Jean Harlow

Platinum Blonde (1931)

When a showgirl sues Michael Schuyler (Donald Dillaway), part of a very prominent social family, for breach of promise, reporter Stew Smith (Robert Williams) is sent to cover the story.  The Schuyler family desperately wants to keep the scandal out of the papers, so they try bribing the reporters to not cover the story.  Ann Schuyler (Jean Harlow) also tries to charm him out of running the story, but Stew is one reporter who can’t be bought and runs the story anyway.

After the scandal hits the papers, Stew stops by the Schuyler estate.  Not to apologize, but to return a book he had taken with him while he was there.  Inside of it, he found some love letters the show girl was planning to use to blackmail Michael into giving her more money, and he knew the family would want those back.  Stew knows the difference between news and blackmail and doesn’t want any part of the latter.  Ann offers him a $5,000 reward, but he turns it down and the two of them end up having lunch together.

Ann and Stew get along very well and continue seeing each other.  They very quickly elope, to the shock of everyone, especially Gallagher (Loretta Young), Stew’s best friend and secret admirer.  Ann’s family disapproves of her marrying someone from a lower class, but she reassures them that she’s going to turn him into the perfect gentleman.  Many of Stew’s friends give him a hard time about being a kept man.  He wants Ann to move into his apartment and they can live off of his salary, but instead, they end up living in a wing of the Schuyler family estate and Stew has a very hard time adjusting to Ann’s way of life.

Stew and Ann’s worlds collide during a party the Schuylers throw for a Spanish embassador.  Gallagher is sent to cover the story for the paper and Ann isn’t happy to discover that her husband’s best friend is a woman.  Not only that, when a rival reporter shows up to offer Stew his own column under the condition that he uses the byline “Ann Schuyler’s Husband,” Stew punches the reporter.  Sure enough, the fight lands them on the front page of the paper.

The Schuylers are absolutely horrified by the whole event, but Ann sticks by Stew and encourages him to write a play.  One night, Stew skips one of Ann’s many society events to work on the play.  But when he needs a little inspiration, he invites Gallagher and some of his other friends to come over, and before he knows it, there’s a wild party going on.  Despite all the crazy antics going on around them, Gallagher and Stew manage to come up with the idea of doing a play about his marriage.  However, when the Schuylers come home, they aren’t happy about his little party.  Ann gets into a fight with Stew and he decides he wants out of this marriage.  He ends up back in his old apartment and finishing his play with Gallagher by his side.

I really loved Platinum Blonde, despite its forced ending.  However, the title felt a little inappropriate to me.  The first time I saw it, with a title like that, I was expecting a madcap comedy like Bombshell.  In reality, it’s a smart look at the power of social class differences that’s more on the witty side than the madcap.  Frank Capra’s direction and a strong script serve as a rock-solid foundation for Harlow, Williams, Young, and a delightful supporting cast to bring it to an even higher level.

I absolutely adored Robert Williams in it, who unfortunately died a short time after Platinum Blonde was released.  He only made a handful of movies during his life and showed great promise in Platinum Blonde, it’s really too bad that he didn’t get to have a more prolific film career.

Recasting “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” (2008)

After being fired from her job as a governess, a very straight-laced Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) finds herself deemed unemployable by her employment agency.  But when she hears about a job for a woman named Delysia LaFosse (Amy Adams), she jumps at the chance to get it.  When she arrives at Delysia’s apartment, she expects she will be taking care of children.  Instead, she finds herself taking care of an aspiring actress tangled up in a love triangle.  First there’s the young theater producer, Phil Goldman (Tom Payne), who is putting on a play that Delysia desperately wants the lead in.  She’s trying to keep him interested in her and not her rival Charlotte Warren.  Then there’s Nick Calderelli (Mark Strong), who owns the nightclub Delysia sings at.  He’s the one footing the bill for her lavish apartment and expensive clothes.  And last but not least, there’s Michael (Lee Pace), the piano player who just got out of jail.  He isn’t rich and doesn’t have the influence Nick and Phil do, but he does genuinely love her.

