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FredCDobbs

Jean Harlow was a fine actress

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I?m watching her right now in ?Three Wise Girls? and I think she is a great actress.

 

Of course we are used to her being so cute and sassy, but I think she was generally a very good actress. I think maybe her best work was in ?Red Dust?.

 

What is everyone else?s opinion about her?

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In the right role she was very natural and engaging and, ultimately, believable. That, to me,

is the highest and best to shoot for as an actor or actress.

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I think Harlow became a fine actress. There was a definite, rather amazing, transformation between 1931 and 1932. She was sassy and sexy. She had a flair for comedy and she could also be vulnerable and gain your sympathy, and as Miss Goddess pointed out, she could make you believe it.

 

*Three Wise Girls* was a revelation. I was expecting a comedy but it was really a drama with Harlow playing a nice, but not particularly naive small town girl, despite Mae Clarke?s line about her still believing in Santa Claus. On the contrary that may have been Mae?s problem. I was really impressed with her subdued yet thoughtful portrayal. I really liked her character and rooted for her to succeed. This was released very early in 1932 and is simply miles away from her fairly stilted performance in *Platinum Blonde* which was released just a few months earlier. Harlow just wasn't cut out to play high class society dames.

 

I haven?t seen all of her early films but it doesn?t appear Harlow was ever what you would call dumb. She was too wise to the ways of the world. In *Red-Headed Woman* she hatches a plan and sees it through. In *Red Dust*, which may indeed be her best performance, she is a down on her luck "bad" girl, who drives Gable to distraction with her carefree sexuality, but also with her rather detailed knowledge of the process for making cheese. It's just something she picked up a long the way.

 

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*Gable and Harlow burn up the screen in Red Dust. When I was kid looking at film books, it was images like this that drove me to seek out these older films.*

 

 

There are scenes in *Red Dust* where she absolutely smolders with sexuality. When she stares out the doorway during the storm, she pierces the screen with her platinum blonde hair blowing from her face and those glaring eyes, yet in the famous rain barrel scene she is fresh faced and playful in the way she both chides and tempts Gable.

 

They were a great pair. As in *Red Dust*, in *China Seas*, Gable makes a play for the more socially acceptable Russell character but it is Harlow that is his true soul mate. Even in their final film *Saratoga*, when Harlow was so ill, you could see that they had grown comfortable as a screen duo. They just seemed to like each other (which they did) and I think they might have gone on to make some other great comedies if she had lived. They really complimented one another and she was a great match for his screen persona.

 

In *Dinner at Eight*, she and Marie Dressler share one of the all time great exit scenes in film history, but it is her going head to head with Wallace Beery in those fight scenes that really standout for me.

 

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*Harlow and Dressler in a legendary scene from Dinner at Eight.*

 

In comedies like *Bombshell* and *Libeled Lady* she is a delight, though in the former she is so caught up in the histrionics of what could be viewed as a parody of her own life, that she comes off a little too silly sometimes.

 

In *Hold Your Man* with Gable again, her character goes through a transition. The film starts out as a typical and therefore enjoyable pre-code outing, with the two of them playing so well off each other, but later during the prison scenes, Harlow becomes more subdued and gains our sympathy as a gal who has had some bad breaks but is basically good at heart.

 

In *Wife vs. Secretary*, we see Harlow in probably her most unique role. Her hair darkened, her temperament toned down, she is given a chance to play a role where she is sympathetic, smart and "on the ball" as Gable's personal secretary. The film goes in a different direction than audiences at the time may have been expecting. It is Harlow, not Myrna Loy's wife that tends to gain our sympathy. She is a gal trying to make it on her own. She has her own unique problems and her own unique relationships to deal with, despite her loyalty to Gable and her work. It's a good film with a lot of nuance and complex emotion in the different characters.

 

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*Harlow and Loy in Wife vs. Secretary.*

 

Had she lived, she may have made *In Old Chicago* at Fox and went on to do *Topper* with Grant. Who knows what she might have done but I feel fairly certain she would have found her niche and remained popular at least through the war years.

 

I'm sorry.

