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Robert Z. Leonard
Carol Clayton is the daughter of a horse breeder at Saratoga. Though engaged to wealthy Hartley Madison, and disgusted by bookie Duke Bradley, her father owes Bradley a lot of money and Bradley takes a shine to her.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Taken as a diverting bit of fluff, "Saratoga" is a pleasant film not worthy of the talents of its cast but easy on the eyes. The plot is in the screwball vein but lacking the manic intensity of the genre; it revolves around a bookie trying to save a horse farm by luring a rich "chump" to lose racing bets & finance the endeavor. Clark Gable, looking alarmingly thin, is the bookie and he delivers his standard performance. Scenery-chewing Lionel Barrymore and blustering Frank Morgan are on hand playing characters they perfected during their careers. Also on board are Una Merkel, Walter Pidgeon, and in a bit role Dennis O'Keefe. Unfortunately all of this is secondary to the only reason this film merits attention: it is the final film of legendary Jean Harlow.
The tragedy of Miss Harlow has been well documented. She was literally dying while shooting this movie and it is a difficult film to sit through knowing this. In the final 20-25 minutes her character is clearly played by a double hidden behind binoculars, a large hat, or shot from behind. Nobody wanted to finish the movie after Miss Harlow passed away but there was such an outcry from her fans that the picture was completed by a heavy- hearted studio. Ironically it was her biggest hit film largely because everyone wanted to get a final glimpse of her. Her performance is not one of her best; she is lacking her usual energy & effervescence. But it is an incredibly poignant performance knowing the terrible physical pain she must have been suffering during the shoot.
By all accounts Jean Harlow was an amazing individual; beloved by all and someone who valued the happiness of others over her own. She was more concerned about letting the cast & crew of "Saratoga" down than getting help for her illness. A class act to the end.
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