Over the course of one day, Guinevere helps Delysia get out of various messes and Delysia, in turn, helps Guinevere learn to embrace life.  Delysia takes Guinevere to her friend Edythe’s (Shirley Henderson) salon and gives her a makeover.  It turns out that Edythe and Guinevere have a little dirt on each other.  They had bumped into each other on the street the night before Guinevere came to Delysia’s, so Edythe knows Guinevere isn’t really the social secretary Delysia thinks she is.  But Guinevere saw Edythe out with a man who isn’t her lingerie designer boyfriend Joe Blomfield (Ciarán Hinds).  When Delysia takes Guinevere with her to a lingerie show, Guinevere meets Joe for herself and the two of them are instantly attracted to each other.

Although released in 2008, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was actually intended to be made as a movie in 1941.  Originally, it was a novel by Winifred Watson released in 1937, and she later sold the film rights to Universal Studios in 1939.  Universal held on to it for a little while and by 1941, had plans to turn it into a musical starring Billie Burke as Miss Pettigrew.  Watson was very eager to see “Miss Pettigrew…” turned into a movie, but unfortunately, the project was shelved after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  In 1954, Universal renewed the rights to the story, but again, nothing ever became of it.  Watson died in 2002 believing her story would never make it to the silver screen.

The novel was released in 1937, but I wish it had been released just a few years earlier because I think “Miss Pettigrew” would have made a great pre-code had it been around in 1934.  Delysia’s bed-hopping to further her career is hardly a secret, there’s lots of lingerie, and the book contains drug references.  I’m very curious about how Universal planned to get around some of these issues in 1941.  The drug references were gone in the 2008 movie, so those could easily been cut out in 1941, but whitewashing Delysia’s bed-hopping would have definitely been a challenge.  I also would have pegged this for an MGM movie rather than a Universal.

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Beast of the City (1932)

Jim Fitzpatrick (Walter Huston) seems to be living the all-American dream life.  He’s got a wife, children, a nice home, a good job as a police officer, and a close relationship with his brother and fellow cop Ed (Wallace Ford).  Jim takes his job very seriously, especially when it comes to putting an end to organized crime.  When the bodies of some gangsters are found, Jim immediately suspects that notorious gangster Sam Belmonte (Jean Hersholt) is the one responsible.  Sam gets off the hook easily that time, but Jim is determined to come down on him hard.

Jim’s dedication eventually ends up working against him, though, and it gets him transferred to a smaller, quieter district.  Ed, however, continues to keep tabs on Belmonte and one night goes to question Daisy Stevens (Jean Harlow), Belmonte’s stenographer.  She tells Ed that she’s through with Belmonte and the two of them spend the evening getting drunk together and begin having an affair.  Meanwhile, Jim proves to be such a success at his new precinct when he stops a bank robber that he is made chief of police.  Back at his old precinct, Jim’s top priority is breaking up organized crime and starts shutting down speakeasies left and right.  However, he is also determined to not give any officers any unfair advantages.  When Ed asks for a promotion so he could have more money to take Daisy out with, Jim turns him down.  Later that night, he goes out with Daisy and they end up running into Belmonte.  Belmonte gives Ed the chance to earn some extra money by fixing it so he can get his illegal goods into town without getting caught.

The next day, Jim tells Ed that he will be in charge of escorting a large transport of cash.  When Ed tells Daisy about this, she tells one of Belmotne’s associates and they plan to steal the truck.  Daisy tells Ed about the plan and convinces him to go along with it.  The big heist goes down, but unbeknownst to Ed, the truck has been followed by two other officers who chase the thieves down.  When questioned at the station, one of the thieves admits that Ed was in on it, too.  The case goes to trial, and shockingly, all who were involved are found not guilty.  Ed desperately wants to rebuild his relationship with Jim and sever all ties with Belmonte.  Knowing that Belmonte and his gang are all out celebrating their court victory, Ed agrees to go confront Belmonte with Jim and several police officers backing them up.  Of course, Belmonte isn’t willing to go down without a fight and insists on going out in a hail of gunfire.

