Thursday, September 02, 2010

Remembering... Russ Columbo

Although he was one of the biggest stars in the world on the day he died, Russ Columbo is barely remembered today, despite the truly bizarre circumstances surrounding his demise, which if nothing else ought to have assured his enduring fame; fortunately, recent scholarship is reviving interest in both the man and his legend...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe handsome singer and violinist - lover of Carole Lombard and like her a film star and object of much fervent adulation - was accidentally shot and killed on this day in 1934. He was 26.

While visiting his friend the photographer Lansing Brown at his studio, Columbo tried to light his cigarette by striking a match against the stock of an antique pistol. Heat from the match set off a long-forgotten charge inside the gun. The bullet ricocheted off a table and shot Columbo in the left eye, killing him instantly.

Brown was later cleared of any wrongdoing, but the death of his friend scarred him for life; Lombard, already a highly emotional sort, was said to be inconsolable for months.

Recordings of Russ Columbo's crooning are somewhat rare, and those held in the collection at the Pop Culture Institute are highly treasured for this very reason. His signature tune You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love especially shows off Columbo's smooth baritone, not to mention his gifts as a peerless interpreter of pop music.
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