Happy birthday, Jean Harlow

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2020 at 4:43 pm

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Here you are, in the role of Kitty Packard, Manhattan trophy wife, dressed by your fellow birthday boy, Adrian, and surrounded by three gay – if not bisexual – men: the directors George Cukor and Edmund Goulding and your co-star Edmund Lowe, who also shares your natal day today, on the set of “Dinner at Eight.”


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It is 1933, your absolute peak as a movie star (the year in which you did two other honeys, “Hold Your Man” and the scintillatingly bawdy satire of your industry, “Bombshell.”) For “Dinner,” MGM gave you the full treatment: you were gleamingly photographed by William Daniels, and art directors Frederick Hope and Hobe Erwin framed you in the most enviable of all movie boudoirs, white on white on white (11 shades in all), inspired by Oliver Messel’s set for “Helen”, produced in London the year before. It helped land you the cover of Time magazine and make you a household name.

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Shot in a breathless two weeks, Cukor polished the comic skills you had evinced the year before – after a somewhat torturous histrionic start in films (your “high-toned” socialite in “The Public Enemy” is almost as funny as your Kitty), in Anita Loos’ “screw you”-to- censorship raunchfest, “Red-Headed Woman” (which brought on the Hays Code). Your scenes with Wallace Beery as a Trumplike boorish asshole of a businessmen were hilarious in their savagery, as was your brutal relationship with your snakelike maid, watchfully played by the serpentine Hilda Vaughn.

Few women on film have ever displayed such brazen, take-no-prisoners charisma, for, although you played a selfish, thoughtless, vain, greedy, adulterous arriviste bitch, the entire world fell in love with you.


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All this, plus you got one of cinema’s greatest closing scenes, although Marie Dressler got the punchline (an insert by Donald Ogden Stewart, which has now, sadly, been rendered virtually moot by present-day cellphones and sex toys).



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