The Jean Harlow Blogathon: Day 6 & 7

Bye, bye pretty baby

I really can’t believe the last day of the Jean Harlow Blogathon is here. So much thought and planning and preparation and excitement and now… it’s nearly over. It’s been a heck of a great ride, and the contributions that poured in from all over the world have been, in a word, superlative.

The entire point of this Blogathon has been to help keep Harlow’s legend–and Harlow’s  Hollywood– alive. And even though 7 decades have passed since her final film, this Blogathon has proved that Harlow’s white hot flame is as bright and clear as ever–  something that could not be possible without bloggers like all of you who participated this week. The depth and complexity of her personal life freed from the shackles of sensationalism and her body of work the subject of serious appreciation and study. Finally, it truly feels like Harlean Carpenter’s life and legacy is being treated with the respect that so sadly eluded her in real life.

What a stirring tribute this week has been– I only hope it has been as much fun for all of you as it has been for us.

And to Harlean herself… we all love you!

Right, enough of the eulogizing, on to the fun stuff:

Harlean’s Heyday

What can I say about Riiki at Harlean’s Heyday? She is such a terrific blogger and her contributions to this Blogathon have been superb. Her last entry fot the Blogathon is her best. “Like an Uncensored Movie” is a fascinating history of the Production Code:

Red-Headed Woman features content that might come away as shocking even to contemporary audiences. It not only depicts vice but also glorifies it, a fact that is emphasised by its unapologetic ending. As Doherty puts it: “Virtually every diegetic ellipsis in the film is occupied by the certainty that Lil and the man she was with in the prior scene have spent the interim in an illicit sexual encounter.” Any imaginative gaps are filled by subsequent, sexually suggestive dialogue. “There we were like an uncensored movie,” Lil gloats in one scene.

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The Platinum Page
If anyone has been a champion of this Blogathon, it’s been Lisa Burks. This truly lovely lady and all-around superstar has, for her final entry to the Blogathon, rounded up a collection of her personal favorite YouTube video tributes to Harlow.

Don’t wince at the term “youtube tributes”– Lisa’s selection of videos are extremely well done!

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Vintage Powder Room
It is highly fitting that Vintage Powder Room, a blog dedicated to vintage cosmetics and accessories, conjure a  post all about beauty… Harlow style. Joan is with The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and her proclivity for prose makes for a highly enjoyable read:

Jean Harlow was a cotton candy confection of a woman, but she never seemed aloof or unapproachable. She often wore a smile, if little else, and her eyes were full of intelligence, warmth, and humor.  She will be forever mourned.

Hear, hear!

(read more)

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Clarosureaux

More photos from the prolific Kevin at Clarosureaux. He’ll be dedicating most of the month of March to Harlow, so just because the Blogathon is ending doesn’t mean Kevin’s work is done! MUCH more beautiful work to come from his inspired hand. Have fun checking out the latest!

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Old Movie Nostalgia

Old Movie Nostalgia joins in for the final day of the fete with a Tribute to Harlow that brings attention to how dearly loved she was by her crew, co-workers and, really, anyone who happened to know her:

A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Although she was never motivated by stardom or fame, if Emerson’s quote was being applied to movie stars, it seems that Jean Harlow could be considered one Hollywood’s biggest stars. The kind words that have been spoken of her over the years by her many friends speak to what a wonderful person she was…

(read more)

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Rob Stevens

Rob Stevens from Holland also jumps in with a last minute nod to the baby. Thanks, Rob!

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Shadowplay

Shadowplay, wonderful Shadowplay, is back and giving its much-loved Intertitle of the Day to a Laurel & Hardy/Harlow silent Double Whoopee. “Might I presume that you would condescend to accept my escortage” Ollie asks of Jean. And if you’ve seen this classic short, you know what happens next…

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Row Three

Oh, Row Three… how I do heart thee. Jandy, one of Row Three’s regular contributors, stepped up to bat for Harlow with “Jean Harlow- The Original Smart Blonde“… a title that is, absolutely, my favorite of the entire week.

