If you are a lover of classic movies, I don’t think you can ever go wrong reading a biography of a classic film star, even if you’re not that person’s biggest fan. Well, that’s provided the author isn’t trying to sensationalize or trivialize the person’s life in any way. In that case, I’d definitely advise you to steer clear. However, if you can be relatively certain that the author’s intentions are noble, then I think there are many great reasons to read classic movie star biographies.
Back in March when I participated in a Jean Harlow blogathon, I found out that a book about Jean Harlow was about to be published. I discovered that the book, “Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937”, was a beautifully illustrated biography of the star being released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth as well as the start of an exhibit of Jean Harlow memorabilia at The Hollywood Museum in California.
First Impressions of Jean Harlow
When I first heard of Jean Harlow and saw clips of some of her movies, I have to admit that I didn’t think I’d enjoy her as an actress. I know it’s not a fair comparison and I certainly mean no disrespect here, but since I’m not much of a fan of other noted “blonde bombshells” such as Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, or Jayne Mansfield, I just assumed I wouldn’t care for Jean either.
Although I would still only consider myself a casual fan of Jean Harlow, I have enjoyed several of her movie performances since then and have come to admire her as both an actress and a person. I also happen to love illustrated biographies, so when I heard about the book I was immediately interested and promptly pre-ordered a copy from Amazon.
After I received my copy in the mail, procrastination set in and, well, I not so promptly took several months to read it. It certainly had nothing to do with the quality of the book, however, as it proved to be an informative and thoroughly entertaining book filled from cover to cover with beautiful photos of Jean Harlow, most of which had never been seen before. When I finished reading the book I was left wondering what took me so long!
Authors Darrell Rooney and Mark Vierra
From all I’ve read about the authors of “Harlow in Hollywood”, I think it’s safe to say there is no sensationalism to be found in this book, only well researched and documented information about Jean Harlow’s life and the people and city that helped shape her. Author Darrell Rooney is the owner of one of the most substantial collections of Jean Harlow memorabilia which he has been collecting for over 30 years, and his affection for Jean definitely comes through in the pages of this book. Co-author Mark Vierra is a noted filmmaker, photographer, and writer and is one of the most prolific experts on the history of Hollywood.
Using previously unpublished letters and documents, as well as first hand accounts of several classmates who knew Jean Harlow in her early years, the authors hoped to tell a new version of Jean’s life story using her own words whenever possible. The result is a fascinating and riveting story that reveals that there was so much more to Jean Harlow than what met the eye through her famous “platinum blonde” image.
In Her Own Words: Jean Harlow Quotes
I thought the authors did a wonderful job of bringing Jean Harlow to life in this book, and true to their word, they used her own words to give the reader a small glimpse inside her world. Here is just a small sample of the quotes they uncovered that I found to be interesting:
On her much publicized and controversial relationship with her mother:
“I would rather be with my mother than with any other living being I know. She offers me the only true understanding and companionship I have ever known.”
On her desire to play more significant movie roles:
“I’ve decided I’m going to be an actress, not a professional sex vulture. If I don’t, I’ll get a job as a clothes model.”
On her life’s ambition, which also highlights her immense love for animals:
“More than anything in the world I want to learn to act. If I have any luck at all, I ought to be good for five years on the screen. And then, well, I’d like to buy a little tract of land somewhere in California and build a rambling house. I’d like a couple of good saddle horses, half a dozen wire-haired dogs, and half a dozen cats.”
On her “platinum blonde” image:
“I always hated my hair, not only because it limited me as an actress, but also because it had to live up to that platinum personality.”
Beautiful (and Rare!) Jean Harlow Photos
Though I found the narrative to be almost equally satisfying, the highlight of the book for me was definitely the vast array of beautiful and rare photographs. They included movie stills and publicity photos as well as candid shots of Jean Harlow taken by some of classic Hollywood’s greatest photographers, and numerous pictures showing Jean in her everyday life; reading, cooking, doting on her beloved pets, and enjoying the company of co-stars and friends. With detailed captions explaining the story behind each photo, it was easy to get lost in them and it often felt like I was being transported back to that era. It’s almost hard to believe they were taken over 70 years ago!
A Must Read for Jean Harlow Fans
Definitely a must read for all Jean Harlow fans, I would also highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning more about the classic Hollywood era. Even if you are a non-reader, the stunning photographs alone make this a book worth owning. A description on the inside cover probably says it best, ‘“Harlow in Hollywood” is a must for every film buff, Harlow collector, and book lover. Like Harlow herself, “Harlow in Hollywood is irresistible.”’
With all the hard work and pain-staking research that went into writing “Harlow in Hollywood: : The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937”, I’d say it’s worth well more than its list price of $50. However, you can currently purchase it on Amazon for just $31.50 AND it’s eligible for free Super Saving Shipping, too! Don’t wait as long to read it as I did. Pick up your copy today!