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Comic Riot With Miss Jean Harlow & Mr. Lee Tracy
Ron Oliver11 June 2002
Lola Burns is Hollywood's greatest Blonde BOMBSHELL - but her life is a chaotic wreck thanks to eccentric relatives, sassy staff and studio publicity director Space Hanlon.

Jean Harlow & Lee Tracy are wonderfully matched in this pre-Code Comedy, one of the funniest films of the 1930's, and another proof - if one was needed - that Hollywood had an endless appetite for self-ridicule. With her platinum hair and couturier's parade of billowy fashions, Harlow is still essentially playing a parody of her own unhappy private life. Her constant high-decibel groans of complaint as to her celebrity's misuse at the hands of those closest to her have the ring of veracity. And no one gives her greater grief than Tracy, who is determined to wring every last drop of publicity out of her, even if his meddling in her personal life drives her insane. Immovable object meets irresistible force. Result: laughter.

A most impressive gathering of character actors appear in the supporting cast: sturdy Pat O'Brien as Harlow's director pal; delightful Frank Morgan as her dyspeptic father; Ted Healy as her shiftless brother; Una Merkel as her conniving secretary; and Louise Beavers as Harlow's plain talking maid.

Franchot Tone adds a touch of class to the proceedings as a sophisticated fellow who takes a shine to Harlow; Mary Forbes & marvelous old Sir C. Aubrey Smith are his wealthy parents. Ivan Lebedeff gives some laughs as a penniless marquis who is happy to live off of Harlow's money.

Movie mavens will recognize boxing champ Primo Carnera in the opening montage; Greta Meyer as Harlow's masseuse; Gus Arnheim as the Coconut Grove band leader; Ethel Griffies as one of the orphanage representatives; and Billy Dooley as the lunatic who claims Harlow is his wife - all uncredited.

Although the action takes place in the imaginary Monarch Studios, all the real stars & films mentioned are pure MGM.

This was one of five films Lee Tracy made for MGM in 1933 (CLEAR ALL WIRES!, THE NUISANCE, TURN BACK THE CLOCK, DINNER AT EIGHT, BOMBSHELL), and arguably the best role of his career. It was certainly the culmination of nearly all the other roles he'd had over the past couple of years in various studios, where he'd perfected the depiction of shyster lawyers, unscrupulous talent agents, snoopy reporters & disreputable gossip columnists. There is certainly no telling how far he might have gone with MGM, but his career literally went south in 1934 after a few moments of drunken indiscretion. While in Mexico for location shooting for VIVA VILLA!, Tracy stepped out onto his hotel balcony and urinated on a passing military parade. He was immediately arrested and deported from the country. Embarrassed & furious, Louis B. Mayer fired him instantly from MGM. With only the smaller studios willing to hire him, Tracy's film career largely slipped into obscurity. Years later, no longer young, he did some television work. He had a short comeback, of sorts, in 1964, when he was nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar for THE BEST MAN. This was to be his cinematic swan song; old and tired, he no longer resembled the hot shot who delighted audiences in the early 1930's. Lee Tracy died in 1968 of cancer, at the age of 70.
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Just superb
preppy-313 August 2004
Hysterical comedy with Jean Harlow playing Lola Burns--an actress being driven crazy by her dysfunctional family and her overzealous publicity man (Lee Tracy).

VERY quick, very risque (this was pre-Code) and very funny spoof/satire on Hollywood, the studios and the stars. One liners fly fast and furious and the film almost never stops for breath.

Harlow is just incredible--she's sexy, funny and one hell of an actress! She carries the whole picture on her shoulders. She's matched by Tracy who plays the role of a slimy publicity man to perfection. Frank Morgan and Franchot Tone offer great comedic support also (especially Tone with his "romantic" lines).

Basically this is a true classic comedy. It deserves a lot more recognition than it gets. It's also a chance to see Harlow in her prime--she was an incredible actress who died tragically at a very young age.

