A Day with Harlow

Harlow at her Club View Drive home, circa 1932

I spent the majority of today in 1932.

Well, as close as I’ll ever get to it, anyway.

On this exceptionally bright, magical March afternoon, the not-so-distant past collided head on with the present.

The authors of Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital held a book signing on Club View Drive in Beverly Hills- the former residence of Jean Harlow. The gracious current owners of the home, Mr. and Mrs. Chandler, hosted a lovely afternoon luncheon whose guests included Leonard Maltin, Holly Madison, members of the Harlow family (the Carpenter side), veteran Hollywood actress Pauline Wagner (Fay Wray‘s King Kong double!) and Hollywood historians Lisa Burks, Darrell Rooney and Mark Vieira.

I was thrilled to be a part of such a distinguished group, and really cherished every blessed second.

Armed with my partner in crime, the beautiful vintage model Lauren Foulk, we arrived at the legendary home ready for an afternoon of pure Hollywood history… and were certainly not disappointed.

The Chandlers love of their homes’ history is evident in every lovingly preserved square inch. Beautiful period prints of Harlow in the Club View Drive home were prominently placed in areas of particular interest, creating a tangible, living museum.

Harlow at Club View Drive in 1932... and the same view today.

It was a truly extraordinary experience, roaming the hallways of a legend. A costume worn by beautiful Carol Baker awaited upstairs– lead actress in the miscalculated  1965 film that was a victim of misinformation. (Baker’s talent as an actress could have been explosive given the correct material.)

Sitting in the the living room which had once played host to the wedding of Jean Harlow and ill-fated MGM producer Paul Bern was quite surreal … even moreso was speaking with a delightful lady who had graced its presence before… eight decades ago…

When Pauline Wagner signed my autograph book today, she tagged it with “SAG #2”. Meaning, quite simply, that she was officially the second member of the Screen Actors Guild. A photograph of the strikingly young Pauline with Jimmy Cagney on set rested in the Club View Drive drawing room, and a crowd of willing, waiting pupils sat at her feet. Eager, ever so eager, to hear the stories of working as an actress in 1930s Hollywood FROM an actress who worked in 1930s Holltwood. Pauline may be 100 years old on paper, but certainly doesn’t look it. In fact, when Lauren and I were told her real age we were fairly knocked off our feet. Lauren, arrayed in the most delightfully vintage tresses, was spyed by the very spry Pauline from across the room. We had no idea at the time that the sweet little lady introducing herself was a living Hollywood legend.

Her strikingly well preserved form? Summed up thusly:

Me: Pauline, whatever you’re doing, please keep doing it!

Pauline: It’s not what I’m doing… it’s what i DON’T do!

A statement followed up by a gloriously vivid account between her and director Mitchell Leisen who, after an uncharacteristically bleary-eyed morning with the actress, said: “Take my advice, kid. DON’T GO TO HOLLYWOOD PARTIES.”

She listened. Much to the benefit of all of us assembled this afternoon.

She wallopped me, that dame, and I’m still trying to recover…

Entrance to Club View Drive
Inside Club View Drive... Stairway to History
Portrait of Jean, in the room where she wedded Paul Bern.
Is it 2011 or is it 1932?
Vintage Model Lauren Foulk-- hitting on all six cylinders!
Carol Baker's negligee from the 1965 film "Harlow". Great actress... awful film.
Club View Drive's Tudor exterior.
Photograph of Harlow inside Club View Drive on her wedding day with Paul Bern, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg. (WOW!)

After the fun had ended, Lauren and I were still weren’t quite ready to rejoin the present. So we made a stop at the legendary Sunset Tower Hotel to have a drink in Jean’s honor. The Jean Harlow Cocktail was a slight challenge for our willing bartender, who’d never heard of the concoction before, but the end result was delicious!

Here’s to Harlean!

The Jean Harlow Cocktail
Sunset Tower Hotel

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Gen Y reject and wage slave extraordinaire.