Beast of the City is a great crime movie.  Super gritty and raw with excellent performances all around (be sure to keep an eye out for a very young Mickey Rooney in a small part as one of Jim’s children).  It’s kind of like The Public Enemy, but from the cops’ perspective.  With so much grit and violence, y0u might think this was a Warner Brothers film, but surprisingly, it was produced by MGM.  That big shoot-out scene at the end of the film was definitely not something you would typically expect of a 1930s MGM film.  Especially since Irving Thalberg didn’t work on it and he was the one who pushed through a lot of MGM’s edgier films during that era.  This movie actually came about when Louis B. Mayer wanted to do a movie that created a positive image of police officers, but then it ended up being so violent that he refused to let it be the top feature in double features, it could only be the second film.  But Beast of the City is definitely top-feature quality.

I picked this one to write about for The Scarlett Olive’s For The Boys blogathon because it’s the complete antithesis of the 1930s MGM women’s picture.  When MGM wanted to appeal to women, they put Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, or Greta Garbo in the lead.  They’d have Adrian come up with some fabulous gowns and have some handsome leading man for them to wind up with.  The last way those movies would end is with a violent bloodbath.  Beast of the City doesn’t really have any female characters for women moviegoers to identify with.  Jean Harlow’s character isn’t exactly the kind of person women would be rooting for.  It doesn’t have a love story, it’s ultimately about the relationship between two brothers.  These aren’t even the kind of men that women would sit in the audience and swoon over.  Although I think women could easily enjoy it, I certainly did, it’s pretty clear that they weren’t expecting women to be lining up for it in 1932.

Be sure to visit The Scarlett Olive for more on movies that mainly appeal to men, be sure to pay them a visit for more contributions.

What’s on TCM: November 2011

If you’re a fan of blonde bombshells, this is the month for you!  Rather than having just one star of the month, TCM will be spotlighting two classic blondes every Monday and Wednesday this month.  All the classic blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, and Jayne Mansfield (just to name a few) will be getting their time to shine.  And in preparation for the TCM Classic Film Cruise, they’ll be playing a night of movies set on ships every Thursday.  Lots of fun stuff to look forward to, so let’s get to my picks for the month:

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Fashion in Film: My 10 Favorite Costumes

10.  Rita Hayworth’s “Put the Blame on Mame” dress from Gilda

On a lot of other women, that gown would have been pretty unremarkable.  But Rita Hayworth had so much charisma in that movie and had such an incredible screen presence that she turned what could have been a forgettable gown into the most iconic costume of her career.

9.  Elizabeth Taylor’s white slip from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

This right here is proof that Elizabeth Taylor could take the simplest garment and turn it into a definitive screen costume.  Nobody worked a white slip better than Elizabeth Taylor.

8.  All of Norma Shearer’s gowns from Marie Antoinette

I’d be very hard pressed to pick just one favorite costume from Marie Antoinette.  Adrian put an enormous amount of time and effort into designing all those exquisite gowns, no detail was overlooked.  They are all works of art.

7.  Debbie Reynolds’ “Good Morning” dress from Singin’ in the Rain.

Plain and simply, she looks absolutely adorable in it.  She had a lot of wonderful costumes in Singin’ in the Rain, but whenever I think about her in that movie, this is the first costume that comes to mind.

6.  Myrna Loy’s striped party dress from The Thin Man

I just think this dress is pure Nora Charles.  It’s fun, but classy.  She looks like the life of the party.

5.  Grace Kelly’s black and white outfit from Rear Window

This just epitomizes Grace Kelly to me.  It is so clean and simple, it’s not bogged down with a lot of accessories or jewelry, but it’s one of the most elegant dresses I’ve ever seen.

