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I haven't seen this film for some time, but I used to have a TV
transfer copy of it I would watch with friends on "Bad Movie" nights.
Aside from the bad dialog and the overly sincere performance of Red Buttons as the benevolent Hollywood agent from mars, the most hilarious thing about the movie is that it seems like a time warp feature. The 30's and 60's keep clashing in the oddest moments.
Women sport bullet bras and big 60's lacquered hairdos yet drive around in old 30's jalopies. The clothes are period only when it suits the purpose of the plot, otherwise you have men with 60's Jerry Lewis haircuts (10 lbs of Vaseline) and golf sweaters. The women's makeup is all 60's liquid eyeliner and false eyelashes.
Things are so topsy turvey that when Harlow is seduced by the sleazoid Leslie Neilsen, we see that he has an electronic 60's bachelor pad straight out of an issue of Playboy.
However, my favorite idiotic anachronism is when Harlow is onstage at a personal appearance for one of her films, and to the accompaniment of the strains of 60's twist music, actually engages in an energetic twist while reading questions from the audience! What were they thinking? This movie blows, but in a lot of fun ways. There's that cheesy theme song by whiny Bobby Vinton, then there is stolid and expressionless Carroll Baker playing not jean Harlow but the Cheryl Barker role from "The Oscar." The males assembled (Leslie Neilsen, Peter Lawford and Mike Connors) are an oddly bland, sexless bunch; and throughout nothing rings even remotely true to life.
Forget about seeing a film about Jean Harlow. Watch this mess like you would "Valley of the Dolls," strictly for laughs
In 1965, in yet another classic example of "Copycat Movie Making" Hollywood
produced not one, but two film biographies of Jean Harlow, the 30s 'Blond
Bombshell' whose tragic, short life was reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe. One
was a gaudy, ambitious big-budget production starring theater and film
actress/sex symbol Carroll Baker; the other was a low-budget, experimental
film starring television actress/sex 'kitten' Carol Lynley. Both films
failed, both in capturing the essence of Jean Harlow, and as film
biographies. While the Baker film, which I'll discuss here, had enough lurid
titillation for three films, the sweet-natured girl who was loved by nearly
everyone who knew her never makes an appearance.
The 'real' Harlow, born Harlean Carpenter, in 1911, arrived in Hollywood at 16, with an over-ambitious mother and newlywed husband in tow. Divorcing her husband, she appeared in 'bit' parts until Howard Hughes 'discovered' her, and cast her "Hell's Angels", in 1930. She was a sensation, despite possessing a tinny, twangy speaking voice (which voice coaches would work on, throughout her career.) Eventually signing with MGM, she would become a sensation, frequently co-starring with Clark Gable, and her off-screen life would be even more sensational; her second marriage, to producer Paul Bern, would last only two months, and he would soon commit suicide, fueling rumors of his inability to 'perform' his duties as a husband; a third marriage, to cameraman Harold Rosson, soon followed, only to last eight months. She finally found happiness with actor William (The Thin Man) Powell, but before they could marry, she developed uremic poisoning and kidney failure, dying in 1937, at 26.
Baker's "Harlow" dumped any references to Gable and Powell (Mike Connors, in an off-beat piece of casting, plays the character 'based' on Powell), created an agent who served as a confidant (Red Buttons), and showed a decline in Harlow's spirit, until she became as sleazy as some of the characters she occasionally played (which those who knew her best flatly denied; the sensational headlines did not 'cost' her a career, or her 'soul', they maintain). The film presents her finally 'cleaning up her act', but dying before she can share her new-found joy.
Jean Harlow was an optimist, self-reliant and resilient, with a ready laugh, and an often too-generous nature. She never took her sex appeal too seriously, and preferred 'being comfortable' to creating illusions. She was adored by her co-workers, and the grief everyone felt at her death was genuine, not staged.
If "Harlow" had gotten even a part of this right, it would have been a far better film!
This is a bad movie, and as other posters commented, completely
The real Jean Harlow was not promiscuous.
The only enjoyable part of this movie was Carroll Baker's looks and personality. Though miscast, she looks great. The hairdos are STRAIGHT FROM THE mid-60s! They didn't have flips in the 1930s. (I am not surprised by this. In the Carpetbaggers (also Paramount), which takes place in the 20s and 30s Carroll Baker sports bubble flips and even a beehive hairdo!
Historical note: This role was promised to quite a few actresses to keep them in line. 20th Century Fox promised this to Jayne Mansfield as a reward for playing the same character in bad movies. Same thing with Paramount and Stella Stevens.
It's big, it's expensive, it's colorful, and that's about it. The people
behind "The Carpetbaggers," obviously hoping that lightning would strike
twice, put together the high budget version of Irving Schulman's alleged
biography of Jean Harlow the following year. This was a mistake.
"Carpetbaggers" was trash, but it was enjoyable trash. "Harlow" doesn't even
reach that level. Both the Schulman book and this movie were really more
fiction than fact and many of those who knew and worked with Harlow, most of
whom were still alive at the time, took serious issue with both. Then there
are the performances. Even talented people like Angela Lansbury and Raf
Vallone, as Jean's mother and stepfather, couldn't do much with this mess,
and so compensated by going over the top. But for sheer miscasting, the real
violator is not Carroll Baker's overripe Harlow, but Peter Lawford's Paul
Bern. Here was the tall, handsome Lawford playing a man who was, by all
accounts, short, bald, and, frankly, rather dumpy looking. It's a good thing
everything and everybody else in this film other than Jean Harlow, her
immediate family, and agent Arthur Landau, were cloaked under various
pseudonyms. To have done otherwise would have left Joseph E. Levine and
Paramount open to a world of trouble resulting from the libel suits
In short, watching "Harlow," you'll gain nothing and lose 130 minutes you'll never get back again. It really isn't worth it.