If  Hollywood luminaries’ lives lasted a length commensurate with the brightness of their stars, Jean Harlow would have been blowing out her own candles for her 100th birthday yesterday. As it is, the opposite is often true, and Harlow died much before her time at the age of 26, leaving behind a timeless legacy in her brief nine years as a Hollywood actress, comedienne, and sex symbol. ..

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The Hollywood Revue

Angela from The Hollywood Revue has been one of the biggest supporters of this Blogathon and we give her a hearty THANK YOU. For her final entry, she reviews Bombshell, a film generally regarded to be one of Harlow’s finest films. (I happen to agree with Angela’s preference to Libeled Lady. Glad to know I’m not the only one!)

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The New Jersey Star-Ledger

Stephen Whitty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger has been so kind as to submit a solid profile of Harlow in honor of her centenary. We are absolutely delighted that the Star-Ledger is interested in the Blogathon and proudly add them to our Blogroll:
Once Hollywood invented itself, it began to invent archetypes. William S. Hart was the Good Bad Man. Rudolph Valentino was the Latin Lover. Gary Cooper was the Quiet American.

And Jean Harlow was, simply, the Blonde, the woman who wasn’t as dumb as she looked (or any better than she had to be), the kind who was willing to take a man as he was (or maybe just take him) — a laughing, brassy, no-regrets bombshell.

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Comets Over Hollywood

Comets Over Hollywood gets a post in just under the wire and I’m quite pleased: it’s the only entry that tackles the infamous 1965 film Harlow. The post begins with the words “I have just finished the worst movie ever.” Heartily agreed, mate. Even if the film’s subject hadn’t been about Harlow, it would still stand out as probably the worst period film ever made. If you cringed at the Victorian costumes in the 194o version of Georgian-era Pride and Prejudice… Harlow will send you into convulsions. Bouffant hair? Check. Austin Powers rotating bed? Check. 60s muzak soundtrack? Check. Read The Battling Carols for a full critique.

Jean Harlow’s Power Pout

It is my considered opinion that no one can pout like Harlow.

"Get out and stay out!" - Hell's Angels (I think she means it...)

That power pout of hers is the reason, strange but true, that I first paid any attention to her at all. I was watching Red Headed Woman one lazy Saturday afternoon, and somewhere in the middle came a foot stomp…followed up with that delicious ‘Don’t Mess With Me’ pout…  and I just had to do a double take.

I still don’t know precisely why it wallops me, but it does. She’s both a toddler in a fit, a clawing goddess, and a vulnerable young woman. That’s not acting. That’s Harlean Carpenter in the flesh, raw and real and thoroughly electrifying.

You can try to mimick it, but you can never ever come close to it. That emotive pout– the reason my eyebrow raised that Saturday afternoon and I sat straight and took note.

My favorite Harlow Power Pout: the entire 7 minutes of this Red Headed Woman clip. The word you’re looking for, ladies and gents, is usually preceded by the word ‘holy’ and followed by something with an ‘f’…

Jean Harlow's Power Pout

It is my considered opinion that no one can pout like Harlow.

"Get out and stay out!" - Hell's Angels (I think she means it...)

That power pout of hers is the reason, strange but true, that I first paid any attention to her at all. I was watching Red Headed Woman one lazy Saturday afternoon, and somewhere in the middle came a foot stomp…followed up with that delicious ‘Don’t Mess With Me’ pout…  and I just had to do a double take.

I still don’t know precisely why it wallops me, but it does. She’s both a toddler in a fit, a clawing goddess, and a vulnerable young woman. That’s not acting. That’s Harlean Carpenter in the flesh, raw and real and thoroughly electrifying.

You can try to mimick it, but you can never ever come close to it. That emotive pout– the reason my eyebrow raised that Saturday afternoon and I sat straight and took note.

