Name at birth: Jane Alice Peters
Carole Lombard was a top Hollywood star of 1930s screwball comedies -- and the wife of box office idol Clark Gable -- when she was killed in a plane crash in Nevada in 1942. Mostly raised in California, she began her acting career when she was still a teenager, in the 1920s, playing average blonde heroines. By the 1930s, she was a bankable lead in romantic comedies for Paramount Studios and frequently on loan to other Hollywood studios, making her mark as a sassy lead in films such as Howard Hawks's Twentieth Century (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936, starring her then ex-husband, William Powell) and Nothing Sacred (1937). Her 1939 marriage to Gable made her one of America's top celebrities, and after World War II began, Lombard went on tour to raise funds for the war effort. Legend has it a coin toss led to her taking an airplane instead of a train on her return home, and her plane crashed into a mountain, killing her and 15 Army fliers. She was 34 years old and had been in nearly 50 movies, earning an Oscar nomination for My Man Godfrey.