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Jean Harlow Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (49) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (5)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 3 March 1911Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Date of Death 7 June 1937Los Angeles, California, USA  (uremic poisoning brought on by acute nephritis)
Birth NameHarlean Harlow Carpenter
Nicknames Baby
The Platinum Blonde
The Blonde Bombshell
Height 5' 1½" (1.56 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Harlean Carpenter, who later became Jean Harlow, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1911. She was the daughter of a successful dentist and his wife. In 1927, at the age of 16, she ran away from home to marry a young businessman named Charles McGrew, who was 23. The couple pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles, not long after they were married, and it was there Jean found work as an extra in films, landing a bit part in Moran of the Marines (1928). From that point on she would go to casting calls whenever she could. In 1929 she had bit parts in no less than 11 movies, playing everything from a passing woman on the street to a winged ballerina. Her marriage to McGrew turned out to be a disaster--it lasted barely two years--and they divorced. The divorce enabled her to put more of her efforts into finding roles in the movie business. Although she was having trouble finding roles in feature movies, she had more luck in film shorts. She had a fairly prominent role in Hal Roach's Double Whoopee (1929). Her big break came in 1930, when she landed a role in Howard Hughes' World War I epic Hell's Angels (1930), which turned out to be a smash hit. Not long after the film's debut, Hughes sold her contract to MGM for $60,000, and it was there where her career shot to unprecedented heights. Her appearance in Platinum Blonde (1931) cemented her role as America's new sex symbol. The next year saw her paired with Clark Gable in John Ford's Red Dust (1932), the second of six films she would make with Gable. It was while filming this picture (which took 44 days to complete at a cost of $408,000) that she received word that her new husband, MGM producer Paul Bern, had committed suicide. His death threatened to halt production of the film, and MGM chief Louis B. Mayer had even contacted Tallulah Bankhead to replace Harlow if she were unable to continue, a step that proved to be unnecessary. The film was released late in 1932 and was an instant hit. She was becoming a superstar. In MGM's glittering all-star Dinner at Eight (1933) Jean was at her comedic best as the wife of a ruthless tycoon (Wallace Beery) trying to take over another man's (Lionel Barrymore) failing business. Later that year she played the part of Lola Burns in director Victor Fleming's hit Bombshell (1933). It was a Hollywood parody loosely based on Clara Bow's and Harlow's real-life experiences, right down to the latter's greedy stepfather, nine-room Georgian-style home with mostly-white interiors, her numerous pet dogs - right down to having her re-shoot scenes from the Gable and Harlow hit, Red Dust (1932) here! In 1933 Jean married cinematographer Harold Rosson, a union that would only last eight months (although Rosson lived another 53 years, he never remarried). In 1935 she was again teamed with Gable in another rugged adventure, China Seas (1935) (her remaining two pictures with Gable would be Wife vs. Secretary (1936) and Saratoga (1937)). It was her films with Gable that created her lasting legacy in the film world. Unfortunately, during the filming of Saratoga (1937), she was hospitalized with uremic poisoning. On June 7, 1937, she died from the ailment. She was only 26. The film had to be finished by long angle shots using a double. Gable said he felt like he was in the arms of a ghost during the final touches of the film. Because of her death, the film was a hit. Record numbers of fans poured into America's movie theaters to see the film. Other sex symbols/blonde bombshells have followed, but it is Jean Harlow who all others are measured against.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

The dentist's daughter eloped at age 16 with a young businessman and wound up in Los Angeles where she found work as an extra and bit player (examples: Moran of the Marines (1928) and Liberty (1929)) and somewhat more prominently in Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy shorts (Double Whoopee (1929), Bacon Grabbers (1929)). Her first big break came in 1930 when Howard Hughes revamped his unreleased 1927 silent Hell's Angels (1930) into a sound version, replacing the heavy accented Norwegian Greta Nissen with Harlow, the girl who, with her divorce in 1929, had adopted her mother's maiden name. Hughes loaned her out for a number of movies which, like Frank Capra's Platinum Blonde (1931), featured her platinum hair and more than obvious sexuality - she claimed she never wore underwear. In 1932 Hughes sold her contract to MGM, and her role in Red-Headed Woman (1932) for that studio led the Hays Office to forbid the depiction of unpunished adultery. She married Irving Thalberg's right-hand man, Paul Bern. The marriage ended after a few weeks: the day after his former common-law wife met Harlow, Bern shot himself. A few days later former Mrs. Bern was found floating in the Sacramento River, after allegedly committing suicide. Harlow had another brief marriage, to cinematographer Harold Rosson, followed by an affair with William Powell. She made three films with Spencer Tracy and six with Clark Gable, receiving much improved critical acclaim for her acting, allure and comedic talent. During the filming of Saratoga (1937) she was hospitalized for uremic poisoning, and died on June 7 of cerebral edema at age 26.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (3)