My favorite Harlow Power Pout: the entire 7 minutes of this Red Headed Woman clip. The word you’re looking for, ladies and gents, is usually preceded by the word ‘holy’ and followed by something with an ‘f’…

The Jean Harlow Blogathon – Day 5

Day Five of the Jean Harlow Blogathon

Baby Jean (Colorized by CLAROSUREAUX)

Here we are already on Day 5 of the Jean Harlow Blogathon, and judging by today’s entries there’s no sign of slowing down! You guys are on fire!

Lots of goodies to choose from today, from a highly intelligent social essay to a gallery of glamorous stills, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone in today’s roundup.

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A Shroud of Thoughts

Terry over at A Shroud of Thoughts gives Harlow a lot of love with “Happy 100th Birthday”, zeroing in particularly on her sense of humor:

She proved a formidable comedy talent in the Anita Loos comedy The Gril From Missouri (1934). A few years later in Wife vs. Secretary she proved a match even for Myrna Loy when it came to comedy. That her talent for comedy must have been inborn can be seen in her many, often funny quotes, some of them worthy of even Mae West.

(read more)

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Platinum Page

Marathon Blogathon Blogger Lisa at The Platinum Page has posted Twinkle, Twinkle, Star of the month, her 5th entry for the Blogathon. It’s a nice rundown of TCM’s March schedule for Jean’s films and I especially like that she highlighted Robert Osborne’s lovely thoughts on Harlow:

Costars and friends such as Myrna Loy and Rosalind Russell certainly thought so. They were among those who, three decades after Harlow’s death, were so insulted by a salacious book about their long gone friend that each went on numerous television talk shows with fire in her eyes to repudiate the author’s words and defend Harlow’s reputation.

It takes an extraordinary person to inspire that kind of devotion.  It’s that lively lady we think you’ll thoroughly enjoy spending time with Tuesdays in March on TCM, beginning March 8.

(read more)

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Clarosureaux

Kevin  at Clarosureaux has yet another batch of beautifully colorized images of Harlow that really is terrific eye candy—including the gorgeous photo of featured above.

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Garbo Laughs

And speaking of eye candy, Caroline at Garbo Laughs has dedicated her Friday Glam Span to Harlow with a selection of simply decadent stills.

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Comets Over Hollywood

Very happy to have Comet Over Hollywood joining us today. “Curtain Call” is a close look at Harlow’s final film, Saratoga:

Frankly, the plot is predictable and typical of a Clark Gable movie.  I personally think it was only saved by Jean Harlow’s comedic wit and beauty.  Jean Arthur would have been terrible in the role and Virginia Bruce would have been just as predictable. The film would have fallen flat.

But at the same time, I almost wish the film had been shelved, much like Marilyn Monroe’s unfinished movie “Something’s Got to Give” (Though the difference is “Saratoga” nearly done and Monroe’s movie just starting).  I’m not saying that I’m not thankful to see one last glimpse of Jean alive and well, but it’s heart breaking to watch.  You see her at the beginning of the movie very beautiful and very much alive.  It’s like watching someone on the street, knowing they are about to die, but they have no clue…

(read more)

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Via Margutta 51

Clara’ delightful Red Headed Woman on Twitter concludes with Via Margutta’s fun (and funny) finish to the Lil/Bill love affair!

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Sinamatic Salve-Ation

Ariel at Sinamatic Salve-Ation returns in top form with  “The Rich Dividends of Sin: Women and Hollywood in the ‘30s. Folks, this post is essential reading. An extremely well written essay on sex, censorship and how women like Harlow, Mae West and Ruth Chatterton challenged the system:

Pre-Code films have recently become a popular area of research, over the last few years. There have been several books and even some documentaries made about the existence of, and circumstances surrounding them. This “unearthing” of these documents is integral to our appreciation of the rest of film history, but most importantly the image of women in film history. In regards to his work on the subject, and his book, Mick LaSalle said that he believes that “the real audience for this subject is young women… Young women are amazed by these films because it reassures them that they’re not some kind of a modern-day anomaly.” It’s nice to have that reassurance.

