Jean Harlow


03 Mar 1911


Kansas City, Missouri, USA


Harlean Harlow Carpenter


Harlean Carpenter, who later became Jean Harlow, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1911. She was the daughter of a successful dentist and his wife. In 1927, at the age of 16, she ran away from home to marry a young businessman named Charles McGrew, who was 23. The couple pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles, not long after they were married, and it was there Jean found work as an extra in films, landing a bit part in Moran of the Marines (1928). From that point on she would go to casting calls whenever she could. In 1929 she had bit parts in no less than 11 movies, playing everything from a passing woman on the street to a winged ballerina. Her marriage to McGrew turned out to be a disaster--it lasted barely two years--and they divorced. The divorce enabled her to put more of her efforts into finding roles in the movie business. Although she was having trouble finding roles in feature movies, she had more luck in film shorts. She had a fairly prominent role in Hal Roach's Double Whoopee (1929). Her big break came in 1930, when she landed a role in Howard Hughes' World War I epic Hell's Angels (1930), which turned out to be a smash hit. Not long after the film's debut, Hughes sold her contract to MGM for $60,000, and it was there where her career shot to unprecedented heights. Her appearance in Platinum Blonde (1931) cemented her role as America's new sex symbol. The next year saw her paired with Clark Gable in John Ford's Red Dust (1932), the second of six films she would make with Gable. It was while filming this picture (which took 44 days to complete at a cost of $408,000) that she received word that her new husband, MGM producer Paul Bern, had committed suicide. His death threatened to halt production of the film, and MGM chief Louis B. Mayer had even contacted Tallulah Bankhead to replace Harlow if she were unable to continue, a step that proved to be unnecessary. The film was released late in 1932 and was an instant hit. She was becoming a superstar. In MGM's glittering all-star Dinner at Eight (1933) Jean was at her comedic best as the wife of a ruthless tycoon (Wallace Beery) trying to take over another man's (Lionel Barrymore) failing business. Later that year she played the part of Lola Burns in director Victor Fleming's hit Bombshell (1933). It was a Hollywood parody loosely based on Clara Bow's and Harlow's real-life experiences, right down to the latter's greedy stepfather, nine-room Georgian-style home with mostly-white interiors, her numerous pet dogs - right down to having her re-shoot scenes from the Gable and Harlow hit, Red Dust (1932) here! In 1933 Jean married cinematographer Harold Rosson, a union that would only last eight months (although Rosson lived another 53 years, he never remarried). In 1935 she was again teamed with Gable in another rugged adventure, China Seas (1935) (her remaining two pictures with Gable would be Wife vs. Secretary (1936) and Saratoga (1937)). It was her films with Gable that created her lasting legacy in the film world. Unfortunately, during the filming of Saratoga (1937), she was hospitalized with uremic poisoning. On June 7, 1937, she died from the ailment. She was only 26. The film had to be finished by long angle shots using a double. Gable said he felt like he was in the arms of a ghost during the final touches of the film. Because of her death, the film was a hit. Record numbers of fans poured into America's movie theaters to see the film. Other sex symbols/blonde bombshells have followed, but it is Jean Harlow who all others are measured against.

Actor ( 82 credits )

