Thursday, 5 February 2009

Jean Harlow

Harlean Carpenter, who later became Jean Harlow, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1911. She was the daughter of a successful dentist and his wife.
She eloped at age 16 with a young businessman and wound up in Los Angeles where she found work as an extra and bit player (examples: Moran of the Marines (1928) and Liberty (1929)) and somewhat more prominently in Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy shorts (Double Whoopee (1929), Bacon Grabbers (1929)).
Her first big break came in 1930 when Howard Hughes revamped his unreleased 1927 silent Hell's Angels (1930) into a sound version, replacing the heavy accented Swede Greta Nissen with Harlow, the girl who, with her divorce in 1929, had adopted her mother's maiden.
Hughes loaned her out for a number of movies which, like Frank Capra's Platinum Blonde (1931), featured her platinum hair and more than obvious sexuality.
In 1932 Hughes sold her contract to MGM, and her role in Red-Headed Woman (1932) for that studio led the Hays Office to forbid the depiction of unpunished adultery. She married Irving Thalberg's right-hand man, Paul Bern. The marriage ended after a few weeks: the day after his former Mrs. Bern was found floating in the Sacramento River, after allegedly committing suicide.
Harlow had another brief marriage, to cinematographer Harold Rosson, followed by an affair with William Powell. She made three films with Spencer Tracy and six with Clark Gable, receiving much improved critical acclaim for her acting, allure and comedic talent. During the filming of Saratoga (1937) she was hospitalized for uremic poisoning, and died on June 7 of cerebral edema at age 26.