4.  Jean Harlow’s party dress from Dinner at Eight


It’s slinky and ridiculously glamorous.  This is Jean Harlow at her finest.

3.  Marlene Dietrich’s tuxedo from Morocco

In an era when women rarely wore pants, Marlene Dietrich went all out and donned a tuxedo.  Not shocking by today’s standards, but it’s no surprise that her tux caused a commotion when Morocco was released in 1930.

2.  Gloria Swanson’s outfit from her first scene in Sunset Boulevard

This outfit tells us right off everything that we need to know about Norma Desmond.  She looks rich, she looks like a movie star, and she’s definitely got some issues.

1.  Charlie Chaplin as The Little Tramp

As far as I’m concerned, this is the most iconic movie costume of all time.  It doesn’t just represent one movie, it represents Chaplin’s entire body of work and it’s a symbol for that whole era of film history.  When you see that hat, the cane, those shoes, that mustache, there’s no mistaking him for anybody else.  Even when people who don’t know silent films try to describe silent films, odds are they’re going to describe Charlie Chaplin and what he wore.

Live Post: The Debbie Reynolds Auction

Even though I’m broke and can’t afford to actually bid on anything in today’s auction, there’s so much amazing stuff up for sale today that I can’t resist trying to follow the auction as best I can.  So I figured I’d try my hand at live blogging and cover the auction the best I can as it happens.  I’m not going to cover every single item up for sale, but I’ll try to keep you updated about some of the more noteworthy items.  So stay tuned, sit back, relax, and live vicariously through other people who can afford to spend insane amounts of money on movie memorabilia.  And I’m just putting it out there right now: I would not be even remotely surprised if Hugh Hefner buys Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch.  A million dollar absentee bid has already been placed on it, so it will definitely be sold for at least that much today.

If you want to follow along with the auction live, just go here, click on “Live Bidding”, then click the option to just watch the auction. There is a live video stream, but no audio.

Updates:

Note – The selling prices I list here don’t include the buyer’s premium.  If you see articles about Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz test costume selling for more than a million, that source factored in the buyer’s premium.

3:12 PM – The first lot, a 1915 35mm Bell and Howell camera just sold for $32,500!

3:16 PM – Rudolph Valentino’s matador suit from Blood and Sand just went for $210,000.

3:19 PM – Mary Pickford’s headpiece from Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall went for $3,250.

3: 21 PM- Francis X. Bushman’s charioteer helmet from 1925’s Ben Hur sold for $30,000!

3:26 PM – Harold Lloyd’s suit and hat went for $4,000!

3:34 PM – Mary Pickford’s gown from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $17,000.

3:36 PM – Lots 17 and 18, both Douglas Fairbanks costumes from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $20,000 and lot 18 didn’t sell.

3:38 PM – One of Charlie Chaplin’s infamous hats went for $110,000!

3:40 PM – A Model T used by Laurel and Hardy sold for $32,500 and a pair of their suits went for $16,000.

3:42 PM – Carole Lombard’s gown from No Man of Her Own sold for $11,000.

3:47 PM – Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra gown went for $40,000.

3:52 PM – Greta Garbo’s gown from Anna Karenina also sold for $40,000!

3:53 PM – Harpo Marx’s hat and wig went for $45,000!

4:10 PM – Lots 42, 43, and 44 are the paintings commissioned by Marion Davies and respectively went for $10,000, $11,000, and $17,000.  These really got the bidders going.

4:17  PM – W.C. Fields’ joke box sold for $35,000.

4:39 PM – Norma Shearer’s purple gown from Romeo and Juliet went for $20,000.

5:04 PM – Now we’re into stuff from The Good Earth and people went nuts for some of the furniture!  The pair of chairs went for $20,000, the opium bed for $20,000, two Paul Muni robes for $4,000 each, Luise Rainer’s shirt for $2,000, the lot of stands and other furniture for $3,500, and Luise Rainer’s jacket for $3,000.

5:13  PM – A gown worn by Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette and Lucille Ball in Du Barry was a Lady sold for $11,000.

