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The Making of 'They Knew What They Wanted' (1940)

Carole Lomabrd buries her head and cries, "Is that me?" when she first sees herself

In mid-1940, Carole began working on They Knew What They Wanted with co-star, Charles Laughton (who was actually nicknamed ‘Chuck’ by Carole) and director, Garson Kanin, who was lovingly fond of her.


Carole and Charles Laughton for 'They Knew What They Wanted' (1940)

Carole was never enamoured by the script for this film and a huge part of her accepting the role was due to the people working in and on it. One of those fine people being Garson Kanin, he had directed My Favourite Wife (1940) which starred both Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, it was released on May 17, 1940 and it was a hit. What had previously come from Garson Kanin being a director without a doubt played a huge part in Carole accepting this into her long list of credentials. She was also fond of Charles Laughton from her time working with him on White Woman (1933), and he had liked her since they were candidly filmed on the Paramount Lot, frolicking around together.

On May 29, of the same year, filming for They Knew What They Wanted (1940) had officially started. Most of the movie was filmed on location at the Napa County District—Carole drove up to the location with Clark and he can be seen in plenty of the production photographs. Certain scenes that were filmed of Carole waiting at the train station, sat on her luggage, were filmed at St. Helena’s Train Station, and scenes that were filmed showing the home were filmed at the Calistoga Inn, and vineyard scenes filmed at the Beringer Vineyards according to an issue of Variety magazine.

During the making of They Knew What They Wanted, Carole allowed Hedda Hopper into her dressing room to do a quick interview—while Hedda was always a huge Carole fan, and still was, she was devastated by Carole’s clothing in her films, describing her wardrobe as ‘cheap.’ Garson Kanin was quick to come to Carole’s defense, telling Hedda, “The most important thing I’ve learned about her [Carole] is that she can completely get out of herself (…) She’s the character in the story, the waitress who falls in love by correspondence. The first scene we shot, her voice pitched differently, her very movements changed.” I think he was mainly just trying to prove that in this sense, Carole leant more towards how she could improve her acting, more than her clothing. Plus, knowing Carole, she was probably too sensitive to ever think about complaining that the clothes she was wearing on set were cheap looking. Honourable mention to Edward Stevenson who put immense effort into creating a fitting wardrobe for this film!

Whilst working hard on filming, Carole and Charles had a tiny break to visit the inside of Beringer Vineyards. The main goals were to take publicity photographs and look at life from a different standpoint, this wouldn’t only look good for the film but essentially, the company too. Nothing genuinely special was documented after the ‘candid’ publicity photographs. They continued to film until the completion of the film, which wrapped on August third.

September rolled around; Carole, Charles and Garson made their way to RKO’s second production room to view the finished film. Peter Stackpole photographed their first reactions for an article LIFE magazine was running as he sat mid-way between the screen and the leather sofa the three were sat on.

Finding these images costed money (which I don’t mind because I adore Carole), but if you do decide to post anywhere, please give credit appropriately. Thank you!

©thescrewballgirl ©carolearchive, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to thescrewballgirl and carolearchive with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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