This post is my contribution to the Jean Harlow Blogathon, which is taking place on the wonderful blog, The Kitty Packard Pictorial in honor of Jean’s centenary. I encourage you to visit her blog here and read all of the tributes to Jean’s life and work.
Also, please be sure to pick up a copy of the new illustrated biography of Jean Harlow by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira, Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937.
I had watched and enjoyed several of Jean Harlow’s movies before but didn’t really know much about her as a person other than the fact that she had died at a very young age. She would have celebrated her 100th birthday this past Thursday, March 3, and as I read the many tributes that were written about her this week, I was struck by how loved she was by just about everyone who worked with her.
“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Although she was never motivated by stardom or fame, if Emerson’s quote was being applied to movie stars, it seems that Jean Harlow could be considered one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The kind words that have been spoken of her over the years by her many friends speak to what a wonderful person she was.
She had close friendships with many of her fellow actors and actresses including Rosalind Russell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’ Sullivan, and Carole Lombard, but perhaps her most endearing was the one she shared with her six time co-star Clark Gable. While most of her friends and family called her by the affectionate nickname The Baby, Gable referred to her as Sis, a name that despite their smoldering on screen chemistry, is reflective of the brotherly/sisterly relationship they shared off screen. You can see the affection they have for each in just about any picture you find of the two of them together.
It was also said that crews on the set of her movies loved her since she treated with them with great kindness and respect, often fighting for better working conditions for them and helping them out financially. Some of the words that those who knew her well used to describe her include warm, affectionate, intelligent, considerate, sweet, down-to earth, and thoughtful. I would also add humble to that list after reading Jean’s quote stating, “I was not a born actress. No one knows it better than I. If I had any latent talent, I have had to work hard, listen carefully, do things over and over and then over again in order to bring it out.”
Having died at the very young age of 26 due to complications of kidney disease, Jean Harlow is someone of which it can truly be said, “she left us far too soon.” Fortunately for her many fans, she has left us with some wonderful movies to remember her by. Some of my favorites include Platinum Blonde, Bombshell (which was supposedly Jean’s personal favorite), Wife vs. Secretary, and Libeled Lady.
What is your favorite Jean Harlow movie?
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.