5:44 PM – Oh, now we’re into a busy bunch of lots!  First up was Marlene Dietrich’s outfit from “The Boys in the Backroom” number in Destry Rides Again, which went for $8,000, one of Judy Garland’s test costumes from The Wizard of Oz went for $910,000, a test pair of the ruby slippers sold for $510,000, an extra’s jacket from the Emerald City scenes of the Wizard of Oz sold for $22,500, Clark Gable’s dressing robe from the production of Gone With the Wind went for $10,000, and Basil Rathbone’s famous Sherlock Holmes caped overcoat sold for $50,000!

5:54 PM – Vivien Leigh’s suit from Waterloo Bridge sold for $16,000.

6:09 PM – Gary Cooper’s military uniform from Sergeant York went for $55,000.

6:16 PM – A couple of costumes worn by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the satin jockey shirt went for $27,500 and the clown outfit sold for $15,000.

6:19 PM – Not so fast, Louis!  A suit worn by Claude Rains in Casablanca sold for $55,000!

6:53 PM – Took a dinner break and missed another busy bunch of lots!  Elizabeth Taylor’s riding outfit from National Velvet went for $60,000, Judy Garland’s “Under the Bamboo Tree” dress from Meet Me in St. Louis sold for $16,000, Judy’s dress from the snowman building scene in Meet Me in St. Louis went for $10,000, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra’s sailor suits from Anchors Aweigh went for $27,500 and $15,000 respectively.

7:00 PM – $22,500 for Joan Crawford’s waitress uniform from Mildred Pierce and $5,000 for Ann Blyth’s Mildred Pierce suit.

7:05 PM – Edmund Gwenn’s Santa suit from Miracle on 34th Street just sold for $22,500.

8:12 PM – The gold lame dress worn by Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway went for $8,000.

8:51 PM – The chiffon robe worn by Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire sold for $18,000.  Then it went into a bunch of items from An American in Paris with Leslie Caron’s peacock dress from the fantasy ballet number for $15,000, Nina Foch’s white halter gown from a party scene for $3,000, and a showgirl costume from the Stairway to Paradise number for $1,100.

9:05 PM – We have reached the Singin’ in the Rain part of the auction.  First were the green and white checked suits worn by Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly, $8,000 and $14,000 respectively.  Jean Hagen’s Marie Antoinette-esque dress sold for $5,500 and Gene Kelly’s period costume went for $9,000.  Debbie’s green and white leaf print dress went for $15,000, Gene Kelly’s jacket from the Broadway Melody Ballet number went for $6,500, Jean Hagen’s black and white fur coat went for $6,000, Donald O’Connor’s “Good Morning” suit didn’t sell, Cyd Charisse’s white Broadway Melody Ballet outfit for $7,000, and Debbie’s “Good Morning” dress went for $27,500.  A pink dress worn by Gwen Carter sold for $3,750, and a bunch of costumes from the “Beautiful Girl” montage brought $5,500.

9:22 PM – Now we’re getting into some of the Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn-related items.  First up is Marilyn’s red “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which brought $1.2 million!  Then came the feathered hat worn by Jane Russell when she impersonates Loreli Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that sold for $4,250.  Lauren Bacall’s wedding dress from How to Marry a Millionaire went for $8,000 and the car used by Marilyn and Cary Grant in Monkey Business sold for $210,000.

9:48 PM – A lot of two safari outfits worn by Grace Kelly in Mogambo sold for $47,500.  A Winchester rifle used by Clark Gable in Mogambo brought in $15,000.

10:00 PM – A couple more from Marilyn Monroe.  The gold dress from River of No Return went for $510,000 and her costume from the “Heat Wave” number in There’s No Business Like Show Business brought in $500,000!

10:52 PM – After a little break, we’re back with the dress everyone’s been waiting for — the infamous Marilyn Monroe white subway dress from The Seven Year Itch.  I fully expected bidding to be out of control for this one and I wasn’t disappointed.  It brought in an astonishing $4.6 million!