This is an absolute must-see. Don't miss it!
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Sheer Unadulterated Pleasure
fowler116 February 2001
I often wonder if Lee Tracy would be more fondly-remembered by a larger percentage of the public had he been fortunate enough to hang around long enough to appear in films with musical scores. He was pretty much done by 1934, however, so the precious handful of Tracy vehicles we DO have are blessed/cursed by the prevailing conditions of early talkies. Nowadays, fans - especially younger ones - tend to either dismiss them as mildewed antiques that might as well have been made on Mars, or (just as bad) view them with smug condescension as dear, quaint little flivvers or biplanes. Nearly every major starring vehicle Tracy made lacks background music, outside of the occasional musical number. Not a strong selling point for the DVD generation, who seemingly can't appreciate a film without a matching SAP, variable do-it-yourself camera angles, and a 'making-of' featurette padding the running time. Thus Lee Tracy - one of our great comic actors, whose presence in a movie automatically enlivens and enriches it - remains an answer to a trivia question nobody asked. In light of the foregoing, take a tip from this corner and preset your VCR the next time TCM schedules any of his films, like BOMBSHELL. Properly regarded as Jean Harlow's best vehicle, this lightning-paced, down-and-dirty sarcastic comedy of Hollywood in the early 30s is one of Tracy's best as well. (Actually, the whole cast, which includes Frank Morgan, Una Merkel and Pat O'Brian, is exemplary.) Tracy is incredible: scheming, scamming, wheedling, utterly insincere and unprincipled, yet never for a moment does he lose the audience's sympathy. His gift was to make you root for the shameless con man despite yourself, and in BOMBSHELL, the entire production is amped up to his speed of delivery. Every second of this movie is breathlessly paced, rudely funny, cynically observant and near-unbelievably satisfying. (If it moved any quicker, it might spontaneously combust.) Forget the (very) slight antique properties that might hamper this film (such as that lack of background music I mentioned) and concentrate on its of which, by dint of its Pre-Code status, is a remarkably unapologetic unsentimentality, a virtue which would be swept away by the Hays Office broom in 1934 along with Tracy's career, not to re-emerge on the nation's screens until the rise of the writer-director in the early 40s (men such as Sturges, Huston and Wilder). If you don't love BOMBSHELL on first viewing, you're not as smart as you think you are. Keep an eye out for Tracy's other films (BLESSED EVENT, THE HALF NAKED TRUTH, THE NUISANCE, ADVICE TO THE LOVELORN, DINNER AT EIGHT, etc) and get a close-up look at one of our country's greatest, and most neglected, comedians for yourself.
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Shining jazz comedy from one of America's best directors
funkyfry4 October 2002
Jean Harlow shines as a movie sex starlet who's tired of all the negative publicity drummed up by her studio's publicist (Tracy) to promote her career. she wants to adopt a baby and play "respectable" roles, but society's mavens continually reject her (this "picture girl") and everything she tries to do for herself is thwarted by Tracy, who (more or less) secretly loves her. Very funny and well directed by Fleming, not slapstick as some claim, but more like Hawks/Sturges/Wilder style "screwball."
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Super entertainment
jaykay-1030 March 2004
Count me in. This slam-bang, snap-crackle-pop picture is a doozy, never pausing for breath as it zips along its nifty, irreverent way, superbly cast so as to let everyone do what he/she does best.

As if its entertainment value were not enough, it has something to say, so cleverly that it mocks itself along with a half-dozen other victims. Where the movie business is concerned, nothing is what it seems to be - except when it is. At the center of it all are a press agent to whom lies come so naturally that he would require a moment of intense concentration before he could utter a word of truth - if he wanted to; and a colossal star, neither educated nor bright, a small-town girl who, without half-trying, becomes what every woman yearns to become - except that she yearns to be something else.

Jean Harlow was considerably more than a glamor girl. Limited (as many studio players were) to one type of screen persona, she brought it off with success in both comedy and drama, perfecting the mannerisms, gestures and nuances. Lee Tracy, born to play the kind of role he was given here (and elsewhere), is without peer as the fast-talking, shifty-eyed conniver, a rascal beholden to no ethical sense but his own. Their supporting cast - with a special nod to Frank Morgan's tipsy, dithering poseur - is uniformly excellent. Don't miss this one.
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"Your mouth is like a gardenia, open to the sun."
blanche-25 February 2007
Jean Harlow is the "Bombshell" of the 1933 film also starring Franchot Tone, Frank Morgan, Lee Tracy, Pat O'Brien, Una Merkel, Isabel Jewell, Louise Beavers, Ted Healy, and C. Aubrey Smith. Harlow plays a star, Lola Burns, who has a career very similar to Jean Harlow's - in fact, she starred in "Red Dust" with Clark Gable! She's the "It" girl where Harlow was the "If" girl.

From the first time we meet Lola, it's obvious that she is overwhelmed by the pressures of her home life, which in turn puts pressure on her career duties. Her drunken father (Morgan) acts as her business manager but her bills aren't paid and she doesn't have any money; she constantly has to bail her brother out of trouble; there's a newspaper man who prints one lie after another about her; one of the people in her household wears her clothes and steals from her; she has three huge dogs; her brother shows up with a tramp; the assistant director on "Red Dust," Jim Brogan (Pat O'Brien) is in love with her and goes crazy when he sees Hugo, the Marqis de Pisa de Pisa on the set (and it's in his storyline that strong prejudice against immigrants is shown); and her agent (Lee Tracy) is a puppeteer in a sick puppet show - Lola's life.

Lola wants out. She decides that she wants to adopt a child and falls in love with a baby at an orphanage but the home visit is a total disaster. Disgusted with her life and all the leaches around her, she takes off, seeking peace and quiet. It's in peaceful surroundings that she meets the wealthy Gifford Middleton. It's love at first sight. Just when she's meeting Gifford's parents, her father and brother appear.