Spisok korabley (2008) China Doll (archive footage)
Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema (2007) Herself (archive footage)
Girl 27 (2007) Herself (archive footage)
History vs. Hollywood (2001)  Herself (1 episode, 2004)
History's Mysteries: Infamous Murders (2001)  Herself (archive footage) (uncredited) (1 episode)
E! Mysteries & Scandals (1998)  Herself (1 episode, 1998)
Betty Boop: Queen of the Cartoons (1995) Herself (archive footage)
That's Entertainment! III (1994) Performer in Clip from 'Dinner at Eight' (archive foota
Intimate Portrait (1993)  Herself (1 episode, 1999)
Only in Hollywood (1991)  Herself (archive footage) (unknown episodes)
The American Experience (1988)  The Public Enemy (archive footage) (1 episode, 2002)
Biography (1987)  Herself (3 episodes, 1993-2001)
Marilyn Monroe: Beyond the Legend (1987) Herself (archive footage)
American Masters (1985)  Herself (2 episodes, 2004-2009)
Going Hollywood: The '30s (1984) (archive footage)
Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage (1983) Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)
Hollywood Greats (1977) (1 episode, 1978)
America at the Movies (1976) Kitty Packard (archive footage)
That's Entertainment, Part II (1976) Clips from 'Dinner at Eight' & 'Reckless' etc. (archive
Hooray for Hollywood (1975) Herself (archive footage)
Brother Can You Spare a Dime (1975) Herself (archive footage)
Arena (1975) (archive footage) (1 episode, 2012)
That's Entertainment! (1974) Clips from 'Reckless' & 'Suzy' (archive footage)
The Further Perils of Laurel and Hardy (1967) (archive footage)
Hollywood My Home Town (1965) Herself (archive footage)
The Love Goddesses (1965) Herself (archive footage)
The Big Parade of Comedy (1964) Ruby in 'Hold Your Man' (archive footage)
The DuPont Show of the Week (1961)  Herself (1 episode, 1962)
The Golden Age of Comedy (1957) (archive footage)
MGM Parade (1955)  Actress 'Dinner at Eight' (1 episode, 1956)
Screen Snapshots Series 25, No. 1: 25th Anniversary (1945) Herself (archive footage)
Some of the Best (1943) Kitty Packard in Dinner at Eight (archive footage) (unc
Screen Snapshots Series 21, No. 2 (1941) (archive footage)
Personality Parade (1938) Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)
Saratoga (1937) Carol Clayton
Personal Property (1937) Crystal Wetherby
The Candid Camera Story (Very Candid) of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures 1937 Convention (1937) Herself (uncredited)
Libeled Lady (1936) Gladys
Suzy (1936) Suzy Trent
Wife vs. Secretary (1936) Whitey
Riffraff (1936) Hattie
China Seas (1935) China Doll
Reckless (1935) Mona Leslie
The Girl from Missouri (1934) Eadie
Hollywood on Parade No. B-1 (1934) Herself (uncredited)
Hollywood on Parade No. B-6 (1934) Herself
Bombshell (1933) Lola Burns
Dinner at Eight (1933) Kitty Packard
Hold Your Man (1933) Ruby
Hollywood on Parade No. A-12 (1933) Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)
Red Dust (1932) Vantine
Red-Headed Woman (1932) Lillian 'Lil' / 'Red' Andrews Legendre
Scarface (1932) Blonde at Paradise Club - Cameo appearance in nightclub
The Beast of the City (1932) Daisy
Three Wise Girls (1932) Cassie Barnes
Screen Snapshots (1932) Herself
Beau Hunks (1931) Jeanie Weenie - in Photo (uncredited)
Platinum Blonde (1931) Ann Schuyler
Goldie (1931) Goldie
Iron Man (1931) Rose Mason
The Public Enemy (1931) Gwen Allen
The Secret Six (1931) Anne
City Lights (1931) Extra in Restaurant Scene (uncredited)
Hell's Angels (1930) Helen
New York Nights (1929) Party Guest (uncredited)
Weak But Willing (1929) Blonde Night Club Patron (uncredited)
This Thing Called Love (1929) Bit Part (uncredited)
The Love Parade (1929) Woman in Opera Box (uncredited)
The Saturday Night Kid (1929) Hazel (uncredited)
Bacon Grabbers (1929) Mrs. Kennedy
Masquerade (1929) Spectator (uncredited) (unconfirmed)
Thundering Toupees (1929)
Double Whoopee (1929) Swanky Blonde
The Unkissed Man (1929) (uncredited)
Close Harmony (1929) (uncredited)
Why Is a Plumber? (1929)
Why Be Good? (1929) Bit Part (uncredited)
Fugitives (1929) Bit Part (uncredited)
Liberty (1929) Woman in Cab (as Harlean Carpenter)
Chasing Husbands (1928) Bathing Beauty (uncredited)
Moran of the Marines (1928) Bit Part (uncredited)
Honor Bound (1928) Extra (uncredited) (unconfirmed)