Saturday, March 3, 2012

"I was reading a book the other day..."

With my attention diverted to other matters, I've not been taking note of birthdays and events as per usual. Thursday March 1st was Glenn Miller's birthday. And yesterday, March 2nd, was Kurt Weill's. And, it was the anniversary of my radio show which started back in 2000. Today is the birthday of Jean Harlow, the first movie star to grace the cover of Life magazine. She was the first "Platinum Blonde", the first "Blonde Bombshell"; the terms were coined to describe her.

Harlow was a reluctant star. At one point in her life she married a man with money; they moved to Beverly Hills. Since she had a car, she drove a friend to a casting call at Fox. You can guess the rest. Her story is quite a saga, complete with controlling mother, one husband's suicide shortly after their marriage (the rumor mill had a field day), a studio arranged marriage to cover up an adulterous affair, extreme popularity, illnesses and untimely death at the age of 26.

Publicity still from "Red Headed Woman", with author Anita Loos.

She claimed that she never dyed her hair. Once, she was to play the role of Anne Darrow, screaming heroine of RKO's King Kong. During pre-production, MGM put her under exclusive contract, and the part went to Fay Wray, who wore a blonde wig for the role. 

When I was young, glamour images of Harlow were everywhere. There were a small handful which were iconic. They seem to have disappeared over the years. There are lots of images available on the internet, but many of them don't catch the Hollywood Glamour Machine in full force. Still, I managed to find a few:

Her acting talents were minimal. In their review of her role in Howard Hughes' "Hells Angels", Variety famously remarked, "It doesn't matter what degree of talent she possesses... nobody ever starved possessing what she's got."  And she did have it. She and Clark Gable steamed up the screen in several very successful pictures.

"She didn't want to be famous. She wanted to be happy."
-- Clark Gable

Happy Birthday, Ms. Harlow.


Austan said...

It's a testament to her that in my HS in 1974 there was a lunchroom argument over her cause of death. Nice post Stevil!

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

My goodness, I'd forgotten all about her until I saw your post.
Even in school in Scotland in the early 1960s, there were still images of her floating around. Not with the same impetus as that produced by the hollywood glamour mill, but enough to catch our attention.
Thanks for reminding us.