This is a very funny comedy and also very touching, as Lola's sweet personality and desire for a stable family is evident. She swears to Gifford that she's through with show business but becomes concerned when told there hasn't been anything about her in the papers lately. She's young and has no idea what she really wants. Her agent plays off of this and uses it to his own advantage. To most people, she's a blond gravy train.

All of the actors are terrific. Franchot Tone is hilarious, totally and deliberately WAY over the top saying lines such as the one in the summary box. Harlow is surrounded with the best character actors - Lee Tracy, who despite a scandal in 1934 managed to enjoy a nearly 40-year career is great as Lola's fast-talking scam artist agent; Frank Morgan plays his usual role of a weak man, but not a bad one; Louise Beavers brings spark to the role of a maid; Pat O'Brien is in top form as the volatile Brogan.

But it's Harlow's film, and she keeps up with the frantic pace of the film beautifully. Funny and vulnerable, she's hilarious when she pretends she's upper class, as she's often done in her films - no one has ever pulled that off quite like she has. Certainly one of the most lovable and charismatic actresses ever on screen. It's unbelievable that she didn't have a chance to live a full life. "Bombshell" is one of her best films among a lot of wonderful ones.
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Sharp Hollywood Satire from the Golden Age
chetley22 January 2006
"Bombshell" does for the Hollywood of the 1930s what "The Player" does for the Hollywood of the 1990s. It's quite interesting to see how well established the Hollywood System was already in the early 1930s when this film was made. Already at that time the film world was centered on stars, studios, and a sycophantic support network that was focused on a false facades and phoniness. There are plenty of hilarious scenes in "Bombshell" sending up the studio system in a way that I found quite surprising given the year (1933) that this film was produced. It seems to present a sensibility - sarcastic, witty, honest - that I don't usually associate with the Golden Age of Hollywood. So many jokes about alcohol and drunkenness! "Bombshell" makes "The Thin Man" seem like an advertisement for AA by comparison.

Good supporting cast - nice to see Frank Morgan (aka the Wizard of Oz) as the inebriated father of star Jean Harlow. Lee Tracy is completely convincing as the smooth-talking oily agent who harbors a secret passion for his client. But what really makes "Bombshell" work - and which explains why I rate it at 8 out is 10 - is the tremendously self-effacing performance of Jean Harlow. She's just terrific!
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"Why Did You Have To Wake Me Up...He Was About To Do Something Cute!"
theowinthrop4 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is an interesting change of pace comedy for Jean Harlow. She is not playing a lower class shop girl or even a prostitute like in THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI or RED DUST, nor a slumming upper class girl (as in THE PUBLIC ENEMY). Instead she is playing a very popular film star with a very sexy body and screen personae - gee, it sounds like she is playing Jean Harlow. According to the thread the character she is playing ("Lola Burns") was supposed to be based on Clara Bow (certainly the two names are similar in sound). But it could be based on Harlow's attempts (tragically repeatedly doomed) to have a happy normal life but finding her screen personae interfering.

Still, even if one starts thinking of Harlow's marriage to Paul Bern or her romance with William Powell, the film is engrossing and humorous enough to make you push aside the tragedy of the life of Harlean Carpenter. Lola is, like all movie stars, a prisoner of the studio's determination to get all the public attention publicity can garner from it's merchandise (it's stars). In particular Lola finds herself at the mercy of the studio's head publicity man "Space Hanlon" (Lee Tracy). Tracy is always coming up with goofy stunts, or twisting events that involve Lola in her attempts at normality (like adopting a baby, or dating a "normal" man (Franchot Tone) into another mess. The studio only cares that she personifies sexual allure - so Hanlon keeps making that the key to his publicity: he even arranges a fight between several men on the set of her latest film (one is director Pat O'Brien) supposedly over Lola's love.

Lola is not against sex and love - the quote in the "Summary line" is Lola's when her maid wakes her at the start of the film, and she's just had a promising sex dream. She really needs a confidante - but everyone around her takes advantage of her. Her father (Frank Morgan) is an alcoholic, cadging old scoundrel (who keeps reminding her - to her growing disgust - of her owing him obedience as her loving father). Her sibling (Ted Healey) is also an alcoholic, constantly having sexual affairs that she has to get him out of. Her maid actually steals from the household accounts (Lola is aware of this - she is not stupid). And all constantly are as demanding on her as her studio.

Ironically there is one person who would be her confidante and more - but he knows she'll reject him. It's Space, who loves her. In fact, some of the stunts he sets up is to get rid of possible rivals. Eventually, can he get her to recognize this? Ah that is the final point of the film.

Harlow was a gifted comic actress, knowing how to use her image for fun (such as Wallace Beery's unfaithful wife in DINNER AT EIGHT). But I suspect because of her own problems in Hollywood and real life she put more of herself in this film than in any other. I can't say it was her best performance (I tend to like RED DUST and CHINA SEAS a little more) but it was somehow her most real performance, and the film benefits as a result.
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I'm nuts about this
Boyo-228 March 2004
For some reason I never saw this movie till last week, even though someone I know recommended it highly.

