Discovering Jean Harlow

In March TCM celebrated Jean Harlow’s 100th birthday by showing Harlow’s films throughout the month. Prior to then I had only seen Platinum Blonde and Libeled Lady. During the month I watched all the films TCM showed: Red-Headed WomanThree Wise GirlsRiffraffSuzy, The Public EnemyBombshellRecklessPersonal Property, Wife Vs. SecretaryRed DustHold Your ManChina SeasThe Secret Six, Saratoga, Dinner At Eight, The Girl From Missouri and The Beast of the City.

It was quite a crash-course in Harlow. It was great to watch them all in such a confined amount of time because I could watch her progression as an actress. I firmly believe she would have been one of the great comediennes of the classic era had she lived. Since then I’ve also seen Hell’s Angels, which features her first performance (and what a stunning debut it was) and Iron Man, in which she plays opposite Lew Ayres. I’ve also seen Libeled Lady and Dinner at Eight on the big screen at the Castro Theatre. I think actually the only Harlow film I haven’t seen is 1931’s Goldie. If any of you dear readers can locate that one for me, I’d be ever so grateful.

Up until recently only a handful of her films were on DVD (visit our Jean Harlow store here), which is a real shame. It’s only by seeing someone’s work that you can ever truly begin to appreciate them. While I still wish someone would release Red Dust on DVD, I must say the new Jean Harlow 100th Anniversary collection that the Warner Archive released on October 25th is beyond amazing. Not only does it contain seven films that had previously not been released on DVD (including three remastered versions), but it also comes with gorgeous 5″ X 7″ portraits and a ton of special features. My favorite of the special features is the newly discovered trailer for Personal Property; I love that film oh so much.

What I like the most about the set is that it’s a nice cross-section of her career, starting with 1933’s Bombshell and ending with Harlow’s final film, 1937’s Saratoga (also her sixth pairing with Clark Gable). The other films included in the set are The Girl From Missouri (1934), Reckless (1935) – in which she co-stars with her real-life love at the time William Powell, Riffraff (1934) – featuring a wonderful performance from Spencer Tracy, Suzy (1935) – a strange wartime melodrama featuring Cary Grant and Franchot Tone and Personal Property – with Robert Taylor (this is my favorite Harlow film and one of my favorite films period). This set is definitely a must for anyone who loves Harlow, or really anyone who’s interested in this time period in film history.

I’m grateful that I’ve be able to become so familiar with Harlow’s work in the last year because I think she is utterly fantastic. She may well be my favorite actress and it’s funny to think I only really discovered her in the last year.

Disclaimer: This review is based on review discs given to me by the Warner Archive, though the opinions are all my own.


About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on November 7, 2011, in Classic Film, DVDs and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I had the very same experience! I always knew who Jean Harlow was but hadn’t seen any of her work until TCM made her Star of the Month. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to watch all of the films they played but I got to see quite a few and became a huge fan in literally one month. I’m a little nervous to buy this new DVD collection because I haven’t seen any of the films, except for Bombshell, which I adore. The reviews for them are mostly mixed so I’m not sure if I should grab it. I really wish they had included Red Dust and Red Headed Woman.

  1. Pingback: From The Warner Archive: Red Dust, 1932 (dir. Victor Fleming) « the diary of a film history fanatic

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