The Weaver

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Carole Lombard loved the secular side of Christmas, as demonstrated by the number of surviving letters, cards, and notes attached to or referencing various gifts presenting by Carole to friends and acquaintances over the years. Examples can be seen at the fine Carole & Co. web site. Much less is known about her religious beliefs, which was a topic she kept private. A glimpse into Carole’s belief system is found in the poem entitled The Weaver that she wished to have read at her funeral service. I am not a religious person by nature; I would label myself as spiritual, so this column is by no means meant as an endorsement of any religion. The poem, by Grant Colfax Tullar of Bolton, Massachusetts, was abridged in Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3. Many variations exist online and in religious tracts and emblazon many plaques hung on many walls, but this version of The Weaver seems to be the full original. It reads:

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.

Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who chose to walk with Him.

The mother of a friend of mine, upon reading Fireball last summer, was struck by Tullar’s verse to such an extent that she raved about The Weaver to her husband. When this woman passed on unexpectedly last week, her husband requested the full version of the poem so it could be read at her funeral service. At this sad time, I was struck by the fact that these words chosen by Carole Lombard and read over her casket would now, almost 73 years later, provide comfort to another grieving family.

Carole made no bones about the fact that she was a fatalist. She believed, as she told an interviewer in the 1930s, that, “When your number’s up, your number’s up.” She achieved fame at a time in U.S. history that was dominated by European Protestants—remember, not even a Catholic was elected president of the United States until John Kennedy in 1960. Interviewers of the 1930s expected Carole to deliver quotes reinforcing a Protestant belief in the New Testament, but the profane one would not oblige; she refused to make her religious beliefs public. She would acknowledge a belief in God and then brush aside any further probing. In fact Carole was, like her mother, Elizabeth Peters, of the Baha’i faith, becoming Baha’i in 1938. Confidential Baha’i documentation reveals a spiritual side to the earthy, madcap Lombard that would surprise many, yet her alignment with some of the teachings of Baha’i reflects her nature as a generous person who helped the little guy whether it was a friend down on his or her luck or someone just starting out in the business. She also gained a reputation for promoting freedom of expression as well as a tolerance for a variety of lifestyles—religious and otherwise.

Yes, Christmas was big to Carole Lombard. She took it seriously and spent liberally on presents each year. In the spirit of the fireball herself, I would like to pause on this Christmas Eve and wish every visitor to the site a Happy Holiday season, whatever that may entail for you and your family and friends.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

A naughtier Christmas celebration, this one at the Mack Sennett Studio in 1927 with leggy Lombard at right (back in the days when Mack ordered his actresses to have some meat on their bones).

One comment

  1. Thank you for the compliment regarding Carole & Co., and may I say in return that you’re doing a terrific job. I wish you the best throughout 2015, and promise that my site will seek out new and exciting entries next year now that I’m in Los Angeles, with access to all sorts of fascinating things regarding classic Hollywood in general and classic Hollywood in particular.

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