(read more)

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Shadowplay

Shadowplay is a cineaste playground and it rounds out today’s digest with “Punchy” — a spotlight of a Harlow rarity, Tod Browning’s Iron Man, and a Laurel and Hardy short, Bacon Grabbers. Shadowplay is a Pictorial favorite, with its content seamlessly skirting from austere to eccentric to classic and back again with almost dizzying dexterity. The film didn’t dazzle, but makes for a good read:

Browning did like his talk pretty ssslllooowwww (but his last movie, MIRACLES FOR SALE, is unexpectedly zippy), but here the sheer lack of interest in the situations seems to seep through everything and everyone.

But those furs are pretty impressive.
(read more)

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The Jean Harlow Blogathon – Day 5

Day Five of the Jean Harlow Blogathon

Baby Jean (Colorized by CLAROSUREAUX)

Here we are already on Day 5 of the Jean Harlow Blogathon, and judging by today’s entries there’s no sign of slowing down! You guys are on fire!

Lots of goodies to choose from today, from a highly intelligent social essay to a gallery of glamorous stills, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone in today’s roundup.

***

A Shroud of Thoughts

Terry over at A Shroud of Thoughts gives Harlow a lot of love with “Happy 100th Birthday”, zeroing in particularly on her sense of humor:

She proved a formidable comedy talent in the Anita Loos comedy The Gril From Missouri (1934). A few years later in Wife vs. Secretary she proved a match even for Myrna Loy when it came to comedy. That her talent for comedy must have been inborn can be seen in her many, often funny quotes, some of them worthy of even Mae West.

(read more)

***

Platinum Page

Marathon Blogathon Blogger Lisa at The Platinum Page has posted Twinkle, Twinkle, Star of the month, her 5th entry for the Blogathon. It’s a nice rundown of TCM’s March schedule for Jean’s films and I especially like that she highlighted Robert Osborne’s lovely thoughts on Harlow:

Costars and friends such as Myrna Loy and Rosalind Russell certainly thought so. They were among those who, three decades after Harlow’s death, were so insulted by a salacious book about their long gone friend that each went on numerous television talk shows with fire in her eyes to repudiate the author’s words and defend Harlow’s reputation.

It takes an extraordinary person to inspire that kind of devotion.  It’s that lively lady we think you’ll thoroughly enjoy spending time with Tuesdays in March on TCM, beginning March 8.

(read more)

***

Clarosureaux

Kevin  at Clarosureaux has yet another batch of beautifully colorized images of Harlow that really is terrific eye candy—including the gorgeous photo of featured above.

***

Garbo Laughs

And speaking of eye candy, Caroline at Garbo Laughs has dedicated her Friday Glam Span to Harlow with a selection of simply decadent stills.

***

Comets Over Hollywood

Very happy to have Comet Over Hollywood joining us today. “Curtain Call” is a close look at Harlow’s final film, Saratoga:

Frankly, the plot is predictable and typical of a Clark Gable movie.  I personally think it was only saved by Jean Harlow’s comedic wit and beauty.  Jean Arthur would have been terrible in the role and Virginia Bruce would have been just as predictable. The film would have fallen flat.

But at the same time, I almost wish the film had been shelved, much like Marilyn Monroe’s unfinished movie “Something’s Got to Give” (Though the difference is “Saratoga” nearly done and Monroe’s movie just starting).  I’m not saying that I’m not thankful to see one last glimpse of Jean alive and well, but it’s heart breaking to watch.  You see her at the beginning of the movie very beautiful and very much alive.  It’s like watching someone on the street, knowing they are about to die, but they have no clue…

(read more)

***

Via Margutta 51

Clara’ delightful Red Headed Woman on Twitter concludes with Via Margutta’s fun (and funny) finish to the Lil/Bill love affair!