Well I'm an idiot, cause I LOVE this hysterical movie and I should have had it committed to memory by now!

Jean Harlow..its easy to see why she was adored. The camera worships could it not. What a shame she was taken so young, but I guess we can be glad she was ever in movies at all.

The movie is a riot. There is a gag so hilarious that I am amazed it has not been copied in anything else I've ever seen. It has to do with a press agent, a nightclub fight and the late edition. Just priceless.

10/10. Please, no remakes. I'll give up six of my vices if I can get a guarantee there will be no remakes.

After watching this I saw "Dinner at Eight", also starring Harlow and Lee Tracy. This is better than that, and that's a classic. THIS is better, just ask anyone.
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Harlow's greatest performance
oneway19 December 1999
More than any other film in the Harlow canon, this one is a testament to her impressive comedic talent, and her knack for rapid-fire delivery and dialogue. Gifts which made her literally unmatched in the 1930's among comedic actresses ("Dinner at Eight" director George Cukor considered her without equal). Like her final film "Saratoga," this is another film which is hard to view with detachment, as it bares many similarities with her real life right down to parasitic parents and an exploitive studio. The way Harlow gestures, her body movements, and pitch control, is something that most actors are not able to acquire until many years of stage and screen performance, and even then, it might still elude them. Harlow did this at age 22 with no stage experience. The script by John Lee Mahin is classic, and is hands down, one of the most devastating satires ever produced on the studio system. Victor Fleming's direction (who also directed Harlow in "Red Dust" and "Reckless"), though not exactly of "Gone with the Wind" caliber, is adequate. The real show, however, entirely belongs to Harlow. Period.
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beautiful Lola
didi-518 June 2004
Probably Jean Harlow's cutest appearance as the film star Lola who only wants to be a real person. How she manages in la-la land with lines being said to her in all seriousness like 'I'd like to run barefoot through your hair' (Franchot Tone does manage to say this with some panache ...) with people like Lee Tracy as her acerbic agent, Frank Morgan as his usual stock character 'Pops', and oddball Ted Healy as 'Junior' - well, that's where the fun comes in.

Jean was never a great actress but she was a luminous personality and a fine comedienne. Her tarty characters bounce off the screen and she is really fabulous in this.
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It's Da Bomb
bkoganbing10 January 2009
Bombshell is one hysterically funny screwball comedy about a movie star played by Jean Harlow, bearing no small resemblance to the real Jean Harlow. Contemporaries of Jean have testified to her wonderful sense of humor and I'm sure she saw the ironies in this film tied to her own life where she too dealt with family hangers-on.

Jean lives with and supports father Frank Morgan, sister Una Merkel, and brother Ted Healy all on her salary as a film star. Being the reigning sex symbol of the screen, she's got men lining up who are interested in her. Those include director Pat O'Brien, playboy Franchot Tone, and no account phony count Ivan Lebedeff and studio press agent Lee Tracy who is relentless in his quest for publicity for Harlow. She's even got some wackadoo played by Billy Dooley who is stalking her claiming to be her real husband. That was actually kind of over the top, we've seen too many stories about people stalking celebrities, that gag did not go over, especially nowadays.

Out of this whole lot, you'll have to figure out who she might get and in my opinion though the deck is clearly stacked towards one of them, for myself I don't think it would have been Jean's lot to have found happiness with any of them.

MGM put a great cast of identifiable character players to support Jean and they make this a most enjoyable film. Yet knowing what we know about Harlow's real life and the leeches she actually did have in it, there is an air of sadness for me permeating the film. Still it's a great example of why Jean Harlow was the star and sex symbol she was back in those Depression days.
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Harlow's great, Tracy grating in screwball send-up of early Hollywood stardom
bmacv30 January 2003
Following the fashion of the first few years of the talkies, Bombshell handles speech as though it were a brand-new toy. The din of chatter is racy, rapid-fire and very loud (the picture is pre-Code, spiked with sexual allusions that would not be heard again for about three decades, and with nary an ethnic group left unoffended).

When she speaks, which is constantly and at the top of her voice, Jean Harlow could shatter pewter mugs, making it all the more lugubrious when she drops down into phoney, `cultivated' tones. She plays a Hollywood sex symbol who's a prisoner of her own publicity, engineered by press agent Lee Tracy, who plants titillating but truthless escapades in the papers. Not even her home serves as sanctuary, crowded as it his with her horse-playing father, her lout of a brother (Ted Healy), her party-hearty secretary (Una Merkel), her maid and butler (Louise Beavers and Leonard Carey), and three sheepdogs who look like mutant dust-bunnies.

Harlow's Lola Burns is really Jean Harlow (in a scene at the studio, she's filming Red Dust with Clark Gable, directed, as was this film, by Victor Fleming; Isobel Jewell shows up as herself). The story's about the fantasy life for public consumption the studios built around their stars, leaving them with infantile notions of what real life was like. Harlow falls for a series of swains and their own self-serving publicity; an interview with a woman's-mag reporter leaves her with what she mistakes for maternal longings, so she arranges to adopt a baby on trial. Finally fed up with the tinselly chaos of her stardom, she flees to a desert resort, vowing to abandon pictures once and for all. This proves just another of her mercurial fancies....

