Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters on October 6, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her parents were Frederick C. Peters and Elizabeth Knight. Carole was the youngest of three siblings, having two older brothers. She moved to Los Angeles in 1914 after her parents divorce.
Carole Lombard made her film debut at the age of twelve after she was seen playing baseball in the street by director Allan Dwan. He cast her as a tomboy in A Perfect Crime (1921).
It would be three more years before Carole's next film, Gold Heels (1924). Between 1924 and her big break in 1934, her films include Ben Hur (1925), My Best Girl (1927), High Voltage (1929), The Arizona Kid (1930), No More Orchids (1932) and The Eagle and the Hawk (1933).
In 1934, she got her big break when Howard Hawks (her second cousin) cast her in a starring role opposite John Barrymore in Twentieth Century (1934).
Twentieth Century made her a household name. She would go on the star in such films as The Gay Bride (1924), Hands Across the Table (1935), My Man Godfrey (1936), Nothing Sacred (1937), Made for Each Other (1939), In Name Only (1939), Mr & Mrs Smith (1941) and To Be or Not to Be (1942).
In October 1930, Lombard met William Powell. They worked together in the films Man of the World (1931) and Ladies' Man (1931). Unlike many of Carole's suitors at the time, William Powell was sophisticated and showed her a side of life she had not seen before. William Powell admired her blunt personality and her sense of humor. They married June 26, 1931.
Carole Lombard was extroverted and William Powell was reserved, plus Powell was sixteen years her senior. There different personalities lead to their divorce on August 16, 1933. However, they remained very good friends and worked together well, most notably in My Man Godfrey (1936).
While on a date with another man, Carole Lombard met crooner Russ Columbo. They began a serious relationship and Columbo proposed marriage. Tragically, Columbo died while he was visiting a friend. Columbo was admiring an antique pistol which accidently went off and the bullet ricocheted and killed Russ instantly. He died September 2, 1934.
Carole Lombard had previously met Clark Gable when they worked together in No Man of Her Own (1932). Carole was still happily married to William Powell at the time and Clark had many girlfriends. They were indifferent to each other on the set and did not keep in touch.
In 1936, Clark Gable came to the Mayfair Ball that Carole Lombard had planned. That evening their romance took off and they began a serious relationship. However, Clark was still married to Ria Langham at the time and a divorce would have cost him a fortune.
Then a scandalous article called "Hollywood's Unmarried Husbands and Wives" was printed in a fan magazine. Chief censor of the time, Will H. Hays went to Louis B. Mayer and demanded something be done about contract stars such as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, as well as Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck. Robert Taylor and Clark Gable (as well as many others) were give a choice, marry the women or end their relationships. Both choose the marriage route.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were married on March 29, 1939.
When the United States entered World War II, Carole Lombard traveled to her home state of Indiana for a war bond rally. After the war bond rally, on January 16, 1942, Carole and her mother boarded a Transcontintal and Wester Airlines DC-3 airplane to return to California. After refueling in Las Vegas, TWA Flight 3 took off and 23 mintues later crashed into Double Up Peak near Mount Potosi southwest of Las Vegas. All aboard, 19 passengers and three crew were killed. Carole Lombard was only 43 years old.
Carole Lombard's final film, To Be or Not To Be, was in post production at the time of her death. The film also starring Jack Benny, was a satire about Zazism and World War II. The film's producers cut a part of the film in which Lombard's character asks "What can happen on a plane?" As they felt it was in very poor taste, given the circumstances of her death.
Carole Lombard received one Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for My Man Godfrey (1936).
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Carole Lombard's Fort Wayne childhood home has been designated a historic landmark. The city named the nearby bridge over the St. Mary's River the "Carole Lombard Memorial Bridge."
During World War II, after her death, a Liberty ship was named after her.
She was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the first woman killed in the line of duty in WWII. Roosevelt greatly admired her work for the war effort, and ironically she was returning from an engagement selling War Bonds when her plane crashed.