***

Sinamatic Salve-Ation

Ariel at Sinamatic Salve-Ation returns in top form with  “The Rich Dividends of Sin: Women and Hollywood in the ‘30s. Folks, this post is essential reading. An extremely well written essay on sex, censorship and how women like Harlow, Mae West and Ruth Chatterton challenged the system:

Pre-Code films have recently become a popular area of research, over the last few years. There have been several books and even some documentaries made about the existence of, and circumstances surrounding them. This “unearthing” of these documents is integral to our appreciation of the rest of film history, but most importantly the image of women in film history. In regards to his work on the subject, and his book, Mick LaSalle said that he believes that “the real audience for this subject is young women… Young women are amazed by these films because it reassures them that they’re not some kind of a modern-day anomaly.” It’s nice to have that reassurance.

(read more)

***

Shadowplay

Shadowplay is a cineaste playground and it rounds out today’s digest with “Punchy” — a spotlight of a Harlow rarity, Tod Browning’s Iron Man, and a Laurel and Hardy short, Bacon Grabbers. Shadowplay is a Pictorial favorite, with its content seamlessly skirting from austere to eccentric to classic and back again with almost dizzying dexterity. The film didn’t dazzle, but makes for a good read:

Browning did like his talk pretty ssslllooowwww (but his last movie, MIRACLES FOR SALE, is unexpectedly zippy), but here the sheer lack of interest in the situations seems to seep through everything and everyone.

But those furs are pretty impressive.
(read more)

***

Blog it for Baby: The Jean Harlow Blogathon Day 2

The Jean Harlow Blogathon Day Two!

Jean Harlow

Okay kids, day two of the Jean Harlow blogathon is here and I am thrilled to present another lineup of some simply terrific contributions! The photos presented are particularly beautiful and I am sure that every Harlow fan is going to have a ball pouring over them.

Here we go with today’s lineup!

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Clarosureaux

Kevin at Clarosureaux is back again today with more of his lovely colorized images of Harlow, this time from her beloved 1932 pre-code Red Headed Woman. He also includes a few film reviews from the press that are a kick to read:

Lucius Beebe

New York Herald Tribune

All this viciousness, and a dose of gratuitous snideness to boot, is transferred to the screen version of Red-Headed Woman, which was presented to a generously admiring audience yesterday at the Capitol as a fast and at time hilarious satirical comedy… Whether the pleasure of the first audience of this picture was derived from appreciation of Miss Harlow’s satirical characterization of a feminine type, or from the belief that she is the hottest number since Helen of Troy started her career of firing topless towers, was difficult to determine. That it enjoyed the film vastly was patent.

(read more)

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Harlean Heyday

Lovely Riika runs the Harlean Heyday blog, a site dedicated to vintage fashion, classic lifestyle and, of course, classic movies. She’s going to be posting a few Harlow pieces throughout the week and explains her fascination with Harlow’s fashion in the post “High Glam a la Harlow”:

This post is all about gorgeous gowns, flamboyant feathers, high glamour and high drama! “You have to have faith in your clothes, just as you have to have faith in yourself, to be successful in dressing,” Jean told Modern Screen magazine in 1933.

When one thinks of the Jean Harlow look, what comes to mind first is her iconic look in the George Cukor directed movie Dinner at Eight (1933). To this day it still largely defines the quintessential Harlow look. All of those long, sweeping, bias-cut white gowns created by MGM costume designer Adrian highlight her every curve and stunning silhouette. They are an essential element of the character of Kitty Packard. “Even Jean’s clothes show emotions. They live and breathe with her,” the designer said.

(read more)

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Immortal Ephemera

Cliff Alperti at Immortal Ephemera is really hitting on all six cylinders for this Blogathon. Today in his Happy Hundredth to TCM Star of the Month: Jean Harlow he outlined  TCM’s outlined his plans for the festivities and unveiled a gorgeous vintage movie card gallery. Do yourself a favor and swing by to be visually dazzled:

Then there are the collectibles, and hopefully that’s where I come in! Below I’ve gathered over 60 images of the Jean Harlow vintage movie cards and collectibles I’ve seen come through here over the years. Enjoy the gallery, I’ll try to add to it as more items make their way through. It looks like I currently have a dozen of these beauties left, at least in my eBay Store. I wonder if they’ll last the month?

