lombard and her incredibly famous husband, Clark Gable, were outspoken in their backing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
So it made sense that when the U.S. Treasury encouraged movie stars and the Hollywood elite to try to sell war bonds, Lombard was one of the first to respond. Lombard and Hays started their bond tour — the first of its kind in the U.S. — on January 15, 1942, in Indianapolis
She was a massive success
Indianapolis proved to be the perfect place for Lombard to start her tour of duty. She was originally from Fort Wayne, and her home state was no doubt proud of her for achieving a life of fame and fortune. They certainly responded to her rally.
The Treasury Department set a target of $500,000 in war bonds and stamps for this rally. But after Lombard appeared at the Statehouse and the Cadle Tabernacle, she pushed residents to smash that target four times over.
"Carole was perfect"
Will Hays was particularly pleased with Lombard's performance. “Great day here today," Hays wrote in a wire to Gable. "Carole was perfect. Really, she was magnificent and they sold in this one day $2,017,513 worth of bonds."
“Everyone deeply grateful I feel I must send you this expression of my personal appreciation,” Hays ended. Lombard had gone to Indianapolis with her mother, Elizabeth Peters, and MGM publicist Otto Winkler.