Harold Rosson (13 September 1933 - 11 March 1934) (divorced)
Paul Bern (2 July 1932 - 5 September 1932) (his death)
Charles Fremont McGrew (27 September 1927 - 1930) (divorced)

Trade Mark (1)

Wise-cracking platinum blonde

Trivia (49)

Was the godmother of Millicent Siegel, daughter of the notorious mobster Benjamin Bugsy Siegel.
Dated the notorious mobster Abner "Longy" Zwillman, who secured a two-picture deal for Harlow with Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures by loaning Cohn $500,000 in cash. He also purchased her a jeweled charm bracelet and a red Cadillac.
Height is often listed as 5'2"-5'3 1/2"
Refused the lead in King Kong (1933), as well as the lead in the Tod Browning classic Freaks (1932).
Was photographed nude at age 17 by Hollywood photographer Edward Bower Hesser in Griffith Park in 1928.
In the 1933 Hollywood satire Bombshell (1933) Harlow is known as "the If girl" -- a spoof loosely based on 1920s sex symbol and "It girl" Clara Bow.
Went on a salary strike from MGM in 1934, during which she wrote a novel, "Today is Tonight." The book was not published until 1965.
Her final film, Saratoga (1937), became the highest grossing film of 1937 and set all-time house records, due almost entirely to her untimely death.
Was the idol of Marilyn Monroe, who backed out of a biographical picture on her life. After reading the script, Monroe reportedly told her agent, "I hope they don't do that to me after I'm gone." Both Harlow and Monroe co-starred in their last films with Clark Gable, Harlow in Saratoga (1937) and Monroe in The Misfits (1961).
The premiere of her first feature film, Hell's Angels (1930), on May 27, 1930, drew an estimated crowd of 50,000 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. The film also has an expensive eight-minute two-color Technicolor sequence - the only color footage of Harlow that exists.
Ranked #22 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years, 100 Legends" list in June 1999.
She was the very first film actress to grace the cover of Life magazine in May 1937.
Born at 5:40pm-CST
Her funeral wasn't the average funeral. Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, took charge and made it a Hollywood event. Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy sang his favorite song Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life in the church chapel, followed by a huge banquet with an orchestra.
She was at a dinner party and continuously addressed Margot Asquith (wife of British prime minister Herbert Asquith) as "Margot", pronouncing the "T". Margot finally had enough and said to her, "No, Jean, the 'T' is silent, like in 'Harlow'".
Had two famous superstitions: She always wore a lucky ankle chain on her left leg, which is visible in some films if you look closely, and had a lucky mirror in her dressing room. She wouldn't leave the room without first looking in it.
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Benediction, at the end of the corridor, on the left side, in the second to the last private room, marked "Harlow".
Favorite brand of cigarette: Fatima.
Never wore any underwear and always slept in the nude.
She had to stick to a strict diet to keep thin, eating mostly vegetables and salads.
She used to put ice on her nipples right before shooting a scene in order to appear sexier.
A new musical called "In Hell With Harlow" about an after-death meeting between her and Protestant WWII martyr Dietrich Boenhoffer never reached the stage. The production, written by best-selling author Paul L. Williams, was to star Dawn Winarski and Greg Korin.
Her birth name was Harlean Carpenter - the first name an amalgam of her mother's maiden name, Jean Harlow, which she later took as her stage name. At the height of her career, it came out that this wasn't her real name, and the insatiable public wanted to know what her real name was. The studio released her "real" name as Harlean Carpentier. Harlow had added the extra "i" herself before her career began to make it sound more exotic.
She was voted the 49th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Following the end of her third marriage she met actor William Powell. They were engaged for two years (due to minor differences and Jean's belief that MGM wouldn't approve), but Jean became ill and died before they could marry.
Known as the "original blonde bombshell", pre-dating Marilyn Monroe as a blonde sex symbol.
For many years, it was a widely-held belief that she died because her mother, a Christian Scientist, refused to let doctors operate on her after she became ill. Christian Scientists prefer prayer to drugs and surgery. This story was even reprinted in David Shipman's famous book, The Great Movie Stars, but it has been repeatedly shown to be completely untrue.
On the day Hollywood canine superstar Rin Tin Tin died at age of 16 (112 in dog years), Harlow, who lived across the street from his master, Lee Duncan, went over to cradle the dog's head in her lap as the famous canine died.
Is portrayed by Gwen Stefani in The Aviator (2004), by Carroll Baker in Harlow (1965), by Susan Buckner in The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977), by Lindsay Bloom in Hughes and Harlow: Angels in Hell (1978) and by Carol Lynley in Harlow (1965)
Is one of the many movie stars mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue"
