Just before 2018 came to an end, I came to the realization that despite hosting an array of blogathons by myself over the past three years that I’ve adored, I’ve still never co-hosted a blogathon since I began writing for Musings of a Classic Film Addict in 2016. I knew that 2019 would be the year that I would correct all of that, and I knew just who I wanted to host a blogathon with me. Virginie Pronovost of The Wonderful World of Cinema has easily become one of my favorite classic movie bloggers, as we both share a devotion for an array of stars and subjects from the golden age of Hollywood. She’s always been so kind to me, just as I’ve always been a huge fan of hers, so I could think of no better opportunity for my first co-host and my first blogathon of the year. Gratefully she agreed, and after a bit of deliberation about what the subject of our blogathon would be, we realized that we shared an admiration for the original blonde bombshell, who would have celebrated her 108th birthday on March 3rd: Jean Harlow!
Jean Harlow was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter on March 3, 1911 to Mont Clair Carpenter, a working-class dentist, and Jean Poe Harlow, daughter of a wealthy real estate broker. Harlean’s mother was unhappy in her marriage from the start as her true desire was to become a successful actress. Jean’s father arranged her marriage to Mont Clair in 1908 while she was still underage, and she endured the union for as long as she could before eventually divorcing Carpenter when Harlean was eleven years old. The next year Harlean and her mother were off to Hollywood, as Jean held the hope that she could still become a star. That hope was quickly extinguished, however, when no studio would offer her work at the age of thirty-four, which was considered over the hill by the film industry’s standards. Instead Mother Jean shifted all of her focus into turning her daughter into the star that she could never be, urging her to accept a contract for a hundred dollars a week with comedic giant Hal Roach in 1928.
From there, Harlean, who had adopted her mother’s maiden name of Jean Harlow as her own stage name, was skyrocketing to fame. Like any emerging ingenue, Jean started her career in Hollywood with roles as an extra, but within less than a year after signing her first contract, she co-starred in Laurel and Hardy’s Double Whoopee (1929) and was spotted on set by actor James Hall, who was working on Hells Angels (1930) with Howard Hughes. The aviation epic was searching for a new lead to replace the Norwegian Greta Nilssen as the picture, which was originally meant to be silent, was being completely reshot after the emergence of sound features. Jean got the part, and the film’s success led to her being featured in one hit after another. Her sultry, street smart image led to her being typecast as the gangster’s moll during the beginning of the thirties in pictures like The Public Enemy (1931) and The Beast of the City (1932), but she soon displayed her versatility in Red-Headed Woman (1932), in which her character Lil Andrews famously trades her signature platinum blonde locks for a flaming red hue and begins a torrid affair with her married boss. The film was a bigger success than ever, and led to Jean being taken more seriously in Hollywood as one of the top sex symbols of her time.
Even more starring roles followed in classics such as Red Dust (1932), her first of six features with Clark Gable, Dinner At Eight (1933) as part of an all-star cast, Bombshell (1933), and my personal favorite, The Girl From Missouri (1934). Her next picture, Reckless (1935), paired her with future boyfriend William Powell, and was MGM’s attempt to take advantage of the scandal and notoriety that followed the questionable suicide of Jean’s second husband, filmmaker Paul Bern. The latter half of the decade promised to be equally prosperous for Harlow as MGM continued to mold her into a star that they hoped would surpass even Greta Garbo. She excelled in screwball comedies, namely Libeled Lady (1936) and Personal Property (1937), before being cast in Saratoga (1937). Harlow’s scenes were almost finished when she collapsed on set while filming a scene with Walter Pidgeon, and she passed away just a week later on June 7, 1937 of kidney failure at the age of 26. Jean’s memory lives on through her array of memorable films, including her last, which was completed using body doubles and released a mere seven weeks after her death. Her incomporable glamour and career inspired nearly every blonde bombshell to follow, including Marilyn Monroe and beyond.
- Considering that Jean only has about twenty leading roles to her credit, we will be allowing up to TWO duplicates for each subject, and a maximum of THREE entries per person, but we encourage everyone to think outside of the box and write about a wide variety of topics.
- Anything relating to Jean Harlow is up for grabs! You could write about her early gangster pictures like The Public Enemy (1931) and The Beast of the City (1932), her remarkable comedic performances in movies like Dinner at Eight (1934) and Libeled Lady (1936), her status as a fashion and beauty icon, or even her relationships with her legendary costars like William Powell, Clark Gable, and Myrna Loy. The possibilities are endless, but we do ask that if you intend on writing about her passing that you do so in a manner that is respectful to her and her memory.
- Once you think of a topic, please leave a comment here or on Virginie’s announcement with your blog’s name, your blog’s link, and your subject (include the year if you’re choosing a movie).
- Once you’ve been approved, we’d appreciate it if you help us spread the word! Please take one of our banners from below and put it somewhere on your blog, and make sure to tell your friends. We’d love to see all of Jean’s fans ringing in her 108th birthday with us!
- Musings of a Classic Film Addict — China Seas (1935)
- The Wonderful World of Cinema — TBA
- Maddy Loves Her Classic Films — Tribute to Jean Harlow
- The Flapper Dame — Dinner At Eight (1933)
- Poppity Talks Classic Film — Suzy (1936)
- The Old Hollywood Garden — Wife vs. Secretary (1936)
- The Stop Button — Red Dust (1932)
- Overture Books and Film — The Girl From Missouri (1934)
- In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood — The Public Enemy (1931)
- Silver Screen Classics — Libeled Lady (1936)
- Sleepwalking in Hollywood — Jean Harlow’s Relationship with Paul Bern
- Screen Dreams — Bombshell (1933)
- Portraits by Jenni — Three Wise Girls (1932)
- Pale Writer — Saratoga (1938)
- Silver Screen Suppers — A Dinner Party with Jean Harlow’s Recipes