The Irony of Actress Carole Lombard’s Death

In 1940, just before the release of her film They Knew What They Wanted, actress Carole Lombard’s press agent, Russell Birdwell, approached the filmmakers with a novel publicity scheme. Lombard would be scheduled to fly to New York for the opening, but they would arrange for the plane to “go down” en route and remain missing for 12 hours. Birdwell’s belief was that during that 12 hours, Carole Lombard’s picture would be on every front page in the country. Not only would that keep her face in the news, it would also advertise the movie. It was free advertising at its best. Birdwell planned for Lombard and the pilot to eventually wander out of the woods, saying that the plane’s engines and radio had died. Unfortunately, his plan didn’t succeed. It was cancelled because of the cost involved. Ironically, two years later Lombard died in a plane crash. In the early morning hours of January 16, 1942, Lombard, her mother and her press agent, Otto Winkler, boarded a flight bound for California. After refueling in Las Vegas, TWA Flight 3 took off at 7:07 p.m. and crashed into Double Up Peak near the 8,300-foot level of Potosi Mountain, 32 miles from the Las Vegas airport. Everyone aboard was killed instantly. Lombard was just 33 years old.