Most of Bombshell is exhilarating in its very coarseness, but, seen from the vantage point of a new millennium, there are some ugly bumps as well. The biggest bump is Tracy, with second billing. It's he who puts the kibosh on many of her wrong-headed whims; he tries to control her private life as manipulatively as her does her publicity. Unhappily, the movie endorses him for doing so, for male prerogatives, in this era, were always paramount. Unhappily, too, Tracy, drew the short straw when it came to charm; he spends the movie climbing in and out of windows and mischievously mugging like a sinister funhouse face. (His career slowly petered out into a season on TV as Martin Kane, Private Eye as Truman gave way to Eisenhower, then finally as an outgoing president himself in Gore Vidal's The Best Man in 1964). His performance in Bombshell now borders on the distasteful (though the writing shares the blame). Among his rivals are the wasted Pat O'Brien (as Harlow's director) and Franchot Tone (who doesn't even show up until the last reel). The clinching detail in this cynical take on Hollywood is that it's Tracy who ends up with the girl. They must have thought that made for a happy ending.
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I'll have to catch this one again!! One of Harlow's better films...
Neil Doyle18 December 2004
I missed the first half of the film on TCM but saw enough to follow the story and enjoyed what I did watch--in fact, so much so that I'll have to catch the whole film next time.

JEAN HARLOW seemed to be at the peak of her career as a blonde bombshell, just as she is in this story--and hating every moment of it. Seems she wants desperately to get away from the studio manipulations and particularly those of her ruthless press agent LEE TRACY.

MGM obviously believed enough in the story to surround Harlow with some first-rate performers including Frank Morgan as her whiskey loving father and Franchot Tone as an amorous suitor who declares he wants to "run barefoot through her hair".

It's a witty script and there's a bit of a surprise to the ending. All in all, a delightful romp for Harlow and surely her fans will appreciate her comic flair in this one.
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Hysterical Harlow in 30's flapper comedy
aromatic-229 April 2002
Harlow is perfectly in-your-face as the flapper trying to change her image. O'Brien, Tracy, and Tone all take good turns as anglers who are transformed by her. Frank Morgan steals every scene he is in as Pops. Una Merkel is also on hand for some added hilarity. Perhaps the most amazing thing about bombshell is how well its humor holds up. In fact, it seems even more timely today than it probably would have 30 years ago. Anyway, just watch Harlow in her prime, and enjoy.
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Harlow and Lee Tracy sparkle in sizzling comedy
kidboots16 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Lola Burns is a star. Her antics and films are lapped up by an eager, movie star mad public. The reality is very different. She doesn't have a minute to call her own. Her free loading family are bleeding her dry. Her dipsomaniac father is continually asking for large sums of money for his race track habit. She is also financing her loafer brother to pay his gambling debts in Tijuana.

Lola longs for respectability. During an interview with a woman from "The Ladies Home Companion" talk turns to motherhood and Lola begins to yearn for a cosy home, a husband and babies!!!! She decides to adopt a baby but the interview with two women from the adoption agency turns into a disaster as brother rolls up with his girlfriend and a fight breaks out between brother, father and gentlemen of the press!!!

Lee Tracy is superb as Hanlon, the newspaper reporter, who really loves Lola. With his machine gun delivery of witty one liners - I haven't seen him in many films but I want to see more. "I feel like a gentleman down here" says Tracy, while staying at a resort. Lola retorts - "that's the nearest you'll ever get to one."

Ted Healey plays her brother (he looks old enough to be her father)!! Isabel Jewel plays his dizzy girlfriend (one of Hollywood's most under-rated actresses, in my opinion). Franchot Tone is the "gentle- man". "Your hair is like a field of daisies - I'd like to run bare- foot through your hair". Tracy retorts "he looks like an athlete - I wouldn't want him putting his foot on my head"!!!! Dorothy Deborba ("Echo" from "Our Gang") plays the little autograph girl. There is a weird continuity mistake in that scene. Franchot Tone's mother has a little pomeranian, in the next shot it isn't there, then it is, then it isn't. I noticed it the first time I saw the film. It was a careless mistake. There is also a running gag involving Bill Dooley as a man claiming to be Lola's husband, who pops up at the most inoportune times.

Harlow is the whole show - her big speech to her free-loading family is great - "I'm getting pretty sick of being the goose that lays the golden egg around here" and "I'm just a glorified chump" are some of the wisecracks.

