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Blonde Bombshells


path40a
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Hopefully this is a new topic;-)

 

I put this together some time ago but don't think I shared it with y'all. You might enjoy reading it:

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What is it about these particular women? All three were successful blonde actresses of their time, they were sex symbols that played ditzy characters, each was linked personally and/or professionally with both Clark Gable and William Powell, and all three died tragically, prematurely. Of course, it is in part because they died prematurely that we remember them so fondly - there are no pictures, images, or memories of them as old, uncompelling, or unattractive.

 

Jean Harlow, perhaps the first and arguably the stereotype's yardstick, starred in several memorable films. One was a recent viewing for me - Red Dust (1932) featuring Clark Gable, with whom she starred in several films. It's a terrific love triangle comedy with Mary Astor as "the lady". Harlow showed her comic flair playing "the floozy" and the film made her a star. Another of hers is Dinner at Eight (1933) which features many of the great actors of the 30's including John & Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, and Billie Burke. It's a story about social climbing, with Beery & Harlow portraying a "new money" couple trying to gain acceptance in high society. One of my more recent viewings was Bombshell (1933). Harlow plays a starlet whose fame and wealth are being milked by her family and friends. Apparently, this fictional role was similar to her own true story (e.g. her wannabe mother used "Jean" to gain entrance to Hollywood). The first film that I saw which featured Ms. Harlow is also perhaps her best, Libeled Lady (1936) starring Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and William Powell. Powell subsequently became Harlow's real life love interest until her unfortunate death at the age 26 (uremic poisoning - caused by the platinum used to color her hair?).

 

Carole Lombard actually had a very long film career but didn't really make much of a splash until she was 28 and starred in My Man Godfrey (1936) with William Powell (whom ironically Lombard had divorced three years before they made this film together). This is the film for which she received an Oscar nomination (the film received six, though not for Best Picture). It's a delightful film about a dizzy socialite (Lombard) who hires a "forgotten man" (Powell). Another of her starring roles which I've seen is Made for Each Other (1939) with Jimmy Stewart. It's about two people who marry after only just meeting and the turmoil that follows (mother-in-law, job loss, birth of a baby, etc.) before they predictably fulfill "the title of the movie". Lombard married Clark Gable that same year. She also has the distinction of being in Alfred Hitchcock's only (?) comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) with Robert Montgomery, a forgettable film he "directed" for her (a close friend of his) so that she could say she had been in a Hitchcock film. Ironically, these were short-lived bragging rights. My most recent viewing of Ms. Lombard was in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942). It's a fabulous film, also starring Jack Benny and Robert Stack, about a troupe of actors playing spy games with the Nazis. It was recently featured as "an essential" on TCM. The film was released after her life was cut short (she was only 33) in a fatal plane crash.

 

NOTE: Subsequent to writing this, I saw Nothing Sacred (1937), a film she made with Frederic March which is pretty funny if a little overdone.

 

Marilyn Monroe played some juicy bit parts in a couple of 1950 "Great Movies", The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve , before she really made a name herself in 1953 (the year her nude calendar appeared in Playboy) starring in Gentleman Prefer Blondes with Jane Russell and How to Marry a Millionaire, with William Powell. Both of these flicks are similar - flimsy "plots" yet enjoyable to watch for other, obvious reasons. However The Seven Year Itch (1955), about fantasy infidelity with her married neighbor (Tom Ewell), is actually a pretty good movie in its own right. It also contains the famous "dress blown above her waist" scene. In fact, it is perhaps her best film besides Some Like It Hot (1959), although I haven't seen her critically acclaimed performance in Bus Stop, which was released the year she married Arthur Miller (1956). Monroe's connection to Clark Gable was her last completed film, The Misfits (1961). Although I also haven't seen this one, Gable is reported to have said "Christ, I'm glad this picture's finished. She [Monroe] damn near gave me a heart attack" on the last day of filming and the next day suffered a massive heart attack from which he died 11 days later. As for Norma Jean, she "died in the nude" of an overdose at the age of 36.

 

NOTE: Subsequent to writing this, I did see The Misfits which is an O.K. film thanks to Thelma Ritter and post accident Montgomery Clift.

 

There certainly have been other "Blonde Bombshells" through the years, but few have captured our imagination as these three standard bearers did. In doing my research, I was fascinated by the similarities between them: their lives, careers, and the eerie connection they shared with two specific actors ... aren't you?

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One of my favorite blonde bombshells is Betty Grable who also had those million dollar legs. She was a sweet and appealing entertainer (although not a great singer) in all those 20th Century-Fox films that she made. Paired with Tyrone Power, John Payne, Dan Dailey (my dad was in the service with him), Victor Mature in an unusal drama "I Wake up Screaming" and other leading men she was one of a kind.

