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Jean Harlow

(1911—1937) American film actress


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US film star, the platinum blonde wise-cracking Hollywood sex symbol of the 1930s. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, she eloped at sixteen into a short marriage. Her film career began inauspiciously as an extra, followed by appearances in a few Laurel and Hardy pictures. She featured in The Saturday Night Kid (1929) but the real breakthrough came in Howard Hughes's Hell's Angels (1930). The Public Enemy and Platinum Blonde (both 1931) were among those that followed. In 1932 she joined MGM, where her image was further sharpened. With Clark Gable she made Red Dust (1932), Hold Your Man (1933), China Seas (1935), Wife vs Secretary (1936), and her last film, Saratoga (1937). Other films included Riffraff and Libelled Lady (both 1936) with Spencer Tracy.

Harlow's personal life was as tempestuous as it was short. She and her career survived her marriage (1932) to director Paul Bern (1889–1932). He did not; his suicide caused a considerable stir in Hollywood. Her marriage (1933) to lighting director Harold Rosson (1895–1960) lasted twelve months. Finally, she formed a close relationship (1934) with William Powell (1892–1984), with whom she played in such films as Reckless (1935). Her death from kidney failure, while making Saratoga, brought to an end a glamorous but very unhappy life. She was the subject of Harlow, starring Carroll Baker (1931–), and a TV film starring Carol Lynley (1942–), both made in 1965.

From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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