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Harlow: The Blonde Bombshell (1993)
*** (out of 4)
Sharon Stone hosts this 47-minute documentary about the life and career of 30s bombshell Jean Harlow. The film starts off talking about her early life and how she ended up in Hollywood. From here we learn about how she got her start in the business as well as much about her public life including her three marriages, the controversial suicide of her second husband and of course her early death at the age of 26. Through all the person stuff we see clips from her most famous films including HELL'S ANGELS, RED DUST, THE BEAST IN HEAT, RECKLESS, RED HEADED WOMAN and her final film SARATOGA among others. If you're a fan of Harlow then it's doubtful that you're going to learn anything here that you didn't already know. Some will probably attack this documentary for being so light on information, which might be a good point but this is certainly better than nothing. I'm sure one day the actress will get a full blown documentary but in the meantime this here isn't too bad. It was certainly fun seeing all of the film clips and it's rather amazing to see how much she actually got done in her early life. There's no question that she worked with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood history and her personal life was just as dramatic as anything MGM could have written up for a screenplay.
Ouch....did Michael Bo hate this documentary! Well, I could see it had
a few problems and I dislike Sharon Stone, but I still thought it was a
pretty good documentary--and one well worth seeing.
Originally, this was made for Turner Classic Movies--and I saw it there when it debuted almost two decades ago. I just saw it again, as it was on of the special features included with the Jean Harlow film "Dinner at Eight".
The film is an overview of Jean Harlow's career as well as a discussion of her life. However, unlike most similar films, this one was made up of lots of clips and narration by Sharon Stone--but absolutely no interviews by anyone--no film historians or friends of the star. As a result, the emphasis seems to be more on Ms. Stone in all her very stylish and sexy gowns than on giving an in-depth analysis of Harlow--a bit of a mistake in retrospect. Despite this, it's still worth seeing but it's clearly far from one of the better celebrity biographies. Too bad, as Ms. Harlow was a very fascinating lady and deserved a bit better.
Even after we've passed the centennial of her birth Jean Harlow is a
star who folks still talk about. Her free and easy sexual image on the
screen and her comedic talent set a standard for many a blond actress
to achieve in film. One who burst on the screen in the 90s was Sharon
Stone who narrates this work.
Sad to say that this particular documentary comes out more like a fan letter from Stone than a serious discussion of her work. I for one can see a bit of Harlow in some of Stone's film roles. Certainly by 1993 there were few enough of her contemporaries available for comment. But I'm agreeing that a film historian or two might have helped.
For better or worse Harlow's image and the story of the scandal of the suicide of Paul Bern her second husband was forever written in stone by the biography Irving Schulman did in the 60s and the two Harlow films made with Carroll Baker and Carol Lynley respectively. The Carpetbaggers Rina Marlowe character also Carroll Baker didn't help and that cemented her image for all time.
William Powell never did interviews after his retirement and he surely would have had something to say. The best comments on Harlow came from Rosalind Russell in her memoirs. She said that as a newcomer at MGM in the 30s the only actress who was truly friendly and kind to her was Jean Harlow, the rest saw her as a rival coming up. Too bad Russell was no longer available either.
Certainly a more serious discussion about Harlow and her image is warranted by a better documentary.
This is one of the most shallow and affected so-called documentaries I
have ever had the misfortune to watch. It serves, in some respect, as
an extra to the new DVD edition of the feature 'Dinner at Eight', but
it does Jean Harlow a great disservice at the same time.
Primarily, what is wrong with it, is its hostess. I am no great fan of Sharon Stone's, never gave her much thought actually, but here she is excruciating. I blame the director as much as her, because he seems determined to allow Miss Stone to swallow up every second of this documentary. She is coquettish, clad as a sultry 30's slut but with none of the style or elegance, and it is wildly inappropriate to coax her into taking center-stage when the object is, at least so they claim, another, namely Jean Harlow. Miss Stone says her lines badly, overemphasizes words and inflections, and I found that looking at her bare stomach in exactly the chapter telling us about Harlow's death was ... just so badly judged.
The script was superficial and tawdry, often quite nonsensical. How can you claim that Harlow "redefined movie acting" without expanding on it? But hopefully I need say no more. This so-called documentary is an abomination.
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