I’m also going to be taking a look at one of Harlow’s movies sometime this week–I actually haven’t decided which one yet, but I do have it narrowed down! In the meantime I have written about a couple of Harlow films in the past, The Beast of the City (1932) and more recently China Seas (1935), feel free to check those out.

Also, time permitting, I’m going to put my NewspaperArchive.com subscription to work with hopes of turning up some interesting Harlow items from her own time. Certainly there will be nothing new with a star so huge, but maybe I’ll come across something interesting and at least a little out of the ordinary. We’ll see…

(read more)

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Jungle Red

Jungle Red has posted a fun little excerpt from a 1931 Photoplay interview with Jean Harlow. It’s a total kick to read the flowery fan magazine prose of yesteryear, such as:

“Yes, young men, your worst fears are turue! Miss Harlow (Jeanie to me) is calculated to knock you over with an eyelash at fifty paces. Both in circumference, diameter and altitude she is altogether eminently satisfavtory. Oh her right ankle (and  what an ankle it is, not to mention the left) she wars a silver anklet, or “shackle d’amour” as we French have it….”

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Midnight Palace

Gary Sweeney at Midnight Palace has graced us with this gorgeous profile of the Baby. The Midnight Palace is generally regarded as one of the most thorough, handsomely researched classic film sites out there and his words about Jean reflect that same integrity that is the undercurrent of his work:

Jean Harlow was the face and personality of a generation. On-screen, she usually portrayed the kind of woman who could make a man fall to his knees. She had a devil may care attitude like the rebellious flappers who kicked a hole in the 1920s. Her platinum blond hair, infectious laugh, and blatant sex appeal made her a triple threat – a triple threat that left an irrefutable mark on Hollywood in the wake of her sudden death at the young age of 26…

(read more)

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The Clark Gable Project

Michelle Morgan is the author behind Marilyn Monroe: Undisclosed and currently in the middle of a Clark Gable project entitled The Ties That Bind.  Given Harlow’s onscreen partnership with Gable, it was only natural that Michelle send The Blogathon this sweet little post about Harlow:

Jean was Gable’s co-star on many occasions and when she passed away Gable was too upset to even give a statement to the press. It has been said that his wife, Carole Lombard, told Clark that if she died, he was to make sure her funeral didn’t turn into the ‘spectacle’ that she felt Jean’s was. When Carole did pass several years later, her husband made sure that it was the quiet, respectful funeral she had wanted…

(read more)

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The Platinum Page

Ever wonder what Jean would have looked like in the flesh? Harlow fan extraordinaire Lisa Burks over at the Platinum Page is back again today with “Jean Harlow in Living Color”. She writes:

Back in the day when The Platinum Page was just getting started the only photos I had to add to the site were in black and white, just like Jean’s films.  Who among us didn’t watch her on screen and wonder what she looked like in real life?

Early on I met the very talented artist and fellow Harlow fan Victor Mascaro who felt the same way, and had begun to colorize her images…

(read more)

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Keep the links coming, everyone!

Join in the celebration and email The Pictorial!

Jean Harlow, Evolution of an Actress – Part 1

The Platinum Blonde in June 1931

For Jean’s centenary and for the duration of this Blogathon, I thought it would be fun to take a step back and observe the panorama of Harlow’s growth as an actress. From awkward, unprincipled newcomer, to highly gifted and lovable comedienne over the span of just a few years.

Now… I don’t know about you, but I certainly remember the first day of work at my first big job. A day I’d like to forget, but can’t– like that memory of tripping down the stairs in High School it’s just burned in your subconscious forever. I still wince at the memory of how nervous, and therefore how AWFUL, I was at my first real job. Learning your duties on the fly, jumping in the deep end of a strange new world is nothing short of terrifying. That fear of drowning lurking behind every every teensy weensy wrong move.

