Similar sitcom scenarios are played out today, but it was all new during TV’s Golden Age. Did you ever wonder where Ball got her major inspiration? It’s no secret that Ball adored Carole Lombard. Lombard was sort of a mentor to Ball when both were working at the RKO studio. Lombard was one of the few truly beautiful movie stars who wasn’t afraid to be silly on screen. She also wasn’t concerned about making faces, which took away from her glamour. Lombard was adored by the public and was glamorous enough to snag the “King” of Hollywood, Clark Gable.
|Publicity shot of Carole Lombard|
|Lombard and Una Merkel in a jam|
When Helen applies for a private secretary position at an incredibly generous salary, the wiser Daisy, smells a rat. Helen’s boss Otto Krayler (John T. Murray) really doesn’t want a secretary, but rather a playmate. On her very fist day on the job, Krayler makes a pass at Helen and she quits in a huff. Later she realizes that she left her hat and coat at Krayler’s lavish apartment. When she and Daisy go to retrieve them, the two discover that Krayler has been murdered and that according to detective Darsey (Edgar Kennedy) Helen is the prime suspect.
|Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball in trouble|
Helen has lied so many times to Ken that at this point it’s harder for her to tell the truth. In jail, Lombard is dressed in a simple black outfit. With the blouse’s large white collar and her hair combed back, she looks like Greta Garbo in Queen Christina. Lombard did a beautifully funny imitation of a Garbo-like character a year earlier in The Princess Comes Across.
Daisy, always the loyal friend—Ethel all the way—goes to Helen’s trial that is also attended by an odd man named Charley Jasper (Barrymore) who thinks Helen is innocent, but keeps this to himself. He is generally obnoxious, resorting to blowing up balloons then letting the air out slowly, disrupting the court proceedings.
|Coming up with another scheme|
|Ball wasn't afraid to look silly.|
True Confession was popular with the critics of the day and a huge box office hit. It was the fourth and final collaboration between Lombard and MacMurray who had earlier starred together in Hands Across The Table (1935), The Princess Comes Across, (1936) and Swing High, Swing Low, Paramount’s top grossing film of 1937. Nothing Sacred, released the same year as True Confession, and considered a classic today wasn’t nearly as commercially successful. Both films were released on Thanksgiving Day, 1937.
|Fred MacMurray, Lombard, and John Barrymore in publicity photo for True Confession|
Backstory: Lombard was responsible for casting John Barrymore in the supporting role of Charley Jasper. At this point in his career, producers were reluctant to hire him due to his alcoholism and his refusal to memorize his lines (he read them from cue cards). But Lombard never forgot her big break in Twentieth Century, a film in which Barrymore was the top-billed star. She learned a lot from Barrymore during that production and she was forever grateful. She even gave him star billing alongside herself and MacMurray. Lombard was a true and faithful friend.