No doubt the fact that there were two movies about Jean Harlow in 1965
might surprise some people; to add to that, apparently neither Carroll
Baker nor Carol Lynley was the right woman to play her (I have to admit
that I've never seen any of Jean Harlow's movies - unless you count her
appearance in "City Lights" - so I can't comment one way or the other).
Either way, this "Harlow" seems to go in two directions. On the one
hand, it shows how the Hollywood dream looked: the opening scene shows
what many people coming to Tinseltown expected, and then Jean Harlow
gets to live that dream...at least superficially. On the other hand,
the portrayals of Harlow's public life and private life make it nearly
impossible to determine which is to be best remembered. Here, her
frustration with her mother (Angela Lansbury) and anger at her
stepfather (Raf Vallone) get played to almost comic effect. Is every
movie star doomed to have something in his/her personal life that has
to get sensationalized in a biopic?
So, I would say that this movie takes the same approach to its subject that "Mommie Dearest" did: trashy, but something about the movie gives it an almost desirable feeling. Did I like the movie or hate it? Well, it has its visuals (I would call Carroll Baker a visual in and of herself), and it sure beats any Steven Seagal movie for smarts. In a way, that's about it. Since I don't really know much about Jean Harlow, I just have to accept what "Harlow" says. It's not outright worthless, but don't make it your first choice. Also starring Red Buttons, Martin Balsam and Leslie Nielsen.
Harlow is an interesting film following the "Blonde Bombshell's" rise and
fall in Hollywood. Weighed down by a despicable yet charming family, Harlow
hits it big in Tinseltown.
Despite playing fast and loose with the facts, this film brings the glamour of Harlow to audiences. Carroll Baker delivers well as Harlow. This may be heresy, but in my opinion, Baker is even more beautiful than Harlow herself.
The film doesn't do so well in ignoring important facts. First, Jean Harlow wasn't the innocent girl next door. In fact, she had wed at age 16. Second, Leslie Nielson's character, which was actually supposed to portray Howard Hughes was damn near libelous. Third, the interpretations on Harlow's marriage to Paul Bern paint him as a homosexual. His own biography tends to point to impotence.
Despite these diversions from "truth" if there is any in Hollywood, do not take away from the power of this film. If you don't know anything about Jean Harlow, the end may shock you.
This is one of my favorite old movies. It may not be a realistic
biography of Jean Harlow, but it's entertaining. I remember watching it
on TV during a period of depression, and, oddly enough, it helped to
cheer me up! I'll always like it for that reason, plus it's a bit of
escapism from reality.
I thought Carrol Baker was great as Harlow, I also liked Angela Lansbury as Mama Jean. Like I said, even though it's not accurate, the movie does a good job at portraying the rise and fall of an actress. It might have done better as a fictional story about a fictional actress, rather than using the name of a real life one.
This movie has some memorable scenes for me, especially the ones where Harlow is at the top of her career, then suddenly spirals downward, because she feels she's missing something no one can give her.
Others may disagree, but for me, Harlow is a great escapist movie.
An all around lurid film about sex symbol and superstar, Jean Harlow. There's no real point to the film, other than to present star Baker as a sex symbol herself. Her performance is nothing like her "Baby Doll," and everyone else is either bored with the material or reduced to overacting.
I watched this film, with the mindset that the movie would not be
historically accurate, but rather one to watch purely for
entertainment. However, I soon realized, that I was watching a train
wreck, not a movie. The facts were so far off, they would have been
describing another person's life. They never examined her big hit films
like Libeled Lady, Red Dust, Red-Headed Woman, Suzy, they only depicted
how she was originally used for slam-stick shorts. Hell's Angels and
Howard Hughes were huge events in her life, and greatly impacted her
rise to fame. How can you make a film about Harlow and completely
ignore those details. In the film, they never show her interacting with
fellow film stars (Such as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Franchot Tone),
or how she went out of her way to be friendly with the crew. Instead
the depicted her as a woman who had to drown her sorrows in liquor and
sex. While she was known as one of the first Sex Goddesses, her true
personality was far from that. They even fail to address her love for
William Powell, which she was very much in love with when she passed.
Anyone who has ever read about Harlow, knows that she did not die from
pneumonia, that she contracted from passing out drunk on a beach. Even
Wikipedia (which is not the most reliable source) knows that she passed
away from uremic poisoning. This films tries to hard to sensationalize
a woman's life that was already sensational. I wish that film makers
would research their subjects more. What a shame.....I wish someone
would make a good/truer to life film about her life.
Do not see this movie....it is not even entertaining, more distracting that anything else.
From a bit actress in the late 1920s to stardom in the '30s as a Hollywood bombshell, actress Jean Harlow's triumphs and pitfalls are cartoonishly documented; it's as if the filmmakers were quite satisfied dishing out movie-magazine nonsense instead of headier truths, with most of the names changed to protect the embarrassed. Harlow manages to hold onto her virginity even through a short-lived marriage, but fate dealt her a bad hand and she died at the age of 26--yet the movie sees all this through a rose-colored lens. Carroll Baker is a sweet, sometimes dazed Harlow; Red Buttons acquits himself affably as her agent and Angela Lansbury is nicely low-keyed as Jean's mother. Viewers hoping for some Hollywood dirt won't be satisfied with the scrubbed-clean goods showcased here, although the pacing is fast and portions of the presentation are very colorful. A rival production, also entitled "Harlow", was released the same year and starred Carol Lynley and Ginger Rogers. **1/2 from ****
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