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In this story, Harlow starts in the movies as set dressing, the pretty girl who is used for the glamour shots. Refusing to descend to the casting couch for work, she finds that she is soon blacklisted from the industry. But an agent named Arthur sees something in Jean and begins representing her. For a long time, the jobs are scarce and consist mostly of receiving the pie in the face in low budget comedies. But Arthur's belief in Jean never wavers and when she finally graduates to featured roles, the critics say that she cannot act, but she is unforgettable. Polishing the image as the girl next door, but with some fire, she begins her climb to the top and becomes the girl every woman wants to look like and every man wants to have. But her own life is a disaster - unlike her screen life. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film appeared the year after Carroll Baker had played "Rina Marlowe", a Harlow-type Hollywood sex siren, in "The Carpetbaggers", which was also produced by Joseph E. Levine. Critics laughingly suggested that, in a few years' time, Levine might well produce a biopic called "Baker"; in fact, it was only another year before he produced "The Oscar", in which Jean Hale, made up to look like Carroll Baker, played a Hollywood actress called "Cheryl Barker". See more »
While on personal appearance tour, Harlow performs 1960s-style twist dance steps in scene supposedly set in the 1930s. See more »
Years ago I read Irving Schulman's book Harlow upon which this film is allegedly based. Other than Jean's family the only other real characters were her agent Arthur Landau and her second husband Paul Bern, played by Red Buttons and Peter Lawford respectively. All the people she worked with and for at MGM are eliminated from the story. In fact none of the titles of her films are mentioned.
There's a reason that MGM didn't do the story of one of its legendary stars. Too much dirty linen would be exposed and why would Paramount who produced this want to get into litigation with a rival?
Landau who was still alive and the source for much of Schulman's book is a character. The seminal event of Harlow's private life, her disastrous marriage to an impotent man was crucial. And the overbearing mother (Angela Lansbury) and gigolo husband (Raf Vallone) all had to be in the story. But any reasonably knowledgeable fan of Jean Harlow won't recognize her at all.
Caroll Baker plays Harlow in this and the real Harlow was never as naive as Baker plays her. She was a pretty smart girl, sadly dominated by a first class stage mother and her husband who fed off her celebrity. She did in fact have three marriages, one before and after Paul Bern, so Jean was acquainted with the facts of life.
I did rather enjoy Martin Balsam as the Louis B. Mayer like head of Majestic Pictures.. I think Balsam channeled Mayer pretty good in his performance.
By accounts of her contemporaries, Jean Harlow was a warm, gracious, and generous soul. Rosalind Russell in her memoirs said she was a good friend and generous to her coworkers and they worked together in China Seas and Reckless. William Powell who worked with her in Libeled Lady and Reckless and was going to marry her said she was not at all like the films that used her life had her.
Harlow had two tellings of her life in 1965, the second was a cheap production that starred Carol Lynley, but had a few more facts straight about her life. Jean's story ought to be remade now, too many people with vested interests were still alive in 1965
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