World War II and Old Hollywood

I think I’m going to start a World War II series about Indiana on the home front. In one of my roles at the Indiana Historical Society, I work on researching and uploading images to the the online digital images collection. The big project we are working on right now is from a photographer named Larry Foster, who took thousands of images of from the 30’s to the 60’s but the main focus is on the events that unfolded in Indiana during World War II.


One of the first things I loved about working on this collection were all of the pictures featuring famous actors and actresses from Old Hollywood that came to Indiana for special events like War Bond Rallies. My first greatest encounter was Carole Lombard. An Indiana native who made it big in Hollywood as a comedic actress and became the highest paid actress of her time. She even wound up marrying Clark Gable, one of my favorite actors especially for his portrayal as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind. Their love was and always has been described as true love. Friends and family commented on how content and stable the couple had felt when they were together. Her movie roles include Twentieth Century, My Man Godfrey (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and To Be or Not To Be (her final film).


The sale of war bonds were extremely critical in helping fund military operations and other expenditures all while helping to keep inflation down by taking money out of circulation. Many actors and actresses were keen to lend a helping hand to their nation. January 15th 1942 Carole Lombard stopped in her home state to attend a war bond rally. Her efforts here would raise a record-breaking 2 million dollars. The image to the right shows Carole at the war bond rally. The image was taken by Larry Foster and comes from his collection at the Indiana Historical Society.

Eager to get home to California, Carole convinced her mother and her agent, Otto Winkler, to take a flight back instead of the train as they had planned. The decision was made by flipping a coin since her mother and Winkler we afraid of flying. The plane stopped over in Las Vegas to refuel and shorty after take-off crashed into Double-Up Peak killing everyone on board.

Carole’s career was cut-short and Clark Gable was left devastated in the wake of her death. He intended to sue the airline but settled out of court for $10 as he did not want to relive his grief. Gable then enlisted in the army, something Carole always wanted him to do, where he manned a motion picture battalion that filmed air battles but he also flew in 5 missions himself. Upon his death in 1960 from complications following a heart attack, Gable was interred beside Carole despite being married twice after he death. Many commented that after Carole died he was never quite the same.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACarole was scheduled to appear in They All Kissed the Bride before her death and her role was subsequently given to Joan Crawford. Joan Crawford donated all of the money she earned from this role to the Red Cross who had worked to recover the bodies from the plane’s wreckage.


Two years after her record-breaking bond drive, a Liberty Ship entitled the USS Carole Lombard was launched. This ship would go on to the Pacific Theater where it was responsible for rescuing hundreds of sailors from sunken ships.

Larry Foster captured dozens of photos of Carole Lombard during her time in Indianapolis for the war bond rally, little did he know that he was taking some of the last images of the famous actress.

Larry Foster’s entire collection can be viewed here:

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