11:03 PM – Now we’ve got a couple from To Catch a Thief.  A coat worn by Cary Grant brought in $15,000 and an outfit worn by Grace Kelly earned a jaw dropping $450,000!

11:41 PM – A couple of dresses worn by Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember brought in $6,000 and $11,000.

12:17 AM – One of Lana Turner’s dresses from Peyton Place sold for $4,250.

12:22 AM – Lot number 407 is rather unique because it includes things worn by both Kim Novak and Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey.  It went for $6,500.

12:29 AM – Leslie Caron’s iconic plaid schoolgirl outfit from Gigi went for $65,000.

12:40 AM – Charlton Heston’s tunic and cape from Ben Hur could have been yours for the low, low price of $320,000!

1:32 AM – Marlon Brando’s naval outfit from Mutiny on the Bounty just brought in $90,000!

2:12 AM – Elizabeth Taylor’s famous headdress from Cleopatra went for $100,000 and Richard Burton’s tunic, cape, and sword brought in $85,000.

Oh, who cares what time it is anymore?  Yes, I’m still going!  Aren’t these people tired and broke yet?!  Janet Leigh’s yellow fringed dress from Bye Bye Birdie fetched $3,750 and Bette Davis’ blood stained dress from Hush, Hush…Sweet Charlotte sold for $11,000.

Another big item to watch tonight was Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady.  I fully expected it to exceed the $200,000-$300,000 and it sure did.  It went up to $3.7 million!

I would say that the hills are alive with the sound of music, but at this time of night, I’m pretty sure that’s a noise ordinance violation.  Julie Andrews’ guitar went for $140,000, her jumper from the “Do Re Mi” number for $550,000, her turquoise and green dress for $45,000, the peasant dress went for $42,500, and a pair of the Trapp children’s outfits sold for $35,000.

And at long last we have reached the Barbara Streisand part of the auction.  First from Funny Girl is her costume from “I’d Rather Be Blue” for $65,000, a lot of the other roller skating costumes for $2,500, the black velvet dress from “My Man” for $16,000, a bunch of stuff worn by the Ziegfeld girls in the “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” number for $7,500, Anne Francis’ silk dress for $1,800, and Kay Medford’s beaded shawl for $1,400.

A jacket worn by Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid brought $8,500 and a dress worn by Katharine Ross went for $16,000.

And back to Streisand.  The purple Hello, Dolly dress went for $55,000 and the gold dress for $100,000.  Surprised the gold dress went for that little, that’s how much it cost to make that dress back in the day.

You’ll be fascinated to know that a shirt worn in the cinematic masterpiece known as Grease 2 sold for $475.

We have finally made it to the final segment of posters/portraits!  The title cards for Blind Husbands fetched $2,000, the lot of three Gloria Swanson title/lobby cards sold for $1,200, the portrait of Gloria Swanson went for $8,500, the lot of two Mabel Normand lobby cards for $800, the pair of silent title/lobby cards for $1,600, the lobby card for Lon Chaney’s The Penalty for $1,700, and the lobby card for Chaplin’s The Idle Class for $1,600.  The portrait of Jean Harlow went for $11,000!

Now it’s high time I called it a night!  Good night everybody!

Win a copy of Harlow in Hollywood!

I promise, this will be my last Jean Harlow post for a while!  But how would you like a chance to win a copy of the new book “Harlow in Hollywood”?  And not just any regular old copy of the book, but a copy signed by authors Darrell Rooney and Mark Viera!  If this sounds up your alley, then you’re in luck because DearMrGable.com is giving one away to one lucky person!  All you have to do is head on over here and tell everyone what your favorite Clark Gable/Jean Harlow movie is.  Contest ends on March 27th and good luck to anyone who enters!

