The twenty-five-year-old former Mack Sennett bathing beauty was petrified at the prospect of acting opposite the screen’s aging Lothario, not to mention carrying a picture with him. Fortunately, the problem was confronted head on and solved on the first day of rehearsals. Hawks often asserted that his famous private bit of direction to Lombard regarding how she should handle Barrymore took place on the first day of shooting, but the celebrating “kicking” scene in the train was not actually filmed until the third week of production, by which time Lombard was very much in the groove of her performance. In rehearsal, however, in a precise reflection of the predicament of her character, Lombard was initially very stiff, “emoting all over the place. She was trying very hard and it was just dreadful,” explained Hawks. Barrymore was patient with her but at one point “began to hold his nose.” Becoming concerned, Hawks asked the actress to take a walk with him. “I asked how much money she was getting for the picture. She told me and I said, ‘What would you say if I told you you’d earned your whole salary this morning and didn’t have to act anymore?’ And she was stunned. So I said, 'Now forget about the scene. What would you do if someone said such and such to you?’ And she said, 'I’d kick him in the balls’. And I said, 'Well, he said something like that to you– Why don’t you kick him?’ She said, 'Are you kidding?’ And I said, 'No.’” Hawks’ parting remark was, “Now we’re going back in and make this scene and you kick, and you do any damn thing that comes into your mind that’s natural, and quit acting. If you don’t quit, I’m going to fire you this afternoon.” The direction worked, and Lombard’s natural spirited quality came through unchecked in her performance. Hawks claimed, “She never began another picture after that without sending me a telegram that said, 'I’m gonna start kicking him.’” (Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood.)
“But I don’t like comedy. I never read it and seldom go to see a comedy. I’d like best to do light drama – or comedy-drama with a bit of heart interest.” – Marie Prevost in 1921, after leaving the Mack Sennett studio.
The photo is from 1919, when she was a Bathing Beauty.