12 thoughts on “A Day with Harlow

  1. How incredibly lucky to get to talk to SAG #2. 🙂 What an extraordinary experience! Thank you for sharing it with us. I love visiting places in Beverly Hills and Hollywood where the history we so worship was made — it makes me feel very fortunate to live in this town!

  2. Absolutely brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing your photos and your report of the day. I’m so jealous that you had the opportunity to spend the day immersed in Harlow’s world.

  3. How thrilling to tour the once home of Jean Harlow and meet Pauline Wagner! What a memorable opportunity. Thanks for sharing the photos. What is striking is that photo comparing the view as seen with Harlow and how it appears today! My, how the area has grown up.

  4. That is seriously amazing! I am so jealous! The house still looks spectacular. It must have been so surreal to be in a house where people like Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer, and Irving Thalberg all have spent time in.

  5. Awesome! Though I’m happy in he east, I often wish I lived on the west coast so I could join all of these cool events. I’m sooo jealous.

    I also plan on trying the Jean Harlow cocktail. My friend is a bartender and I’ve already told him how to make it haha.

  6. Thank you so much for this wonderful week of Jean Harlow Centennial homages. When I was in my early teens — I just turned 60 — I had wolfed down my parents’ Edna Ferber novels, “Show boat,” “Giant,” “So Big” etc, and my wonderful father, who, like me, adored Hollywood’s golden age once again suggested — on a school night — that I stay up late to watch the film version of the Kaufman-Ferber “Dinner at Eight.” I loved Maried Dressler and Billie Burke but it was Jean Harlow who knocked my socks off — what a comic talent, and what beauty.
    Shortly thereafter came the disgusting and licentious tissue of lies that was Irving Shulman’s biography of Harlow, and in its wake came the Carroll Baker and Carol Linley film biopics, both ghastly. It has been observed this week that Carroll Baker, a great beauty and far better actress than the mousy Linley, might have done great things as Jean had she been better served by the script. I concur heartily! Baker, like Harlow, was an underrated actress despite several superb film appearances in rather thankless roles.
    As a makeup artist by profession, when i pore through my rather large collection of books on Hollywood’s golden Age, I am so appalled by Jean Harlow’s makeup, which, like Dietrich’s, undermined her beauty with the eyebrows shaven and then pencilled in a quarter of an inchhigher than the actress’s brow bone. How I have longed all these years to go back in time and redo Jean’s face with a more natural brow, and eye shadows that would better serve her deep-set eyes. As ravishing as she was, a less stylized maquillage might have revealed her staggering beauty more effectively.
    I have especially enjoyed the colourizations I have seen this week, though I think the hair colour was a tiny bit too coolly white for my imagings of what the lady looked life in real life. That is a minor quibble, as otherwise I found the colourizations perfect.
    I would also like to add that I was delighted by the Ann Dvorak tribute — her quirky beauty and intense acting have captivated me since, as a 12 year old,I stayed inside on a glorious summer day to watch Ann, with the divine Bette Davis and wise-cracking Joan Blondell, suffer beautifully as an adulterous cocaine addict. Thank you for reminding me how much I like this actress.

    1. Thanks for the comments, everyone! I wish every last one of you could have been there as well– it was something that anyone who has a fondness for classic Hollywood really deserved to be a part of!

  7. wow…what a day and how nice of you all to share the details…I first fell in love with Harlow in 1965 in the back of a white sports convertible watching Carroll Baker at a Hudson Valley Drive in…I was all of 8 years old and mesmerized by the Harlow like whiteness on the huge outdoor screen…In early University I researched the real Harlean…and fell in love all over again!Her china doll beauty and sassiness combined with a heart of gold was very transparent thru any movie screen…Im thrilled to see the recent interest in the special misunderstood gal who won many a heart…what a thrill to spend a day in her old home with with wonderful friends and hosts…thanks for sharing! Keith Nieto

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