On June 7, 1940, renowned Hollywood actress Joan Blondell appeared in the world premiere of the comedy farce “Goodbye to Love” before a packed Lobero audience.
Hopes were high that the play would get raving reviews in local and Los Angeles press, and would inevitably make its way to Broadway. Tragically, Ms. Blondell suffered a nervous breakdown after the performance and ended up in the hospital.
Born in 1909 in New York City, Blondell began acting and touring the world as a young child with her vaudeville family. At eighteen, her glamorous appearance, poised air, and superb acting ability placed her 4th in the Miss America pageant, after which she moved back to New York to pursue a modeling career. In 1930, she got her first acting role, starring with James Cagney in the Broadway play “Penny Arcade”.
Shortly after the film’s release, Joan Blondell signed a contract with Warner Bros., where she appeared in several films with Cagney, including “The Public Enemy”. Other co-stars in her Warner Bros. days included superstars Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, and John Wayne. Blondell was typically cast as the archetypal wisecracking but good-natured working-class gal.
After a ten year hiatus from the stage, Blondell decided to once again try her hand at theater, and signed on to play the lead in what was billed as “a rollicksome, frolicsome, farce comedy” – “Goodbye to Love”. “Goodbye to Love” premiered on June 7, 1940, at the Lobero Theatre and was scheduled for a two-week run across California, premiering in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, before moving to Broadway. Unfortunately, audience response and reviews were mixed.
“Goodbye to Love” will probably be a money-maker here and on the road… but it is not likely to be Broadway provender.” -Oakland Tribune
Even worse, the stress of premiering the play for two nights at the Lobero apparently took a toll on Blondell’s mental health. According to the biography “Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes”,
“Goodbye to Love opened at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara as a jumble of comedy setups. Audiences were polite to the actors but dismissive of the material. After the poorly received opening, Joan suffered some kind of breakdown on the train north. When she arrived in San Francisco, an ambulance was waiting at the station. She was sent to a hospital for “nervous and physical exhaustion”, and the planned 10 June opening was postponed one week.”
“Goodbye to Love” never made it to Broadway and ended its tour in Los Angeles in July 1940. A minor speedbump on the roadmap of her illustrious career, Joan Blondell would go on to make 42 more films, and star in 3 Broadway plays.
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