Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Happy Birthday to the late and great Jean Harlow.

Along with Carole Lombard, Harlow had the seemingly lost quality in being a glamorous, shimmering screen goddess while also an effective and and smart comedy performer.

Her seemingly frank approach to her sexuality, using it like a second skin, made her performances always more suggestible than the Production Code allowed her scripts to be. But, again like Lombard, she also had the air of being as good a pal to the leading man as a love interest.Her performances as a dramatic actress were always slightly hampered by her flat middle-American tones but give her a role which also allowed for a cynically-raised eyebrow and a deadpanned wisecrack and she lit up the screen.

After a couple of years of scenery-dressing roles as shopgirls and gangster molls at MGM, she played the leading roles in PLATINUM BLONDE and RED-HEADED WOMAN - yes, they loved that hair - and suddenly her career went stratospheric as Clark Gable's leading lady in RED DUST. Their easy on-screen charisma led to a further four films together. Tragically it was during the filming of their last film together that she collapsed at the studio and within 8 days, was dead from kidney failure at the age of only 26. Her work is shockingly represented on dvd here. Only her negligible performances in THE PUBLIC ENEMY with James Cagney, the WWI award-winner HELL'S ANGELS and PLATINUM BLONDE are available.

C'mon whoever owns the MGM catalogue - let's be having RED DUST, BOMBSHELL, CHINA SEAS, LIBELLED LADY and DINNER AT EIGHT.

The latter featured one of the best put-downs in film history:

Harlow as Kitty Packard: I was reading a book the other day.
Marie Dressler as Carlotta Vance: *double take* Reading a book?

Kitty: Yes. It's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?

Carlotta: Oh, my dear, that's something you need never worry about.

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