In a case of art imitating real life - the movie had a lot in common with Clara Bow's private life - even Una Merkel playing a Daisy De Voe type private secretary (she even looked like her). The studio was Monarch Studios but the hidden sign was clearly MGM. The film she was working on was "Red Dust" - in one scene the director (Pat O'Brien) and Lola were standing around the famous rainwater barrel, discussing how she would play the scene with Clark Gable. At the beginning of the film there is a scene with Gable and Harlow in "Hold Your Man". Gable's name also comes up when Tracy decides to go to some foreign country - Lola says something like "you can't go there remember what happened to Clark Gable in "Susan Lennox" - talk about free publicity!!!!

I would really recommend this film.
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Overrated and disappointing
Antonius Block14 May 2016
It's nice to see Jean Harlow in a major role after her breakout performances in 1932, but this film is saddled with a weak script, and filled with noisy and annoying performances. Harlow plays a Hollywood starlet and is awfully shrill in the first half of the film, but the biggest problem is Lee Tracy, who plays a slick studio publicity agent. His actions in keeping Harlow in line, his voice, and his smugness all made me want to reach back in time 83 years and punch him in the face, and yet he is positioned as the 'good guy'. Ugh! The attempts at comedy are dated, but Tracy manipulating it so Harlow can't adopt a child because he believes she couldn't do that and have a career is just sickening, not clever.

There are some in-jokes in the film, the best of which is 'Harlow playing Harlow' and the barrel scene from 'Red Dust'. It's nice to see Frank Morgan, better known as being the Wizard of Oz, and it's always nice to see Harlow, and here she tells off the leeches in her life in a nice scene, coos over a baby, and later rides a horse. However, it's pretty bad when your favorite part of the movie is the three sheepdogs! This one is overrated and disappointing.
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A brilliant movie
richard-178721 August 2014
The script of this movie is brilliant.

The actors' delivery of it - especially the leads, Lee Tracy, Jean Harlow, and Pat O'Brian - is brilliant.

The director's handling of the actors' delivery of the script is brilliant. (Director: Victor Fleming)

In short, this movie is brilliant.

When they talk about screwball comedy, this is what is meant. Clever - and very intelligent, even complex - dialog delivered at the speed of lightening with faultless diction that lets you hear every word, even when done with what were then very primitive microphones.

This is one fun movie. Enjoy it.
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"Bombshell" was great vehicle for superstar Harlow
chuck-reilly2 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Jean Harlow, the "Bombshell" of the title, is at her best in this fast-talking and fast-moving picture. She's aided and abetted by Lee Tracy as her agent (Hanlon) who can out-talk and out-think most of humanity while he's multi-tasking and doing his conniving best. The plot is simple: Harlow is a superstar and her agent Tracy will do everything he can to keep her on top of the heap. That means he'll use every trick in the book (and then some) to accomplish his mission. The rest of the cast is filled with famous names although most of them were just beginning their careers way back when this early "talkie" was made. Pat O'Brien, Franchot Tone, Una Merkel, C. Aubrey Smith are just a few of the characters that populate this entertaining film. Director Victor Fleming (uncredited) keeps the action and the dialog moving at break-neck speed. There's no question that Howard Hawks adopted this hyper-style for his famous "His Gal Friday" a few years later. Alas, poor Jean was to live only a few more years afterward. But there's no doubt in any film historian's mind that she was the original Blonde Bombshell and everyone else that followed her were mere impostors. Ms. Harlow has been the subject of many biographies (both books and films) and there's a new "coffee table" volume out on the market that does her justice. She's been gone a long time but very well-remembered.
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Sparkling Pre-Code Gem
john-batt327 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This shamefully neglected comedy classic is rarely shown on UK TV and is not available on DVD .That is a shame as it deserves to be appreciated by a wider audience as the best satire on the Hollywood studio system ever made.

That it is superior to What Price Hollywood ?[ 1932 ] is due entirely to the screenplay written by John Lee Mahin and Jules Furthman and the performances of a stellar cast.

Supposedly based on Clara Bow but eerily redolent of the life of Jean Harlow [ right down to her money grabbing family ]Bombshell proceeds at breakneck speed with enough memorable lines and double entendres for a dozen films. Had MGM tried to produce this film twelve months later the Hays Production Code would have rendered the script impotent.For example the following would not have survived.

Lola [ Harlow ] to Hanlon [ Lee Tracy ]'You're chasing a wild goose' Hanlon 'Wearing those pants its a temptation'.

As it is the humour is as fresh today as it was 75 years ago.The story of blonde bombshell Lola Burns fighting to protect her reputation and adopt a baby in the face of underhand manipulation by studio publicist Space Hanlon and opposition from a collection of family members and employees is superbly played by a collection of well known character actors.

Louise Beavers as sassy maid Loretta, Una Merkel as the conniving pa Mac, Frank Morgan as the perpetually inebriated Pops,Pat O' Brien as the volcanic director Brogan and Franchot Tone as the playboy Gifford are all excellent.Watch out for Billy Dooley in a hilarious running gag and World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Primo Carnera in the opening montage sequence.Special mention must be made of Lee Tracy who was born to play the fast talking, fast thinking, morally redundant Space Hanlon, a man who has a scam to suit all situations.

