Official Blog of Author MICHAEL THOMAS BARRY.
A blog which discusses varied topics that are related to the authors many books. Michael is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books.
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Thursday, June 7, 2012
Jean Harlow Dies - 1937
On this day in 1937, actress Jean Harlow dies from kidney
failure at the age of 26.
Born Harlean Carpenter in Kansas City, Missouri, she
moved with her mother to Los Angeles as a child after her parents separated.
Harlean was an amalgam of her mother’s maiden name, Jean Harlow, which the
actress later took as her stage name. At the age of 16, she eloped with Charles
McGrew, a young bond broker. Their marriage ended after she decided to pursue
an acting career, against the will of her husband.
After working as a film extra, Harlow signed a contract
with the producer Hal Roach, under which she briefly but memorably bared her
soon-to-be-famous legs in Double Whoopee (1929), a Laurel and Hardy
comedy. She made her sound debut in The Saturday Night Kid (1929),
starring Clara Bow. Harlow got her big break soon after that, when Howard
Hughes cast her in the sound update of his silent World War I era epic Hell’s
Angels (1930). In that film, Harlow made an impression on audiences with
her glowing white-blond hair and the suggestive line “Would you be shocked if I
put on something more comfortable?”
Harlow appeared in a string of films in 1931, including The
Secret Six, The Public Enemy, Goldie and Platinum Blonde.
Her roles in these movies, as in Hell’s Angels, relied less on her
acting and more on her alluring appearance. After Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought
Harlow’s contract from Hughes in 1932, she made her breakout appearance in Red-Headed
Woman (1932), for which screenwriter Anita Loos created a part especially
for Harlow. The film was the first to showcase her comedic talent as well as
her bombshell looks. Harlow’s popularity with fans and film critics alike
continued to grow throughout the next several years, thanks to smash hits like Red
Dust (1932)--one of her numerous movies with Clark Gable--Dinner at
Eight (1933), Hold Your Man (1933) and Bombshell (1933).
Aside from her meteoric rise to fame in her professional
life, Harlow’s private life was marked by grief and tragedy. Her second
husband, Paul Bern (an executive at MGM), died by an apparent suicide in 1932.
Harlow’s third marriage, to cinematographer Harold Rosson, lasted less than a
year. Harlow was engaged to marry the actor William Powell, her co-star in Reckless
(1935) and Libeled Lady (1936), when she suddenly became seriously
ill in late May 1937. According to her obituary in the New York Times,
the actress had suffered from poor health for a year, including “an acute case
of sunburn,” a throat infection and influenza. She also contracted scarlet
fever and meningitis as a teenager, which permanently weakened her health. After
doctors diagnosed uremic poisoning the weekend before, according to the Times,
“Miss Harlow soon responded favorably to treatment and was thought well on the
road to recovery when she lapsed into a coma last night.” She died the next
day, June 7, 1937, at a hospital in Hollywood, California. Powell was at
Harlow’s bedside when she died, along with her mother, stepfather and cousin. Harlow’s
final film, Saratoga (1937), was released posthumously; another actress
served as her stand-in for several scenes so that the movie could be completed.