Lombard, who was married to the "King" of Hollywood, Clark Gable, was returning home from a hugely successful trip to sell war bonds and stamps, just weeks after Pearl Harbor. The death of the glamorous, effervescent star shocked Hollywood and the nation.
I've had a particular affinity for Lombard since discovering childhood photos of her at the Kimberly Crest estate in Redlands, California, an experience I wrote about here. When I heard that Robert Matzen, author of the new book FIREBALL: CAROLE LOMBARD AND THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 3, would be speaking this evening at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, I decided to make it a point to attend. Tonight's lecture and book signing marked the book's official launch.
The intersection of Hollywood, aviation, and WWII history make TWA Flight 3 a particularly compelling story. The DC-3 which crashed, as a matter of fact, had been built right across the street from the museum.
Matzen was an excellent speaker, and the depth of his research became apparent as he spoke. He investigated Flight 3 in every detail, including combing through TWA and House investigation records. He even tracked down a 94-year-old survivor who had been bumped off the flight during a stopover in Albuquerque. He also climbed to the crash site, where some of the wreckage sits to this day.
It's a very sad yet tremendously interesting topic, and Matzen has many fascinating stories to tell regarding not only Lombard, but all of those involved. It was particularly touching hearing of the impact of his wife's loss on Clark Gable, molded by the tragedy into an increasingly compassionate and thoughtful man. His kindness to paralyzed actress Susan Peters is just one of the stories shared in the book.
FIREBALL is 368 pages, including the index. It's a heavy book printed on quality paper, with pages of glossy photos, published by GoodKnight Books. A "trailer" about the book is on YouTube. Having heard Matzen's talk and taken a little time to page through the book, I'm very much looking forward to reading it.
Carole & Co. posted a Q&A with Robert Matzen which was provided by the book's publisher. Mr. Matzen will be speaking again at Larry Edmunds Bookshop this Saturday, January 18th, at 4:00 p.m.