But this film belongs to Jean Harlow who is quite simply sensational. At once vulnerable,sexy and funny then naive but knowing the 22 year old carries the film. The scene when she finally snaps and turns on her tormentors is a showstopper.It is arguably her finest performance.

Hopefully Bombshell might receive the reappraisal and recognition it deserves in time for Harlow's centenary in March 2011. In the meantime catch the film if you can and marvel at one of the silver screens brightest stars at her best. And wonder at what she might have become.
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fast paced, funny, and lots of pre code eye candy
jpickerel21 January 2007
The Blonde Bombshell, movie star played by Harlow becomes frustrated at some of the stunts pulled by her publicity man (Lee Tracy), who is trying to keep her name in the news, and to keep her single. This movie is the best example of why Jean Harlow was a mega star. The lady could act, holding her own with some of the best scene stealers in 1930's Hollywood, most notably, in this movie, Lee Tracy. Tracy left behind a body of film work that deserves more attention than it gets. Add to this, Una Merkel, Pat O'Brien (who has a surprisingly small part) Frank Morgan, and Franchot Tone, who is rarely brought to mind in a comedy role. The dialogue is fast, bright and very witty. The plot is, for the most part, plausible. It is a very funny satire of the workings of the Studio system of the early Hollywood years. As for the eye candy - if you've never watched Harlow flounce her way through a pre code movie.......
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Jean Harlow Is Funny and Poignant
David (Handlinghandel)25 March 2003
This movie, though extremely funny, is touching as well. The poor title character wants to adopt a child and then wants to marry a nice man and retire -- only to be thwarted by her agent. And who might he be?

Only one of the greatest, most underrated actors in Hollywood history: Lee Tracy. He is, borrowing a line from a movie made a few years later, a gray rat here. But what a brilliant actor!

Ms. Harlow died very young and tragically. Tracy is said to have ended his own career through indelicate behavior on a location shoot. But there he was, big as life and good as ever, in "The Best Man" decades later.
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Jean Harlow At Her Best
Wael Katkhuda12 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This movie without doubt is one of the best Harlow performances in her whole career (next to Libeled Lady), she is so natural and her comedy skills are superb. In my opinion at our time her performance and act are more realistic than Greta Garbo and a lot of female stars of the 30s. One of my favorite scenes were Alice and Cinderella Argument with Tracy, Fanny Fish and of course the last tow scenes. All the characters played very well such as: Frank Morgan,Ted Healy and Louise Beavers. Now the only actor who annoyed me was Lee Tracy, he really gave me a headache every-time he opened his mouth, his acting skills were good but he had a terrible voice which annoyed me a lot and i had to finish the film in two days in order to keep my ears quite and clean! i wish if Spencer Tracy was instead him for this part, because he really gave us a great performance a few years later also as a news paper man in (Libeled Lady).

Finally if you are a big fan of Miss Harlow i highly recommend this light comedy for you.
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Star in the Family
lugonian30 March 2011
BOMBSHELL (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1933), directed by Victor Fleming, marked the turning point in Jean Harlow's movie career. For what many consider to be her finest comedic performance next to LIBELED LADY (1936), BOMBSHELL is her best movie. Sometimes labeled "Blonde Bombshell" to avoid any confusion to a war movie, BOMBSHELL, in some ways is a war movie, a battle between actress and her living and working surroundings of oddball characters, resulting to a Hollywood farce that makes no apologies poking fun of itself at its own expense.

The opening gets off to a fine start as the sizzling bombshell explodes into the image of film star, Lola Burns, segued through a series of sequences through the underscoring of "Low Down Rhythm" revealing her personal activities through newspaper and magazine articles before shifting to title scoring from the motion picture HOLD YOUR MAN (1933) showing theater patrons watching the kissing scenes between Lola and co-star, Clark Gable. The montage concludes with fans reading about Lola in Photoplay Magazine before plot development gets underway. Lola Burns, Hollywood's brightest film star for Monarch Studios, lives in a Beverly Hills mansion where she supports her large sheepdogs, a drunken gambling father (Frank Morgan) acting as her business manager, and a lazy good-for-nothing brother, Junior (Ted Healy). Also under her wing are Loretta (Louise Beavers), a sassy maid; Winters (Leonard Carey), a butler who's in season filling in for Summers; and Miss Mac (Una Merkel), a personal secretary who, like the others, take advantage of her good nature. Arising at 6 a.m., Lola finds she must return to the set for retakes of her latest motion picture, "Red Dust," with Jim Brogan (Pat O'Brien), her old flame, directing her revised scenes. Tired of playing sexpots, Lola wants nothing more than to change her screen image. With her personal and professional life nothing but a series of complications, nobody is more responsible for her shattered life than her publicity agent, Space Hanlan (Lee Tracy). Things become more complex when Lola's fiancé, Marquis Hugo Di Binelli (Ivan Lebedeff), gets arrested at the Cocoanut Grove (featuring Gus Arnheim and his Orchestra) by detectives from the immigration department. The final drawback occurs when Lola loses all chances in adopting a baby boy when representatives (Ethel Griffies and Mary Carr) from the Fairfax Orphanage arrive at the wrong time to witness family squabbles between father and brother, a fist fight between Brogan and the returning Marquis, and intruding reporters. Embittered and disgusted, Lola walks out on family and studio contract for peace and tranquility in Palm Springs. While there she meets the wealthy Gifford Middleton (Franchot Tone), who not only becomes interested in Lola, but would "like to run barefoot through her hair." Before wedding plans are to take place, Gifford arranges a meeting between Lola and her future but snobbish in-laws (C. Aubrey Smith and Mary Forbes) visiting from Boston. When things start going wrong for Lola again, there's no doubt Space Hanlon is not far behind.