Unlike Jean Harlow, my first “big job” was inside a four walled office in a strip mall in the suburbs and only I have to live with the still painful memory of just how much of a novice I was at it.

For Jean, it was photographed in glorious silvery nitrate, splashed on a screen twenty feet tall, viewed by untold millions of people and dissected and criticized by the public press. Preserved for all eternity.

Harlean Carptenter became an actress because she had to pay the bills, simple as that. She’d been living the high life in Los Angeles with her young and newly wealthy husband and only turned up at the studios in order to win a bet from a friend that she didn’t have the guts to do it. But when she split from her husband and suddenly had her mother and stepfather to support, she had only one option to exploit: movie work.

The starlet circa 1930

And so Jean Harlow was born. And so an image was created. Her striking beauty and figure made her a natural for the movies. Her talent as a dramatic actress?

Well. A few things to keep in mind when watching Jean’s early features. A thoroughly inexperienced young girl was suddenly thrust into the glaring Hollywood spotlight, expected to have the acting chops that matched her image, and when it proved an arduous, was more or less devoured by the critics. She was also the sole supporter of a manipulative opportunist (her mother, Jean Harlow) and a flamboyant charlatan (her stepfather, Marino Bello) and the pressure for her to succeed was relentless.

Her first big break came when independent filmmaker and entrepreneur Howard Hughts cast her in the lead of his first Hollywood picture, Hell’s Angels. (The decades have been kind to Harlow’s performance– her rough edges and unpolished manner have a certain raw appeal.) But Harlow was plagued with insecurities about her acting on the set of Hell’s Angels resulted in a poignant exchange between her and director  James Whales saying.

Harlow in the only color footage of her in existance: the two-strip Technicolor segment of Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels (1930). Hardly Shakespeare, but brevity was definitely the soul of her character's wit.

"Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?" Harlow thought it was the corniest line ever written. Time has proved otherwise.

“Tell me exactly what you want,” Harlow pleaded with Whale, “and I’ll do it.”

He shot back, exasperated, “I can tell you how to be an actress, yes. But I can’t tell you show to be a woman.”

Her work in The Public Enemy proved little better and the critics universally panned her acting ability. Especially next to the explosively talented newcomer James Cagney, Harlow is notably tense and reseved.

“She was embarrassing,” recalled co-star Mae Clark, “just embarrassing.” One critic concurred with the simple statement: “Jean Harlow is awful.”

And still, the public came. She had something, obviously, but how to present it?

Enter Platinum Blonde. (A film that Eve’s Reel Life did a fabulous job of analyzing for the blogathon.) The film’s title was changed to fit its increasingly popular female lead. This early Frank Capra film is best remembered for the exceptional performance of the lead, Robert Williams. Harlow plays the same sexual conquest as before but with this film Harlow has a leg to stand on: even if her acting talents were still in the process of being defined, one thing was quite clear. The public was coming to see her.

But Harlow was not the only one fighting to make a successful transition. Hollywood itself was also in the midst of a very clunky transition from silent to sound. (Hell’s Angels itself a veritable documentary of the sound revolution). It’s interesting to note that Jean’s acting improved with each film, right along with the same technology that would, ever so ironically, wind up providing Jean with her key strength: dialogue.

Harlow opposite Cagney in The Public Enemy

Languishing under her contract with Howard Hughes, she was finally acquired, thanks to the manic persistence of MGM producer (and future husband) Paul Bern where she was very reluctantly (Thalberg’s desperate last resort) cast in the most “unfilmable” movie in Hollywood, a racy sex film called Red Headed Woman. But the film had the good fortune of being adapted by the fast and witty screenwriter Anita Loos, who penned the red-headed Lil Andrews with sass and zippy one-liners.

Jean Harlow fired off the lines like a six-shooter at the OK Corral.

Harlow’s hard work  was about to pay off. Although she resented being painted to the public as a salacious man-eater, the result was solid gold. MGM had a formidable star on their hands. The Legion of Decency had a hernia. The critics took note.

The rest was history.