Bombshell (1933)


It isn’t easy being a silver screen sensation!  Lola Burns (Jean Harlow) sure knows how hard it can be, she can’t go anywhere without someone wanting something from her.  She gets up in the morning and realizes that her fleet of cars is being used by everyone but her.  Then there’s her freeloading lush of a  father (Frank Morgan) who stays out all night and comes home still drunk from the night before.  Her father’s always hitting her up for money to bail her brother (Ted Healy) out of his gambling debts in Tijuana.  When she shows up at the studio for work, she’s greeted by fans wanting autographs, which she’ll gladly sign.  And then there’s E.J. Hanlon (Lee Tracy), the head of the publicity department, who never tires of concocting scandals about Lola to feed to the press.  It’s exhausting just trying to keep up with all these demands!

Deep down, Lola is ready to quit the movies and just be a normal woman.  After Hanlon comes up with a particularly ridiculous scandal for Lola, she writes to the studio head and threatens to quit if Hanlon isn’t fired.  In an attempt to make Lola think he’s truly sorry, he arranges an interview for her with Ladies Home Companion magazine to give her a chance to show her domestic side.  After talking to the woman from Ladies Home Companion, Lola really starts to feel maternal and heads down to the orphanage to look into adoption.  She finds a baby boy she’d like to adopt and sets up an appointment for people from the orphanage to come visit her at home.  Lola desperately wants to make a good impression, but Hanlon personally sees to it that their meeting is a total disaster.  He not only sends a bunch of reporters to her house, he also sends over a couple of Lola’s rival lovers over at the same time.

After a huge fight breaks out, Lola decides she’s had enough of everybody.  She announces she’s quitting the movies and sneaks away to a resort out in the desert.  But she soon finds out there’s no escape from Hanlon, who manages to track her down.  While she’s out horseback riding, she meets Gifford Middleton (Franchot Tone), who comes from a wealthy family in Boston.  He’s not into the movies, so he’s totally oblivious to who she is and her reputation.  Lola quickly falls in love with him and agrees to marry him.  Just as she’s ready to meet his very proper family, her father and brother show up at the resort.  Lola warns them to be on their best behavior, but of course, that doesn’t happen.  Then when the Middletons find out who she is, they want nothing to do with her and Lola is so furious that she decides to return to the screen out of spite!

Bombshell is generally regarded as one of Jean Harlow’s signature movies, but for me, it fell just a tad flat.  I love that Jean was game for making fun of herself and I think it was pretty bold of her to be in a movie that made fun of her own freeloading relatives.  I can’t help but think that she probably enjoyed living through her character in the scene where Lola tells off her parasitic family and staff.  Jean was good in this movie, but I felt the movie was sort of overtaken by the supporting cast.  Frank Morgan was particularly awesome as Lola’s father, but then when Lola’s brother comes into the picture and Frank gets to do some scenes with Ted Healy, they made an excellent pair of leeches.  And who can forget Lola’s pack of sheepdogs always being led in at the most inopportune times?  Bombshell is a screwball comedy through and through, so it goes without saying that it’s fast-paced and zany.  It’s one of those movies that movies that I had to watch a couple of times to catch everything that happens.

Overall, if you’re a Jean Harlow fan, Bombshell is definitely required viewing.  I didn’t think it was bad, just a little overrated.  It was funny, but Libeled Lady was a better comedy as a whole.

Wife Vs. Secretary (1936)

Van Stanhope (Clark Gable) seems to have it all: he’s a very successful magazine publisher, he’s been very happily married to Linda (Myrna Loy) for three years, and he’s got Whitey (Jean Harlow), the best secretary he could ever want.  Most wives would be worried about their husbands having secretaries who look like Whitey, but Linda trusts Van completely and she has every reason to.  At least she trusts him until all the suggestions from friends and family that Whitey must be one of those secretaries finally start to get to her.  But Linda isn’t the only one jealous of Van and Whitey’s working relationship.  Whitey’s boyfriend Dave (James Stewart) wants to marry her, but she loves her job and doesn’t want to quit to stay at home.

