Clark Gable, the lucky stiff, acted with Jean Harlow in six movies over the course of her career.
Thursday, April 5, 2012

Harlow in Hollywood

The book Harlow in Hollywood says that it’s about both Harlow and the place Hollywood, but it is in fact mostly about Harlow.

There are other Harlow biographies out there, but this one is graced by a large number of pictures that show Harlow at her best.

What we learn is that Jean was controlled and preyed upon her by mother and her loathsome step-father. She may have been raped as young as nine or ten, and that she was forced into two abortions by her predatory mother.

Had she been able to cut herself off from her mother and step-father she would have been better off, and might have lived longer.

The men in her life, including William Powell, did not appreciate her. Like a later sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, she was abused by the men in her life who were not capable of appreciating her gifts. She apparently did not graduate from high school, but she was interested in reading, and apparently, like Marilyn, read a variety of “intellectual” and “cultural” books.

Despite being a Christian Scientist Jean’s mother was not reluctant to insist that she have four wisdom teeth extracted simultaneously. Harlow had a case of scarlet fever when she was a teenager, a disease which can weaken the kidneys and make you susceptible to nephritis. The operation on Harlow’s mouth resulted in an infection that left her weak, and she developed nephritis. Rather than proper treatment, diuretics to flush the kidneys, she was treated with additional fluids by her doctor. As a result of this medical abuse she worsened and died.

She appears to have had considerable talent in comedy, a decent mind, and a lovely body. She was not used well by her mother, or by the men in her life, and she died far too soon.

One glaring fault of the book, and it’s noted in one of the Amazon reviews, is that the gold on white captions and page numbers are hard to read. The text is fairly pedestrian in terms of literary quality, but I wanted it more for the pictures than anything else.

Next up, Decision Points, by one of the great presidents of these here United States.