 

What was the question? :)

 

Oh yes, I think she was a charming personality, who developed into a great talent. She proved her flexibility in adapting to changing standards and the restrictions placed on her by the code, and she died while she was still on top, a shocking and sad loss. More than seventy years after her death, she is still remembered by many people outside of classic film circles, as the original platinum blonde bombshell. In truth, she was much more than that. She remains an important piece in that great jigsaw puzzle of film history that makes watching classic films such a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

 

Message was edited by: molo14

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Molo, that was a fine essay.

 

You need to have it published somewhere on the internet.

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I'm just watching parts of Three Wise Girls as it records, and I can see that this is certainly a fine showcase for Harlow. I feel bad for somehow allowing the stereotype about her to prevail in my mind for so long. It just goes to show that sometimes actors can be terribly underrated, especially when they're very attractive.

 

I can't wait to watch this one all the way through.

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There were 2 movies that I can recall that I liked Jean in, and they were "SUZY" and her last film, "Saratoga"...She wasn't the brassy, loud mouthed person that they seemed to cast her in...especially in "Libeled Lady"...I could see now, MGM was originally going to cast her in the series that Ann Sothern made popular, "Maisie". She was also her original self in those movies..a redhead...Then they dyed her hair a stupid Plantinium..and I lost interest then. Not her fault, the great MGM studios fault.

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She is best, in my opinion, in *Dinner at Eight* and *Red Dust* , and also *Bombshell* --- I think the heightened "silliness" is appropriate in a movie where publicists hire actors to romance and then jilt their celebrity clients.

 

But really, I like her in everything --- not so great in *Saratoga* , but she was seriously ill.

 

If I had to pick a "least favorite," probably *Suzy* , but it's not a bad movie, it's just no *Libeled Lady* .

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I love Jean. What a tragedy to lose her so young. I like her best in *Platinum Blonde* and *Libeled Lady* although she is fantastic in *Dinner at Eight* as well.

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Her best films : Red-Headed Woman , Red Dust , Bombshell , Dinner At Eight and Hold Your Man.

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I agree with both of you completely, She has always been a favorite of mine, and I love the eight movies both of you mentioned, as her best.

 

Message was edited by: allaboutlana

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I located my old TCM tapes of *Personal Property* and *Suzy* and just transferred them over to dvd. It will be interesting to take another look at these two. It's been a long time since I last saw them. I don't know when the last time was that TCM showed Suzy, but judging from Robert Osborne's appearance in the introduction, it's been quite a while.

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You could always request it in TCM, don't know if it would do any good..I've requested movies that are rarely shown and so far ignored. Suzy was not a great film, but in my view her best...she was a downtoearth girl, not the tough, brassy broad that she displayed in most of her other movies. Also, i liked her in "Wife vs Secretary"...cause she was the girl next door type...not the plantinuim phoney mgm made of her.

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On Friday, July 10, 2009 at 1:04 PM, FredCDobbs said:

I?m watching her right now in ?Three Wise Girls? and I think she is a great actress.

 

Of course we are used to her being so cute and sassy, but I think she was generally a very good actress. I think maybe her best work was in ?Red Dust?.

 

What is everyone else?s opinion about her?

 

On Friday, July 10, 2009 at 1:04 PM, FredCDobbs said:

I?m watching her right now in ?Three Wise Girls? and I think she is a great actress.

 

Of course we are used to her being so cute and sassy, but I think she was generally a very good actress. I think maybe her best work was in ?Red Dust?.

 

What is everyone else?s opinion about her?

Harlow was beautiful with a good mix of sassy and sultry.  There were two different kinds of Hollywood girls in the 1930s, sassy and seductive, and sweet and romantic. The sassy girls were good at playing games, seducing a man to get what she wants, and knowing how to stand up to someone trying to make trouble. The sweet and romantic girls were more soft spoken, wanting to find love and romance, and felt deep with their hearts. Examples of the sassy girls were Jean Harlow, Joan Blondell, Una Merkel, Virginia Bruce, Lucille Ball, and Barbara Stanwyk. Examples of the romantic girls were Ruby Keeler, Eleanor Powell, Deana Durbin, Vivian Leigh, Mareen O'Sullivan, and Myrna Loy.

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