Jean Harlow (who is Jean Harlow?)

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Jean Harlow, born Harlean Harlow Carpenter on March 3, 1911, in Kansas City, Missouri, was an American film actress and sex symbol of the 1930s. Known for her platinum blonde hair and comedic talent, Harlow became one of Hollywood's biggest stars before her life and career were tragically cut short by her untimely death at the age of 26.

Early Life and Family:

Harlow was born to a dentist father, Mont Clair Carpenter, and a socialite mother, Jean Poe Harlow Carpenter. Her mother, after whom she was named, was extremely interested in movies and showbiz, which influenced Harlow's future choices. The family's circumstances and Harlow's early life were marked by her parents' troubled marriage and subsequent divorce.

Career Beginnings:

Harlow moved to Los Angeles with her mother after her parents’ divorce and eventually married a young businessman named Charles McGrew at the age of 16. Her marriage soon ended, and it was around this time that Harlow's career in Hollywood began to take shape. She started with bit parts and extra roles in films and was eventually signed by producer Hal Roach.

Rise to Stardom:

Her big break came in 1930 when she landed a role in Howard Hughes' World War I epic Hell's Angels. The movie made her an international star and was especially well-known for her line, "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?". Following this, she signed with MGM, which was where she made most of her films.

Throughout the early 1930s, Harlow solidified her stardom with performances in hits such as Platinum Blonde (1931), Red Dust (1932) with Clark Gable, and Dinner at Eight (1933). Working with top directors and actors, she became renowned for her bubbly, sexy persona and her ability to play both dramatic and comedic roles with ease.

Personal Life:

Harlow's personal life was the subject of much public interest and scrutiny. She married a total of three times, with each marriage ending in divorce or, tragically, in the case of her third husband, MGM producer Paul Bern, apparent suicide. Her relationships and the gossip they generated were a significant aspect of her fame.

Health Issues and Death:

Jean Harlow's health began to deteriorate during the filming of Saratoga in 1937. She was suffering from uremic poisoning and acute renal failure, though the true nature of her illness was not completely understood at the time. Harlow died on June 7, 1937, and her death was a huge shock to the industry and her fans.


Despite her brief career, Jean Harlow left an indelible mark on Hollywood. She is remembered not only for her performances but also for her distinctive looks and personality that made her the original "Blonde Bombshell". Her style influenced fashion trends, and her persona paved the way for future generations of actresses.

For those looking to learn more about Jean Harlow, there are numerous biographies and film histories detailing her life and career. Resources like Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira provide an in-depth look at her impact on the entertainment industry.

Additionally, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) often features Harlow's films in their programming, giving new audiences a chance to experience her work. Her films can also be found on various streaming platforms, allowing for the preservation and celebration of her career.

For further reading and exploration, the following resources may prove useful:

Jean Harlow remains a significant figure in the history of cinema, and her life continues to fascinate fans and scholars alike.

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