When Van decides to take on a new business venture, he has to keep it top secret from everyone, including Linda.  Whitey is the only person who knows what’s going on.  So when he says he’s been at a club all afternoon one day, Linda does a little investigating and finds out he wasn’t at the club all day, he was with Whitey.  Linda begins to fear that all those insinuations were right after all, she has no idea that he and Whitey were working together on the new business deal.  Things get even worse when at a company skating party, Linda thinks Van and Whitey look like a little too friendly and she asks Van to transfer Whitey to a new job.  Van refuses and Linda eventually decides she’s being ridiculous and Van promises to take her on vacation soon to make it up to her.

But just when Linda thinks they’re going to leave for vacation, Van has to go to Havana on business and can’t bring Linda along.  This was upsetting enough, but she is pushed to the breaking point when she calls him in Havana at two in the morning and Whitey answers his phone.  Whitey had to join Van in Havana at the last minute to take care of important business.  Even though there are hints of a mutual attraction between the two of them after they have a few drinks together, nothing happens.  But, of course, Linda assumes the worst and when Van returns, she asks for a divorce.  Van is devastated and begins to get a little too friendly with Whitey.  Even though Whitey likes the attention, she knows her boss well enough to know what he really needs and makes a last ditch attempt to get Linda to stay with Van.

Wife Vs. Secretary is a very smart movie.  Even though the title may conjure up images of Myrna Loy comically sneaking around, following Clark Gable and Jean Harlow around by peering in through office windows and hiding behind menus at restaurants in an attempt to spy on them, it’s far more subtle than that.  Clark Gable was often downright hilarious and both Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow gave very thoughtful performances.  Myrna’s character went through a whole gamut of emotions during the movie and she played each one very naturally.  It didn’t matter if her character was happy and engaging in witty banter or absolutely heartbroken, she handled it all like the pro she was.

At the time, Jean was working to try to soften her image a little bit so she really wanted to play something different from some of her past roles.  This wasn’t the first time she played a secretary, but Whitey is the polar opposite of Lil in Red Headed Woman.  Whitey’s not the type to keep her boss’ picture in her garter, she has no intention of breaking up anyone’s marriage, and she’s no gold digger.  She’s just a good-natured gal who loves her job and cares about her boss, but not indecently.  She really did seem like the kind of girl who would go for a Jimmy Stewart type.  Red Headed Woman is one of my favorite Jean Harlow movies, but I think she played Whitey just as well as she played Lil. Speaking of Jimmy Stewart, this was one of his first movies, but he already showed a lot of promise as that very down-to-earth type of guy that he’d become best known for playing.

I loved pretty much everything about Wife Vs. Secretary.  They couldn’t have asked for a better cast, I loved Clarence Brown’s direction, and I loved the writing.  With a story like this, it could have easily gone down a more over-the-top route and turned into an all-out screwball comedy.  But the subtlety of the writing gave the actors the perfect opportunity to take over and really make it great.  With a lesser cast, this movie would have been completely forgettable.  Instead, it’s a real gem.

Fun Fact: Wife Vs. Secretary was first released on February 28, 1936 so this review was published on the 75th anniversary of the movie’s release.

To read more of the Jean Harlow Blogathon contributions, head over to The Kitty Packard Pictorial!

 

What’s on TCM: March 2011

Ah, March.  March always feels like a bit of a slow month just because it’s hard to keep up the kind of momentum that 31 Days of Oscar has.  But it’s always been a little bit of a welcome lull to me since 31 Days of Oscar can be such a marathon.  But there are still definitely some big highlights to look forward to this month.  Namely, I’m most looking forward to Jean Harlow as Star of the Month.  If you’ve been wanting to see more of her movies, now is the perfect time because TCM will be playing nearly all of her most important movies.  Also worth noting is that instead of having just one guest programmer this month, there will be many.  On Mondays and Thursdays this month, prime time will consist of movies chosen by TCM employees and they have made a lot of very excellent choices.  Now, with no further ado, let’s get onto my highlights for the month!

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