  A prime example to the definition "mad-cap" or "screwball," BOMBSHELL, is a forerunner to those loud and brash comedies in the director Howard Hawks (1938s BRINGING UP BABY and 1940s HIS GIRL Friday)tradition, never letting up for an instant. What Harlow may have lacked as a dramatic roles makes up for it in comedies such as this. Following the pattern of 1932 releases of WHAT PRICE Hollywood?, MERTON OF THE MOVIES and ONCE IN A LIFETIME, BOMBSHELL doesn't use the traditional rise to fame theme, for that Lola Burns, its central character, is already an accomplished movie star. All she really wants now aside from better film roles is a civilized home-life, husband and kids, but with her family, studio employees and one publicity agent who'll stop at nothing, it's totally impossible. Credited from a play by Caroline Franke and Mark Crane, BOMBSHELL very much appears to be an autobiographical account on the personal and professional life of Jean "Lola Burns" Harlow. Considering "Red Dust" an actual title to a Jean Harlow movie and Clark Gable her leading man (mentioned a couple of times in the story), Monarch Studios is, in fact, a fictitious name to MGM. Lola's classification as "The If Girl" is a clever in-joke on silent screen legend Clara "The It Girl" Bow.

While Franchot Tone has the film's most famous line, Lee Tracy's "Why don't you change your brand of narcotics?" should go as an honorable mention. Tracy, whose catch phrase in song tone of, "Right, right" as part of his character trait, whose annoying performance in DOCTOR X (1932) is 100 percent perfect in BOMBSHELL. He gets his quota of laughs by stopping at nothing through his tricks of the trade of publicity gimmicks. Another added plus is the recurring gag of the unexpected appearance from a long lost husband (Irving Bacon) and his hilarious attempts in reclaiming the confused Lola, no matter where she goes.

Others in "the Hollywood trenches" include Isabel Jewell as Junior's new girlfriend; and June Brewster as Alice Cole, actress victim of Space's schemes. Aside from Frank Morgan (sporting a walrus mustache) making his MGM debut but a start in his long range of befuddled characters he was to perform so well, especially as the title character as THE WIZARD OF OZ (MGM, 1939). Everything in BOMBSHELL works, thanks to the professional team effort between Harlow, Tracy and the rest of the cast.

BOMBSHELL, distributed to home video in 1991 and a decade later on DVD, is one that can still be seen and appreciated whenever shown on Turner Classic Movies. (***1/2)
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"Imagine that little Peoria cornflower trying to give me the runaround".
classicsoncall20 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Well how do you pass on a movie with a title like "Bombshell", especially when Jean Harlow's in the cast. Up till now, my quintessential idea of a screwball comedy was Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell trading barbs in "His Girl Friday", but this one certainly gives the latter picture a good run for it's money. Harlow appears pretty much as her own persona, an actress at the top of her profession who's seemingly unable to balance the demands of stardom with the pressures of those around her seeking to take advantage of her wealth and fame. I didn't quite know how to react to Lee Tracy's character, smarmy business agent Space Hanlon, who manages to keep Lola's name in newspaper headlines. He's got an answer for everything, and I think it's only his delivery that keeps him from being an outright cad.

This movie is probably a good candidate for seeing more than once, since it's almost impossible to keep up with the furious pace and dialog. If you stop long enough to laugh you'll probably miss something that's even funnier or more outlandish, so it's best to stay focused. Helping this all come together is a well selected cast that includes Frank Morgan, Pat O'Brien, Una Merkel, Ivan Lebedeff and Louise Beavers. I was a little puzzled by Ted Healey's selection to portray Lola's brother Junior, a role that probably should have gone to someone younger looking, but maybe it's just me. It might also have been a good idea to give Una Merkel a few more lines as Lola's secretary Mac; she looked like she could have held her own with this bunch.

Best line of the picture, if not the corniest, has to go to Franchot Tone, who as Lola's newest love Gifford Middleton, exclaims that "I'd like to run barefoot through your hair". That sounds kind of sweet until you try to conjure up a mental picture to go with the description. Seeing as how old Gifford turned out to be a phony, I wonder who came up with the lines he used. It had to be Hanlon.
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