Another gorgeous blonde is co-star Marion Martin who spiced up many "B" films and some "A" productions. She appeared in "The Big Street" with Lucille Ball and in one of my favorites "Lady of Burlesque" with Stanwyck. Not only was she a swell lookin' dame, she was BUILT (naturally). Stars like that are hard to come by these days.

 

Mongo

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Ah yes, the wig! So that's how she qualifies! Wuz wundrin' 'bout that! I've known from past posts that Stanwyck is one of your top favorites, she's pretty high on my list, too!

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Path I had to go back and see the way you phrased "personal and/or professional" (relationships with Gable). While knowing that he died right after "The Misfits", I had never heard his opinion of Monroe. (the quote you cited). Wonder what he meant by that??

 

And guys there's a great thread in the Archives about Stanwyck Stuff, in the Double Indemnity topic, although I've only been there once. (I got in & couldn't get back up! Kinda scary "down there")

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Yeah, from what I heard, Monroe caused Gable a lot of grief during the making of The Misfits. Stressed him out good.

 

By the way, Stlgal, is it scary "down there"? I have no trouble getting back up.

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Actually antar I didn't qualify Stanwyck for a blonde bombshell in my post (I thought you did). When I was praising blonde bombshell Marion Martin I noted that she was in "Lady of Burlesque" WITH Stanwyck. Sorry for the confusion.

Come to think of it though I believe Stanwyck was a blonde in some of her early films.

 

Mongo

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Oh, I see! Ooops!

 

I guess Stanwyck could be considered a "dirty" blonde in some of her films, but that wouldn't count for "Blonde Bombshell" status, would it?

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Path, thank you for your research and for sharing it with us. As always, it was well written, and informative. I agree that it really is interesting that all three of the women you mentioned were connected with Clark Gable, or William Powell. It seems such a shame to me that so many people who worked with Marilyn Monroe in her last few years, really got put off by her unprofessional behaviors. And, it surprises me, too...considering how much she wanted to be recognized as a "professional actress", and not merely a "sex object".

 

Harlow and Lombard's endings were more tragic, in my estimation. What promise each of them had, but to die so young.

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

I agreement with the assessment of these three sex symbols. The notion that Jean Harlow died of uremic poisoning cause by platinum hair dye is NONSENSE. Where did you read this? Uremic poisoning was caused by Jean's kidneys shutting down due to a viral infection she contracted as a youngster. Sadly, there is so much obfuscation surrounding Jean's death, that this has caused many to go overboard. I would recommened David Stenn's "Bombshell" if anyone is interested in a good accurate Harlow bio on her short life.

 

Reg

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> So you were referring to the way Marion Martin was

> built? Okay, oopsie! Well, I STILL like the way

> Stanwyck was built; my idea of an ideal figure.

 

 

 

I like her figure too, and Joan Crawford's. I like the way they both had those "low slung" behinds(Edith Head, the designer,talks about it in her book)-they looked very Art Deco streamlined,and looked great in clothes.They could have been models for some of those Art Deco figurines!

 

 

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regman, thanks for your kind words.

 

WRT the uremic poisoning, I watched a "biography" of Ms. Harlow (either on the Biography channel or on TCM?) which said that was how/why she died. I assumed it was true without researching it further ... sorry.

 

Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll see if I can find it.

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OK who watched blonde bombshell Kim Novak on Larry King Live last night? She looked just fine for a woman who will be 71 next month and that voice is still divine.

It was a candid interview about her husbands, flings, films, likes and dislikes. She actually didn't prefer to have children and has a great love for animals especially horses (also had a pet snake). She regretted passing on the role that Piper Laurie was Oscar nominated for in "The Hustler" since she felt who would be interested in a movie about playing pool. Jack Lemmon passed on the Paul Newman role since he thought the same reason.

Scenes from "Picnic", "The Man With the Golden Arm", "Kiss Me Stupid", "Pal Joey", "Vertigo" etc were shown. She adored Hitchcock as well as most of her leading men Sinatra, Holden, Lemmon, Tyrone Power and especially James Stewart.

She took calls from her fans and answered all questions to their satisfaction.

A nostalgic interview indeed and kudos to Larry King for presenting this magic hour which often feature stars of the golden age of movies.

Other than her precious animals she loves to paint and sculpture. The former blonde movie actress likes to keep busy. It was nice seeing Kim Novak again in all her glory.

 

Mongo

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I watched Kim Novak last night on Larry King, thanks to your heads up, mongo. I always liked her work in Vertigo and Bell, Book, and Candle, but after watching that wonderful interview, I also admire her as a human being now, too. I appreciated her kind words about Sammy Davis Jr.--he has been one of my favorites since childhood. She is a gracious, kind, and beautiful lady. I now need to see some of her films that I haven't seen like Picnic and The Man With The Golden Arm.

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