She spent the night of April 6, 1933 - the day when Prohibition was set to expire at midnight - at the Los Angeles Brewing Co. with fellow movie star Walter Huston. A maker of "near-beer" and denatured alcohol (the alcohol was subtracted from the full-strength beer the company continued to brew during Prohibition, but could not legally market), the company was ready to immediately supply the Los Angeles area's demand for beer. Skipping the denaturing process, they had made a huge consignment of the genuine stuff to be marketed as Eastside Beer in bottles and kegs. The brewery's trucks were loaded and ready to roll out of the brewery the minute when suds could be legally shipped and sold. Two treasury agents and many guards were there that night to ensure things went smoothly, safely and legally. At 12:01 AM on April 7, 1933, when the sale and consumption of intoxicating beverages was once again legal in the United States, Huston gave a short speech and Harlow broke a bottle of beer over the first truck lined up and ready to deliver its now-legal load of liquid refreshment, thus christening the reborn brewery. The trucks rolled out, many staffed with armed guards riding shotgun lest the thirsty multitude get too frisky along the delivery routes. When the night was over, the brewery had done over $250,000 in business (approximately $3,387,000 in 2005 dollars) and had collected a stack of cash 18 inches high. Harlow has stayed the night, partying with brewery employees.
Once lived in Chateau Marmont, the famous Los Angeles hotel.
One of the last photos taken of Jean showed her carrying a copy of Gone with the Wind. She was determined to read it, but as her illness progressed, couldn't get past more than the first few pages. When she was admitted to hospital, she reminded one of her nurses to pack it. The nurse, realizing how serious Harlow's illness was, remarked "She'll never finish it." Her words came true when Harlow died later that week.
Everyone on the MGM lot called her The Baby with the exception of Clark Gable. A very close friend, he always called her Sis.
Attended the 1936 Oscars with her then-lover William Powell, her close friend and co-star Clark Gable, and his new lover Carole Lombard, who was Powell's ex-wife. Harlow was so ill during the evening, Lombard had to help her to the powder room to recover and re-apply her make-up.
Of her final performance in Saratoga (1937), critic Graham Greene wrote "Her technique was the gangster's technique - she toted a breast like a man totes a gun".
When she died in 1937, her estate was valued at over $1 million and left entirely to her mother.
Harlow is interred at Glendale's Forest Lawn Cemetery in a private crypt purchased by William Powell for $25,000. The crypt and sanctuary room contained marble from France, Italy and Spain, and was a tribute to the woman he then loved and planned to marry.
When entombed at Glendale's Forest Lawn Cemetery in 1937, she was dressed in the same gown she wore in Libeled Lady (1936).
Along with Hedy Lamarr, they were the primary inspirations for Batman creator Bob Kane's Catwoman character.
Was known as "The Original Platinum Blonde".
When Jean Harlow died with about one week's worth of shooting left to go on "Saratoga," her stand-in, Mary Dees, replaced her in the remaining footage.
At the time of her death Jean Harlow was suffering from kidney failure that was causing her limbs to swell up with water, making her considerably heavier. Co-star Clark Gable noticed this when they filmed a scene for her last film, "Saratoga," that required him to lift her into the upper berth in a Pullman car. Gable complained that she weighed more and was therefore harder for him to lift than she'd been in their previous films together.
She was a devoted Democrat and in the year of her death she visited Franklin D. Roosevelt on his birthday at a dinner party being thrown at the White House. A small clip of the event, with her at the microphone, can be found on YouTube with her only words being, "Good Evening".
On the television series Night Court (1984) a black and white portrait of her on a bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire was seen displayed in the office of Judge Harry T. Stone (played by Harry Anderson) which was see throughout the entire series run (1984-1992).
She was honored as Turner Classic Movie's Star of the Month for March 2011.
Was considered for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939).
Originially, MGM Studios planned to have Harlow star as the female lead in the "Maisie" film franchise but was replaced by Ann Sothern two years following her sudden death.
Early in her career Lee Remick was scheduled to portray Harlow in film. A few years later in 1965 two competing films entitled "Harlow" were released, one starring Carol Lynly and the other with Carroll Baker.

Personal Quotes (3)

[on Hell's Angels (1930)] "When I was making a personal appearance, I'd always sneak in the back of the house to watch the zeppelin airplane attack. I never failed to get a tremendous thrill out of it. I probably saw that scene hundreds of times."
I was not a born actress. No one knows it better than I. If I had any latent talent, I have had to work hard, listen carefully, do things over and over and then over again in order to bring it out.
Men like me because I don't wear a brassiere. Women like me because I don't look like a girl who would steal a husband. At least not for long.

Salary (5)

Honor Bound (1928) $7 / day
Hell's Angels (1930) $1,500
Red-Headed Woman (1932) $1,250 /week
The Girl from Missouri (1934) $3,000 /week
Saratoga (1937) $4,000 /week

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